Von der Leyen faces Socialist revolt over her far-right flirtation with Meloni

Europe’s Socialists have warned Ursula von der Leyen they won’t back her for a second term as European Commission president if she continues to suggest she could work with hard-right MEPs aligned with Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni.

Perhaps most crucially — just as French President Emmanuel Macron visits Germany to try to forge Franco-German consensus on Europe’s political landscape after the June 6 to 9 election — even Chancellor Olaf Scholz and his Social Democratic Party are signaling that they are willing to torpedo a second term for von der Leyen.

Some even have a replacement in mind: former Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi. And that’s a choice that will go down well in Paris.

In multiple comments over recent days, high-ranking Socialists including Scholz and the SPD lead candidate for next month’s EU election Katarina Barley threatened to scuttle von der Leyen’s candidacy if she accepts the backing of the hard right to secure a majority in the European Parliament.

“We will not work with the far right,” Barley said on the Berlin Playbook podcast, reiterating the pledge made by the Socialists and Democrats, Renew Europe, the Greens and the Left to “never cooperate nor form a coalition with the far right and radical parties at any level.”

The comment was the latest sign of the left-leaning parties’ alarm at von der Leyen’s stance on Meloni’s Brothers of Italy party, which belongs to the right-wing European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) group in the European Parliament.

Von der Leyen, who hails from the center-right European People’s Party, has indicated that if she fails to secure a majority with the backing of center-left and liberal lawmakers after the EU election, she could work with the ECR

On Friday, Scholz warned von der Leyen against such a move, saying: “When the next Commission is formed, it must not be based on a majority that also needs the support of the far right.” He added that “the only way to establish a Commission presidency will be to base it on the traditional parties.”

Putting the boot in further, Nicolas Schmit, the Socialists’ lead candidate for the EU election, said in an interview published Sunday: “Von der Leyen wants us to believe that there are good right-wing extremists and bad ones.”

Meloni is “politically extremely right wing” and her vision is “certainly not a strong, integrated Europe,” Schmit said. “For Ms. von der Leyen, however, she is probably a conservative.”

The questions now are whether Scholz and his German Socialists would actually kibosh a second term for fellow German von der Leyen — and who they might have in mind to replace her.

One potential challenger to the incumbent is Draghi, the former European Central Bank chief.

EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT ELECTION POLL OF POLLS

circle.fill-EU-parliament-EPP,
rect.fill-EU-parliament-EPP,
svg.colorize path.fill-EU-parliament-EPP,
text.fill-EU-parliament-EPP {
fill: #3399FF;
}

circle.stroke-EU-parliament-EPP,
rect.stroke-EU-parliament-EPP,
svg.colorize path.stroke-EU-parliament-EPP,
text.stroke-EU-parliament-EPP {
stroke: #3399FF;
}
circle.fill-EU-parliament-SD,
rect.fill-EU-parliament-SD,
svg.colorize path.fill-EU-parliament-SD,
text.fill-EU-parliament-SD {
fill: #FF0000;
}

circle.stroke-EU-parliament-SD,
rect.stroke-EU-parliament-SD,
svg.colorize path.stroke-EU-parliament-SD,
text.stroke-EU-parliament-SD {
stroke: #FF0000;
}
circle.fill-EU-parliament-RE,
rect.fill-EU-parliament-RE,
svg.colorize path.fill-EU-parliament-RE,
text.fill-EU-parliament-RE {
fill: #FFD700;
}

circle.stroke-EU-parliament-RE,
rect.stroke-EU-parliament-RE,
svg.colorize path.stroke-EU-parliament-RE,
text.stroke-EU-parliament-RE {
stroke: #FFD700;
}
circle.fill-EU-parliament-ECR,
rect.fill-EU-parliament-ECR,
svg.colorize path.fill-EU-parliament-ECR,
text.fill-EU-parliament-ECR {
fill: #0000FF;
}

circle.stroke-EU-parliament-ECR,
rect.stroke-EU-parliament-ECR,
svg.colorize path.stroke-EU-parliament-ECR,
text.stroke-EU-parliament-ECR {
stroke: #0000FF;
}
circle.fill-EU-parliament-ID,
rect.fill-EU-parliament-ID,
svg.colorize path.fill-EU-parliament-ID,
text.fill-EU-parliament-ID {
fill: #2B3856;
}

circle.stroke-EU-parliament-ID,
rect.stroke-EU-parliament-ID,
svg.colorize path.stroke-EU-parliament-ID,
text.stroke-EU-parliament-ID {
stroke: #2B3856;
}
circle.fill-EU-parliament-NI,
rect.fill-EU-parliament-NI,
svg.colorize path.fill-EU-parliament-NI,
text.fill-EU-parliament-NI {
fill: #848484;
}

