Caretaker Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy may have a chance to end Spain’s nine-month political impasse and avoid an unprecedented third election after regional ballots in the north of the country next week clarify the state of play. Since Rajoy lost a second confidence vote on Sept. 2, Spanish politicians have been back in campaign mode, fighting their own corners ahead of ballots in the Basque region and Galicia on Sunday. Once those votes are counted, they might be ready to cut a deal. The Basque Nationalist Party is likely to be in the hot seat. They have five lawmakers in the national legislature and are on track to win the most votes in their regional ballot but polls suggest they may need help from Rajoy’s People’s Party to govern. That would open up the possibility of deal to help keep Rajoy in power in exchange for support in the Basque assembly. The Basques could, in theory, take Rajoy to exactly half the votes in the 350-seat legislature, leaving him just one abstention short of victory.
Haiti’s opposition on Tuesday rejected a proposal by outgoing President Michel Martelly to form a temporary government to organize elections, after a run-off presidential vote was canceled last month amid violence and allegations of fraud. Martelly, who heads Haiti’s government, is due to leave office on Sunday. A Jan. 24 run-off to choose his successor was canceled after sometimes violent protests erupted against what the opposition said was fraud in the first round. Under a proposal drawn up by Martelly and parliamentary leaders, Prime Minister Evans Paul would resign and be replaced by a candidate to be approved by parliament, government-allied lawmaker Gary Bodeau said.
Thailand’s interim prime minister will meet the Election Commission on Wednesday, in the hope of fixing a date for polls that the government sees as the best way out of the country’s protracted crisis but its opponents will probably reject. Six months of anti-government protests have brought sporadic violence to the streets of Bangkok, threatened to tip the economy into recession and even raised fears of civil war. The crisis is the latest phase in nearly 10 years of hostility between the royalist establishment and Thaksin Shinawatra, a former telecommunications billionaire who won huge support among the rural and urban poor but angered the Bangkok-based elite and was deposed by the military in a 2006 coup.
Thailand’s caretaker prime minister has said he will see through planned July elections. Earlier, the Constitutional Court ruled that Yingluck Shinawatra was guilty of abuse of power charges and banned her from politics. After the ruling, the cabinet announced that Deputy Prime Minister and Commerce Minister Niwatthamrong Boonsongphaisan would replace Yingluck, and the caretaker government would press ahead with plans for the July 20 elections. As well as Yingluck, Thailand’s Constitutional Court also implicated nine ministers, but allowed others to retain their posts.
Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra was removed from office after the Constitutional Court ruled she abused her position by transferring a top security official, deepening the nation’s political crisis. Yingluck, 46, “violated the constitution,” Judge Udomsak Nitimontree said today in a nationally-televised ruling. She transferred the secretary-general of the National Security Council in 2011 in a process that “indicates an abuse of power,” the judge said. The nine judges in their unanimous decision invalidated Yingluck’s ministerial status, creating doubt about her caretaker government’s ability to continue until an election the Election Commission has agreed to hold July 20. The verdict risks prolonging a crisis that began with anti-government protests last October and has its roots in the removal of Yingluck’s brother, former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, in a 2006 coup.
Thailand’s political impasse looked no closer to a solution on Tuesday despite a rare meeting of political parties and the Election Commission to discuss how and when a new vote should be held after a general election in February was declared void. About 58 parties including the ruling Puea Thai Party met in Bangkok to discuss a rerun, after months of anti-government protests that have crippled Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra’s caretaker government and the economy. However, the main opposition Democrat Party did not attend, citing unspecified security concerns, and the parties did not settle on a date for a new election. The failure of the talks highlights the political division between the mostly poor, rural supporters of Yingluck and her brother, ousted former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, and the largely middle- and upper-class backers of the royalist establishment.
