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Posts tagged ‘Elections’

Demands to Postpone Iraqi Elections

Tuesday, 28 November, 2017

Despite continuous assertions by Shiite political figures and forces – led by Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi – on holding the parliamentary elections in mid-May, Sunni political figures insist on postponing the elections due to the absence of required conditions in Sunni provinces that were ruled by ISIS for around three years.

Several parties, including the UN and its mission to Iraq, are concerned over the lack of conditions to hold elections on its specific date. Special representative of the UN for Iraq Jan Kubis, in his report to the Security Council last week, said that the newly assigned council for Iraqi elections had a tough mission ahead.

Kubis sees that the council, that should completely comply with the constitution and hold the elections on time, “faces several challenges including the use of a new voting technology and holding two election processes (the parliament and the local councils) simultaneously and within a tight timeline and complex electoral laws.”

He further pointed to the security challenges, especially issues pertaining to the return of displaced people and urged Iraqi parties to confront these challenges in the coming months. In his report, before the Security Council, he declared that “holding elections while some parts of Iraq remain unsafe with large numbers of its citizens still displaced (namely from the Sunnis) may raise doubts about the credibility and comprehensiveness of elections.”

Media and political parties considered the last part of Kubis statement a call for postponing the elections.

Other deputies on the Iraqi National List share same concerns with the UN regarding the absence of required conditions for holding elections. Among them is Abdul Karim Abtan who told Asharq Al-Awsat that he agreed with on-time elections but “the question is, will the government provide these conditions?”

Abtan listed the conditions to be provided, saying they were the same conditions stated by the PM when he set mid-May as a deadline for elections. These include the return of displaced persons, the provision of a suitable environment, the non-participation of armed groups in the elections and a free and fair e-election system,” he stated.

Source: Asharq al-Awsat.

Link: https://aawsat.com/english/home/article/1097311/demands-postpone-iraqi-elections.

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Iraq to hold parliamentary elections May 15

2017-11-01

BAGHDAD – Iraq plans to hold parliamentary elections on May 15 to choose a prime minister, a statement from the prime minister’s office said late on Tuesday.

Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi hasn’t yet said if he plans to seek a new term. Most executive power is held by the prime minister, who is also commander of the armed forces.

The May 15 date, agreed at a government meeting on Tuesday, has yet to be approved by parliament.

Abadi took over the premiership in 2014 from Nuri al-Maliki, a close ally of Iran held responsible for the army’s collapse as Islamic State militants swept through a third of Iraq.

Abadi is credited for quickly rebuilding the army and defeating Islamic State in its main Iraqi stronghold, Mosul, last July, with strong assistance from a US-led coalition.

Maliki holds the ceremonial title of vice-president. As head of the Shiite Dawa party and the largest block in parliament, he remains a powerful political figure.

The prime minister’s office is reserved for Iraq’s majority Shiite Arab community under a power-sharing system set up after the 2003 US-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein, a Sunni Arab.

The largely ceremonial office of president is reserved for a Kurdish member of parliament. The speaker of parliament is drawn from Sunni Arab MPs.

Source: Middle East Online.

Link: http://www.middle-east-online.com/english/?id=85705.

Morocco’s Justice and Development Party to Elect New Secretary General

Sunday, 10 December, 2017

Morocco’s ruling Islamist Justice and Development Party (PJD) held on Saturday its 8th national congress to elect a new leader, after its former leader Abdelilah Benkirane bid the party farewell, confirming that the party is determined to proceed with the reforms despite the party’s difficult situation.

Speaking at the inaugural session at the Prince Moulay Abdellah Stadium, Benkirane indicated that national congress comes this year following several issues the party suffered from and after its success in the 2016 elections.

He stated that PJD managed to win the elections and defeat its opponents, hinting at its political rival Authenticity and Modernity opposition party.

King Mohammed VI chose Saadeddine Othmani as Prime Minister, which Benkirane described as a “huge blow” to the party.

“The party was supposed to take a very difficult stance and become part of the opposition, however, we eventually decided to react positively to the statement of the Royal Court,” stated Benkirane

“I know that a lot of brothers and sisters in the party treasure me, if not all,” he said. “But I am also human, anything could happen to me. In all cases, even if I were a good man, eventually I would have to leave the party,” he added in his farewell speech.

