Minority Serbs in a tense northern Kosovo city cast ballots under tight security on Sunday, redoing a vote that was derailed when masked men attacked staff and destroyed voting materials. Special police units in bulletproof vests backed by members of the European Union police and justice mission and armed NATO peacekeepers stood outside polling stations to prevent a repeat of the electoral violence that stopped the Nov. 3 poll in ethnically divided Mitrovica. The incident was blamed on hardline Serbs who fear the vote endorses Kosovo’s 2008 secession from Serbia. Kosovo authorities said Sunday that voter turnout to elect a mayor of the Serb-run part of the city and members of the local council was 22 percent.
Violence that forced voting stations to close early on Sunday in the Serbian-dominated city of north Mitrovica and led to the destruction of ballots is likely to prompt Kosovo authorities to order a rerun of elections there, officials said on Monday. While violence was a blow to European Union-brokered peace efforts between Serbia and Kosovo, regional and European officials stressed that elections went smoothly in the rest of the country and there was significant turnout of ethnic Serbs in southern Kosovo, where ethnic Albanians dominate. On Tuesday, the EU’s election mission will issue its preliminary verdict on the conduct of Sunday’s elections. Decisions on whether and how to boost security in the north in coming weeks are still being considered, officials said.
Hard-line Serbs in northern Kosovo intimidated would-be voters and were suspected of attacking a polling station during local elections Sunday. The actions underscored Kosovo’s strained relations with Serbia, even as both states seek closer ties to the European Union. It was the first time voters in all of Kosovo were choosing local councilors and mayors since the country seceded from Serbia in 2008. The participation in the election of minority Serbs in Kosovo was being watched carefully. The integration of Serbs into Kosovar political life is a key element of an EU-brokered deal between Serbia and Kosovo that seeks to settle their disputes and unlock EU funds. The Serb hard-liners’ tactics, however, appeared to suppress voter turnout and raised concerns that Serbia had not fulfilled its pledge to stop fueling defiance among Serbs in Kosovo, especially in the north, where they dominate the population.
Madagascar’s first presidential election since a military-backed coup was free and fair, European Union (EU) and Southern African observers said on Sunday, as early results trickled out two days after the poll. The announcements were a boost for the Indian Ocean island which needs a credible vote to rebuild investors’ confidence and win back aid suspended after dissident troops propelled Andry Rajoelina into power in 2009. But foreign envoys warned there was still time for an upset. Full results cold take as long as a week to emerge and the two front-runners both anticipate a second-round runoff, prolonging the uncertainty. “This election has been free, transparent and credible,” the head of the EU observer mission, Maria Muniz de Urquiza, said. The Southern African Development Community (SADC), which suspended Madagascar as a member after Rajoelina’s power grab, said the vote had “reflected the will of Malagasy people”.
Voters in Luxembourg are going to the polls as Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker, Europe’s longest-serving leader, faces his toughest election yet after 18 years at the helm. The snap legislative elections in the European Union’s wealthiest nation per capita follow a scandal over misconduct by the secret service that fractured the coalition government headed by Juncker’s Christian Social People’s Party (CSV). Its junior Socialist Party (LSAP) partners withheld support when opponents accused the prime minister of having been too busy steering the euro currency through crisis – in his capacity as head of the Eurogroup – to get his dysfunctional intelligence service back on track. Misdemeanours by the SREL secret service, which the Juncker is supposed to oversee, included illegal phone taps, corruption and even dodgy dealings in luxury cars.
Bärbel Höhn stopped believing in coincidence long ago. The Green party politician says she rubbed her eyes when she first read of the large donation made by major BMW shareholders to the Christian Democratic Union, the governing party led by Chancellor Angela Merkel. Less than three weeks after the general election, three members of the Quandt and Klatten families transferred some 690,000 euros ($930,000) to the CDU. As is legally required of any donation over 50,000 euros, the figure was published on the German parliament’s website. The transaction was completely legal, but Höhn is outraged nevertheless, because it came just as Merkel’s government was working to protect the interests of the German auto industry at the European Union. “It does have a bitter after-taste if a major donation of 690,000 euros comes from BMW at the same time as the chancellor is doing everything she can to block a really ambitious CO2 limit for cars,” she said.
