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Posts tagged ‘Elections’

Taiwan braces for pro-China fake news deluge as elections loom

By Amber Wang

Taipei (AFP)

June 27, 2019

With a presidential election looming Taiwan is bracing for a deluge of fake news and disinformation — much of it emanating from China and aimed at making sure Beijing’s preferred party wins the day, analysts say.

Torrential rain did little to put off tens of thousands of people rallying in Taipei last Sunday against what they have dubbed the “red media”.

The term is used to describe both legitimate news outlets and more opaque online sources that flood the democratic island with either pro-China coverage or outright disinformation.

“I don’t want to see ‘red forces’ invading Taiwan to control the media and manipulate what people think, to fool the public,” Alan Chang, a 30-year-old businessman attending the rally, told AFP.

Taiwan goes to the polls in January and the contest is set to be dominated by relations with China.

The island has been a self-ruled de facto nation in charge of its own affairs and borders for the last 70 years.

But Beijing maintains Taiwan is part of its territory and has never given up its threat to retake it, by force if necessary.

It has stopped communication with the government of President Tsai Ing-wen, who is seeking a second term, because she refuses to acknowledge the island is part of “one China”, while ramping up military drills and poaching Taiwan’s dwindling diplomatic allies.

Tsai’s main challenger is the Kuomintang which favors much warmer ties with the Chinese mainland and is the party Beijing wants to see back in power.

– Fake rescue –

“The stakes for the 2020 elections are high, as they will determine Taiwan’s future direction,” J Michael Cole, a Taipei-based expert at the University of Nottingham’s Taiwan Studies Programme, told AFP, adding fake news was already at “alarming levels”.

“So (Beijing) will intensify its influence operations — including fake news — to increase the odds that someone other than Tsai is elected,” he added.

One particularly egregious example that sparked criticism of the government was a widely shared, but patently false, report that China rescued Taiwanese tourists stranded in a Japanese airport during a typhoon.

Last week Tsai’s office also asked police to investigate false claims on social media that her government had given US$32 million to finance huge anti-government rallies in Hong Kong.

Hu Yuan-hui, head of the Fact Checking Centre in Taipei, said the viral nature of disinformation is aided by many Taiwanese people using Chinese social media and messaging services.

“They (fake reports) tend to highlight the contrast between Taiwan and China to try to portray a chaotic Taiwan versus a strong China,” he told AFP.

Last November, Tsai’s party was hammered in local elections, largely due to a backlash over domestic reforms and a divisive push for gay marriage equality.

But analysts said there was also a surge in fake news items ahead of those polls.

– Media literacy –

A study by Wang Tai-li, a journalism professor at National Taiwan University, found 54 percent of people surveyed were unable to distinguish the fabricated report about Chinese evacuating people during the typhoon, which went viral ahead of the November vote.

“Disinformation campaigns were proven effective last year and they will be replicated in larger scale during the upcoming presidential election,” Wang predicted.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said the false typhoon evacuation story originated on the Chinese mainland and was picked up by Taiwan’s social and traditional media, in a “carefully coordinated and extremely effective disinformation campaign”.

“Beijing has been targeting Taiwan with disinformation campaigns for decades… However, it is only recently that social networks have enabled these activities to have a viral impact,” RSF said.

US officials have also said Taiwan is “on the frontlines” of China’s disinformation campaigns.

“There is no question, at least in our minds, that China will try to meddle, they’ve done it in every previous election,” Randall Schriver, US assistant defense secretary for Asian and Pacific security affairs, said last week.

Source: Sino Daily.

Link: http://www.sinodaily.com/reports/Taiwan_braces_for_pro-China_fake_news_deluge_as_elections_loom_999.html.

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Israel’s left-wing party Meretz elects new leader

June 28, 2019

One of Israel’s left-wing parties Meretz has elected a new leader ahead of the country’s upcoming general election on 17 September.

Nitzan Horowitz – a journalist with Israeli daily Haaretz and two-time Knesset Member (MK) – was elected as party chair in Meretz’s primaries yesterday. His victory sees him oust previous chairwoman Tamar Zandberg, who led the party in Israel’s last election on 9 April.

Giving a victory speech in Tel Aviv, Horowitz said that “Meretz has a clear, straight path, of love for humans, and belief in equality and freedom”. “This is the path I have walked my whole life and continue to walk,” he explained, adding that “this way of life is under attack and Meretz will fight for freedom for all, from darkness, racism and coercion”.

