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.
The leader of Poland’s conservative opposition on Saturday ruled himself out of the running for prime minister in this year’s parliamentary election, and instead nominated a female lawmaker who is considered less divisive. After more than two decades at the forefront of Polish politics, Jaroslaw Kaczynski said he wouldn’t put himself at the center of this year’s campaign, and instead threw his support behind Beata Szydlo. Ms. Szydlo is widely credited with softening the conservative party’s image and, as campaign chief, helping Andrzej Duda secure a five-year term in May’s presidential election.
President Hassan Rouhani unofficially kicked off next February’s parliamentary elections before a gathering of provincial governors on 26 May. “No political or sectarian belief should be discounted, for they are based in religion, science, and personal beliefs, and of course elections without competition are impossible,” Rouhani said. “We have different ideas in our society, and all are free to express their ideas. This is why we have various parties and persuasions.” Rouhani’s comments suggest he hopes to prepare the way for increased reformist participation in the majles (parliament). The president suggested he would resist attempts by far-right, fundamentalist elements to improperly leverage money, influence, or advertising in order to influence voters. “Hopefully no one will be told that so-and-so from the government, the Revolutionary Guards, the military, the media, the regional or local government, or the mosques, supports so-and-so as a candidate for the majles,” he said. “Such talk constitutes poison for otherwise healthy elections. All officials and people in positions of power are duty bound to serve the interests of the nation as a whole and not those of [particular] political parties or individuals.”
Senior ruling-party politicians are throwing their weight behind a proposal to move Russia’s next parliamentary elections up three months to September 2016, a shift that could put opposition candidates at a further disadvantage by relegating the campaign to vacation season. Sergei Naryshkin, leader of parliament’s lower chamber and a member of President Vladimir Putin’s ruling United Russia party, on Thursday called the rescheduling proposal “possible and even wise,” according to the Interfax news agency. The reason he gave was that budgets are passed in the fall and it would make more sense to elect new lawmakers beforehand.
A political sideshow for much of the past six decades, Israel’s Arab minority is hoping to gain much-needed muscle after next week’s parliamentary election, with four Arab parties uniting under one banner for the first time. Surveys show the Joint Arab List could even finish third in the vote and become a factor in the coalition-building that dominates Israeli politics, where no party has ever won a parliament majority. Many in the Arab community, which makes up 20 percent of Israel’s eight million population, see the newfound unity as a breakthrough in battling discrimination and gaining recognition. Though they have full and equal rights, Arab Israelis often say they are treated as second-class citizens.
Preparations for Egypt’s long-delayed parliamentary elections will begin next week as the polls “will be back to square one,” said Ibrahim Al-Heneidy, Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs and Transitional Justice on Wednesday. Heneidy told parliamentary reporters that the elections, which were originally scheduled to be held in two rounds between 21-22 March and 6-7 May, were put on hold after the Supreme Constitutional Court (SCC) ruled on the first of March that the electoral constituencies law to be unconstitutional. The court found the law violated Article 102 of the constitution which stipulates that equal representation among voters in all constituencies must be guaranteed. “We feel sorry that parliamentary elections were postponed for constitutional reasons, but we hope new preparations will be back on track next week and that a new timetable for the polls will be set within one month or even less,” Heneidy said.
An Egyptian court on Tuesday deferred a long-awaited parliamentary election due in March indefinitely after another court declared the election law’s provision on voting districts as unconstitutional, judicial sources said. Egypt has been without a parliament since June 2012, when a court dissolved the democratically elected main chamber, reversing a major accomplishment of the 2011 uprising that toppled autocrat Hosni Mubarak. This delay prolongs a period in which President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has wielded sole legislative authority and slows Egypt’s progress towards democracy since its first freely elected president was ousted by the army in 2013.
Estonia’s prime minister was preparing to form a new government Monday, a day after his ruling Reform Party won parliamentary elections. Taavi Roivas’ center-right group, which includes the Social Democrats, lost seven seats in the vote and now has 45 lawmakers in the 101-seat Parliament, prompting negotiations with smaller parties to form a majority coalition. Roivas met the country’s head of state before discussions with other party leaders. At their meeting, President Toomas Hendrik Ilves suggested forming a broad coalition, saying the small nation of 1.3 million people “needs a responsible and capable government … (to) maintain Estonia’s security, governance and local government reforms.”
