Ukraine’s parliamentary election next month risks falling short of democratic standards and further damaging the former Soviet republic’s ties with the West, a senior U.S. official warned on Saturday. Just a day after Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich said the October 28 poll would help Ukraine seal a long-sought association agreement with the European Union, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Thomas Melia said it could receive a “failed” grade. “Ukraine could find itself increasingly distant in all directions rather than integrated in all directions,” Melia told a conference in the Black Sea resort of Yalta attended by senior Ukrainian officials including Prime Minister Mykola Azarov. “The election is another important moment for national choices, national decision-making and I think that unless or until some significant steps are taken to improve things like the election environment you are not going to be able to move as closely as many of you want to Europe and the United States.”
Mainstream pro-European parties look set to dominate the Dutch parliamentary election on Wednesday, dispelling concerns that radical eurosceptics might gain sway in a core eurozone country and push to quit the European Union or flout its budget rules. But the Netherlands is likely to remain an awkward, tough-talking member of the single currency area, strongly resisting transfers to eurozone debtors, regardless of whether prime minister Mark Rutte’s Liberals or the centre-left Labour party of Diederik Samsom win the most seats. Opinion polls on Tuesday showed the Liberals and Labour on 36 seats each or the Liberals fractionally in front, with the hard-left Socialists and the far-right anti-immigration Freedom party fading in third and fourth place respectively. That makes it more likely, though not certain, that Rutte, with the strongest international profile, will stay as prime minister.
Ukraine: Council of Europe Secretary General Praises Ukraine’s Landmark Electoral Reforms | MarketWatch
The Council of Europe’s Secretary General praised Ukraine’s government for its “very ambitious” new electoral law. Thorbjorn Jagland said the new law would be “very important,” paving the way to “free and fair” elections to be held in the country on October 28th. Speaking to the press on Monday, Mr. Jagland said: “I’m very glad to see that a very ambitious plan is being implemented very well.” The Council of Europe is providing assistance to Ukraine in implementing the new electoral law, which was written with the advice of European Union officials. The electoral reforms, which were approved by 80 percent of the Ukrainian parliament last year, will be used nationally for the first time at the election in October. The new law received support not only from the governing coalition but also from the opposition party led by Yulia Tymoschenko, which also voted in favor.
Former Ukrainian PM Yulia Tymoshenko who is currently serving a jail sentence for abuse of office has addressed European politicians with a call to recognize the Ukrainian parliamentary poll as illegitimate before it even takes place. The address was read in the European Parliament by Tymoshenko’s daughter Yevgenia, who also held meetings with leaders of the European People’s Party – a coalition of European center-right parties who have long been allies with Tymoshenko’s Batkivshchyna (Fatherland) party. “The main message is to make a statement right now that these elections are illegitimate. After the elections are over it will be too late,” Yevgenia Tymoshenko said. “The dictatorship in Ukraine has practically been built. The elections will help to strengthen it,” she added. These words echoed last month’s statement by Wilfried Martens, president of the European People’s Party, who said that Yulia Tymoshenko’s arrest was a shift by President Viktor Yanukovich’s administration towards “Soviet-style authoritarianism.”
Venezuela: Carter Centre absent as observer from Venezuelan October presidential election | MercoPress
The Carter Centre was among the organizations that sent observer missions to monitor Venezuela’s last presidential vote in 2006, along with the European Union and the Organization of American States. Venezuelan electoral authorities have since stopped inviting full international observer missions and have instead asked some foreign individuals to witness voting in smaller-scale “accompaniment” visits. The Carter Centre said in a statement that the council invited it to “form an intermediate option” and send a small group of experts to join in pre-election audits and be present on voting day.
Romania’s Constitutional Court on Tuesday struck down a referendum to impeach President Traian Basescu, foiling a drive by the leftist government to oust its chief political opponent months before a parliamentary election. The government said it would accept the decision, but the acting president said Basescu was now an “illegitimate” leader. Several hundred people gathered in two main Bucharest squares in the afternoon, one crowd supporting the president and the other protesting against him. Both remained peaceful.
The election of a new Somali president will not take place Monday as scheduled, newly appointed lawmakers said, but added they expected to convene the parliament for the first time later in the day. “The presidential elections will not be held today,” said lawmaker Aweys Qarni. “The election committee must still be convened…. There is still work to go before the presidential elections.” War-torn Somalia’s Western-backed transitional government ends its mandate on Monday after eight years of political infighting and rampant corruption. It is being replaced by new lawmakers selected by a group of 135 traditional elders in a United Nations-backed process, the latest bid to bring stability to the Horn of Africa country.
