As the third week of election campaigning kicks off, an international monitoring group is already raising alarm over the credibility of the elections. In a statement, the U.S.-based Carter Center questioned the legitimacy of the candidate scrutiny process that scrubbed more than 100 election hopefuls from the final list. Though the Union Election Commission reinstated 11 Muslim nominees just before the Carter Center released its findings on September 25, 75 candidates continue to be barred from the polls, largely due to the alleged citizenship status of their parents. “Although the number of disqualified candidates is relatively small, restrictive requirements, selective enforcement, and a lack of procedural safeguards call into question the credibility of the process,” the report stated.
The United States, Japan and other major powers on Tuesday raised fears that rising religious tensions in Myanmar could spark “division and conflict” as campaigning begins for historic elections. Myanmar goes to the polls on November 8 in what many hope will be its freest vote in generations after decades of army rule, with Aung San Suu Kyi’s opposition party widely tipped to make huge gains. But religious tensions are spiking in the Buddhist-majority country, which has seen sporadic outbursts of often deadly religious unrest in recent years, with minority Muslims facing increasing political exclusion as the influence of nationalist monks grows.
United Kingdom: EU referendum: David Cameron suffers defeat in parliament over ‘purdah’ rules | The Guardian
David Cameron has suffered a humiliating defeat over the EU referendum as Tory rebels and Labour put aside their differences to oppose changes to the rules that restrict government campaigning before an election. The government lost by 27 votes as a group of Tory backbenchers argued that Downing Street was trying to unduly influence the result in favour of staying in the EU. The rebels, led by Eurosceptics including Bernard Jenkin, Bill Cash and Steve Baker, said it was wrong of the government to seek changes to purdah, which is the month-long period before a poll when government announcements and spending are restricted.
Many people have written about the financial cost of the 78-day campaign, but I haven’t seen anybody look at the human cost. What this is costing candidates, leaders, staff, and volunteers? To start figuring out the human cost we have to rewind back to 2013 when most political parties opened up nominations, the process by which candidates are selected to run in each of 338 ridings. Tens of thousands of hopefuls applied to the various parties to run in the 2015 election, starting in 2013, and were vetted by the internal parties and either accepted or rejected. Imagine that many people in each party who applied were told, after many weeks or months, that they were not suitable candidates for any number of reasons. Some prospective candidates signed up party members as they were told to do in anticipation of a nomination in their riding. Friends, family members, colleagues and acquaintances were asked to sign membership forms; usually a small fee is also involved. Dozens, hundreds, perhaps thousands of people signed and paid the fee, and their candidate was not even allowed to test themselves against other same party candidates in that riding. Of the lucky few who were accepted after the vetting process, still many thousands of potential candidates, they then had to compete against other hopefuls to win their party nomination. Although the spending limits for nominations are strict during the nomination process, many would spend untold fortunes in advance of the nomination on promotion, a campaign in itself involving handfuls of volunteers and in some cases dozens or hundreds of people. Many months can go by awaiting the official call of a nomination, and those lucky enough to be accepted sign up new members to vote for them. Nobody knows when the date will be called; there is no defined finish line for nominations.
Long Tway village is a long way from anywhere. The nearest city, Taunggyi, is a rough three-hour drive to the west of this small settlement of about 30 households, sitting high in a steep valley amid the vast Shan Hills in eastern Myanmar. In lowland areas of the country and the urban centers, anticipation is rising ahead of elections scheduled for Nov. 8. More than 6,000 candidates have applied to take part in the elections, and campaigning is likely to involve large-scale rallies and poster campaigns. But here in the hills, people have only a vague knowledge of the polls. “No one came here to tell us about the election,” local woman Nan Yon, 44, told ucanews.com recently. She had heard an election was coming, she said, but was surprised to learn that the vote was only months away.
A Mississippi truck driver who claims to have spent no money on his campaign won a nomination to be governor early Wednesday morning. Robert Gray, 46, reported spending zero dollars on his campaign to become the Democratic party’s nominee for governor, and defeated two rivals with 51% of the vote. He told the Associated Press that he did not vote on Tuesday “because he was busy”. In contrast, trial attorney Vicki Slater, reported spending $68,000 in the last month alone, and almost $200,000 this calendar year. Gray won with 146,333 votes, meaning Slater lost by almost 60,000 votes.
Derek Demers is not looking forward to more attack ads before Canada’s federal election this autumn. “I find them unbelievable down in the states, what they throw at each other,” says the retired software salesman in Calgary, who has mostly voted Conservative but for this election is considering other parties. “It’s pretty tiring. They can be creative, but they can be demeaning.” Canada’s election is four months away, yet voters are already getting their share of such US-style ads through third-party campaigns by political action committees that show a similar US influence.