The only question to ask about Tajikistan’s upcoming parliamentary elections is whether the authorities will allow any opposition parties to win seats in the rubber-stamp body. A victory for the president’s party is guaranteed. But, just in case, authorities are making it almost impossible for anyone else to run. Eight parties are fielding 288 candidates to contest 63 seats in parliament’s lower house on March 1. Tajikistan has never held an election judged free and fair by impartial observers. During the previous election, in 2010, President Emomali Rakhmon’s People’s Democratic Party (PDP) won 55 of the 63 seats. The only opposition party to enter parliament, the Islamic Renaissance Party (IRPT), won just two seats. The other seats went to members of the loyal opposition—parties that bestow on Tajikistan the trappings of democracy, but kowtow to the president.
Less than a month before elections to Tajikistan’s rubber-stamp parliament, members of the embattled opposition say the authoritarian-minded government is resorting to new tactics and old – sex tapes and arrests – to discredit them. A flurry of allegations about alleged sexual impropriety among members of the Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan (IRPT) has surfaced on social media and state television in recent months. Meanwhile, another opposition group has seen several members arrested on what supporters call spurious charges. For longtime observers, the harassment in the run-up to the 1 March parliamentary elections is an unsurprising attempt to discredit opponents of President Imomali Rakhmon. In its most recent report on Tajikistan, Freedom House ranked the country’s electoral process a 6.75 out of 7, with 7 representing the farthest a country can be from democracy. The Central Asian state has never held an election judged free and fair by independent observers, though it regularly goes through the motions of holding polls. Eight parties, several of them loyal to the president, will field candidates in the elections next month.
Persistent institutional chaos is undermining public confidence in Kyrgyzstan’s parliamentary republic as the country enters a new political cycle. Observers fear parliamentary elections this November could destabilize and further fracture Kyrgyzstan, as officials – including the secretive coterie surrounding President Almazbek Atambayev – scramble to accumulate power. With the struggle already underway – and as Kyrgyzstan integrates with its authoritarian neighbors Russia and Kazakhstan in the Eurasian Economic Union – civic groups complain that democratic practices are steadily eroding. Evidence of backsliding on basic rights in 2014 was abundant — ranging from populist and Russia-inspired legislation targeting homosexuals and non-profits, through apparent efforts to muffle and co-opt influential media. Lawmakers have been mooting controversial ideas, such as arming civilians in border areas, and calling for economically unfeasible policies.
Mauritius voters rejected plans to grant more powers to the president by handing an unassailable lead in a parliamentary election to a coalition that rejected changing the constitution, according to television reports on Thursday. The coalition of the Militant Socialist Movement (MSM) and the Parti Mauricien Social Democrate (PMSD) had secured 44 of the 62 contested seats by 2.50 p.m. (1750 GMT), while the ruling Labour Party and its ally which backed the change had just 13.
Mauritians lined up to vote on Wednesday in a parliamentary election that could lead to more powers being granted to the president if the ruling Labour Party wins. Six hours after polls opened at 7 a.m. (0300 GMT) about 28 percent of the roughly 936,000 eligible voters had cast ballots, the electoral commission said. Polls close at 6 p.m. with results due out on Thursday. Mauritius has expanded as an offshore financial centre, spurring construction of tower blocks in the capital Port Louis, in recent years. But workers in the tourism, sugar and textile industries, the other economic mainstays, often complain they have been left behind. “The biggest challenge for whichever coalition wins this election will be to ensure a better distribution of wealth,” voter Karl Constant said after casting his ballot.
Tunisia held its first free presidential election on Sunday, taking another step forward in its transition to democracy as voters hoped for greater stability and a better economy. Many Tunisians weighed security concerns against the freedoms brought by their revolution and by its democratic reforms, which have remained on track in sharp contrast to the upheavals brought by the Arab Spring elsewhere in the region, including the military coup in Egypt and the conflicts in Syria, Yemen and Libya. It has not been easy for Tunisia, however, and the nearly four years since the revolution have been marked by social unrest, terrorist attacks and high inflation that pushed voters into punishing the moderate Islamists in last month’s parliamentary elections. “The thing I’m worried most about for the future is terrorism. Right now, we don’t know who’s coming into the country, and this is a problem,” said Amira Judei, 21, who voted in the southern city of Kasserine, near the border with Algeria and a point of terrorist attacks. Tunisia’s revolution began in areas such as Kasserine in the impoverished south. Voting hours in the rural regions along the border were reduced to five hours due to security fears.
Bahrani troops have attacked people protesting the Al Khalifa regime security forces’ storming of a prominent cleric’s home, amid an ongoing crackdown on dissent. On Tuesday, the regime’s forces used rubber bullets and teargas to disperse protesters gathered on the streets of Diraz and Sadad, denouncing the raid on the house of Shia cleric Ayatollah Sheikh Issa Ahmed Qassem on Saturday. Witnesses said the regime forces took photos of the ID cards of all those present in the house in Diraz, west of the capital Manama.