Pheu Thai, Chartthaipattana, Chart Pattana and Phalang Chon parties stepped up calls on Friday for the EC to wrap up the incomplete election process, warning that the country faces the threat of huge economic damage in the absence of a government. But election commissioner Somchai Srisuttiyakon yesterday dismissed the request, saying the EC was required to act within the law. He was speaking at a meeting of chairmen and directors of provincial election committees to discuss preparations for the Senate election on March 30 and the poll re-runs. Mr Somchai, who is in charge of election management, said it was impossible to hold a fresh election in the 28 southern constituencies which had no registered candidates as the caretaker government and the EC still could not reach a clear conclusion on how to proceed.
The caretaker government of Thailand Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra continues to maintain its fragile grip on power two weeks after a general election failed to yield sufficient parliamentarians to enable the formation of a new government in Southeast Asia’s second largest economy. The People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC), the Network of Students and People for Reform of Thailand (NSPRT) and the Dhamma Army continue to protest daily in the streets of the capital, Bangkok.
The post-election crisis in Thailand could spawn a political uncertainty that could last for weeks, if not months, with everyone guessing when a new government could come into being. Under normal circumstances, a prime minister can be named and a government formed within weeks after a nationwide parliamentary election. But given the polarization in the country’s political spectrum with Yingluck Shinawatra’s caretaker government on one side and the anti-government protesters on the other side, it is almost predictable that the political impasse could stretch to a much longer time, according to political analysts here. Both sides are not willing to compromise on their respective positions and a protracted legal battle looms, a situation that has baffled, it not exasperated, the cross-section of the Thai society.
As Thailand tries to resolve a debilitating political stalemate, five unelected officials have been armed with the power to over-rule its government in key areas and chart a route out of the mess left by this month’s disrupted election. For three-and-a-half months, protesters, mostly from Bangkok and the south, have been seeking to overthrow Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and rid the country of the influence of her brother, ousted former premier Thaksin Shinawatra. At the general election on February 2, the protesters disrupted polling or blocked candidates from registering in almost 70 of the 375 voting constituencies, leaving the new House of Representatives without the required quorum of members. That means Yingluck’s Puea Thai Party government will continue on a caretaker basis, despite almost certainly winning a majority, until elections are held to fill the remaining seats.
A member of Thailand’s Election Commission said it may prove impossible to complete this month’s disrupted election and the whole vote may need to be re-run, implying many months more under a caretaker government with limited powers. Action by anti-government protesters meant voting was scrapped or halted in about a fifth of constituencies, so there will not be enough lawmakers elected to convene parliament to vote in a prime minister.
Thai caretaker Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra has also called for a meeting with all sides to discuss an Electoral Commission proposal to postpone the February 2nd snap election. The move comes amid fierce anti-government protests that have paralysed parts of Bangkok since Monday. But her proposal has already been rejected by the People’s Democratic Reform Committee. Pressure is mounting on caretaker Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra as protests tighten. In hopes of placating her opponents, Yingluck has decided to comprise, calling for negotiations with the opposition about postponing next month’s election.
Bangladesh: Another beating: Sheikh Hasina plans to hang on to office after an electoral farce | The Economist
It is becoming hard to know whether Sheikh Hasina, Bangladesh’s prime minister, is a cynically good actress or cut off from political reality. Smiling before journalists in Dhaka, the capital, on January 6th, she chided opposition parties for their “mistake” in boycotting general elections the day before, then waved aside doubts over the legitimacy of her victory. Either way, her country’s democracy is in a rotten state. Of a potential electorate of 92m (out of more than 150m people), only a minority turned out. The government says just under 40% voted in contested seats; others think much less. It does not give Sheikh Hasina’s Awami League (AL), which has ruled since 2009, much of a basis for another term. Many polling stations saw almost no voters, then suspiciously large numbers of ballots cast late in the day. Of the 300 constituencies, just over half, 153, had no contest at all, since only AL candidates or allies registered. In the capital voting took place in just nine of 20 seats.