The first fixed-date election in Canadian history is just around the corner, but some observers are raising concerns about overspending because of a law they say is flawed. When the Conservatives introduced a fixed election date nine years ago, political financing rules were not adjusted accordingly, says Elections Canada boss Marc Mayrand. “We must not be blind,” said Mayrand. “As much as it is easier for Elections Canada to plan for the election, it’s just as easy for political parties and third parties” to plan their spending before the election. Those expenses generally go “beyond the rules outlined in the electoral law,” he added.
Uganda’s Electoral Commission is warning all political parties and civil society groups that they would be flouting the country’s laws if they engage in early political campaigns before an official declaration. “We released a road map clearly ahead of the elections, [and] we indicated activities and their time frame,” said Jotham Taremwa, commission spokesman. Because nominations have not yet been made, “whoever is posing as a candidate is out of order.”
Conversations tail off mid-sentence; students stop to take selfies and parents shield young children’s eyes. The cause of their embarrassment: giant posters of a man wearing nothing but a cowboy hat, a gun holster and a knowing smile. This is John Erik Wagner, and he wants to be Denmark’s next prime minister. It may not be a conventional political billboard but, in this time of frenetic campaigning before the Danish general election this month, every available tree or lamppost is plastered with images of politicians and wannabes, and a relatively unknown candidate needs to work hard to make an impression. For Wagner, a 51-year-old Copenhagener, the way to do that was to bare all.
Thousands of soldiers, police, prison guards and fire rescue personnel will cast ballots this weekend ahead of Guyana’s May 11 general elections. Some 7,540 people will be eligible for Saturday’s early voting at 84 polling stations across the country, elections chief Keith Lowenfield said in a statement. Political parties have been campaigning hard to win…
Campaigning for Sunday’s second wave of quadrennial unified local elections has highlighted a legal loophole that allows candidates to go to extremes — including nudity — to gain votes. In contrast with the ubiquitous portrait shots preferred by most candidates, the campaign poster for Teruki Goto, an independent running for the Chiyoda Ward Assembly in Tokyo, went viral after it showed him posing nude against a Rising Sun flag motif while raising a katana over the Imperial Seal, his genitals covered by his name.
Uganda’s Electoral Commission (EC) has announced its preparations for the 2015-2016 elections that will be held early next year. The acting EC Chairman, Joseph Biribonwa, told a recent news conference recently between April 7th and 30th an update of all registers will take place. EC officials will capture unregistered youth, elderly and disabled persons and armed forces personnel. This also includes other people who were not qualified during the last election but are now eligible to vote. Between June 2and 22, the final registers will be displayed at the relevant polling stations and the general public is encouraged to check for their names and details to avoid any later inconveniences.
Technology played a decisive role in helping Muhammadu Buhari become the first Nigerian to oust a sitting president at the ballot box, from social media campaigning to biometric machines preventing the widespread rigging that marred past polls. Three decades after seizing power in a military coup, part of the 72-year-old former general’s appeal to the electorate in Africa’s biggest economy lay in his successful rebranding as a man who embraced democracy. A good deal of that rebranding happened online, where campaigning from smartphones can build momentum at low cost.
A senior official of the Electoral Commission of Zambia says the organization is ready to supervise a credible presidential by-election on Tuesday. Official campaigning ends on Monday ahead of the poll. The commission’s director of elections, Priscilla Isaac, says both sensitive and non-sensitive materials have been dispatched to ensure all polling centers across the country can open on time for the vote. “We have really tried to be on top of things and we will be ready to open polling station on time on the 20th,” says Isaac. “We dispatched the last set of ballot papers to the districts – that was Thursday. So all the ballot papers are all in the districts and now just waiting for the deployment to the respective polling stations with the polling staff … We know that everybody will be in place by the 19th at all their respective polling stations, in readiness for the polls on Tuesday.”
When President Mahinda Rajapaksa called a snap election last month in Sri Lanka, it appeared he would cruise to a third term. But a hitherto feeble and divided opposition has since rallied behind a common presidential candidate for the Jan. 8 vote. Only a month ago, Maithripala Sirisena was a cabinet minister and general-secretary of the ruling party. Now suddenly Sri Lanka could be at a turning point after almost a decade of Rajapaksa rule. The president is campaigning on his economic record after comprehensively defeating the Tamil Tigers in 2009. And on the surface, Sri Lanka looks a lot better off for his leadership. After a quarter-century of civil war, people can go about their daily lives without fear. Roads, bridges, railways and power projects have come to fruition. Colombo and many other towns have been beautified. Tourism has bounced back, with postwar arrivals hitting all-time highs. But this surface reality is deceptive. Things have gone terribly wrong with Sri Lanka’s politics, ethnic relations, economy and foreign policy.