Commentators expect Horowitz’s victory over Zandberg to impact Meretz’s potential alliances ahead of the September election; whereas Zandberg was said to be weighing an alliance with the newly-reformed Joint List, Horowitz is thought to prefer an alliance with other left-wing Jewish-Israeli parties, such as the Israeli Labor Party or the as-yet-unnamed party announced this week by former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak.

Horowitz, however, stressed that Meretz “is prepared for talks and cooperation based on our values,” which includes “alliances with new groups and the heads of Arab and Druze society”.

“Our way and values ??are the reason for our existence as a party. We have a historic responsibility to create a strong left. If need be, we will be a combative opposition that they [a right-wing government] will not forget,” he added.

Horowitz also took aim at the Blue and White (Kahol Lavan) alliance, dismissing the centrist party as little more than a “soap bubble”.

Despite becoming Israel’s second-biggest party following a strong performance in April’s election, Blue and White – particularly its leader Benny Gantz – has been most noticeable by its absence since fresh elections were called last month.

This has led to speculation of discord between Gantz and co-leader Yair Lapid, as well as accusations that the party is “sleeping” when it could – or should – be working to weaken increasingly-embattled Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Meretz could, however, find itself needing to collaborate with Blue and White if the center-left camp has any hope of reaching the 61 Knesset seats needed to form a majority government and challenge Netanyahu’s hegemony.

In the most recent polls, Blue and White was predicted to win 32 seats, once again the same number as Netanyahu’s Likud party. The Joint List was predicted to win 12 seats, Meretz six and Labor five, while Ehud Barak’s new party could win as many as six seats.

This would garner the 61 seats needed to form a center-left government, while the right-wing bloc would only win 52 seats. This calculation leaves out former Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu party – which is predicted to improve on its April performance to win seven seats – after Lieberman claimed he would sit neither in a Netanyahu nor Gantz-led government.

Whether the Joint List will agree to join a Gantz-led government is also unclear, after the former army Chief of Staff claimed to be looking for only “Jewish and Zionist” coalition partners ahead of April’s election. Though Arab-Israeli parties have held working arrangements with governments in the past, none have ever officially joined a ruling coalition.

This apparent deadlock has sparked calls from Likud officials – rumored to be at Netanyahu’s behest – to cancel the election. Though such a move has no constitutional precedent in Israel, Netanyahu’s increasingly-desperate attempts to hold on to power and avoid impending corruption charges could see him rip up the rule book once again.

Source: Middle East Monitor.

Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20190628-israels-left-wing-party-meretz-elects-new-leader/.

Georgia’s ruling party announces electoral changes

June 24, 2019

TBILISI, Georgia (AP) — The leader of Georgia’s ruling party said Monday that the ex-Soviet nation will hold the next parliamentary election based entirely on a proportionate system, fulfilling a key demand of anti-government protesters.

The statement from Bidzina Ivanishvili, the founder of the Georgian Dream party, followed four days of protests in the capital. Thousands of demonstrators have rallied in front of parliament, demanding changes in the electoral law and the ouster of the interior minister whom they blame for a violent dispersal of a rally Thursday.

Throngs of demonstrators tried to storm parliament that day, angered by a Russian lawmaker taking the speaker’s seat during an international meeting of lawmakers. The protest reflected simmering anger against Russia, which routed Georgia in a 2008 war and maintains a military presence in Georgia’s two breakaway provinces of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

The protesters consider Ivanishvili, Georgia’s richest man who made his fortune in Russia, a conduit of Moscow’s influence and see the ruling party as overly friendly to Russian interests. Unfazed by Ivanishvili’s announcement, a motorcade of protesters drove across the capital Monday to the Interior Ministry headquarters to push for the minister’s resignation.

Thousands of protesters gathered in front of the parliament building in the evening for the fifth consecutive night of demonstrations, calling for the interior minister to step down and pressing other demands.

The protests have marked the largest outpouring of anger against Georgian Dream since it took power in 2012. Officials said at least 240 people were injured when riot police used tear gas and water cannons and fired rubber bullets to disperse the protesters. More than 300 demonstrators have been arrested.

Demonstrators have returned to parliament for daily rallies, demanding the release of those detained, the ouster of the nation’s interior minister and changes in the electoral law to have legislators chosen fully proportionally rather than the current mix of party-list and single-mandate representatives. The opposition believes that single-mandate races favor the ruling party.

