A huge rally for constitutional reform has taken place in Togo, a country presided over by one family for the past half-century. Opponents of the government want President Faure Gnassingbe to “leave by the front door.” Tens of thousands of protesters wearing the colors of Togo’s opposition parties – red, orange and pink – marched through the Togolese capital, Lome, on Wednesday. Some carried aloft placards bearing slogans including “Free Togo” and denouncing the Gnassingbe regime after 50 years in power. Opposition party leader Jean-Pierre Fabre said the demo had been “unprecedented” and estimated that “more than one million people” were on the streets of the capital, Lome.
Thailand: Voters approve a military-backed constitution, paving the way for a general election | Reuters
A democratically elected government will take power in Thailand at the earliest by December 2017, a senior Thai official said on Monday, after the country endorsed a military-backed constitution paving the way for a general election. Thais handed the junta of Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha a convincing win in the referendum on Sunday, with preliminary results showing over 61 percent voted in favor. Full results are due on Wednesday. A desire to see greater political stability drove the yes vote, analysts said. Thailand has been rocked by more than a decade of political turmoil that has stunted growth, two military takeovers and several rounds of often deadly street protests. “We think there will be an election at the earliest in September or October 2017, and a new government by December 2017,” Chatchai Na Chiang Mai, spokesman for the Constitution Drafting Committee, told Reuters. Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam on Monday also said an election will take place in 2017, confirming the timeline Prayuth laid out ahead of the referendum.
Thais head to the polls next week to vote in a referendum designed to breathe life into what has become a stagnant democratic process. An affirmative vote on Aug. 7 will see Thailand adopt a new constitution — its twentieth since 1932. Junta leader Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha, who seized power in 2014, has promised general elections next year — but not before a fresh constitution is adopted. But that next step is by no means a fait accompli for, once again, Thailand is polarized as many fear that Prayuth and his cadres are getting a little too comfortable in the government’s shoes. While there are undoubtedly some who approve of the substance of the draft charter, which was painstakingly drawn up by a military-appointed committee, millions of disillusioned Thai citizens just want to see the wheels of democracy moving again.
Less than one month before Thailand’s highly anticipated August 7 constitutional referendum, a widening clampdown on “vote no” activities has galvanized further dissent and upped the risk of post-poll instability. Hard curbs on free expression, imposed in a draconian Referendum Act that carries potential 10-year prison penalties for misrepresenting the draft constitution, criticizing its content, or disrupting the vote, have simultaneously raised doubts about the credibility and integrity of the military-steered democratic process. If passed, the constitution will bestow the military broad powers over future elected governments, including fast-track means to remove elected politicians deemed as corrupt or wayward. The country’s top two sidelined political parties, the Democrats and Peua Thai, have both condemned provisions in the draft, including articles that would hamstring their ability to implement policies that run counter to coup-installed Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha’s 20-year economic development plan.
A resounding election victory for Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s ruling bloc has opened the door a crack for his long-cherished ambition to revise the constitution for the first time since it was enacted in 1947 — a behind-the-scenes agenda that could over time change Japan’s future. Gains in parliamentary elections Sunday mean that Abe’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party, with the help of coalition partner Komeito and fringe groups supporting constitutional change, now can cobble together the crucial two-thirds majority in the 242-member upper house needed to propose revision and put it to a referendum. The LDP and Komeito already have a two-thirds majority in the lower house. Holding a so-called “supermajority” in both houses is rare, and the LDP’s long-term goal of constitutional revision has never seemed so realistic.
Despite the death of seven Japanese aid workers in the Dhaka siege last Friday, opposition parties are putting pressure on Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in the run-up to this Sunday’s Upper House election not to rewrite security laws that will give the country more powers to protect itself and its citizens. They have vowed to block any attempts by Mr Abe to revise the Constitution to allow Japan to exercise its right to collective self-defence and go to the aid of any ally under attack. Mr Abe had alluded to the possible change at a rally after the Bangladesh attack, when he stressed he will take “all possible means” to ensure the safety of Japanese citizens around the world. “We’d like to join forces with the international community to root out terrorist acts. We will firmly secure the safety of Japanese nationals both at home and abroad,” he said last Sunday.
The July 10 House of Councillors election could put at least two-thirds of the upper house in the hands of lawmakers amenable to amending the Japanese Constitution, opening the door to a national referendum on the issue, according to a Kyodo News survey. The ruling bloc of the Liberal Democratic Party and Komeito are likely to win at least 70 of the 121 seats up for grabs in the election, comfortably exceeding Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s stated target of 61, a majority of the contested seats. The nationwide telephone poll conducted Wednesday and Thursday—in which a total of 34,240 households nationwide were surveyed and 27,597 eligible voters responded—suggests that with the addition of Initiatives from Osaka and independents thought likely to support reform, Abe could amass sufficient support for his long-standing goal of amending the war-renouncing Constitution.
At a press conference on Monday, the Alliance for Peace and Democracy – the organizer of a massive petition which lasted nine days – said over 1.21 million people had signed in support of the Hong Kong SAR Government’s constitutional reform package. The simple fact that more than 20 percent of eligible voters, or a seventh of the city’s populace signed their names, speaks volumes about Hong Kong society’s aspirations regarding universal suffrage. It sends a crystal-clear message that the overwhelming majority of Hong Kong people don’t want their voting rights deprived by a tiny minority of opposition lawmakers.