The Japanese Communist Party is gearing up for what could be its biggest election win in more than a decade with more of the same: cartoons, puns and breakdancing. The 92-year-old party has revived a rowdy bunch of animated mascots–the Proliferation Bureau–to spread the gospel ahead of Sunday’s lower house election. This year, armed with a bigger budget, they’re out to stop Prime Minister Shinzo Abe from letting the sales tax rise again, restarting nuclear reactors and revising the nation’s constitution. The Proliferation Bureau debuted during the 2013 upper house election after restrictions on Internet campaigning were lifted for the first time. The eight characters were meant to appeal to net-savvy youth who might otherwise associate Communism with bloody revolutions. “This time the theme is us against the Liberal Democratic Party,” Kazushi Tamura, deputy head of the publicity department, told JRT, referring to Mr. Abe’s ruling party. The party wasn’t sure the Proliferation Bureau would return after the last election, but positive feedback on social media made the difference, he said.
With the formal start of electioneering at midnight Monday for the Croatian presidential election set for 28 December, the presidential candidate of the strongest opposition Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ), Kolinda Grabar Kitarovic, began her whistle-stop tour in her hometown of Drazice, where she promised that if she won the election she would complete the job which the first president, Franjo Tudjman, had started steering the country towards prosperity, while the incumbent head of state, Ivo Josipovic, embarked on his hustings tour at noon Tuesday in downtown Zagreb where he boarded a bus that will transport him and his team through Croatia in the next 18 days of campaigning. Josipovic, who was seen off by Prime Minister and Social Democratic Party (SDP) leader Zoran Milanovic, said he was starting the tour from the same place, the square outside the law school and the Croatian National Theatre, from where he started the campaigning for his first term five years ago.
Tiny Gulf monarchy Bahrain holds elections on Saturday but with the opposition boycotting there seems little hope of an end to political deadlock in the key US ally. Bahrain remains divided nearly four years after security forces in the kingdom clamped down on protests led by demonstrators taking their cue from the Arab Spring uprisings. The opposition is demanding a “real” constitutional monarchy with an elected prime minister who is independent from the ruling royal family. But the Al-Khalifa dynasty has refused to yield. Bahrain is home to the US Fifth Fleet and is one of several Arab states supporting US-led airstrikes against the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria, making it a vital Western ally. Turnout on Saturday is likely to be low as the main opposition party has already called for a boycott.
One of Uruguay’s most prominent pollsters Cifra is reluctant to guess who will win next week’s presidential elections. Cifra said that former president Tabaré Vázquez, running for a second time, is more vulnerable than when current President José Mujica was campaigning for the top seat in 2009. Vázquez is backed by Mujica to be his succesor. Their Broad Front leads all the polls but the election is most likely to go to a runoff on November 30 to determine whether or not it will win a third succesive term in power. Vázquez and his running partner Raúl Sendic have around 40 percent of voting intentions according to the country’s four main pollsters: Cifra, Equipos, Factum and Radar. It is also in doubt whether Broad Front will maintain its majority in Congress if it were to win. Vázquez (2005-2010) and then Mujica were both able to pass laws with relative ease due to their government’s majority. This may not be the case if Vázquez is elected for a second time.
Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway turned to a federal appeals court Wednesday in his effort to preserve a state law that bans electioneering close to polling places, calling the buffer zone an important safeguard against Election Day shenanigans. With the general election less than three weeks away, Conway moved quickly with his motion to the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in an effort to keep the law in place — pending an appeal — to insulate voters from campaign activities outside the polls. The filing came a day after U.S. District Judge William O. Bertelsman ruled that the law’s 300-foot anti-electioneering buffer violates First Amendment speech rights. The judge issued a permanent injunction blocking the law’s enforcement. Conway wants the appeals court to block Bertelsman’s ruling, which caught the attention of local election officials in Kentucky.
