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Posts Tagged ‘election’

Belarus jails 600 for election protests

In Uncategorized on December 24, 2010 at 4:32 am

MINSK, Dec 21, 2010 (AFP) – Belarus on Tuesday jailed 600 demonstrators detained during a mass rally against the re-election of President Alexander Lukashenko, defying fierce Western condemnation of the bloody crackdown.

Police officials said the protesters would be held for up to 15 days while prosecutors probed their alleged involvement in “organising mass disturbances” — a crime that carries a sentence of up to 15 years.

Belarus opposition supporters light candles near a picture of jailed opposition presidential candidate Andrey Sannikov at a prison’s wall in Minsk during a demonstration on December 21, 2010. AFP

“It is not a fact that all of them will be released after 15 days,” Minsk police spokesman Alexander Lastovsky told AFP.

Lukashenko vowed Monday to come down hard on all those responsible for taking part in Sunday’s unauthorised demonstration against his regime.

“That is it,” Lukashenko declared in a nationally-televised press conference. “Our country will have no more senseless, muddle-headed democracy.”

“I warned you,” he added. “Kids — you are messing with the wrong guy.”

The wave of arrests left relatives searching for loved ones in the city’s prisons, with groups scouring the long list of names posted on the walls of one facility and waiting outside its entrance gate in the hope of receiving any news.

Once labelled the last dictator of Europe by Washington, Lukashenko was re-elected to a fourth term Sunday with nearly 80 percent of the ballot on Soviet-style turnout of more than 90 percent.

His nearest rival received less than three percent of the vote in an election that the challengers vowed to contest even before the results became official.

Seven of Lukashenko’s nine election rivals were arrested in what appears to be a massive crackdown on the opposition, with five candidates beaten up by riot police.

Three of them — Ales Mikhalevich, Vladimir Nekliaev and Andrei Sannikov — were being held by the KGB, while two others — Rygor Katusev and Dmitry Uss — were released under orders not to leave the city, their offices said.

Two more candidates — Nikolai Statkevich and Vitaly Rymanshevsky — are still believed to be in police detention.

The Belarussian justice ministry also threatened to ban parties and movements that took part in the protests, with the warning affecting organisations headed by two of the challengers.

The clampdown came despite signals in the last months that Lukashenko was seeking to smooth his isolated former Soviet country’s frayed relations with both the European Union and Russia.

EU officials had promised to offer Belarus up to 3.5 billion dollars in loans should it stage a free and fair election. And Russia resolved most of its trade conflicts with its smaller neighbour in the run-up to the vote.

But while Russia refused to condemn the violence, with President Dmitry Medvedev calling it an “internal matter” for Belarus, Belarus was roundly admonished by both the US and the European Union.

“The United States strongly condemns the actions that the government of Belarus has taken to undermine the democratic process,” President Barack Obama’s spokesman Robert Gibbs said in a statement.

Three heavyweight US senators warned Belarus it would pay “a very heavy cost” for the crackdown.

“Having pursued engagement with Belarus in recent months, the United States and our allies should now consider a tougher approach,” Senators John Kerry, John McCain and Joe Lieberman said in a joint statement.

The European Union’s top diplomat Catherine Ashton meanwhile called on the regime to “immediately release” the opposition leaders.

But the authorities said they were were in fact being lenient and had let “a lot of people” go without prosecution.

“We released several foreign nationals, including journalists,” said top Minsk police official Leonid Farmagei.

The Belarussian Journalists’ Association said that 25 media representatives had been arrested in all. At least four reporters were known to have been jailed for up to 15 days while their cases were being studied.

The KGB was also holding two reporters — Irina Halip, a journalist with Moscow’s opposition Novaya Gazeta newspaper, and Natalia Radina, a worker with Belarus’ Charter97 news website, one of the campaign offices said.