Benkirane had previously condemned PJD members who did not support him in his re-election for a third term.

“It is because of me that the party made political and electoral progress,” he said, adding that: “despite the tense and difficult conflict the party witnessed, we made the decision based on our internal laws and democracy, despite the fact that they suffer from shortcomings.”

“Perhaps, we made a mistake. We could have discussed the issue within the congress, but it’s too late for that now. You will have to choose a new secretary general. I ask you to listen to all candidates and make the right decision. May God be with you,” he concluded.

The leader of PJD is supposed to be announced on Sunday, following Benkirane’s two mandates, which started in 2008, where he led the party to three major wins in Morocco’s local and parliamentary elections, in 2011, 2015 and 2016. He also led the government from 2011 to 2017.

However, after failing to form a government following five months of post-election deadlock, King Mohammed VI decided to replace PM Benkirane with Othmani, which created a huge political turmoil within the party.

The king took the decision “in the absence of signs that suggest an imminent formation” of a government and due to “his concern about overcoming the current blockage” in political negotiations, the royal statement said.

The king thanked Benkirane for his service as prime minister, praising him for his “effectiveness, competence and self-sacrifice”.

Observers expect Othmani to rule the party following Benkirane, in order to avoid any conflicts between the positions of party’s secretary general with the presidency of the cabinet.

Source: Asharq al-Awsat.

Link: https://aawsat.com/english/home/article/1108916/moroccos-justice-and-development-party-elect-new-secretary-general.

Putin announces 2018 re-election bid, ends long speculation

December 06, 2017

MOSCOW (AP) — Russian President Vladimir Putin said Wednesday he would seek re-election next year in a race he is poised to win easily, putting him on track to become the nation’s longest-serving ruler since Soviet dictator Josef Stalin.

Putin’s approval ratings regularly top 80 percent, making him all but certain to win the March election by a broad margin. While few doubted the 65-year-old leader would run, the delay in his declaring so fueled some conspiracy theories and was seen as the Kremlin’s political maneuvering.

The 65-year-old Russian leader’s potential rivals include several luckless candidates from past contests and a notable newcomer — TV host Ksenia Sobchak, 36, the daughter of Putin’s one-time boss. The president chose to make his re-election announcement at the GAZ automobile factory in the city of Nizhny Novgorod. The factory is a symbol of Russian’s industrial might, and Putin found an enthusiastic audience in the blue-collar workers who make up the core of his base.

“I couldn’t find a better place and moment,” he said to massive applause at the plant. “Thank you for your support. I will run for president.” For months, Putin fended off questions about his plans for 2018, fueling speculation about why he would not say if he would seek re-election. Some theorized he might step down and name a preferred successor.

The Kremlin has been worried about growing voter apathy, and the uncertainty over Putin’s plans seemed intended to encourage public interest in the race. “It was necessary to ensure electoral mobilization,” Dmitry Orlov, a political consultant close to the Kremlin, said in televised remarks.

Putin has been in power in Russia since 2000. He served two presidential terms during 2000-2008, then shifted into the prime minister’s seat because of term limits. As prime minister, he still called the shots while his ally, Dmitry Medvedev, served as the placeholder president.

Medvedev had the president’s term extended to six years and then stepped down to let Putin reclaim the office in 2012. If Putin serves another six-year term, which would run through 2024, he would reach the milestone of having the longest tenure since Stalin, who ruled for nearly 30 years.

Earlier Wednesday, Putin was asked about his intentions at a meeting with young volunteers in Moscow. He said he would decide shortly, then showed up at the GAZ factory making his announcement. The plant is one of the country’s most emblematic industrial giants. It was built during the Soviet industrialization drive in 1932 and has churned out millions of vehicles, from vans and military trucks to Volga sedans and luxury cars for the Soviet elite.

“Thank you for your work, for your attitude to your jobs, your factory, your city and your country!” Putin told factory workers. “I’m sure that together we will succeed.” A stream of fawning comments from officials and lawmakers followed his declaration.

