Greek voters are unlikely to pick a clear winner in a snap election that is expected to send a record number of parties to parliament next month and test the international bailout keeping the country afloat. Political analysts say the outcome of the May 6 election is hard to predict. The conservative New Democracy party is seen ahead but not by enough to take sole charge of the indebted euro zone member. This could lead to days or weeks of negotiations while it forges a coalition with the Socialist PASOK party to impose austerity and reforms to meet the terms of a second 130 billion euro bailout from Europe and the International Monetary Fund. “It’s a great puzzle,” said Theodore Couloumbis of the ELIAMEP think tank. “I hope the pro-bailout parties will be able to form a government. This is the most likely scenario.”
Voting began Sunday in France in President Nicolas Sarkozy’s uncertain bid for re-election, with polls showing that many French are dissatisfied with his response to concerns about the economy and jobs. The voting will winnow down a list of 10 candidates from across the political spectrum to two finalists for the decisive runoff on May 6, which will set a course for the next five years in this pillar of the European Union. Polls for months have showed that the conservative Sarkozy – who has been relatively unpopular for months, if not years – and Francois Hollande, a Socialist, are likely to make the cut. “This is an election that will weigh on the future of Europe. That’s why many people are watching us,” said Hollande after voting in Tulle, a town in central France. “They’re wondering not so much what the winner’s name will be, but especially what policies will follow. That’s why I’m not in a competition just of personalities. I am in a competition in which I must give new breath of life to my country and a new commitment to Europe,” he added, urging a big turnout from voters.
Editorials: How An Election In Greece Could Cause Europe To Crumble | Yannis Palaiologos/The New Republic
Anyone anxiously waiting for the European Union’s death knell could do worse than circle May 6 on his calendar. That’s when Greece, a nation brought to its knees by an unprecedented economic crisis, is scheduled to hold what promises to be a turbulent parliamentary election. It’s an open question whether Europe’s fragile political balance—and Greece’s tenuous hold on membership in the Eurozone—will survive the subsequent aftershocks. What’s already clear is that life in Greece will never quite be the same. To gauge the extent of the tumult engulfing Greek politics, consider this: Since 1981, when the socialist party PASOK first won power, its combined share of the vote in national elections with the conservative Nea Demokratia, its main rival, has never fallen below 77 percent, and it often exceeded 85 percent. Recent polls for the coming contest give the two parties a joint percentage that lies between 33 and 40 percent. After the last general election, in October 2009, the two parties controlled between them 251 out of the 300 seats in parliament. Now, if the polls are to be believed, they may struggle to get to the 151 seats needed to form a viable coalition government.
Voters in Burma go to the polls shortly for by-elections that promise to be the most open contests in decades, with Aung San Suu Kyi among those standing. Her National League for Democracy (NLD) is contesting all 45 seats, vacated when politicians joined the new, military-backed civilian government. It is the first time Ms Suu Kyi is standing in an election herself. It is also the first time international observers have been allowed to monitor elections in modern Burma. The European Union looks set to ease some sanctions on the country if Sunday’s elections go smoothly.
A new campaign aims to encourage homeless people to sign up to vote in this year’s council elections. Housing and homeless charity Shelter Scotland has teamed up with the Electoral Commission for the initiative. As well as urging homeless people to register to vote, it will encourage those in temporary accommodation and people renting properties to put their name on the electoral roll. Research by the Electoral Commission last April found only 56% of those living in rented accommodation were registered to vote, compared with 88% of owner occupiers. Andy O’Neill, head of the Electoral Commission in Scotland, said people living in temporary accommodation may not realise they can still register to vote using their temporary address.
Ethnic Serbs in northern Kosovo voted Tuesday in a referendum on whether to recognize the government in Pristina, which they have ignored since Serbia’s former province became independent in 2008. Kosovo is 90 percent ethnic Albanian. Serbs dominate in a small swathe of the north bordering Serbia and pledge allegiance to Belgrade. They have so far resisted efforts by the Kosovo government to extend its authority there. The result of the two-day referendum is expected on February 19. The decision will have little practical impact but could further stoke ethnic tensions.
A referendum on making Russian an official language in Latvia has raised the dim possibility of it also becoming an official language of the EU. The country’s Central Election Commission (CEC) itself predicts the poll, on 18 February, will be a non-starter. A CEC spokeswoman, Kristine Berzina, told EUobserver on Tuesday (14 February) that “the level for the vote is so high it will never happen.” According to the rules, half of all eligible voters in Latvia – 1.5 million people – must turn out in order to make a quorum, and half of all 1.5 million must vote Yes to get a positive result. Around one third of Latvians are Russian speakers. But in some rural communities the figure is 60 percent. If the bid comes through, it will put pressure on Riga to take steps at EU level.