Ivanishvili, in his first public appearance since the crisis erupted, said Georgian Dream has agreed to change the election law earlier than planned and to hold next year’s parliamentary election based on a fully proportional system. He also announced that the ruling party offered to drop the threshold of 5% of the vote for parties to get represented.

“We are seeing today that the society wants changes,” Ivanishvili said. “Our initiative opens the way for large-scale political changes.” Later Monday, some demonstrators said they were unsatisfied by Ivanishvili’s offer to change the electoral code.

Dropping the 5% barrier means “representatives of small parties that receive material aid from Russia can go to parliament. The devil is in the details, and it is very dangerous,” protester Irakli Sikharulidze said.

Moscow has responded to anti-Russian protests by ordering a ban on Russian flights to Georgia starting July 8. Russia’s transportation ministry also banned Georgian airlines from flying to Russia, citing their debts and safety issues.

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said Monday the flight ban reflected concerns about the safety of Russian travelers amid what he described as “Russophobic hysteria” in Georgia. He told reporters that the ban could be lifted after the tensions abate.

The flight ban deals a serious economic blow to the Caucasus nation, which has annually hosted more than 1 million Russian tourists, attracted by its scenic mountains, lush sea coast and the renowned wine culture.

It echoes bans that Russia imposed in 2006 on flights and imports of Georgian wine and mineral water as tensions rose between the countries. Air connections were restored in 2010 and Russia lifted the wine import ban in 2013.

On Monday, the Russian consumer regulator Rospotrebnadzor hinted at a possible new ban, saying that it has registered a steady decline in the quality of imported Georgian wine. In the past, Russia often cited sanitary reasons for food imports bans widely seen as politically driven.

Vladimir Isachenkov in Moscow contributed to this report.

Australian election May 18 to be fought on refugees, economy

April 11, 2019

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Australia’s prime minister on Thursday called a May 18 election that will be fought on issues including climate change, asylum seekers and economic management. “We live in the best country in the world,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison told reporters after advising the governor-general to authorize the election.

“But to secure your future, the road ahead depends on a strong economy. And that’s why there is so much at stake at this election,” he added. Morrison’s conservative coalition is seeking a third three-year term. But Morrison is the third prime minister to lead a divided government in that time and only took the helm in late August.

Opinion polls suggest his reign will become one of the shortest in the 118-year history of Australian prime ministers on election day. The polls suggest center-left opposition leader Bill Shorten will become the eighth prime minister since the country plunged into an extraordinary period of political instability in 2007.

The election pits Shorten, a former labor union leader who has presented himself as the alternative prime minister for the past six years, and Morrison, a leader who the Australian public is still getting to know.

Shorten said in his first news conference since the election was called that his government will take “real action on climate change” and reduce inequality in Australian society if his Labor Party wins power.

“Australians face a real and vital choice at this election. Do you want Labor’s energy, versus the government’s tiredness? Labor’s focus on the future, versus being stuck in the past?” Shorten said. Morrison is seen as the architect of Australia’s tough refugee policy that has all but stopped the people-smuggling traffic of boats from Southeast Asian ports since 2014. The policy has been condemned by human rights groups as an abrogation of Australia’s responsibilities as a signatory to the United Nations Refugee Convention.

Morrison’s first job in Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s newly elected coalition government in 2013 was as minister for immigration and border protection. He oversaw the secretive military-run Operation Sovereign Borders.

Asylum seekers from the Middle East, Africa and Asia would typically disable or sink their boats when intercepted by patrol ships in waters north of Australia so that the Australian crews would have to rescue them rather than turn the boats away. Under the new regime, the asylum seekers were placed in motorized life boats that were towed back to Indonesia. The life boats had just enough fuel to reach the Indonesian coast. The Indonesian government complained the policy was an affront to Indonesian sovereignty.

The government has also maintained a policy adopted in the final months of a Labor government in 2013 of sending boat arrivals to camps on the Pacific island nations of Papua New Guinea and Nauru. Those who attempt to reach Australia by boat are told they will never be allowed to settle there.

Morrison remains proud of virtually stopping people-smuggler boat traffic. He has a trophy shaped like a people-smuggler’s boat in his office inscribed with “I Stopped These.” Labor has promised to maintain the policy of banishing boat arrivals to the islands. But Labor says it would give priority to finding permanent homes for the asylum seekers who have languished in island camps for years.

The conservative coalition argues that the boats would start coming again because a Labor government would soften the regime. The government introduced temporary protection visas for boat arrivals so that refugees face potential deportation every three years if the circumstances that they fled in their homelands improve. Labor would give refugees permanent visas so that they have the certainty to plan their lives.