Source: SGGP

Egypt security on alert ahead of tense election

In Uncategorized on November 27, 2010 at 1:50 pm

Egyptian security forces were on high alert Saturday, on the eve of a general election, after activists clashed with police at the end of a campaign marred by violence and a crackdown on the opposition.

Egyptian protesters stand on a security fence under the watchfull eyes of the riot police during a demonstration organized by the Muslim Brotherhood in downtown Cairo, May 2010.

Thousands of activists demonstrated in support of their candidates throughout the Nile Delta and in the south of the country as campaigning for the vote came to an end on Friday night, said security officials.

Several of the rallies turned violent after supporters of rival candidates hurled stones at each other, they said.

Activists for the banned Muslim Brotherhood opposition group clashed with police in the southern Bani Suef governorate, and at least 15 protesters were arrested.

Abdel Moneim Abdel Maqsud, a lawyer for the Islamist group, said 22 of its members were arrested on Friday across the country.

The Brotherhood is expected to win far less than the fifth of parliamentary seats it captured in the last election in 2005, after at least 1,200 its supporters were arrested in the weeks before the vote.

Most of them have been released, but the group says more of its supporters are rounded up each day as they put up posters and hand out fliers.

The Brotherhood is fielding 130 candidates for the 508 elected seats after more than a dozen of its candidates were disqualified by the election committee.

The public prosecutor is investigating complaints by the ruling National Democratic Party that more of the Islamists should be disqualified because they are misrepresenting themselves as independents.

The group registers its candidates as independents to circumvent a ban on religious parties.

Several administrative courts have ordered the cancellation of elections in 24 of 254 districts after court orders to reinstate disqualified candidates, many of them Brotherhood members and other independents, were ignored.

Rights groups say the election has already been compromised by the arrests of opposition members and campaign restrictions on their candidates.

Amnesty International called on Egyptian authorities to safeguard the rights of voters in the election.

“The Egyptian authorities must uphold the rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly and ensure that peaceful protesters are not arbitrarily arrested and detained,” the London-based rights group’s Middle East director, Malcolm Smart, said in a statement last week.

Voter turnout is expected to be low as usual in Egypt, where elections are often marred by violence and ballot fraud, according to rights groups.

The government insists the election will be fair and the electoral committee says it granted more than 6,000 permits to local civil society groups to monitor the vote and the ballot counting.

The NDP, which has dominated parliament for more than three decades, is expected to gain seats in parliament at the expense of the Brotherhood. It is running about 800 candidates.

Campaign restrictions on the remaining Brotherhood candidates and a low voter turnout amid fears of violence and widespread suspicion about the election’s integrity are expected to reduce the Islamists’ share.


Source: SGGP

Protests in Kabul ahead of much-delayed election results

In Uncategorized on November 24, 2010 at 6:49 am

Afghan election candidates took to the streets of Kabul on Wednesday to protest against a polling process they say was corrupt and shameful ahead of the expected announcement of final results from the September 18 vote.

Afghanistan’s Independent Election Commission (IEC) has said it would announce the winners of 249 seats in the lower house of parliament, or wolesi jirga , after a delay that lasted more than two months due to investigations into fraud complaints.

The credibility of the eventual result will weigh heavily on U.S. President Barack Obama’s review of his Afghan war strategy, due to be released next month, amid rising violence and sagging public support, especially after a fraud-marred presidential election last year.

Consistent allegations of vote fraud in both polls have raised questions about the credibility of Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s government at a time when U.S. and NATO officials have been re-examining their long-term commitment in Afghanistan.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai speaks during a press conference in Kabul, Afghanistan on Tuesday, Nov. 23, 2010

The protesters, mostly candidates who failed to win a seat and their supporters, have organized a string of demonstrations in the capital and warned that failure to address grievances about the poll would only push Afghans toward the insurgency.

Some of the protesters, including a handful of women and turban-wearing men, looked like they had travelled from outside Kabul.

“We have gathered here today to protest against the illegal election,” said lawmaker Noor ul Haq Olomi, from southern Kandahar province, the Taliban’s heartland.