Two convicted murderers who argued that European Union law gave them the right to vote in UK elections have had their appeals dismissed by the supreme court at Westminster. Peter Chester, who is serving a life sentence in England, and George McGeoch, who is behind bars in Scotland, both tried to sidestep British legislation over prisoner voting rights, the European court of human of rights in Strasbourg having in the past ruled illegal Britain’s voting ban for all those serving any sentence. A parliamentary committee is considering whether to enforce the rulings or defy the European judges. The supreme court justices observed that since Strasbourg had already declared the blanket ban on prisoners voting incompatible with human rights, there was no point in repeating it. David Cameron welcomed the unanimous supreme court decision. The prime minister tweeted: “The supreme court judgment on prisoner voting is a great victory for common sense.”
The United Nations and the international community on Sunday called upon Guinea’s electoral commission to publish results of a September 28 election aimed at completing a transition to democracy, saying it was concerned over the delay. Disputes over a published partial count have held up the final result and raised fears of a resurgence of violence that killed about 50 people before the vote. The opposition is calling for the election to be annulled, dampening hopes for an end to years of instability since a 2008 military coup that deterred investment in the world’s largest bauxite exporter. The United Nations and representatives of the international community including the West African regional bloc ECOWAS, the European Union and the International Organisation of the Francophonie, which brokered a deal with the opposition to end protests and allow the legislative vote, said they were concerned by delays in the publication of the results.
The Maldives government urged all political parties to accept a Supreme Court ruling throwing out the result of last month’s presidential election and vowed that balloting next week will be transparent. The government said it is seeking the support of other nations and international organizations in holding the new election, and encouraged “everyone concerned to respect and abide by the Supreme Court ruling.” The Elections Commission announced Tuesday that the revote will be held Oct. 19. On Monday, the court annulled the results of the first round of voting in the presidential election, agreeing with a losing candidate that the vote was flawed.
Zimbabwe: Mugabe tells opponents who dispute Zimbabwe election results to 'go hang… commit suicide' | The Independent
Hitting back at the furore over his disputed victory in last month’s elections, Robert Mugabe launched a new tirade against his opponents, telling them to “go hang”. In his first public speech since the 31 July elections, the 89-year-old Mr Mugabe taunted his defeated rival Morgan Tsvangirai, who is currently launching a court challenge to what he describes as a “fraudulent and stolen” vote. Mr Mugabe dismissed Mr Tsvangirai and his Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) as “pathetic puppets” and “Western stooges”. Mr Mugabe was speaking at a national shrine outside Harare at the annual Heroes’ Day rally to honour heroes of the country’s liberation wars. The MDC boycotted the event in protest at the contested vote. The President did not name Mr Tsvangirai directly during his hour-long speech, but his opponent was clearly the target of some choice invective. “Those who lost elections may commit suicide if they so wish. Even if they die, dogs will not eat their flesh,” Mr Mugabe said.
Expectations of Mali’s presidential election were so low that everyone was pleasantly surprised when the vote passed peacefully with perhaps half of eligible voters participating. With security tight at polling booths Sunday, there were no violent attacks despite threats from an Al Qaeda-linked militia, the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa. And, with the country’s peace and stability at stake, the 50% turnout estimated by European Union observers was higher than past election turnouts of around 40%. Turnout in the country’s troubled north, however, was lower. Former Prime Minister Ibrahim Boubacar Keita is leading the vote count, according to Malian state-owned television. If he fails to gain more than 50% of the vote, a runoff will be held next month.
Guinea’s government and opposition parties reached a deal on Wednesday to hold long-delayed legislative elections at the end of September to complete the mineral-rich nation’s transition to civilian rule. Elections scheduled for June 30 were postponed after a wave of protests, with the opposition accusing President Alpha Conde of planning to rig the poll. Conde won a 2010 election in Guinea’s first democratic transition of power, but his victory was contested by the opposition. “We have reached an agreement,” Mouctar Diallo, one of the opposition’s leaders, told Reuters. “I hope the international community will guarantee the implementation of this deal.”