Climate change policy is a political battlefield in a country that is the world’s largest exporter of coal and liquefied natural gas and has been one of the world’s worst greenhouse gas emitters on a per capita basis because of its heavily reliance on coal-fired power generation.

Disagreement over energy policy has been a factor in the last six changes of prime minister. Labor Prime Minister Julia Gillard introduced a carbon tax in 2012. Conservative Prime Minister Tony Abbott scrapped it two years later.

The coalition is torn between lawmakers who want polluters to pay for their greenhouse gas emissions and those who reject any measures that would increase household power bills. The government aims to reduce Australian greenhouse gas emissions by 26% to 28% below 2005 levels by 2030.

Labor has promised a more ambitious target of a 45% reduction in the same time frame. Action on climate change was a major priority for votes when conservative Prime Minister John Howard’s reign ended after more than 11 years at an election in 2007.

Labor Prime Minister Kevin Rudd immediately signed up to the U.N.’s 1997 Kyoto Protocol on reducing emissions. Australia and the United States had been the only industrialized countries to hold out. Climate change dropped down the list of Australian priorities after the global financial crisis hit.

But after Australians sweltered through a record hot summer and grappled with devastating drought, global warming has become a high-priority issue for voters again. The government warns that Labor’s emissions reduction plan would wreck the economy.

The coalition also argues that Labor would further damage the economy with its policy of reducing tax breaks for landlords as real estate prices fall in Australia’s largest cities, Sydney and Melbourne.

Morrison boasts that the conservative administration Prime Minister Howard led delivered 10 annual surplus budgets and paid off all federal government debt before the government changed at the 2007 election.

Rudd had planned a budget surplus in his government’s first fiscal year, but the global financial crisis struck. Many economists congratulate Rudd for keeping the Australian economy out of recession through stimulus spending. The coalition has accused Labor of spending too much and sinking Australia too deep in debt,

But debt has continued to mount since the conservatives regained the reins in 2013. But opinion polls suggest voters consider the conservatives to be better economic managers. The government brought forward its annual budget blueprint by a month to April 2 and revealed a plan to balance Australia’s books in the next fiscal year for the first time in 12 years.

Labor also promised to deliver a surplus budget in the year starting July 1, but it has yet to detail how it will achieve this goal. Labor has also promised to spend an additional AU$2.3 billion ($1.6 billion) over four years on covering treatment costs of cancer patients. It’s an attractive offer with half Australia’s population expected to be diagnosed with some form of the disease in their lifetimes.

The conservatives have largely taken credit for Australia’s remarkable run of 28 years of economic growth since its last recession under Labor’s rule. Morrison hopes that voters will look to him to deliver a sequel to the Howard years when a mining boom delivered ever-increasing budget surpluses.

Algeria Postpones Presidential Vote After Contenders Disqualified

2 June 2019

Algeria has postponed presidential elections planned for next month after the two candidates were disqualified. The polls were to elect a successor to Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who resigned after pressure from protesters.

Algeria’s Constitutional Council announced Sunday that it would be “impossible” for the presidential vote to go ahead on July 4 because the only two candidates in the race had been rejected.

The elections were planned after mass pro-democracy protests and pressure from the military forced long-time leader Abdelaziz Bouteflika to step down in April.

Algerians have been holding marches for months, calling for political reforms and a clear break from the elite that dominated politics during Bouteflika’s two decades in power. The protesters have also demanded the polls be delayed over fears of vote rigging.

Two candidates rejected

Only two, largely unknown, candidates lodged bids by the deadline last week. The council said it had knocked back both application but did not explain why.

“Based on this decision, it is impossible to conduct the presidential elections on July 4,” the council said in a statement, according to Algeria’s official news agency APS.

The council added that it was now up to interim President Abdelkader Bensalah to set a date for a new vote. Bensalah had been appointed interim leader until July 9, but protesters say they want him gone.

On Friday, hundreds of thousands of demonstrators marched in the capital, Algiers, and other cities to demand his resignation, along with that of Bouteflika ally, Prime Minister Noureddine Bedoui.

Source: allAfrica.

Link: https://allafrica.com/stories/201906030002.html.

Algeria to hold first post-Bouteflika presidential election July 4

By Darryl Coote

APRIL 11, 2019

April 11 (UPI) — Algeria’s newly appointed interim leader set July 4 to hold the presidential election following last week’s resignation of former President Abdelaziz Bouteflika.

