Rival parties are entering campaign mode for the April 13 general election, launching planning committees following the wrap-up of candidate nominations marred by factional feuds. With just 17 days before the polls, each party has set lofty goals in the parliamentary race. The ruling Saenuri Party aims at securing a majority of seats in the 300 unicameral Assembly, while the Minjoo Party of Korea (MPK) is seeking to win 130 seats. The minor opposition People’s Party is expecting 20 seats to form a negotiation body. However, political pundits say that they all face major hurdles in the race, with a number of variables rendering the election highly unpredictable, including a possible alliance of opposition forces. How independent candidates who quit the ruling party after its nomination conflicts will affect voter sentiment also remains a key variable.
Venezuela’s self-styled socialist experiment faces its toughest test yet this weekend in a parliamentary election held amid crippling inflation and spiralling crime that appear to have turned the tide against the late Hugo Chávez’s “Bolivarian revolution”. Polls show the opposition stand to win a majority of seats in the country’s unicameral National Assembly but President Nicolás Maduro, Chávez’s handpicked successor, has said that he would “not hand over the revolution” if the ruling party loses at the polls. Opposition candidates are leading by 25-30% in most races, despite what critics say has been a campaign skewed by government intervention on behalf of ruling party candidates, a lack of access to media and incidents of violence. “Barring some very large election fraud, the opposition will win by a wide margin. The ruling party majority is almost certain to get wiped out,” predicted Michael Henderson, an analyst with Verisk Maplecroft, a risk consultancy.
U.S. officials and Latin American leaders are awaiting Venezuela’s parliamentary elections this weekend with trepidation, worried that instead of defusing the country’s deep tensions, the vote could instead detonate a new crisis. With Venezuela’s petroleum-based economy projected to contract 10 percent this year and citizens suffering chronic shortages of basic goods, the ruling socialist party is expected to lose control of the legislature for the first time since the late Hugo Chávez was elected president in 1998. Such a defeat would be an unprecedented blow to the movement known as “Chavismo” that rose to power by electoral means yet views its uninterrupted rule as part of a “revolution” that dismisses, at least rhetorically, democratic norms such as alternating power and divided government. Defiant statements by President Nicolás Maduro and other top Venezuelan officials have offered few assurances to those looking for signs that the government is ready to compromise with the opposition. An opposition candidate in central Venezuela was slain by a gunman Wednesday at a rally, an ominous sign to many of what may be in store on Election Day.
Egypt: Low turnout as Egyptians vote in parliamentary elections amid fears over terror, economy | Associated Press
Egyptians trickled into mostly empty polling centers as they voted Sunday in the second stage of parliamentary elections that will produce the country’s first legislature since a chamber dominated by Islamists was dissolved by a court ruling in 2012. Tens of thousands of troops and policemen were deployed to safeguard the two-day vote, reflecting growing security concerns less than a month after a Russian airliner crashed in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, killing all 224 people on board. Russia has said the crash was caused by an onboard bomb, and a local Islamic State affiliate claimed the Oct. 31 attack. The attack led Russia to suspend flights to and from Egypt and Britain to cancel routes to the popular Sharm el-Sheikh resort, where the flight originated, dealing a major blow to Egypt’s tourism industry, which was already hurting from years of unrest.
Many Egyptian voters shunned the first phase of a parliamentary election on Sunday that President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has hailed as a milestone on the road to democracy but his critics have branded as a sham. Polling stations visited by Reuters correspondents pointed to a turnout of around 10 percent, in sharp contrast to the long lines that formed in the 2012 election, suggesting that Sisi, who has enjoyed cult-like adulation, is losing popularity. Elderly supporters of Sisi comprised a large proportion of those turning out to vote, while younger Egyptians boycotted an election for a chamber they say will just rubber-stamp the president’s decisions.
Switzerland has swung further to the political right, with a surge in support for the ultraconservative Swiss People’s party in national elections that were overshadowed by Europe’s refugee crisis. The SVP won 29.5 per cent of the vote, up almost 3 percentage points compared with the last parliamentary election in 2011, according to projections based on official results by the SRF broadcaster. That put the SVP above its previous high of 28.9 per cent won in 2007. The strengthening support for the SVP as Switzerland’s biggest party provides an early indicator of the European political fallout triggered by asylum seekers fleeing wars in countries such as Syria, and could presage rising electoral support for far-right, anti-immigration parties in other countries.
When he felt his vote would finally count after years of indifference, Mohamed Saad decided to cast his ballot in consecutive referendums and parliamentary and presidential elections after the popular uprising in 2011 renewed hope for a better future for Egypt. A little less than five years have passed and Saad lost his enthusiasm and passion. He realised that hope is a good breakfast, but a bad supper. “I won’t vote again; it’s useless. I will do nothing, absolutely nothing,” said the 25-year-old, who works in a travel agency in Downtown Cairo, referring to Egypt’s upcoming parliamentary elections that kick off 18 and 19 October after months of procrastination and legal wrangling. The election of Egypt’s House of Representatives will complete a roadmap drawn up following the 2013 ouster of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi and return legislative powers from President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi, but few feel the urgency left over from the days when heated political discussions yielded long voting queues and interesting debates over the credentials of potential lawmakers.
With all of the 4.1m votes counted, the two pro-secessionist parties, Junts pel Sí (Together for Yes) and Popular Unity Candidacy (CUP), have won 72 of Catalonia’s 135 seats, giving them a majority. On paper at least, the two secessionist parties have the numbers they need to advance their pledge to declare independence within the next 18 months. But although the vote was billed as a plebiscite on independence, it was a regional parliamentary election. In such systems the legitimacy and mandate of any government comes from having a majority in parliament. For example, the People’s party (PP) of the prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, has a majority in the national parliament, having won 44.6% of the vote in 2011. In Britain, the Conservatives command a majority in the House of Commons with 37% of the popular vote. However, the slim margin of victory on Sunday means the two pro-independence parties, which have little in common apart from the desire to break away from Spain, will struggle to put together a stable government – and any administration they form is unlikely to last a full legislature.
Egypt will hold a long-awaited parliamentary election, starting on Oct. 18-19, the election commission said on Sunday, the final step in a process to bring back democracy that critics say has been tainted by widespread repression. Egypt has been without a parliament since June 2012 when a court dissolved the democratically elected main chamber, dominated by the now-banned Muslim Brotherhood, reversing a major accomplishment of the 2011 uprising that toppled autocrat Hosni Mubarak. The election had been due to begin in March but was delayed after a court ruled part of the election law unconstitutional. A second round of voting in the two-phase election will take place on Nov. 22-23, the election commission told a news conference. Voting for Egyptians abroad will take place on Oct. 17-18.
Canada’s prime minister, Stephen Harper, is poised to call a parliamentary election for October 19, kicking off a marathon 11-week campaign likely to focus on a stubbornly sluggish economy and his decade in power. Harper’s office said in a statement on Saturday night that he is due to visit governor general David Johnston – the representative of Queen Elizabeth, Canada’s head of state – at 9:55 am (1355 GMT) on Sunday. Harper, who has been in power since 2006, is expected to seek the dissolution of parliament, triggering the start of the campaign. Polls indicate that Harper’s right-of-center Conservative party, which has been in office since 2006, could lose its majority in the House of Commons.