circle.stroke-EU-parliament-NI,
rect.stroke-EU-parliament-NI,
svg.colorize path.stroke-EU-parliament-NI,
text.stroke-EU-parliament-NI {
stroke: #848484;
}
circle.fill-EU-parliament-NEW,
rect.fill-EU-parliament-NEW,
svg.colorize path.fill-EU-parliament-NEW,
text.fill-EU-parliament-NEW {
fill: #cca1c2;
}

circle.stroke-EU-parliament-NEW,
rect.stroke-EU-parliament-NEW,
svg.colorize path.stroke-EU-parliament-NEW,
text.stroke-EU-parliament-NEW {
stroke: #cca1c2;
}
circle.fill-EU-parliament-GreensEFA,
rect.fill-EU-parliament-GreensEFA,
svg.colorize path.fill-EU-parliament-GreensEFA,
text.fill-EU-parliament-GreensEFA {
fill: #009900;
}

circle.stroke-EU-parliament-GreensEFA,
rect.stroke-EU-parliament-GreensEFA,
svg.colorize path.stroke-EU-parliament-GreensEFA,
text.stroke-EU-parliament-GreensEFA {
stroke: #009900;
}
circle.fill-EU-parliament-GUENGL,
rect.fill-EU-parliament-GUENGL,
svg.colorize path.fill-EU-parliament-GUENGL,
text.fill-EU-parliament-GUENGL {
fill: #990000;
}

circle.stroke-EU-parliament-GUENGL,
rect.stroke-EU-parliament-GUENGL,
svg.colorize path.stroke-EU-parliament-GUENGL,
text.stroke-EU-parliament-GUENGL {
stroke: #990000;
}
circle.fill-EU-parliament-CoalSDRE,
rect.fill-EU-parliament-CoalSDRE,
svg.colorize path.fill-EU-parliament-CoalSDRE,
text.fill-EU-parliament-CoalSDRE {
fill: #a3a5a8;
}

circle.stroke-EU-parliament-CoalSDRE,
rect.stroke-EU-parliament-CoalSDRE,
svg.colorize path.stroke-EU-parliament-CoalSDRE,
text.stroke-EU-parliament-CoalSDRE {
stroke: #a3a5a8;
}
circle.fill-EU-parliament-CoalGL,
rect.fill-EU-parliament-CoalGL,
svg.colorize path.fill-EU-parliament-CoalGL,
text.fill-EU-parliament-CoalGL {
fill: #a3a5a8;
}

circle.stroke-EU-parliament-CoalGL,
rect.stroke-EU-parliament-CoalGL,
svg.colorize path.stroke-EU-parliament-CoalGL,
text.stroke-EU-parliament-CoalGL {
stroke: #a3a5a8;
}
circle.fill-EU-parliament-CoalEPPSD,
rect.fill-EU-parliament-CoalEPPSD,
svg.colorize path.fill-EU-parliament-CoalEPPSD,
text.fill-EU-parliament-CoalEPPSD {
fill: #bbbbbb;
}

circle.stroke-EU-parliament-CoalEPPSD,
rect.stroke-EU-parliament-CoalEPPSD,
svg.colorize path.stroke-EU-parliament-CoalEPPSD,
text.stroke-EU-parliament-CoalEPPSD {
stroke: #bbbbbb;
}
circle.fill-EU-parliament-CoalEPPECR,
rect.fill-EU-parliament-CoalEPPECR,
svg.colorize path.fill-EU-parliament-CoalEPPECR,
text.fill-EU-parliament-CoalEPPECR {
fill: #a3a5a8;
}

circle.stroke-EU-parliament-CoalEPPECR,
rect.stroke-EU-parliament-CoalEPPECR,
svg.colorize path.stroke-EU-parliament-CoalEPPECR,
text.stroke-EU-parliament-CoalEPPECR {
stroke: #a3a5a8;
}

For more polling data from across Europe visit POLITICO Poll of Polls.

Just last week, Draghi received the backing of one of Emmanuel Macron’s closest allies, Pascal Canfin, an MEP from the French president’s liberal Renaissance party who is known to have a direct line to the Élysée.

Asked by POLITICO whether France supports von der Leyen’s reelection bid, Canfin said: “France and everyone in the presidential ecosystem would like Draghi to play a role.”

Macron has long been rumored to be maneuvering to put Draghi at the head of the EU executive — and now he appears to have allies in Berlin.

Markus Töns, a German MP from the Social Democrats, told POLITICO’s Brussels Decoded: “Draghi has experience at the European level and knows the current challenges. I would have no problem seeing him in this position — he might even be better than Ursula von der Leyen.”

Ralf Stegner, an influential SPD member of the Bundestag, on Friday said: “If Emmanuel Macron is critical of another term for Ursula von der Leyen, who lacks sufficient clarity regarding alliances with the right-wing bloc, I have every sympathy for him.”