Senate leader Abdelkader Bensalah, 77, made the televised announcement Wednesday, according to state-run media Algeria Press Service, which comes a day after Algerian lawmakers appointed him the nation’s interim president for the next 90 days.

Bensalah, who is unable to run in the election, also announced plans to create a “sovereign” body with both politicians and civil society in order to foster conditions necessary for an honest election process, Al Jazeera reported.

The announcement failed to placate protesters who have held mass demonstrations since February demanding a change in the country’s leadership.

The protests first erupted after President Bouteflika announcement late February that he would be running for a fifth term.

The 82-year-old Bouteflika, who had held tight to the reigns of his country since 1999, resigned April 2, after Algeria’s army chief said it would pursue a constitutional procedure to declare the ailing, wheelchair-bound president unfit to rule.

Despite Bouteflika’s resignation, protests persisted as the public worried the country’s rule would only shift to another member of the same regime, and Bensalah’s appointment did little to assuage those concerns as he had served as Speaker of the Council under Bouteflika.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Interior, Local Authorities and National Planning announced through the state-run Algeria Press Service Wednesday that it had authorized 10 political parties and 22 national and inter-provincial associations.

The ministry said it had examined files on the different parties and associations on a case-by-case basis and allowed 10 political parties “to hold their constituent congresses in accordance with the provisions of the organic law on political parties” while “certificates of approval have been issued to 22 national and inter-provincial associations.”

Source: United Press International (UPI).

Link: https://www.upi.com/Top_News/World-News/2019/04/11/Algeria-to-hold-first-post-Bouteflika-presidential-election-July-4/3061554973003/.

Israel faces new elections after parliament dissolves

May 30, 2019

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel embarked Thursday on an unprecedented snap election campaign — the second this year — after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu failed to form a governing coalition and instead dissolved parliament.

In what seemed an improbable scenario just days ago, Israel’s newly elected Knesset dissolved itself in an early morning 74-45 vote and set a new election date for Sept. 17. The developments were a shocking setback for Netanyahu, who had appeared to secure a comfortable win in last month’s election. But he was unable to build a parliamentary majority needed to rule because a traditional ally, Avigdor Lieberman, refused to bring his Yisrael Beiteinu faction into the coalition.

Netanyahu, who has led Israel for the past decade, now faces another challenge to his lengthy rule. It comes as he prepares for a pre-indictment hearing before expected criminal charges against him in a series of corruption cases.

Assuming they would sweep into power again, Netanyahu’s allies in the ruling Likud Party had already begun drafting a contentious bill aimed at granting him immunity from the various corruption charges awaiting him. He was also looking to push legislation limiting the power of Israel’s Supreme Court and paving his path to many more years in office.

But it was a separate issue that sparked the unprecedented crisis, and for the first time in history thrust Israel into a repeat election before a new government was even formed. Lieberman — a veteran nationalist and secular politician — demanded that current legislation mandating that young ultra-Orthodox men be drafted into the military run its course.

Years of exemptions for ultra-Orthodox men have generated widespread resentment among the rest of Jewish Israelis who serve. The ultra-Orthodox, backed by Netanyahu, refused to bend and the showdown quickly devolved into a full-blown crisis that imploded the perspective government.

“The public chose me, and Lieberman, unfortunately, deceived his voters. From the beginning he had no intention to do what he said,” Netanyahu said after the vote, accusing Lieberman of aligning with “the left.”

Lieberman, a former top aide to Netanyahu who has alternated between a close alliance and bitter rivalry with his former boss, retorted that the new election was a result of Netanyahu caving into the ultra-Orthodox.

“This is a complete surrender of Likud to the ultra-Orthodox,” he said. A new election complicates Netanyahu’s efforts to pass the proposed bills to protect himself from prosecution. Even if Netanyahu wins the election, it is unlikely he will be able to form a government and lock down the required political support for an immunity deal before an expected indictment. That would force him to stand trial, and in turn put heavy pressure on him to step aside. No one in Likud has yet challenged him publicly.

The political uncertainty could also spell trouble for the White House’s Mideast peace efforts. The U.S. has scheduled a conference next month in Bahrain to unveil what it says is the first phase of its peace plan, an initiative aimed at drawing investment into the Palestinian territories. The Trump administration had vowed to unveil its plan after the Israeli election and it’s unclear how the current political shakeup will affect that rollout.

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