Issue XCVI

21 OCT 2016

International

05/28/2014

Egyptians slow to vote despite efforts to boost turnout

Intl1

CAIRO May 28 (Reuters) - Many Egyptians failed to vote in a presidential election on Wednesday despite official efforts to boost turnout with an extra day of polling, raising doubts about the level of support for the man still forecast to win, former army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

A low turnout would sound a warning to Sisi that he had failed to achieve the resounding mandate he sought after toppling Egypt's first freely elected president, Islamist Mohamed Mursi, following street protests last year.

A tour of Cairo polling stations on Wednesday suggested authorities would again struggle to get more people to cast their ballots. The same pattern emerged in Egypt's second city, Alexandria, Reuters reporters said.

In a country polarised since a popular uprising toppled Hosni Mubarak in 2011, the low turnout was linked to political apathy, opposition to another military man becoming president, discontent at suppression of freedoms among liberal youth, and calls for a boycott by Islamists.

After months of adulation by the media encouraged by his supporters in government, the security services and business, many Egyptians were shocked when the election failed to produce mass support for Sisi, who had called for a turnout of 40 million, or 80 percent of the electorate.

The two-day vote was originally due to conclude on Tuesday but was extended until 9 p.m. (1800 GMT) Wednesday to allow the "greatest number possible" to vote, state media reported.

"The state searches for a vote," said a front-page headline in privately owned Al-Masry Al-Youm newspaper.

The Democracy International observer mission said the decision to extend polling raised questions about the integrity of Egypt's electoral process.

“Last-minute decisions about important election procedures, such as a decision to extend polling by an additional day, should be made only in extraordinary circumstances,” said Eric Bjornlund, president of Democracy International, in a statement.

Distancing Sisi from the vote extension, seen by commentators as an embarrassing attempt to attract every last vote from a reluctant electorate, his campaign announced that he had objected to the decision.

Sisi's campaign posted pictures of long lines of voters, some waving Egyptian flags and holding posters of Sisi. "Come out and raise the flag of your country," it said on Facebook.

A 45-year-old Cairo shopkeeper, who gave her name as Samaa, said at a polling...


Lousy turnout: embarrassment for Egypt’s strongman General Sisi

Intl2

The presidential election in Egypt is to legitimize the seizure of power by Abd al-Fattah al-Sisi. But citizens boycott the vote. Now the regime wants to force them to the polls.

The despair is not to be missed. “I am so sad that polling stations are empty,” a sobbing caller in an Egyptian TV show. “I cut my wrists for this country so that people finally go select” shouts a TV presenter furious at the camera.

There are scenes from the Egyptian television after the first election day , cut together a Youtube video with English subtitles of Egypt’s revolution youth. It is the pure glee that they feel about the debacle of ex- Field Marshal Abd al – Fattah al – Sisi .

Actually, the choice Abd al- Fattah al – Sisi was elected president of the culmination of his seizure of power should be. In July last year he had to sell the Islamist President Mohamed Morsi and get arrested . Now the former Field Marshal wanted to legitimize his coup later at the ballot box . But the plan failed.

Many Islamists , especially young people , the youth revolution , had announced a boycott before the vote. In fact, many polling stations , most Egyptians remained empty rather be at home . Sisi is so unpopular , when the regime adopted .

With desperate measures trying citizens still got to get to the polls : Spontaneous officials were released on Tuesday declared a public holiday , extended the election only a few hours and then to a full day. Christian and Muslim representatives explain the vote a religious duty .

Egypt Presidental Elections:Sisi felt too safe

Length of the Ex-Field Marshal had graced to officially declare his candidacy. Only when he was sure to have enough support among the population, he stepped on.

Many Egyptians actually pinning their hopes on the military. Only there are obviously less than the own propaganda made him believe. Separate polls before the election showed the picture of a deeply divided country: some hold Sisi for a Savior, the other for a mass murderer, since about a thousand of his opponents were killed in the summer of 2013.

Sisi wants the time on an authoritarian Egypt as before 2011 turn back. This is more difficult than he thought himself well: Despite repression and propaganda he can not just cement his power.

It may well be that the official turnout at the end mysteriously still dramatically increases to 40 percent halfway presentable. The toppled Hosni Mubarak had also always impressive approval ratings thanks to electoral manipulation.

However, a subsequent calculation of art could no longer gloss over Sisi’s debacle now. On the contrary, given the all too...



05/22/2014

President Rouhani Optimistic about Final Nuclear Deal

Intl1


TEHRAN (Tasnim) – Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani announced that he is optimistic Tehran and six world powers can reach a comprehensive nuclear deal by the end of July.

“If there is goodwill on the part of the Group 5+1 (the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany) and sufficient effort is made and those people and countries working behind the scene to cause problems are not given a chance, I think there is enough time to reach deal by the end of July,” said Rouhahi on Thursday.