“It doesn’t matter who is winning or losing, we will continue to protest until the officials in the government hear us and the Afghan people learn about the widespread fraud that happened during this election.”

Disgruntled candidates, lawmakers and supporters have in recent weeks called for the September poll to be scrapped and a new election ordered.

A U.N.-backed election watchdog said on Sunday nearly one in 10 winning candidates had been disqualified for fraud.

Sunday’s disqualifications by the U.N.-backed Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) cleared the way for the Afghan government’s IEC to release the final results.

There were more than 6,000 complaints lodged with ECC and the IEC has already thrown out almost a quarter of the 5.6 million votes cast as invalid. The IEC also is being investigated by the attorney general’s office over election fraud.

Late on Tuesday, Afghan television also reported two election officials had been suspended by the attorney general’s office for “making statements against the national interest”. The attorney general’s office declined immediate comment.

Source: SGGP

Ireland in chaos as bailout triggers election

In Uncategorized on November 24, 2010 at 4:51 am

DUBLIN (AFP) – Ireland’s political turmoil intensified Tuesday after Prime Minister Brian Cowen promised to call a general election in the New Year once parliament passes a budget at the centre of an international bailout.

It could take several weeks for the budgetary process to be completed and Cowen would then have to formally dissolve parliament and set an election date, meaning an election may not be held until February or March.

The Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen said on Monday that he would call an early election in January, but resisted calls for his immediate resignation. AFP

Two independent members of parliament on whom the government depends to pass legislation said they were likely to withhold their support, raising fears that the crucial budget might not be passed at all.

Cowen, who entered a coalition government with the Green Party in 2008, on Monday bowed to calls from its disgruntled junior partner to call an election in the wake of Ireland accepting a bailout worth up to 90 billion euros (122.5 billion dollars).

The prime minister said the debt-ridden country’s priority must be to pass the six-billion-euro budget on December 7.

“It is my intention at the conclusion of the budgetary process, with the enactment of the necessary legislation in the New Year, to then seek the dissolution of parliament,” the leader — alternatively known as the Taoiseach — told a news conference.

“It is imperative for this country that the budget is passed,” he added.

Opposition parties were angered by Cowen’s refusal to call an immediate vote.

The main opposition Fine Gael party said the people of Ireland had “absolutely no confidence” in the government and Sinn Fein party president Gerry Adams demanded immediate action.

“I totally disagree with the Taoiseach’s assertion that the imperative is to get the budget passed,” Adams said. “The budget should be suspended. The Taoiseach should call an election now.”

The Guardian newspaper Tuesday doubted Cowen’s chances of being leader at the election.

The British broadsheet quoted a senior source at Cowen’s party, Fianna Fail, as saying “we cannot go into a general election with Brian as leader after the events of last week. His credibility is shattered.”

European Union Economics Commissioner Olli Rehn insisted that political upheaval would not jeopardise the rescue deal which Ireland struck with the EU and the International Monetary Fund on Sunday.

“I don’t see that it will threaten the EU-IMF programme or its negotiations,” Rehn told journalists on the sidelines of a hearing before a committee of the European Parliament in Strasbourg.

The elections “will take place… in January, and our negotiations will be concluded by the end of November,” he added.

Ireland’s request for financial assistance initiated a day of drama in Dublin on Monday.

Green Party leader John Gormley, whose party has six seats in parliament, called on Cowen to name a date for the country to go to the polls, saying the Irish people needed “political certainty.”

Gormley said that in the meantime his party would support the government in getting the emergency budget through parliament.

In a sign of the anger about the bailout a hundred protesters forced their way through the gates of the parliament building before being pushed back by police.

Cowen’s party faces a by-election on Thursday in the northern constituency of Donegal South-West which it is likely to lose.

Having dominated Irish politics since the 1930s, defeat for Fianna Fail in the general election would represent a significant moment in the country’s history.

