Three Russia opposition activists have gone on hunger strike in Novosibirsk to protest against the authorities’ decision to disqualify them from a local election. Leonid Volkov, campaign chief for the opposition Democratic Coalition, and candidates Yegor Savin and Sergei Boyko began the strike on Tuesday after the election commission in Russia’s third-largest city didn’t accept the signatures they submitted to register to run in the upcoming local legislature vote.
Elections are in the air in Zimbabwe. A referendum on the new constitution was held this weekend and the general election is due before the end of October. But the signs all suggest that the upcoming vote will take place under conditions not dissimilar to 2008, when elections were characterised by widespread intimidation and political violence. Yesterday the office of the prime minister, Morgan Tsvangirai, was raided by police, who arrested four officials – apparently for impersonating officers. A prominent human right lawyer, Beatrice Mtetwa, was also arrested for “defeating the course of justice”.
Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan is poised for victory in elections next week after rivals withdrew from a campaign that’s been dominated by one candidate’s attempted assassination and another’s hunger strike. Sargsyan, 59, has 69 percent support before the Feb. 18 vote, compared with 11 percent for his nearest challenger, Raffi Hovhannisyan, a former foreign minister, according to a Gallup poll published Feb. 9. Paruyr Hayrikyan, a former dissident who was shot and wounded in a Jan. 31 incident, has 5 percent backing, while Andrias Ghukasyan, who hasn’t eaten in 26 days and calls the ballot “fake,” has 1 percent, the survey showed.
Armenia: Day 17 of Armenia’s presidential campaign brings concerns about hunger-striking candidate’s health | ArmeniaNow.com
With one of the candidates in the current presidential race in Armenia still recovering in hospital after surviving an assassination attempt, another one refuses to be hospitalized after doctors registered some deterioration of his health condition on Wednesday. Andrias Ghukasyan, a 42-year-old director of Radio Hay, has been camped outside the National Academy of Sciences building in central Yerevan since the start of the campaign on January 21, refusing to take food and demanding that incumbent President Serzh Sargsyan be disqualified from the race and international observers discontinue their mission and leave Armenia. Responding to an emergency call on Wednesday, ambulance service doctors examined Ghukasyan, registering a drop in his blood pressure. The candidate, however, refused to go to hospital and said he was determined to continue his hunger strike until February 18 – Election Day.
This month, Ferenc Gyurcsány, the former prime minister of Hungary, and three other members of his political party set up tents in front of the parliament building in Budapest and embarked on a week-long hunger strike. They ended it with a rally before thousands of their compatriots — all to protest a proposed law that requires Hungarians to register before voting in the upcoming election. Why so much passionate resistance to registering 15 days before the election? One ally of the protesters went so far as to say that they were doing it “to call the attention of the people to how the government is bringing down democracy.” Gyurcsány said that he believes “it is unacceptable that anyone who happens to decide two days before an election that he wants to vote cannot do so and take part in the election.”
China: Hong Kong Votes for Autonomy – the chief executive gave in to protesters on the election eve | Wall Street Journal
Parents, students, hunger strikers, pop stars and other public figures camped out around Hong Kong government offices last week demanding that the government scrap a requirement that state-funded schools teach children to love the motherland and respect the Communist Party. The confrontation took on a nastier tone, and the crowds swelled, after pro-Beijing media suggested that the protesters were pawns of the American and British governments. This showdown put the current Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying in an awkward position, since Beijing’s local representatives insisted that the education plan go ahead. He capitulated on the eve of the weekend election of Hong Kong’s Legislative Council and announced instead that the classes would no longer be mandatory. (Legco will soon negotiate the system under which the next chief executive will be elected by universal suffrage in 2017). That probably saved pro-Beijing candidates from a disastrous showing, but the controversy still helped pro-democracy candidates win 27 out of 70 seats in the legislature. That’s not as many as they hoped for, but then the convoluted electoral system is rigged against pro-democracy candidates. They garnered almost 60% of the popular vote, up from 57% in 2008, and won 39% of the seats. Most importantly, they have enough votes to block any plans from Beijing to curtail civil liberties. Many of the new lawmakers are more radical than their predecessors.
Hong Kong voters go to the polls Sunday with their government mired in controversy, not least for the attempt this week to force “national education classes” on school children. With more seats in the legislature being decided on the basis of one-person-one-vote, the city’s pro-Beijing administration faces a challenging future as democrats look to make electoral gains before the anticipated introduction of universal suffrage in 2017. Sunday’s election in Hong Kong will see over half of the legislature’s 70 seats returned by universal suffrage, the remainder by generally pro-Beijing groups. The vote is likely to prove a defining moment for the city’s new leader, chief executive Leung Chun-ying.
Ukrainian PResident Viktor Yanukovich has threatened to call snap elections after his allies sparked a political crisis by rushing through a new law boosting the status of the Russian language. More than 1,000 protesters clashed with police in central Kiev yesterday, parliamentary speaker Volodymyr Lytvyn and one of his deputies announced their resignations, and seven politicians went on hunger strike over the law, which was passed on Tuesday evening. The vote took place amid chaotic scenes in parliament after an unexpected proposal by a pro-Yanukovich deputy. The speed of events prevented opposition parties debating the legislation or gathering all their deputies in the chamber for the vote. “I was cheated, Ukraine was cheated, the people were cheated,” Mr Lytvyn said. He was not present for the vote, and accused a deputy who presided over Tuesday’s session of betrayal.
Russia admitted on Wednesday that some irregularities had taken place in the course of a disputed mayoral election in a southern Russian city last month, after the victory of a pro-Kremlin candidate there set off a wave of anti-government protests. The disputed election in Astrakhan has become a focus for the opposition as it tries to breathe new life into its protest movement which has lost steam since Vladimir Putin was elected president for a six-year term on March 4. Street rallies against alleged electoral fraud and a prolonged hunger strike by a defeated opposition candidate have thrust the events in the otherwise sleepy Caspian city into the heart of Russia’s political fray. On Wednesday, Russia’s top election official Vladimir Churov said there had been some irregularities after all.
“Day 24 is over,” Oleg Shein wrote in his blog just after midnight on April 8. “Tomorrow is Day 25. We are not on a suicide mission. Nor are we on a mission to make me the mayor. We are on a mission to secure fair elections that will put an end to the mafia system of government in Astrakhan.” The politician Oleg Shein and 21 of his supporters are on hunger strike — most of them since March 16. Shein ran for mayor of Astrakhan, a city of just over half a million people in southern Russia, near where the Volga River joins the Caspian Sea. On March 4, Shein lost with under 30 percent of the vote — and, like many independent candidates around the country, he claims the election was stolen.