At least 18 people were killed in elections in Bangladesh on Jan. 5, in a bloody culmination to months of violent protest. With an opposition-led boycott of the vote leaving 153 out of 300 parliament seats uncontested, the foregone conclusion that Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and her ruling Awami League (AL) would remain in power translated into an abysmal voter turnout of some 20%, according to early reports. News of widespread violence on voting day kept many voters away. Though the streets of the capital city of Dhaka remained relatively quiet on Sunday, dozens of voting booths around the country were reportedly set on fire over the weekend. Other voters were simply disillusioned with the whole process. “It’s a very bad situation,” said Mohammed Abdul Salam, a businessman in Dhaka, who did not vote. “We have no choice.”
Tunisia’s ruling Islamists are preparing to resign in the next few days to make way for a caretaker cabinet once government and opposition parties agree on the makeup of an electoral commission, mediators said on Tuesday. Three years after its uprising ousted veteran autocratic president Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, Tunisia is in the final stages of its transition to full democracy after months of deadlock between Islamist and secular parties. Late last year, after a political crisis erupted, the ruling Islamist party Ennahda agreed to hand over power to a caretaker government once a new constitution was complete, an election committee named and a date for elections set. Tunisia’s national assembly last week began voting on the final parts of the new constitution, and parties on Tuesday were working out disagreements over composition of the election commission to oversee a vote later this year.
Bangladesh’s Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina ruled out Thursday any last-minute cancelation of weekend elections that have been boycotted by the opposition, accusing her rivals of holding the country hostage. In a final address to the nation ahead of Sunday’s violence-plagued polls, Hasina accused opposition leader Khaleda Zia of shunning dialogue and rejecting an offer to share power in an interim administration. “We have tried our best to bring the BNP (Bangladesh Nationalist Party) into the elections,” Hasina, who is the leader of the ruling Awami League, said in a 40-minute televised address. “Zia spurned my offer for dialogue and instead chose the path of confrontation. “The Jan. 5 polls will be held in accordance with the constitution,” she added.
Tens of thousands of troops are being deployed across Bangladesh to try to prevent potential political violence ahead of next month’s elections. This comes as main opposition leader Khaleda Zia has urged her supporters to stage nationwide protests. She says she will boycott the 5 January general elections unless Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina quits and a neutral caretaker government is installed. Ms Hasina’s government has rejected the opposition’s demand. Caretaker governments previously oversaw elections, but Ms Hasina scrapped the arrangement in 2011.
The Election Commission on Thursday warned that proceeding with the upcoming general election may fuel further unrest, and urged the government and protesters to reach a compromise. The five election commissioners also warned that holding an election during this time of intense political strife could lead to many people rejecting the poll result. The EC made the statement as anti-government protesters, led by former Democrat Party MP Suthep Thaugsuban, marched in Bangkok to campaign for a boycott of the Feb 2 election. Mr Suthep has also called for a mass gathering on Sunday, one day before the EC opens the registration for party list candidates. The protest leader has vowed to ensure the polls do not take place.
In an attempt to disrupt the upcoming national poll, an alliance of 33 opposition parties in Nepal recently called for a transport blockade, demanding that the current interim administration be disbanded and a new multi-party government be formed to oversee elections at a later date. The group believes the November 19 vote will not be fair if it is overseen by the Chief Justice heading the current caretaker government. But the blockade – set to last until election day – hasn’t gone quite as planned. After thousands of drivers across the country defied the strike, opposition activists resorted to violence, torching cars, forcing businesses to close and bringing much of the South Asian nation to a standstill. The incident is just the latest in a string of political upheavals, exposing the increased level of polarization in one of the world’s youngest democracies. “The bandhs, or strikes, are a typical tool used in Nepal to compel other political parties into granting concessions by paralyzing economic activity,” said Vanda Felbab-Brown, a senior fellow in the Foreign Policy program of the US-based Brookings Institution. “Every time the moment of taking big decisions arrives, Nepalese politicians pull out the bandh ploy,” she told DW, adding that this pattern had been repeated over the past years, but especially in the run-up to May 2012, when the fourth deadline to pass a new constitution was to expire.