Chechnya’s regional leader, Ramzan Kadyrov, hailed the president’s announcement, saying on Instagram that only Putin can “resist a massive shameless and unprecedented” pressure by the West. Valentina Matviyenko, the speaker of the upper house of the Russian parliament, said Putin’s decision helped end “anxiety and tensions in the society.”

The upper house is expected to authorize the start of formal election campaigning later this month. Veterans of past campaigns — Communist chief Gennady Zyuganov, ultranationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky and liberal leader Grigory Yavlinsky — all have declared their intention to run. They will likely be joined by Sobchak, a well-known television host who is the daughter of the late St. Petersburg Mayor Anatoly Sobchak, who was Putin’s boss in the 1990s.

“I don’t trust a system where Putin makes all decisions,” said Sobchak, who also met with voters in Nizhny Novgorod Wednesday. “Let’s believe in our ability to change the situation.” The most visible Putin foe, Alexei Navalny, also wants to join the race, even though a conviction he calls politically motivated bars him from running. He has organized a grassroots campaign and staged rallies across Russia to raise pressure on the government to allow him to run.

In a signal that the Kremlin isn’t going to budge, Navalny’s campaign chief, Leonid Volkov, last week was sentenced to a month in jail for staging an unauthorized rally in Nizhny Novgorod. Navalny himself spent 20 days in jail in October for organizing another rally.

“The best illustration of how elections work in Russia is my campaign chief Leonid Volkov sitting in jail just one kilometer (less than a mile) from the venue where Putin declared his bid,” Navalny tweeted.

Slovenia’s president wins second term in runoff election

November 12, 2017

BLED, Slovenia (AP) — Slovenia’s President Borut Pahor was re-elected to a second term Sunday after winning a runoff election against a former comedian who currently serves as the mayor of a northern town.

Pahor, 54, a veteran politician known as the “King of Instagram” for his frequent use of social media, won 53 percent of the vote to challenger Marjan Sarec’s 47 percent, results from Slovenian election authorities showed after a completed preliminary count.

Pahor thanked voters and vowed to further boost their faith in democracy. He congratulated his opponent for his performance. “I will be a president of all,” Pahor said. “I’ll bring people together and build on what brings us closer.”

Pahor is only the second Slovenian president to win a second term in office since the country gained independence from the former Yugoslavia in 1991. The country of 2 million people in Central Europe is the birthplace of U.S. first lady Melania Trump and known for its Alpine mountains and lakes.

A former model like the U.S. first lady, the telegenic, blue-eyed politician has held a number of public posts and was Slovenia’s prime minister before he first was elected president in 2012. Sarec was a well-known satirical comedian before entering politics in 2010 to run for mayor in Kamnik. He conceded defeat and congratulated Pahor on Sunday night, but said his success as a relative political newcomer showed Slovenian citizens wanted change.

“I’m proud to have had a possibility to run against the premiere league,” Sarec said at his headquarters in Kamnik. “My result is good. It speaks for itself.” Analysts had warned that Sarec’s ability to make it into the runoff showed Slovenians’ discontent with established politicians. Critics accused Pahor of avoiding taking stands on important issues.

Election authorities said less than 42 percent of eligible voters cast ballots in Sunday’s election. Slovenia’s official STA news agency says that’s the lowest turnout for a presidential race since Slovenia split from the former Yugoslavia in 1991.

Key topics facing Slovenia include the economy, a border dispute with Croatia and the future of the European Union, which Slovenia joined in 2004. Slovenia’s presidency carries no executive powers, but the office-holder proposes a prime minister and his or her opinion on important issues holds weight. Pahor and Sarec, while both centrists, clashed on issues such as the privatization of Slovenia’s biggest bank and the composition of the country’s anti-corruption body.

After voting Sunday, Pahor complained that he has been falsely viewed as a populist — which he says he is not — while Sarec was trying to assume the role of a “statesman.” Pahor suggested that the “change of roles” cost him public support.

In his victory speech, Pahor, who has sought to portray himself as a unifier president, also said that he will strive to help solve problems and bridge any divisions that might exist in the Slovenian society.

Ali Zerdin contributed from Ljubljana, Slovenia and Dusan Stojanovic contributed from Belgrade, Serbia.