Ireland’s request for aid was approved by EU officials who were desperate to quell fears that other heavily-indebted euro economies such as Portugal could be sucked into the crisis.

News of the bailout initially calmed fears about the single European currency, with the euro rising above 1.37 dollars before it fell back to 1.3571 dollars by 0130 GMT.

The EU has agreed in principle to use a 750-billion-euro fund, the European Financial Stability Facility, which was set up in May after a 110-billion-euro EU-IMF bailout of Greece.

Britain, not part of the 16-country eurozone, said it was in its “national interest” to consider a separate loan to Ireland of about seven billion pounds (11.2 billion dollars).

Ireland’s public finances have been ravaged by a property market meltdown and the global recession. Domestic banking sector rescues have severely restricted the country’s room for manoeuvre.

Source: SGGP

Myanmar votes in rare election marred by fraud fears

In Uncategorized on November 7, 2010 at 8:51 am

Democrats fear rout as US election day arrives

In Uncategorized on November 2, 2010 at 8:12 am

Myanmar to hold general election on November 7

In Uncategorized on August 13, 2010 at 11:21 am

YANGON, Aug 13, 2010 (AFP) – Myanmar announced Friday it will hold its first election in two decades on November 7.

Aung San Suu Kyi is barred from standing in the polls because she is a serving prisoner.

A group of former NLD members has formed a new party, the National Democratic Force (NDF), to stand in the election — a move that has put it at odds with Suu Kyi, who was opposed to participating in the polls.

Without Suu Kyi, few think the NDF — or any other opposition group — could repeat the NLD’s landslide victory in 1990.

So far 40 parties have been allowed to register to stand in the polls. 

Source: SGGP

Haiti moves towards first post-quake election

In Uncategorized on August 1, 2010 at 3:18 pm

PORT-AU-PRINCE, July 31, 2010 (AFP) – Election candidates in Haiti are jockeying this week ahead of a registration deadline for key November polls, the first since January’s deadly earthquake.

Haitian President Rene Preval (C) and Dominican President Leonel Fernandez (L) place the first stone for the construction of a university campus on July 31, 2010 in Ouanaminthe, 346 km north of Pört-au-Prince. AFP

The vote is seen as a key step towards rebuilding the country and its political institution, and has attracted speculation that hip hop star Wyclef Jean may make a run for president.

The UN meanwhile said it would guaranteeing security for the vote and other international bodies also promised a strong monitoring presence.

“Everything is ready. We are perfectly capable of giving the necessary assistance to Haitian authorities,” Edmond Mulet, the UN secretary general’s representative in Haiti, said ahead of the August 7 registration deadline

Some 70 political parties and coalitions have registered so far for the national elections, originally scheduled for February 28 and March 3, to choose a successor to President Rene Preval, along with all 99 members of the Chamber of Deputies and one third of the members of the Senate.

The vote was postponed after the devastating January 12 earthquake that killed up to 300,000 people and left 1.3 million homeless.

Among potential candidates is Haitian-born musician Wyclef Jean, who has been coy about whether he intends to stand.

A statement released by his family Friday said Jean, who grew up and lives in the United States, would make a public announcement later in the week.

“At this time, (Jean) remains committed to helping people in his homeland of Haiti and has not made a final decision on whether to seek elected office,” the statement said.

A UN Goodwill Ambassador for Haiti, Jean has worked since January to bring much-needed attention to the poverty-stricken nation, holding fundraisers in the United States and escorting Hollywood stars on visits around the ravaged capital Port-au-Prince.

Six months ahead of the end of his term in February 2011, some here are calling for the incumbent Preval to step down early, accusing him of trying to hold onto power or manipulating the electoral council.

Preval, who also served as president from 1996 to 2001, is constitutionally barred from seeking a third term.

On Thursday, the Organization of American States (OAS) and regional umbrella group for Caribbean nations (CARICOM) promised a thorough observer mission to monitor the electoral process, from candidate registration until the proclamation of results.