In the days after Mahinda Rajapaksa, the Sri Lankan president, was betrayed by a group of his longtime aides, comparisons were made to Judas Iscariot and the serpent in the Garden of Eden, but nothing expressed the depth of the president’s hurt and bewilderment like the fact that the desertion had occurred just after a shared meal of hoppers. As he watched his old allies begin to stage an unexpected campaign last month to block his re-election, Mr. Rajapaksa could not help but dwell bitterly on the hoppers, pancakes made of fermented rice flour that are one of Sri Lanka’s most beloved comfort foods. He praised his new health minister, who replaced the most prominent defector, by saying he was not “someone who eats hoppers in the night and then stabs you in the back in the morning.” Mr. Rajapaksa is a famously sure-footed campaigner, so confident that he scheduled elections for Jan. 8, two years before the end of his second term. But the defections caught him unaware, and he is so jittery that he has begun promising concessions — like constitutional reforms and an investigation into possible war crimes committed during the government’s campaign against northern separatists — should he win a third six-year term.
Nearly one million Mauritians head to the polls on Wednesday for the tenth legislative election since the island nation’s independence, with the key campaign issue: the proposed strengthening of presidential powers. The issue of constitutional reform makes the polls one of the most important for Mauritius since the independence of the Indian Ocean nation from Britain in 1968. Two rival coalitions are competing for 62 parliamentary seats — 60 on the main island of Mauritius, and two on the small island of Rodrigues, some 560 kilometres (350 miles) to the east.
Few Togolese would seem less likely to offer praise for their country’s political system than Gilchrist Olympio. His father, Sylvanus, Togo’s first post-independence president, was assassinated in 1963 by a hit squad led by Eyadéma Gnassingbé, who seized power in a coup four years later and ruled Togo with an iron fist for 38 years. A severe critic of his father’s murderer, the exiled Mr Olympio was twice sentenced to death in absentia. But much has changed in this country of 6m-plus people, wedged between Ghana to the west and Benin to the east, since the presidency passed to Faure Gnassingbé, the coup-plotter’s son (pictured), in 2005. Slowly but noticeably he has begun to loosen the reins. Three years ago he created a national unity government that includes Mr Olympio, who is repaying the favour by praising Mr Gnassingbé ahead of a general election, delayed from last year, that is due to take place on July 25th. “We are now in a democratic system,” he says, while gearing up to oppose the president’s party in the poll.
Voting Blogs: Party Nationalization after the 2013 Ecuadorian Legislative and Presidential Election | The Monkey Cage
On Friday, 8 March, the Ecuadorian National Electoral Council (Consejo Nacional Electoral, CNE) released the final voting results for the legislative and presidential elections held on 17 February. These results verify the dominance of the government party, Alianza Patria Altiva I Soberana (Alianza PAIS), and hint at a realignment of the party system. Riding the coattails of the popular incumbent president Rafael Correa, Alianza PAIS has transcended the historical tendency towards regionalization of the country’s parties through a strong performance across the country’s 34 electoral districts. This election marks an important milestone for democracy in Ecuador. President Correa is completing the first full term for an Ecuadorian president since Sixto Durán Ballén (1992-1996), and his time in office surpasses that of Isidro Ayora (1926-1931), making him the longest-serving president in the country’s history. His current mandate terminates on 10 August 2013. As expected, Correa easily won re-election in the first-round with 57% of the valid vote, and Alianza PAIS won a 92-seat majority in the 137-member unicameral legislative assembly (seat distribution is still being decided by the National Electoral Council, pending a ruling on potential voter fraud in the province of Guayas).
United Kingdom: UK Recall Election Plans Too Weak And Should Be Abandoned, Say MPs | Huffington Post UK
The government should abandon its plan to allow voters to sack MPs mid-term, a Commons committee has said. In a report published on Thursday the Political and Constitutional Reform Committee said the proposed powers of recall were so weak that they could actually reduce the public’s confidence in politics. In December last year the government published a draft Bill that proposed that MPs found guilty of “serious wrongdoing” could be being kicked out of parliament if 10% of voters in a constituency signed a petition against them. But under the plans a petition could only be held if they were first censured by a vote in the House of Commons and could not be triggered by voters themselves. A by-election would also automatically take place if an MP was convicted of a criminal offence and was sentenced to less than a year in prison.
It should be a moment of excitement: Moroccans are choosing a parliament in elections Friday prompted by the Arab Spring’s clamor for freedom. Yet there are few signs here that elections are even taking place. Posters and raucous rallies for candidates are absent in the cities and instead there are just stark official banners urging citizens to “do their national duty” and “participate in the change the country is undergoing.”
“The parties have presented the same people for the past 30 years, the least they could do is change their candidates,” said Hassan Rafiq, a vegetable vendor in the capital Rabat, who said he didn’t plan to vote.
Like elsewhere in the Arab world, Moroccans hit the streets in the first half of 2011 calling for more democracy, and King Mohammed VI responded by amending the constitution and bringing forward elections. But since then the sense of change has dissipated.
New steps voters will be required to take to be included on the electoral register are set out today by the Government.
The Individual Electoral Registration White Paper details the process for moving to individual voter registration, replacing the existing system of household registration. The change is designed to modernise the electoral system and tackle fraud.
Mark Harper MP, Minister for Political and Constitutional Reform, said Britain is almost alone in retaining a system of household registration, which is now widely considered to be outdated and vulnerable to fraud. Moving to individual electoral registration will help to ensure our system is more robust against fraud and gives every individual control over whether or not they are included on the register.