The European Union, the United States and the African Union proposed on Wednesday imposing sanctions such as travel bans on Madagascar’s president and two other presidential candidates unless they withdrew from a planned election. The former French colony has been in crisis since 2009 when President Andry Rajoelina seized power with military support, ousting former President Marc Ravalomanana and triggering turmoil that scared off investors and tourists. Rajoelina and Ravalomanana had reached a deal with regional states not to run in this year’s poll. But when Ravalomanana’s wife, Lalao Ravalomanana, chose to run, Rajoelina said the pact had broken down and put his name forward. As a result, foreign donors suspended election financing and the government had to postpone the vote by a month to 23 August.
The conservative prime minister who dominated post-communist politics in Albania has conceded election defeat, taking personal responsibility for the heavy loss to the rival Socialists after losing the support of fed-up voters. Sali Berisha, who had been seeking a third straight term as prime minister in Sunday’s general election, also announced to party supporters late on Wednesday he would step down as leader of his center-right Democratic Party. The 68-year-old’s party was beaten handily. With nearly all of the votes counted, Socialist Edi Rama was ahead with 53 percent, compared to just 36 percent for the Democrats.
The European Union on Tuesday congratulated Albania for its “overall orderly” parliamentary election despite violent incidents, but urged the Balkan country to complete the process in accordance with international norms. “We condemn the reported cases of violence and expect that these incidents will be fully investigated and perpetrators brought to justice,” the EU‘s foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, and Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fule said. “Now it is important that the remaining stages of the election process are conducted in line with EU and international standards,” they said.
Deep in the Balkans, two of the West’s leading political operatives — John Podesta, architect of Bill Clinton’s two successful campaigns for the White House, and former British prime minister Tony Blair — are going head to head in one of the strangest and most deeply fraught election campaigns in years. At stake here for both sets of lobbyists is not only the promise of millions in consulting fees and ongoing, profitable lobbying contracts, but bragging rights as well — to having stage-managed a winning campaign involving 66 political parties bundled in at least three coalitions, and deep hatreds in all camps. So both sides — center-left Prime Minister Sali Berisha going for his third four-year term, challenged by the socialist Edi Rama — have managed to transform this electoral contest into a curious mélange of non-stop campaign rallies, caravans with blaring loudspeakers, a series of televised debates with both sides shouting at each other, and wall-to-wall television coverage that would not be out of place in Chicago or Houston. On Sunday, voters will decide.
The people of Albania are to vote on Sunday (23 June) in an election seen as an important test of the country’s ambitions to join the European Union. The vote will come four days before an EU summit at which national leaders are expected to give the go-ahead for Serbia and Kosovo to advance to the next stages of their attempts to join the EU. Those votes of confidence will contrast with the slow progress that Albania has made since it applied for membership in 2009. At the start of the election campaign, the European Commission criticised the Albanian government for planning to call a referendum to push through reforms demanded by the EU.
International election observers on Monday said Pakistan’s elections were a success and a step forward for the country, despite accusations by losing politicians of vote-rigging in many areas. The preliminary findings by the two largest observer missions—the European Union Election Observation Mission and the joint mission of the National Democratic Institute in the U.S. and the Asian Network for Free Elections—also applauded the high voter turnout, despite high levels of violence. Some 64 people were killed on election day Saturday. Michael Gahler, chief observer of the EU mission, described the election, which was won by the conservative Pakistan Muslim League-N of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, as “competitive and improved despite militant violence.”
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.