Four days ahead of Czech parliamentary elections, a giant middle-finger salute directed at Prague Castle – seat of the head of state – appeared on October 21. The sculpture appears a protest both at the cynicism of Czech politics, and the efforts of President Milos Zeman to leverage the disillusionment within the country to increase his power. At ten metres tall, the purple finger – mounted on a barge floating on the Vltava River which weaves through the capital – leaves little room for interpretation. Artist David Cerny refused to discuss the work, except to say that the gesture is well-known and clear. More important, he told state broadcaster CTK, is the direction in which it is facing. Zeman is not currently in the country and through a spokesperson said that he did not want to comment on something he has not seen. The election on October 25-26 follows the collapse of the previous centre-right coalition amid a corruption and spying scandal. The left-leaning Zeman, who took office in March, exploited loopholes in the constitution to install a “caretaker” government, despite objections from all the major parties. Many have likened the move to a “quiet coup” by the president.
The president of Mali’s election commission has raised doubts over its ability to stage presidential polls seen as essential to restoring democracy to the conflict-scarred country on the planned date of July 28. A caretaker government announced the vote just one month ago, raising a number of urgent questions over the possibility of free and fair elections in a nation recovering from a coup that paved the way for Islamist rebels to seize control of the north. “It will be extremely difficult to organise the first round of the presidential election on July 28,” Mamadou Diamountani said late on Thursday. Diamountani told AFP there were still “many challenges to overcome” before a nationwide vote could take place throughout the west African state. “Firstly, we have to recognise that the production of polling cards is way behind behind schedule. But this is the only document that allows the voter to vote. It isn’t just an identity card, but also a voter registration card,” he said.
Mass protests in Bulgaria against austerity measures and energy costs forced out the government in February. Elections set for Sunday could lead to more political turmoil. Recent public-opinion surveys indicate that the conservative party that led the previous administration and its main, left-leaning challenger are running neck-and-neck, complicating prospects for the formation of a governing coalition. Unhappiness with low living standards and perceived corruption in the European Union’s poorest member state boiled over this past winter, leading to nationwide demonstrations, initially over rising electricity prices.
François Hollande’s victory in the French presidential polls this year showed how a single national election can change Europe’s political equilibrium. Now the forthcoming Dutch election is being shaken up by the eurozone’s attempts to end its crisis and threatening in return to cause complications for Europe.
The election itself is a result of the Dutch government being a casualty of the eurozone crisis. Long a hawkish supporter of deficit cuts in the currency union’s periphery, the Netherlands was forced to take its own medicine when it went into recession last year and was set to miss fiscal targets agreed with the EU. An austerity package, designed by the coalition between prime minister Mark Rutte’s centre-right Liberal party and the Christian Democrats, led Geert Wilders’ populist Freedom party to withdraw parliamentary support and bring the government down. Both right and left are now riven by disagreements over how to handle the eurozone debt crisis. On the right, Mr Wilders has burnt his bridges and can only play the role of obstructionist. On the left, the Socialist party has outflanked the Labour party with strident criticism of both domestic austerity and the Fiscal Compact – the disciplining treaty demanded by German chancellor Angela Merkel.
Netherlands: Top candidate in Dutch national elections: ignore Europe’s 3 percent deficit limit in 2013 | The Washington Post
One of the leading candidates in the upcoming Dutch national elections said he would not feel bound by Europe’s rule to keep budget deficits within a certain limit if elected prime minister. The remarks were made by Emile Roemer, the leader of the Socialist Party, which is neck-and-neck with Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s conservative party in early polls ahead of September 12 elections. In an interview with Het Financieele Dagblad, published Thursday, Roemer said it was “idiocy” to fixate on meeting the rule in 2013. The rule requiring governments to keep budget deficits below 3 percent of GDP has often been flouted since the euro was introduced in 1999. Roemer reportedly said he would pay a fine from Brussels “over my dead body” and noted that the Dutch are one of the largest contributors to the European Union budget in terms of its population. Roemer’s remarks could not immediately be confirmed with his campaign office, but they are in line with the his party’s stance throughout European sovereign debt crisis.