There were no fireworks and no joyous, flag-waving crowds, although the president, prime minister and speaker of parliament did at least raise a glass to the strains of Ode to Joy. Yesterday two-thirds of Croats who took part in a referendum on whether their country should join the European Union voted “yes”, more than had been expected. The low turnout of 43%, however, meant that only a third of the electorate actually voted in favour. “It’s not great, but it’s legal,” was the accurate if underwhelming summing-up of Zoran Milanović, the new prime minister. Still, not a single one of Croatia’s 15 regions voted against. Indeed, one could fairly make the case that given the steady stream of bad news from the euro zone, Balkan Greece and Croatia’s neighbour Hungary, a two-thirds vote in favour of joining was something of an achievement.
Croatia’s state referendum commission says a majority of Croats have voted in favor of joining the debt-stricken European Union. Officials say that with about 30 percent of the ballot calculated, about 67 percent of those who took part in the referendum Sunday answered “yes” to the question: “Do you support the membership of the Republic of Croatia in the European Union?”
Croats are voting Sunday on whether to join the European Union. If they approve the measure, as many expect, Croatia will become the 28th EU member – a symbolic victory for both the Balkan nation and for Brussels. Croatia’s referendum on joining the European Union comes as the block faces one of its biggest crises ever – the sovereign debt and banking problems that have migrated from one eurozone country to another. There is a sizable chunk of Croats opposed to joining the EU. On Saturday police clashed with protesters in Zagreb at an anti-EU rally that gathered hundreds of people.
A “very large” European Union observer delegation is headed for Senegal to monitor the country’s tightly-contested February election, a diplomat has said. Local radio quoted France’s ambassador to Senegal Nicolas Normand as saying that the size of the delegation was a reflection of the political risk seen ahead of the west African country’s February 26 election. “The delegation is very large because there is ‘high risk’ on the political landscape ahead of the polls,” said Mr Normand.
Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika on Sunday invited international observers to monitor a spring 2012 legislative vote he promised would be the country’s most open ever. At a Cabinet meeting, Bouteflika tasked the government with inviting foreign organisations “to massively deploy their observers for the next legislative election”, a statement said.
The statement cited the Arab League, the Organisation of Islamic Co-operation, the African Union but also the United Nations and the European Union, which has never monitored polls in Algeria. “I look forward to the upcoming legislative election which will be held amid unprecedented plurality,” the president said.
The European commission could be empowered to impose austerity measures on eurozone countries being bailed out, usurping the functions of government in countries such as Greece, Ireland, or Portugal. Bailed-out countries could also be stripped of their voting rights in the EU, under radical proposals being discussed at the highest level in Brussels before this week’s crucial EU summit on the sovereign debt crisis.
A confidential paper circulated to EU leaders on Tuesday by Herman Van Rompuy, the EU council president who will chair the summit on Thursday and Friday, says that eurobonds or the pooling of eurozone debt would be a powerful tool in resolving the crisis, despite fierce German resistance to the idea. It calls for “more intrusive control of national budgetary policies by the EU” and lays out various options for enforcing fiscal discipline supra-nationally.
The two-page paper, obtained by the Guardian, is to be discussed on Wednesday among senior officials in an attempt to build a consensus ahead of the summit. It may instead set off an explosive rebellion by eurozone countries balking at the options outlined by Van Rompuy, who heavily emphasises the need for a new punitive regime overseen by EU institutions that would be given new powers of intervention.
Several countries and international organizations have commended King Abdullah, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, for granting voting rights to Saudi women. They include the European Union, France, Germany and the Geneva-based Inter-Parliamentary Union. The United States, Britain and Bahrain had already lauded the granting of voting rights to Saudi women describing the move as an important milestone in the history of the Kingdom.
In his address to the Shoura Council Sunday, King Abdullah gave Saudi women the right to vote and run in municipal elections as well as the right to be appointed as full members of the Shoura Council.
Catherine Ashton, the European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, said the decision is an important step forward. In a press statement Monday, Michael Mann, a spokesman for Ashton, stressed the importance of all countries in the world supporting women’s participation in parliamentary life.
Thousands of European citizens who reside in the Republic of Cyprus will have the right to vote and/or to be elected in the local authorities’ elections, which will take place in December, 2011.
In statements to CNA, Head of the Election Service of the Ministry of the Interior, Demetris Demetriou, said that the number of European Union citizens who are expected to apply for registration in the special electoral list for European Community electors could surpass 6.000.
The Montenegrin parliament must pass a new election law in order to continue on the path towards EU membership. The EU has been very clear in it’s message — without a revised election law there will be no EU membership.
Nonetheless, the Montenegrin parliament has failed to pass the needed law — after seven attempts. Unfortunately, there is little reason to hope that this attempt will fare better.
Serbian nationalist parties within the Montenegrin parliament are refusing to allow the EU membership to move forward unless Montenegro agrees to change it’s national language to Serbian and returns to teaching Serbian in Montenegrin schools.
Member of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the European Parliament and Rapporteur on Montenegro Charles Tannock has stated that the non-adoption of the election law may slow down Montenegro on its way to the EU.
The adoption of the election law will affect the report by the European Commission (EC) on the implementation of recommendations for the beginning of talks and if the law is not adopted quickly, Montenegro’s EU approach may be slowed down. The things are quite clear. You do not have time to waste, Tannock said.