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.
Montenegro’s president called a parliamentary election on Tuesday for October 14, some six months ahead of schedule, as the ruling coalition seeks a fresh mandate for talks on joining the European Union. The announcement by President Filip Vujanovic followed a vote by lawmakers last week to dissolve parliament and head to early polls after the EU opened accession talks late last month with the Adriatic ex-Yugoslav republic of 680,000 people.
Romanians will vote Sunday on whether to oust their country’s president as part of an impeachment process that the European Union says threatens to undermine the former communist-bloc nation’s young democracy. The nationwide recall referendum comes amid a partisan feud between a resurgent left, led by new Prime Minister Victor Ponta, and center-right politicians, including President Traian Basescu, whose popularity has been severely dented by austerity measures and a weak economy. Recent legislative and political maneuvers carried out by Mr. Ponta’s supporters and designed to make it easier to remove Mr. Basescu have drawn fire from critics inside and outside Romania who say the moves endanger the rule of law and judicial independence. Under pressure from the EU, which Romania joined in 2007, Mr. Ponta, a 39-year-old Social Democrat, agreed to roll back measures the regional group found objectionable. However, a parliamentary vote to impeach Mr. Basescu, which triggered Sunday’s ballot, remains in force. EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding said Wednesday that Brussels is “still very much worried on the state of democracy in Romania.”
As Georgia prepares for elections in early October, the deputy prime minister has said that, despite progress in the country, more is still needed as Tbilisi pushes its ambitions towards NATO and the European Union. Giorgi Baramidze, vice prime minister and minister of sate for European and Euro-Atlantic integration told New Europe that Georgia needs to continue on its current path if the country is to gain political credibility on the international stage.His comments come as foreign ministers from the Eastern Partnership countries, which, along with Georgia, comprise Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Moldova and Ukraine, meet in Brussels to discuss further co-operation with the EU.
The European Union on Thursday lauded the Libyan authorities for conducting the recent parliamentary elections in a transparent as well as orderly manner, and congratulated the Libyan people on their “peaceful and dignified” march towards democracy. In a statement released after the announcement of the preliminary results for the election of the Libyan National Congress, EU Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton hailed Libya’s election commission for conducting the electoral process in a professional manner. She said the EU Electoral Assessment Team (EU EAT) had assessed that processing of results at the tally center in Tripoli had been transparent and fully open to observation.
Romania extended the voting hours to boost turnout and increase the chances of reaching a minimum threshold to make a July 29 referendum on removing President Traian Basescu valid. Lawmakers voted in favor of changing a referendum law to keep polling stations open from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. instead of 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., Mircea Dusa, the government minister in charge with the relations with the legislature, told reporters today. Parliament’s two houses also voted to introduce a requirement of a minimum turnout to meet the terms of a Constitutional Court ruling and pledges to European Union leaders.
Romania: New law gives suspended president chance of surviving impeachment vote | The Washington Post
Romania’s interim president on Tuesday signed a new law that requires a majority of registered voters to take part in a referendum for it to be valid, giving suspended President Traian Basescu a fighting chance of remaining in office when his impeachment comes up for a public vote. The former communist country appeared to be signaling to the European Union that it is addressing concern about the state of its democracy, a key issue as it tries to attain greater privileges within the regional bloc, including access to its passport-free zone. Basescu was impeached by Parliament on grounds he overstepped his authority by meddling in government business and the judicial system. Critics accuse Prime Minister Victor Ponta of orchestrating the move as part of a power grab, and the political turmoil has dented Romania’s credibility, with the U.S. and the EU expressing doubts about the left-leaning government’s respect for the independence of the judiciary.
The European Union stressed the importance of electoral reform in Lebanon, as it issued its first policy paper on its human rights and democracy work around the world as part of a yearly report Monday. In a section on Lebanon, the report highlighted the body’s push for electoral reform in the country. Two million euros have been allocated for the project, and the report emphasized the EU’s work toward adopting policy changes from the 2009 elections.
Cyprus faces the choice of asking for a bailout from its European partners in the euro or from Russia, and will decide where to turn after this weekend’s crucial elections in Greece, officials say. Government spokesman Stefanos Stefanou wouldn’t name the country where a possible loan could come from. But an official, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter, identified it as Russia. Mr Stefanou said Cyprus is looking at both options in order to have “flexibility to deal with the issue”. “We have these options in front of us, we’re looking in the direction of a bilateral loan as well as toward the European Union support mechanism,” he told AP.