Greek political leaders meet on Wednesday to form a caretaker government that will lead the country into its second election in just over a month, with Greece’s euro membership at stake in a mounting crisis rocking world markets. Parties deeply divided over an unpopular EU-IMF rescue plan threw in the towel on Tuesday after nine days of failed attempts to put together a coalition, hitting heavyweight financial stocks as investors worried at the prospect that the euro zone weakling would remain in limbo for at least another month. Opinion polls show that voters enraged with five years of recession, record unemployment and steep wage cuts are likely to elect a parliament as fragmented as the one they chose on May 6. But the vote, probably in mid-June, may well tip the balance of power toward leftist parties opposed to the bailout conditions.
Greece headed into a month of political uncertainty after power-sharing talks collapsed Tuesday, triggering new elections that could determine whether the country retains its tenuous position in Europe’s currency. Nine tortured days of fruitless talks to build a coalition government fueled increasing doubt that Greece can make enough reforms to prevent the world’s largest currency union from fracturing. “We expect the euro to remain under pressure as a result of this, and pressure on the borrowing costs, the bond yields, of countries like Spain and Italy to persist,” said John Bowler, director of the Economist Intelligence Unit’s Country Risk Service. No date has been set for the elections, but they will have to be held by mid-June – the month in which Greece must make more spending cuts to ensure it meets the terms of its international bailout. A caretaker government will be appointed until then.
The ruling Dutch minority government is on the brink of collapse after anti-EU lawmaker Geert Wilders torpedoed seven weeks of austerity talks, saying he would not cave in to budget demands from ‘dictators in Brussels’. New national elections that will be a referendum on the Netherlands’ relationship with Europe and its ailing single currency are now all but certain. But before Prime Minister Mark Rutte can tender his resignation – possibly as early as Monday – he must consult with allies and opposition parties on how to run a caretaker government that will have to make important economic decisions in the coming weeks and months. ‘Elections are the logical next step,’ Rutte said.
Guinea-Bissau’s military junta said on Wednesday it would take two years to restore democratic rule in the West African state through elections that will be set by a soon-to-be-named caretaker government. The announcement came after broad international condemnation of the shadowy “Military Command” which seized power last week and cut short a presidential poll by detaining its front-runner, former Prime Minister Carlos Gomes Junior. The former Portuguese colony has seen several coups and army revolts since independence in 1974. The latest coup was a blow to efforts by Western donors to reduce military meddling in the country’s politics and counter the influence of drug-trafficking cartels using Guinea-Bissau as a transshipment point.
Campaigning closes in Tunisia Friday, two days before its first democratic elections, with a formerly banned Islamist party poised to dominate an assembly that will pave the way for a new government.
Nine months after the ouster of strongman Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in a popular revolt that sparked region-wide pro-democracy uprisings, more than seven million potential voters will have a final chance to hear the main parties’ election promises at closing rallies planned countrywide. Campaigning closes at midnight.
On Sunday, three days after the Arab Spring claimed its latest victim with the killing of Libya’s Muammar Qaddafi, Tunisians will seek to turn the page on decades of post-colonial autocratic rule by electing 217 members of a constituent assembly from more than 10,000 candidates.
The Election Commission (EC) is often at the receiving end of strong criticism for its failure to conduct national elections properly. Such criticisms are generally made by the defeated candidates or political parties. The presence of ‘ghost’ voters on the electoral rolls and fake voting are common problems that the EC has been facing for decades. There were, allegedly, some other greater schemes, designed by powerful quarters in the past, to which the EC had become a party by default or by design.
The EC, at the initiative taken by the last military-backed caretaker government, prepared and distributed national identity cards (IDs) to all eligible voters and also printed electoral rolls carrying photographs of the voters before the last general elections. It was a huge task for the EC. But it could accomplish the task quite efficiently under a Tk. 5.7 billion project — large part of which was financed by the external donors — with the active assistance from the Bangladesh Army. The EC had undertaken in the early 1990s a voters’ ID card project but it was abandoned later, after wasting a substantial amount of money.