The Iranian president made the comments during a press conference in the Chinese city of Shanghai. President Rouhani made a three-day visit to China to attend the fourth summit of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA).

“The signs we have been receiving these days are telling us that it is very likely that we can come to an agreement by the end of July,” he said.

Rouhani also said Tehran has no rush for securing a final deal with the world powers over its nuclear energy program but reiterated that the comprehensive deal will benefit the two sides.

The Iranian president criticized the Western sanctions against Iran as a wrong move and emphasized that the Iranian nation will not give in to pressures and will insist on it right rights.

Rouhani also said if the two sides fail to reach a comprehensive deal by the end of July, the interim nuclear agreement will be extended for another six months.

Iran and the Group 5+1 (the five permanent UN Security Council members plus Germany) inked an interim deal on Tehran’s nuclear program in Geneva last November, while the two sides are trying to reach a final, comprehensive agreement over the course of six months which would lead to a lifting of the whole sanctions on Iran.

Delegates representing Iran and the group of six world powers – Russia, China, the US, Britain, France and Germany - concluded the latest round of negotiations on Tehran’s peaceful nuclear program in the Austrian capital of Vienna last week.

The fourth round of marathon talks was aimed at drafting a comprehensive nuclear deal.

The next round of negotiations between Iran and the sextet will be held from June 16 to June 20 in Vienna, Austria.

Earlier this month, Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said 3 rounds of nuclear negotiations have already been scheduled and are to be held as of July 20th when the interim six-month deal between Iran and...


US must make amends to build new era with Iran: Rouhani

Intl2

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani says Iran-US relations can enter a new phase if Washington renounces its animosity toward the Islamic Republic and makes up for the harm its has inflicted on the Iranian nation.

“If the US, in practice, abandons its hostile policy toward the Iranian nation and compensates for its past [antagonism], a new situation can be envisaged for the future of both nations,” Rouhani said in an interview with China’s CCTV television network on Wednesday night.

President Rouhani said the Iranian people have suffered a lot as a result of the hostile policies of the US and expect White House politicians to abandon their past behavior of ignoring Iranians’ interests.

The Iranian chief executive said the Islamic Republic pursues its rights in the international arena and does not seek revenge for Washington’s hostile moves against Iran.

“The US should take steps in the direction of respecting the rights of the Iranian nation and at the same time undertake to compensate for the losses inflicted on Iran,” Rouhani said.

He underlined that the Iranian people have never had and will never have any problem with the American nation.

Only if the rights of Iranians are respected, one can hope for a future which would hope the possibility for “dialog between the representatives of both nations,” Rouhani said.

Iran and the US severed ties after the victory of Iran’s Islamic Revolution in 1979. On September 27, 2013, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and his American counterpart Barack Obama held a telephone conversation as the Iranian president was wrapping up his visit to New York for the 68th annual session of the UN General Assembly.

The call was the first direct communication between an Iranian and a US president in three decades.



05/14/2014

New peace push as Ukraine hosts talks

Intl1

Ukraine is hosting discussions Wednesday aimed at diffusing tensions with Moscow and pro-Russia insurgents in eastern parts of the country as part of a plan for peace drawn up by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

In Kiev, Ukraine's prime minister, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, is due to chair the first in a series of round tables set to include national lawmakers, government figures and regional officials in line with proposals drafted by the OSCE, a security and rights group that includes Russia and the United States.

Russia has strongly backed the Swiss-drafted road map, but Ukraine has remained cool to the plan and U.S. officials view its prospects for success skeptically.

However, it is not immediately clear who will represent separatist factions considering there does not appear to be a single identifiable leader for the disparate groups while Kiev is also resistant to the idea of negotiating with groups it has repeatedly labelled as terrorists.

On Tuesday, militants ambushed a convoy of Ukraine soldiers, killing six of them, as both sides had been moving toward possible peace talks in Kiev. Prime Minister Yatsenyuk has previously said Ukraine has drawn up its own plan for ending the crisis and does not need European proposals.

Ukrainian forces have been trying to put down the armed insurgents in eastern Ukraine, where 40,000 Russian troops are massed on the border in preparation for a possible invasion.

Russia has said Ukraine should respect the results of a weekend referendum run by the militants who said nearly 90% of people in the region voted for autonomy from the Ukrainian government.

Ukraine is holding presidential elections on May 25. A Russian parliamentarian said Wednesday the results of that election would not be legitimate.


Ukraine agrees to talks; but its foes are missing

Intl2

The Ukrainian government reluctantly agreed to launch talks on decentralizing power on Wednesday as part of a European-backed peace plan, but with no invitation for the pro-Russian insurgents who have declared independence in two eastern regions it was unclear what the negotiations might hope to accomplish.