The British government will demand EU observation role in the coming Zimbabwe election during the re-engagement talks scheduled to begin in London tomorrow reports in a communiqué leaked to the Press reveals. By their nature, communiques are brief reports or outlines of deliberations undertaken and cannot be prepared before such deliberations. Although the Zimbabwe re-engagement team comprising of Justice and Legal Affairs Minister Patrick Chinamasa; Energy and Power Development Minister Elton Mangoma, and Regional Integration and International Co-operation Minister Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga left for London yesterday, a full draft communiqué dated 26 March 2013 had already been prepared detailing Britain’s position and the perceived contributions from the re-engagement team. The 10-point communiqué is titled “Friends of Zimbabwe, 2013 Draft Communiqué”.
Leaders of protests that felled the Bulgarian government are struggling to unite to form a single political party that can challenge the old order at May’s election. Despite hundreds of thousands of people protesting in the past months over what they see as a corrupt political class that has failed to improve living standards, that impetus is now waning and their leaders are squabbling among themselves. “Suddenly, every Bulgarian is … the organizer of the protests,” Angel Slavchev, from the National Citizens Initiative, one of several groups competing to lead protesters, told Reuters. “I have had enough of fakes.”
Seeking a solution to stalemate in the Senate, Italy’s upper house of parliament, election-winner Pier Luigi Bersani has said his center-left alliance will not ally with former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s bloc. Pier Luigi Bersani said in a newspaper interview published on Friday that his center-left bloc was not prepared to ally with the rival group led by Silvio Berlusconi, even with Berlusconi holding the upper hand in the Senate. “I want to spell it out clearly: the idea of a grand coalition does not exist and will never exist,” Bersani told La Repubblica. As the most popular party in the vote for the Chamber of Deputies, the lower house, Bersani’s bloc is guaranteed 54 percent of the seats under Italian electoral law. The Senate, however, has roughly equal legislative powers, meaning that this lower house majority might not suffice for Bersani to push policies through as premier. “Call it what you want,” Bersani said when asked whether he would seek a minority government in the Senate instead. “Minority government, government of purpose, that doesn’t interest me. For me it is a government of change.”
Italy is no longer striking a “bella figura.” The country’s post- election chaos has shaken the very foundations of the European Union as the idea of a politically united Europe appears to suffer a blow. Rome’s Colosseum appears somewhat run-down, with its enormous pillars stained gray by pollution and its basement vaults fallen down. Yet it continues to be a first-class European cultural good. Now, with the Italian capital’s coffers empty, a luxury fashion company is financing the site’s renovation, to the tune of 25 million euros ($33 million). These days, the monument to Rome’s former greatness appears to be a reflection of Italy. Because of its financial problems and current political stand-off, Italy – among the “most European” of countries – has become the problem child of the Continent. Like the Colosseum, the highly indebted eurozone country could be dependent on external help – namely that of the European Union. The EU is hoping that the Mediterranean country will be able to get itself out of its crisis, as the EU isn’t eager to take on the role of sponsor. But if the third-largest economy of the eurozone keeps tumbling, it could take the whole bloc with it. Developments in Italy, though a consolation to EU skeptics in Greece, Spain and Portugal, have placed basic assumptions into question: for example, whether Europe can be reformed, how fundamental sustainable solidarity is, and whether the political union even makes sense. Is European Union drifting apart?
The ruling Party of Regions and its allies look set to win Ukraine’s parliamentary election on October 28th. They may even gain a constitutional majority with control of two-thirds of the parliament. This will likely happen despite the fact that most Ukrainians regularly tell pollsters their country is heading “in the wrong direction” and less than a quarter of them plan to vote for the Party of Regions. Perhaps the most important reason for this is that Ukraine has reverted to the mixed proportional and first-past-the-post system last used in 2002. Back then, it allowed Leonid Kuchma, an unpopular president, to secure a working majority in parliament thanks to a divided opposition and post-election defections to his camp. The same conditions are in place now for Viktor Yanukovych (pictured above), the current president. His candidates can come out on top in first-past-the-post constituencies where three or more opposition politicians are competing. On October 14th the two main anti-Yanukovych forces agreed to withdraw some of their candidates in some districts in order to limit this phenomenon, but they have stopped far short of a genuine alliance. It is testament to the current parliamentary opposition’s ineffectiveness that it allowed this electoral reform to pass last year, giving the ruling party a chance to retain power in an election that could be classed as free and fair (given that an elected parliament had agreed to its rules).