Election produces likely right turn, young leader in Austria

October 15, 2017

VIENNA (AP) — Austria’s 31-year-old foreign minister declared victory for his party Sunday in a national election that set him up to become Europe’s youngest leader and puts the country on course for a rightward turn.

Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz claimed the win as final results announced by the Interior Ministry showed his People’s Party had a comfortable lead with almost all the ballots counted. Noting that his center-right party had triumphed over the rival Social Democrats only twice since the end of World War II, Kurz called it a “historic victory.”

“Today is not the day of triumph over others, but today is our chance for real change in this country,” he told cheering supporters. Still to be counted are more than 800,000 absentee ballots and ones cast by voters outside of their home districts. The outstanding votes are due to be tallied by mid-week.

However, the votes counted so far show that Austria, where moderate policies have been the norm for decades, will have a government with a harder line on migration and Muslims than one running the country now.

Both Kurz’s party and the right-wing Freedom Party — Kurz’s most likely government coalition partner — campaigned on the need for tougher immigration controls, quickly deporting asylum-seekers whose requests are denied and cracking down on radical Islam.

Interior Minister Wolfgang Sobotka said the People’s Party received 31.4 percent of the vote, a gain of more than 7 percentage points from the 2013 election. Kurz described that as the biggest jump in support in the party’s history.

The Social Democratic Party of Austria, which now governs in coalition with People’s Party, had 26.7 percent, while the Freedom Party had 27.4 percent. The election returns suggest a harder line on immigration resonated with voters more strongly than Social Democratic calls for social equality. Social Democratic Chancellor Christian Kern acknowledged as much, saying Sunday’s results reflected “a push to the right.”

The Social Democrats were also hurt by charges of dirty campaigning after Israeli political adviser Tal Silberstein, while under contract to the party, launched Facebook platforms crudely mocking Kurz and suggesting the young foreign minister was anti-Semitic.

Much of the People’s Party’s appeal has been credited to Kurz. Since taking the helm in the spring amid growing strains within the governing Social Democratic-People’s Party coalition, he moved his center-right party further to the right.

Even though he is part of the present government, Kurz also presented himself as an engine of change for voters disenchanted with the political status quo. But he avoids the inflammatory rhetoric of the Freedom Party and its head, Heinz-Christian Strache. That made Kurz’s party appealing to voters who were uncomfortable with the Freedom Party, but increasingly concerned about immigration since 2015, when hundreds of thousands of mostly Muslim migrants flowed into and through Austria in search of better lives in prosperous European Union nations

Strache has modified the tone of his message when speaking to the broader public. The party is keen on shedding its past links to anti-Semitism, but continues to attract a small neo-Nazi fringe. The last time the Freedom Party was in government was 17 years ago. While no expects a repeat of the EU sanctions slapped on Austria because of the party’s participation, critics of the Freedom Party in and outside Austria have expressed alarm at any government role for the euroskeptic party.

President Alexander Van der Bellen, who must swear in the new government, said he “puts great value on pro-European government.” He narrowly defeated a Freedom Party candidate in last year’s election for head of state.

With the pro-EU Kurz at the helm, “EU membership is not likely to be questioned,” analyst Pepijn Bergsen, of the Economist Intelligence Unit said. Among the greatest losers were Austria’s Greens, with projections showing the party short of the 4 percent support needed to make it into parliament.

The environmentalist party, which had 12.42 percent in elections four years ago, was showing now at 3.9 percent. Two other small parties, the liberal NEOS and the Liste Pilz led by a renegade former Greens politician, just cleared the threshold for parliament seats.

Kenyan officials report low turnout in presidential election

October 27, 2017

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — Kenya’s election commission says about 6.5 million people, or one-third of registered voters, went to the polls in a presidential election that was boycotted by the main opposition group.

The turnout in Thursday’s election was much lower than the nearly 80 percent of registered voters who participated in an Aug. 8 election that was later nullified by the Supreme Court. Wafula Chebukati, the election commission chairman, said late Thursday the count was based on results from 267 out of Kenya’s 290 constituencies.

Authorities postponed voting in several counties until Saturday because opposition supporters prevented polling stations from opening and clashed with police. Four people were killed. President Uhuru Kenyatta was declared the winner in the August vote; opposition leader Raila Odinga says the election process is not credible.

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