Ukraine’s tenuous truce and troop withdrawal deal lay in tatters on Tuesday after the deadliest wave of attacks by pro-Russian insurgents in more than a month killed nine government soldiers. The surge in clashes across the separatist rust belt spelled an ominous start to campaigning for parties that make the ballot for October 26 parliamentary polls once the registration deadline passes on Tuesday night. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko told German Chancellor Angela Merkel — his closest and most powerful European ally — on Monday that Russia was ignoring the terms of a September 5 peace pact the sides sealed in the Belarussian capital Minsk. Poroshenko “stressed that he expected Russia to fulfil its Minsk Protocol obligations: to withdraw forces, ensure the border’s closure, and establish a buffer zone,” the presidency said in a statement.
Fiji Islands – where ethnic Indians comprise about 37 percent of its 840,000 population spread of 110 inhabited islands – is in election mode with catchy radio jingles, glossy banners and other paraphernalia of campaigning on display. The general election on Sep 17 is expected to bring an end to the eight-year-long military government in the South Pacific island nation. The radio jingles are to help people memorize numbers as the single ballot for the entire country will carry no names, only numbers to identify the candidates. Fiji, which has had three elected governments overthrown by armed men in as many decades, is holding an election after eight years with a new and distinctive voting system under a new constitution promulgated by the military regime headed by Rear Admiral Frank Bainimarama. Race or ethnicity has been a pivotal aspect of the cultural, political and economic life in Fiji’s complex society. But race will not play a role in the election process this time. The new constitution has done away with race-based electoral rolls, race-based seat quotas and some special privileges of the indigenous Fijians. Under the new system, all Fiji citizens are now called “Fijians”, irrespective of their origin. Indigenous Fijians form 56 percent of Fiji’s population while people of Indian origin account for 37 percent. Political rivalry between the two groups led to two elected governments being overthrown by radical indigenous Fijians, irked over the loss of political power to what were perceived as Indian dominated governments. The 2006 coup was not racially motivated.
Sweden, seen for years as a beacon of stability and reforms in a crisis-ridden Europe, may be heading for political deadlock after Sunday’s general election, with polls suggesting that both right and left might be unable to form a stable government. Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt’s center-right coalition is battling an opposition alliance led by the Social Democrats. But neither group looks set to win a majority – putting them at the mercy of more radical leftist or far-right parties. The Social Democrats, campaigning to spend more money on a welfare state that they founded in the last century, were the election favorites for months. But some polls suggest a once seemingly unassailable lead has narrowed, unsettling businesses and investors and even raising the prospect of a new vote. “It could be an Italian situation, something we’ve hardly ever experienced in Sweden,” said Magnus Henrekson, Director of the Research Institute of Industrial Economics. An increasingly likely scenario is that Social Democrat leader Stefan Lofven will head the biggest party but struggle to cobble together a majority. Even if he won the support of a former communist party, he could still be in a minority against the far right and Reinfeldt’s coalition.
Chinese officials have called it a “leap forward” for democracy in Hong Kong. Yet their announcement on August 31st of plans to allow, for the first time, every Hong Kong citizen to vote for the territory’s leader has met only anger and indifference. Joy was conspicuously absent. This is not because Hong Kong’s citizens care little for the right to vote, but because China has made it abundantly clear that the next election for Hong Kong’s chief executive, due in 2017, will be rigged. The only candidates allowed to stand will be those approved by the Communist Party in Beijing, half a continent away. At its worst, this risks provoking a disaster which even China cannot want. Democrats are planning protests. It is unclear how many people will join in, but the fear is that the territory’s long history of peaceful campaigning for political reform will give way to skirmishes with police, mass arrests and possibly even intervention by the People’s Liberation Army. That would disrupt one of Asia’s wealthiest and most orderly economies, and set China against the West. But even if, as is likely, such a calamity is avoided, this leap sideways is a huge missed opportunity not just for Hong Kong but also for the mainland. A chance to experiment with the sort of local democracy that might have benefited all of China has been missed.
Austria: 400 gnomes disappeared in Austria, and it’s causing a political scandal | The Washington Post
Last weekend in the mountainous Austrian state of Vorarlberg, 400 gnomes disappeared. Nobody knows where they have gone. But everyone knows it’s down to politics. With regional elections set for Sept. 21, the left-wing Social Democratic Party ordered 20,000 gnomes called “Coolmen” earlier this year. The gnomes, toting sunglasses and campaign signs, were the party’s last-ditch effort to prevent an electoral defeat in Vorarlberg. About 400 of the gnomes were attached to lampposts on Saturday as alternatives to traditional posters, but their mass disappearance by Sunday morning was conspicuous. “I suspect our rival party OeVP [the Austrian People’s Party] to have removed the gnomes,” local Social Democratic Party leader Michael Ritsch told The Washington Post on Tuesday. Ritsch has filed a complaint, and the state’s police forces have launched an investigation.