Montenegro’s president said on Thursday his party might seek an early parliamentary election this year rather than next if the European Union, as expected, launches membership talks with the Adriatic state in June. The ex-Yugoslav republic of 680,000 people is due to hold parliamentary polls around March 2013, but President Filip Vujanovic suggested the government could seek a fresh mandate from voters in autumn this year if the EU opens talks. Vujanovic, a senior member of the ruling Democratic Party of Socialists, said other countries bidding to join the EU had also sought a clean slate before tackling the demanding process of negotiation, which in Montenegro’s case will include dealing with the country’s deep-rooted organised crime and corruption.
The final day of polling before the repeat election in Greece on June 17 showed the two main contenders neck and neck. The economic crisis has divided Greeks, who appear split on the causes and solutions to the country’s financial meltdown. The political stalemate only appears to be entrenching these divisions. Industrial disputes do not get much worse than this. The workers at the Hellenic Halyvourgia steel plant have been on strike for more than 200 days. Yorgos Sifonios is president of the workers’ union. He showed letters of solidarity from unions across the world. “The Union has undertaken collective action, which has roused the whole of Greece’s working class. Our strike has become a landmark, a model of how all workers must fight,” Sifonios said. The factory’s owner laid off 50 workers last year, blaming falling demand. The company declined an interview.
Linked by a common currency but not a common economy, the crisis-battered euro-zone nations are facing a pivotal choice: Either move more closely together or risk their currency union breaking apart. But are European voters — some in nations divided by centuries of rivalries — willing to take that leap toward closer integration? The fiercely independent Irish are about to offer a window into the answer. Euro-zone leaders aim to get control of debt crisis: Amid protests throughout the continent against strict austerity measures, European leaders are working on plans to save the euro. From the emerald hills of Donegal to the shores of Cork, the Irish go to the polls Thursday in a referendum on a regionwide fiscal treaty inked in January that would impose strict limits on budget deficits and debt. European governments that ratify the treaty will effectively surrender a measure of sovereignty over two of their most sacred economic rights — how much they can borrow and how much they can spend — to the bureaucrats in the region’s administrative capital of Brussels.
Voting to decide if Ireland will ratify the fiscal treaty ended at 10pm with turnout reported as low across the State. With over 3.1 million people entitled to vote in the referendum indications are that only half the electorate chose to go to the polls. The counting of votes will begin at 9am tomorrow and a result is expected by early evening. In the last comparable referendum, the Lisbon treaty in October 2009, the national turnout was 59 per cent but early figures from returning officers today show it will struggle to reach the 50 per cent mark in many areas. With rain across much of the country earlier turnout was standing below 20 per cent at lunchtime in most constituencies however, there was a boost to the figures as people voted after work.
All of Europe is looking to Ireland as the country prepares to vote on Thursday in a referendum on the unpopular fiscal compact for greater budgetary discipline. If the Irish reject the new treaty, it won’t just be a major blow to its main advocate Angela Merkel. It could also spark panic on the financial markets. Though past referendums on European Union issues in Ireland have proven to be problematic, this time things are expected to go off without a hitch. When the Irish vote on the EU “fiscal compact” treaty on Thursday, their clear approval is expected. Polls predict that some 60 percent of the voters will tick the Yes box on the controversial treaty, which commits all ratifying members to fiscal responsibility.
Serbia’s President-elect Tomislav Nikolic has resigned from his Serb Progressive Party, saying he wants to be the leader of all Serbian citizens. Mr. Nikolic submitted his resignation Thursday to the party’s main board and named his deputy Aleksandar Vucic as interim leader until a party congress elects new leadership. He urged Serbian politicians, including his own party members, to form a new ruling coalition as soon as possible.
Nationalist candidate Tomislav Nikolic has won the Serbian presidency, which could hamper his country’s bid to join the European Union. His supporters took to the streets of Belgrade and the Serb-controlled north of Kosovo to celebrate his win. The Center for Free Elections and Democracy, an independent polling group, said the leader of the Serbian Progressive Party won 49.4 per cent of the vote, while pro-European Union incumbent Boris Tadic received 47.4 per cent in Sunday elections. The results are expected to be officially confirmed later on Monday. Meanwhile, in the Serbian capital Belgrade on Sunday night, Nikolic supporters waved Serbian flags and chanted slogans against Tadic. “Serbia will not stray from its European road,” Nikolic insisted Sunday. “This day is a crossroad for Serbia.” Tadic conceded defeat, saying, “I wish Nikolic the best of luck.”