“This is the largest, longest and most expensive mission ever undertaken by both organizations,” OAS and CARICOM diplomats said.

The elections are being held as Haiti — which has suffered political turmoil for decades — tries to recover from the chaos caused by the January earthquake.

The Caribbean nation — the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere — has had a long history of dictatorship followed by years of political turmoil and civil unrest.

In 2004, some 1,000 US Marines followed by thousands of UN peacekeepers brought order to Haiti after a bloody rebellion against president Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s rule. A provisional government was then installed.

Quake survivors say poor governance, corruption and shoddy construction magnified the effects of the 7.0-magnitude January quake, which was much less powerful than an 8.8-magnitude quake in Chile in February, but cause far more damage and loss of life.

Source: SGGP

Australian PM poised to call August election: reports

In Uncategorized on July 16, 2010 at 4:46 pm

SYDNEY, July 16, 2010 (AFP) – Australia’s new Prime Minister Julia Gillard is poised to call a general election for late August, media said Friday, as she moves to legitimise her rule after being catapulted to power in a party coup.

Gillard, who became the country’s first woman leader after ousting her predecessor Kevin Rudd just three weeks ago, was expected Saturday to ask the country’s governor general to set an August 28 poll date, the ABC said.

(FILES) A file photo taken on June 24, 2010 shows Australia’s new prime minister Julia Gillard (R) and deputy prime minister Wayne Swann (L) at a press conference. AFP

“Labor sources have told the ABC Ms Gillard is expected to visit Governor General Quentin Bryce in Canberra tomorrow morning to set an August 28 election date,” the public broadcaster said, quoting ruling Labor Party sources.

Rival Sky News quoted sources as saying the poll could be called for either August 28 or a week earlier on August 21.

Both the ABC and Sky News however said the centre-left prime minister would return to Canberra on Saturday to ask Bryce to dissolve parliament and issue writs calling for an election.

Gillard was tight-lipped about the timing of the looming poll.

“I’m not engaging in election speculation,” she told reporters in the island state of Tasmania. “But whenever the election is called it will be a very clear choice about whether Australia moves forward or back.”

As a constitutional monarchy, Australia’s electoral system requires the prime minister to ask the governor general — Queen Elizabeth II’s official representative — to call an election at least 33 days before the polling date.

The election for members of the lower House of Representatives and half of the Senate will see Gillard pitted against conservative Liberal Party opposition leader Tony Abbott for the nation’s leadership.

Analysts have speculated for weeks that Gillard would call a late August vote in order to cash in on an opinion poll “bounce” her party has enjoyed since ejecting Rudd, whose popularity had plummeted over policy missteps.

A Nielsen and Galaxy opinion poll last week gave Labor a narrow but election-winning 52-48 percent lead over the opposition Liberal-National coalition, up from 33 percent in early June.

But the flame-haired prime minister has already hit political turbulence as she battles to win support for her policies on the core issues of asylum seekers, the economy and climate change.

Gillard promised polls this year after taking over from Rudd, who was ruthlessly toppled by party colleagues less than three years into his first term, following the spectacular collapse of his public popularity.

Since being sworn in she has been frantically trying to clear the decks of thorny policy issues that could cost her government re-election, including a disputed mining tax and how to stem an influx of boatpeople that has angered the public.

Gillard, who was Rudd’s deputy, has also been anxious to defuse concerns over her loyalty and the legitimacy of her rise to power after Rudd’s ignominious dismissal.

After being elected as the new Labor leader, she said she would not move into the official prime ministerial residence until she had been elected by the people in her own right.

The straight-talking former industrial lawyer has been scrambling to tackle the core issues that led to Rudd’s implosion: the controversial 40 percent mining tax, refugee arrivals and plans to fight climate change.

But while she quickly struck a deal with major miners on a new and less onerous tax, her bid to tackle the asylum seeker issue backfired amid confusion over where a mooted regional processing centre would be based.