Austerity-weary Lithuanians are set to eject the country’s ruling centre-right coalition in an election this month, a move likely to delay the moment the small European Union member state joins the euro and to ease ties with Russia. However, the new government, which opinion polls show is likely to be a broad coalition led by the centre-left Social Democrats, is expected to largely stick to austerity as the Baltic state cannot afford to be frozen out of debt markets. “The situation is unbearable, half of Lithuania has emigrated,” said Svetlana Orlovskaya, 65, as she headed to work as a factory cleaner in a suburb of the capital city Vilnius. She said Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius, head of a four-party coalition since 2008, had not done “anything good”.
Pakistan: Free, fair, transparent elections: ECP to receive 10 million euro from EU, National Assembly told | Business Recorder
The Election Commission of Pakistan is likely to receive 10 million Euro from the European Union for holding free, fair and transparent elections. In a written reply to a question, Minister for Finance, Economic Affairs and Statistics, Dr Abdul Hafeez Sheik, told the Lower House on Monday that the total amount was 10 million Euro to be provided by the EU to Pakistan for transparent general elections. The proposed utilisation of the said amount is to assist Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) and increase awareness regarding electoral laws.
For the first time since regaining independence in 1991, Lithuanians have the opportunity to re-elect the same government formed at elections four years earlier. Yet they are almost certain to reject this chance of political continuity. Frustrated with dismal living standards and a poignant sense of dysfunctional social justice, voters in the Baltic nation are poised to send packing the conservative-led coalition and return opposition centre-leftists and populists to the helm. Such a scenario could, in turn, postpone tentative plans to introduce the euro and affect preparations for Lithuania’s presidency of the European Union’s Council of Ministers in the second half of 2013. Polls indicate that either the Social Democrats, who reigned over Lithuanian politics for more than six years before getting the boot in 2008.
Starting today with Georgia, and followed by Ukraine and Lithuania, parliamentary elections in Europe’s east are revealing the tenuous nature of democracy and sovereignty in countries once entrapped by Soviet-era Moscow. Among the top priorities that Russian President Vladimir Putin set for his third presidential term is the reintegration of former Soviet republics – based on tighter economic links and culminating in a political and security pact centered around Russia. Moscow seeks to create a new Eurasian Union that will balance the European Union in the West and China in the East.
As Georgians head to the polls Monday, analysts are warning that rising tensions could boil over just as the Russian military is conducting exercises near the de facto border line, a situation the Georgia government is worried Moscow could exploit. “We hope it will be made clear to Russia that a military invasion into Georgia with the goal of destroying Georgia’s sovereignty, which is still the goal of the Kremlin, will have a huge at minimum political price for Russia in its relationship with Western powers,” Georgia’s National Security Advisor Giga Bokeria told The Cable in a phone interview from Tbilisi. The European Union’s monitoring mission, which patrols the administrative boundary between Georgia and the Russian-occupied regions of Abkhasia and South Ossetia, noted in its most recent report that while the observers saw no movement of military equipment on the Georgian side that could be perceived as instigating an attack, the Russian forces on the other side of the boundary line are increasing. “The Mission has raised its concerns about this activity with the relevant Russian command structures,” their report stated.
Georgia (Sakartvelo): EU foreign ministers in Georgia to oversee election build-up as political tension rises | The Irish Times
Five European Union foreign ministers are in Georgia to oversee the build-up to its October 1st parliamentary election, amid international concern over rising political tension in the country. The EU, US and leading democracy watchdogs have called on the country to ensure free and fair conduct of the election, in which the ruling party of Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili faces a strident challenge from supporters of the country’s richest man. Billionaire tycoon Bidzina Ivanishvili accuses Mr Saakashvili’s allies of using dirty tricks to undermine his newly formed Georgian Dream party, complaining that he has been stripped of his Georgian passport and fined millions of euro since entering politics.