Greece will hold new elections on June 17, state media reported Wednesday, amid a political and economic crisis that could have effects far beyond the country’s borders. News of the election date came as Greeks pulled hundreds of millions of euros out of the banking system amid fears that the country will not be able to stay in the European Union’s single currency. Just 10 days ago, Greeks voters punished the major parties for harsh budget cuts, leaving no party able to form a government. A caretaker administration led by a senior judge will run the country until the new vote.
Interim Prime Minister Panagiotis Pikrammenos was sworn in Wednesday. The president’s office said Cabinet ministers will take their oaths of office Thursday morning. The political deadlock is leading to fears that Greece will not have a government in place when it needs to make critical debt payments, which could in turn jeopardize its place in the eurozone, the group of 17 European Union countries that use the euro currency. And a Greek crisis could spread, one analyst warned.
Cypriot President Demetris Christofias, the European Union’s only Communist head of state, said on Monday he would not seek re-election next year, citing lack of progress towards the island’s reunification. Elected in 2008, Christofias is lagging in opinion polls over a faltering economy and unpopular concessions in peace talks. The presidential election is due in February 2013. “Taking as a fact that the Cyprus problem has not been solved, and it does not appear that there can be definitive progress in the next few months … I will not seek re-election,” he said in a televised address.
Serbian nationalists on Saturday called for nationwide street protests over alleged election fraud, fueling tensions before a presidential runoff vote. Nationalist leader Tomislav Nikolic said the Serbian Progressive Party will start peaceful protests as of Sunday because “we don’t recognize’’ parliamentary and local election results held last weekend. Nikolic will face pro-European Union candidate and incumbent President Boris Tadic in a runoff presidential election on May 20. Tadic led Nikolic by half a percentage point in the first round, and is considered a favorite in the runoff.
Results of parliamentary elections in Algeria are expected Friday afternoon, after authorities announced better-than-expected turnout in the ballot. Still, fewer than half the potential voters made their voices heard. The government in Algiers reported relatively high turnout in parliamentary elections late on Thursday, a surprise after a campaign that appeared to be marred by voter mistrust and disinterest. President Abdelaziz Bouteflika had billed the ballot as a piecemeal version of the rapid changes taking place in several regional neighbors, referring to it as an “Algerian Spring.” Election observers brought in by Bouteflika reported only minor negative incidents on voting day, while the government was able to announce greater voter interest than initially expected.
Tigran Mukuchyan, the head of the Central Election Commission (CEC), described the May 6 parliamentary elections in Armenia as “essential progress” as he gave a press conference in Yerevan on Wednesday. In the view of the head of the body administering the process, the elections giving the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (RPA) a landslide victory amounted to the “most transparent, public and controlled” elections in Armenia ever. Mukuchyan’s comments were in harmony with what the political leadership in Armenia has said before and after the elections. President Serzh Sargsyan and other senior members of the government had pledged to hold the best elections in the history of independent Armenia – a circumstance also attached a great deal of importance to by Armenia’s international partners, notably the European Union and the United States.
Serbia’s bid to join the European Union will be strongly tested in elections this weekend that pit ruling pro-Western democrats against nationalists who are promising jobs, economic revival and closer ties with Russia. Held in the shadows of French and Greek ballots, some seven million voters in Serbia will choose a president, a 250-seat national parliament and local councils—a triple vote held amid deep economic problems, joblessness and widespread discontent over rapidly falling living standards. Sunday’s balloting is key for Serbia’s plans to become an EU member, after being an isolated pariah state under late autocrat Slobodan Milosevic in the ’90s. It also could determine whether Serbia continues to reconcile with its neighbors, including the former province of Kosovo which declared independence in 2008.
The European Union has welcomed an agreement reached on OSCE facilitation of voting in Kosovo in the Serbian parliamentary and presidential elections. In a statement issued on Tuesday, EU Foreign Policy chief Catherine Ashton pledged full support to the OSCE for carrying out its facilitating role. She called on both Kosovo and Serbia to continue to cooperate with the OSCE in good faith so that the vote is held in a peaceful and orderly way. She also urged all sides to refrain from any action which may spark tensions. “EULEX will monitor the security environment and will execute its mandate in close cooperation with the other international and local organizations involved,” the High Representative said.