Congratulations Tunisia! No matter who is officially announced as the winner in a few days’ time, the second peaceful vote in four weeks has shown that this country is headed in the right direction – and it looks like it’s the only one in the Arab region. Libya is falling apart in a clan war, Syria is embroiled in a civil war, Egypt has reverted to a military dictatorship and Yemen is sinking into chaos. Only one small nation in North Africa got its act together, and that’s Tunisia. The appalling example of its Arab neighbors may have helped: almost everyone in Tunis has recognized the value of compromise for a democracy, even Tunisia’s moderate Ennahda Islamists. They realized, though late, that they can’t push through their idea of an Islamic state with a supreme religious authority in Tunisia any time soon.
Campaign posters and banners for next week’s presidential elections have covered the walls of Tunisia’s cities and towns, papering over the flaking posters from the parliamentary elections just three weeks ago. The presidential campaign, featuring 25 competitors, kicked off in early November and it’s the first time since Tunisians overthrew dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in 2011 that they will choose their head of state through universal suffrage. If no candidate wins a majority Nov. 23, there will be a runoff between the top two vote-getters on Dec. 28. Alone among the countries that experienced the Arab Spring uprisings in 2011, Tunisia’s transition has remained on track. The favorite to win is Beji Caid Essebsi, an 87-year-old veteran politician who served under Ben Ali and his predecessor Habib Bourguiba, and whose party won the most seats in parliament — 39 percent — in the October elections.
Like the rest of Egypt, Tahrir Square in Cairo is off-limits nowadays to the protesters who made it famous three years ago. Its Tunisian equivalent is still open for business. In the run-up to the North African country’s parliamentary election last week, Habib Bourguiba Avenue in Tunis hosted rallies by major parties. Islamists and leftists were among groups sharing the tree- and café-lined boulevard, marking out their own spaces for rival campaign events. Violent upheaval and even civil war have followed the uprisings in Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Bahrain and Syria in 2011. Tunisia, where that wave of unrest began, showed that it’s on a different trajectory when Islamists agreed to cede power peacefully after losing the latest vote. The Tunisian exception, analysts say, results from a less meddlesome army, more flexible politicians, and an absence of the external interference that countries deemed more important were subjected to.
Ukrainians are still scared, terrorized by the war; for that reason alone, the vote should not be considered valid. Just last week, the self-proclaimed leaders of the Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics used this excuse to discredit Ukraine’s internationally accepted parliamentary elections. And yet, these hypocritical separatists have just held their own election – right in the middle of a war zone, Kalashnikovs at the ready and with backing from Moscow. These were pseudo-elections, with the winners already fixed well in advance. Pro-Ukrainian parties and candidates were not allowed to take part in the so-called presidential and parliamentary elections. In Donetsk, even pro-Russian communists were barred from the electoral list, despite the city being one of its strongholds. In the Donetsk region, only two parties took part: Donetsk Republic and Free Donbass. Both groups have only one goal in mind: secession from Ukraine. And now they have secured, along with separatist groups in Luhansk, their uncompromising course.
The sounds of artillery fire boomed from the northwest suburbs of Donetsk, but in the glittering foyer of what was once a downtown conference center, camouflage-clad militants toting Kalashnikovs sat in leather armchairs, paying no heed to the noise. They were keeping guard over those engaged in the important work upstairs: In the luxurious penthouse, trapped in stifling heat but cut off from the sound of shelling, Roman Lyagin worked to turn a fantasy republic into reality. Lyagin, as head of the Central Election Committee of this unrecognized nation, is writing the rules that will govern the first parliamentary elections of the self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic, scheduled for Nov. 2. “I and some like-minded people are making a new state,” he said. “We are building the state of our dreams.”
As two of Ukraine’s best-known investigative journalists, Sergii Leshchenko and Mustafa Nayyem showed a boundless zeal for exposing corruption and hypocrisy at the highest levels of government. So it set heads spinning within the country’s political and media elite last month when they suddenly announced that they were not only jumping the fence to run for Parliament, but also joining the establishment as candidates of President O. Poroshenko’s coalition party. Or at least that’s how it seemed. In a sign of how hard it can be to kick old habits, Mr. Leshchenko and Mr. Nayyem have spent the final week of the campaign not working to promote themselves, but rather crusading to defeat a candidate from their own party — a former official in the Kiev city government, whose place on the ballot in this rural district 250 miles south of the capital, they say, was the result of corrupt back-room dealing approved by someone close to Mr. Poroshenko, if not by the president himself.