The prime minister is also expected to unveil her plans for fighting global warming, after Rudd’s government fatefully shelved plans to introduce a carbon emissions trading scheme in the face of staunch opposition from Abbott.

Welsh-born Gillard, 48, is a self-confessed atheist and is seen as a liberal on social issues, a political pragmatist and consensual leader; devout Catholic Abbott is a social and political conservative known for his gaffes and colourful language.

The election is expected to be played out in marginal seats in the populous eastern states of Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria.

Source: SGGP

Aquino wins Philippine presidential election

In Uncategorized on June 8, 2010 at 10:33 am

MANILA, June 8, 2010 (AFP) – Benigno Aquino was declared the winner of the Philippine presidential elections on Tuesday, nearly a month after voters went to the polls embracing his pledge to fight corruption and ease deep poverty.

Following a drawn-out vote tallying process, parliament finally released the complete count showing the 50-year-old son of democracy heroes had won the May 10 elections in a landslide.

Incoming Philippine president Benigno Aquino smiles next to the portraits of his late parents, former president Corazon Aquino (L) and the senator Benigno Aquino Jnr (R), during a press conference at his residence in Manila on June 7, 2010. AFP photo

Aquino secured just over 15.2 million votes, or nearly 42 percent of the total number cast for the most emphatic victory in modern Philippine political history, according to the results released by legislators.

Former president Joseph Estrada finished well back in second place, more than 4.7 million votes behind.

Parliament is set to officially proclaim Aquino the winner on Wednesday.

He will take over from outgoing President Gloria Arroyo, who will step down on June 30 as one of the nation’s most unpopular leaders in modern Philippine politics after nearly a decade in power.

Aquino achieved his historic victory on a promise to tackle the corruption and poverty that has plagued the Southeast Asian nation for decades and he said thrived under Arroyo’s rule.

“I want to lead by example. We talk about corruption. I did make a public vow, I will never steal,” Aquino told AFP in an interview a day after the elections.

Just as importantly, Aquino cleverly tapped into the enormous public support for his parents, who remain revered for their efforts in ending the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos.

His father, Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino, was shot dead in 1983 at Manila airport as he returned from US exile to lead the democracy movement against Marcos.

His mother, Corazon Aquino, took over from her martyred husband and led the “People Power” revolution that eventually toppled Marcos in 1986. She then served as president for six years.

Aquino, an economics graduate and bachelor, had served for the past 12 years as a low-key member of parliament.

His critics sought to portray him as an uncharismatic leader who had accomplished little in his political career, and he admitted to not having presidential ambitions until his mother died of cancer in August last year.

However her death unleashed a massive outpouring of support for the family, a defining moment that he said convinced him to run for the presidency.

Aquino represents the Liberal Party, one of the nation’s oldest that was once led by his mother and father.

However the party suffered a major setback in the elections — with its pick for vice presidency, Mar Roxas, losing after leading in opinion surveys for most of the campaign.

Estrada’s running mate, Jejomar Binay, came from behind to win the vice presidential contest and could now potentially be a destabilising force for Aquino.

The Liberal Party will also not have a majority in either house of parliament.

Arroyo’s Lakas Kampi CMD will remain a powerful force in parliament, and the outgoing president won a seat in the lower house where she could lead opposition to Aquino’s reform agenda.

Aside from fighting corruption, Aquino has said improving the economy and bridging the enormous wealth divide will be among his top priorities in government.

A third of the more than 90 million Filipinos live on less than a dollar a day, and job opportunities are so bad that nine million people work abroad.

Aquino has vowed to boost foreign investment, rein in wasteful government spending, improve the civil service and invest in education.

Aquino has conceded it will take more than the six years that the constitution sets for presidential terms to carry out his social transformation of the Philippines.

“But we are hoping to provide that impetus and momentum to carry over into the next administration,” he told AFP in last month’s interview.

Source: SGGP