Ukraine’s prime minister, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, was to chair the first in a series of round tables set to include national lawmakers, government figures and regional officials as part of a peace plan drafted by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, a trans-Atlantic security and rights group that includes Russia and the United States.

But Mr. Yatsenyuk gave no indication that he would invite his foes into the process, as the OSCE plan calls for. And even as he launched the talks he was dismissive of them, thanking the OSCE for its efforts but saying Ukraine has its own plan to end the crisis. In a speech in Brussels on Tuesday, he gave no details of that plan.

Acting Ukrainian President Olexandr Turchynov said the talks would involve “regional elites.” Also expected were former Ukrainian presidents, officials and lawmakers. But, Mr. Turchynov said, “the government will act against those who are terrorizing the region with arms in hand in line with the law, by continuing an anti-terrorist operation against them.”

Many insurgents in the east shrugged off the round table as meaningless.

“The government in Kiev does not want to listen to the people of Donetsk,” said Denis Patkovski, a member of pro-Russian militia in Slovyansk, which has seen some of the most intense fighting in recent weeks. “They just come here with their guns.”

Even so, European officials applauded the start of the talks. The EU’s enlargement commissioner, Stefan Fule, welcomed the launch of the round table on his Twitter account, voicing hope that the next such meeting will take place in the east.

Russia has strongly backed the OSCE road map. The United States, while saying it’s worth a try, views its prospects for success with scepticism.

Ukraine and the West have accused Moscow of fomenting the unrest in eastern Ukraine, where insurgents have seized administrative buildings, fought government forces and declared independence for the Donetsk and Luhansk regions after a jury-rigged vote last weekend that Ukraine and Western powers called a sham.

Ukrainian forces have mounted a scatter-shot offensive...



05/07/2014

Thailand’s First Female Premier, Sacked By Court

Intl1

Thailand’s first female Prime Minister, Yingluck Shinawatra, was removed from office on Wednesday by a Constitutional Court for violating the charter by illegally transferring a senior civil servant three years ago.

The court found Yingluck, 46, guilty of breaching the 2007 charter by ordering the transfer of former National Security Council chief, Thawil Pliensri, to allow for the promotion of a relative as national police chief.

Yingluck, the younger sister of fugitive former Prime Minister, Thaksin Shinawatra, told the court that she had not benefited personally from the promotion of Police General Priewpan Damapong, her former brother-in-law.

Meanwhile, she still faced another court case that could make her the first female premier to face a jail term.

The National Anti-Corruption Commission has been investigating her role in a government rice-subsidy scandal which could result in her facing corruption charges in the Supreme Court for Political Office Holders.

However, the court convicted Thaksin of abuse of power in 2008, sentencing him to two years in jail. He has been living abroad to avoid the sentence.

Political observers said that Thaksin made a shrewd move when he chose his sister as the prime ministerial candidate of his Pheu Thai party. 


Thailand’s Prime Minister Toppled by ‘The Iron Triangle’

Intl2

Thailand’s Constitutional Court has declared that Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra must stand down, ruling that she violated the nation’s constitution when she transferred her national security chief to a different post. Critics say the widely expected ruling is the near-culmination of a “rolling silent judicial coup” underway for many months.

“The prime minister’s status has ended; Yingluck can no longer stay in her position acting as caretaker prime minister,” as one high-court judge put it.

The ruling comes weeks after the same court nullified the February 2 national election, which Yingluck’s Pheu Thai party was expected to win. The party won the last election, in 2011, routing the opposition Democrat Party. Ever since that 2011 victory, anti-government elements have been agitating to topple Pheu Thai. For six months now, protesters have clogged Bangkok’s streets, demanding that Yingluck resign and be replaced by an unelected “people’s council” that would develop “reforms” ahead of any new election. They insist she is merely a stand-in for her brother, Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who is reviled by the protesters and whom the army toppled in 2006.

Pheu Thai supporters, so-called Red Shirts, have largely refrained from confronting the anti-government crowds, but the court’s ruling is likely to send them into the streets as well, raising the prospect of violent, even deadly, clashes.

“This is a full-blown version of a judicial coup, with long-lasting impact on the balance of powers,” legal expert Verapat Pariyawong tells The Baily Beast. Previous rulings were among the principal reasons that led to the rise of an anti-Thaksin government and the 2010 massacre of the Red Shirts. “One can only hope that the political outcome will be different this time,” said Pariyawong. “But to be realistic, once the rule of law in the chamber is gone, all that is left is probably violence on the street.”

Red Shirts have watched with frustration as judicial moves steadily eroded Yingluck’s power, leaving in place a “caretaker” government that has little real ability to govern.

The ostensible cause of Yingluck’s ouster was her decision to transfer “illegally” the national security boss Thawil Pliensri, appointed before Pheu Thai won in 2011, to a less powerful job as an adviser in the prime...



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