With both Paris and Berlin expressing dissatisfaction with her stance on working with the ECR, von der Leyen’s bid for a second term as Commission chief faces a serious challenge.

While von der Leyen is the EPP’s lead candidate going into the EU election, in theory making her a shoo-in for the post, she will require support from European leaders like Scholz, Macron and Meloni to secure it.

The electoral arithmetic is difficult as she will need 361 votes in an approval vote in the European Parliament, and the EPP is on course only for some 176 seats. The Socialists and Democrats are expected to win 144 and von der Leyen’s prospects will be in severe trouble if the center-left MEPs do not support her.

If they do decide to forgo EPP lead candidate von der Leyen in favor of a curveball, it wouldn’t be the first time: That was precisely the way von der Leyen herself got the job after the 2019 EU election, installed after leaders shunned the EPP’s Manfred Weber.

Macron is currently in Germany for the first state visit with full ceremonial honors by a French president in 24 years. Macron will meet Scholz in Berlin on Tuesday.

It’s hard to believe there won’t be any mention of the electoral mathematics — and of Meloni and Draghi.

Source link

#Von #der #Leyen #faces #Socialist #revolt #farright #flirtation #Meloni

Trump VP prospect Doug Burgum and GOP oil baron Harold Hamm are allies in business and politics

Republican presidential candidate and former President Donald Trump shakes hands with North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum as Vivek Ramaswamy, left, watches at a campaign rally at The Margate Resort in Laconia, New Hampshire, Jan. 22, 2024.

Jabin Botsford | The Washington Post | Getty Images

If former President Donald Trump taps North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum to be his running mate, the biggest beneficiary of the partnership could be someone else entirely: Harold Hamm, the billionaire founder and executive chairman of shale oil drilling giant Continental Resources, who could end up with two powerful allies in a Trump White House.

Burgum’s ties to Hamm and the shale oil drilling giant he founded are complex. Continental is the largest oil and gas leaseholder in North Dakota, where oil and gas is the biggest industry by revenue.

The two men also have a friendship outside of business: Burgum recently contributed a rave review blurb to Hamm’s new memoir. And during his 2023 state of the state address, Burgum compared Hamm favorably to President Theodore Roosevelt, describing Hamm as a person “whose grit, resilience, hard work and determination has changed North Dakota and our nation.”

But Burgum has an even more personal link to Continental: Burgum’s family leases 200 acres of farmland in Williams County to the energy giant for the company to pump oil and gas, according to previously unreported business records and a federal financial disclosure report.

Burgum has made up to $50,000 in royalties since late 2022, while he’s been governor, from the deal with Continental Resources, according to his financial disclosure, details of which have not been reported.

Experts told CNBC that Burgum and his family business likely made thousands more from the agreement with Continental Resources since signing a contract with the company in 2009.

This link between Burgum and Continental highlights one of the potential risks for Trump of selecting a running mate who has lived most of his adult life in private.

Burgum has never been subjected to the kind of scrutiny that someone like Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., has undergone and from which Rubio has emerged politically intact.

Burgum endorsed Trump in January, a month after he dropped out of the Republican primary for president. Since then, he has become an advisor to Trump on energy policy and joined a shortlist of contenders to be the former president’s running mate.

Hamm, meanwhile, is one of Trump’s biggest supporters in the industry. Burgum, Hamm and other industry advocates were reportedly at a meeting at Trump’s private Florida club, Mar-a-Lago, where the former president called on oil and gas executives to donate $1 billion to his campaign in exchange for his plan to roll back environmental regulations.

Hamm is co-hosting an event for Trump that’s sponsored by the former president’s political action committee, Make America Great Again Inc., on May 22, according to an invitation.

Continental Resources donated $1 million to the super PAC in April, according to Federal Election Commission records. Hamm gave $614,000 to the Trump 47 Committee in March.

Burgum’s oil deal with Continental

The original agreement between the Burgum Farm Partnership and Continental Resources was signed by Bradley Burgum, the governor’s late brother, according to a land lease reviewed by CNBC.

Burgum spokesman Mike Nowatzki told CNBC the contract was drawn up years before the governor was sworn into office in 2017.

“North Dakota is a leading energy producer, including the No. 3 oil producing state. Tens of thousands of families and mineral owners have similar arrangements,” Nowatzki said. “As the publicly available disclosures show: The cited agreement began many years before he became governor.”

Nowatzki did not answer specific questions about the deal, Burgum’s role with the family business or his relationship with Hamm.

A spokeswoman for both Continental Resources and Hamm did not respond to a request for comment. A spokesman for the Trump campaign did not respond to a request for comment.

CNBC obtained Burgum’s personal financial disclosure by a request to the Federal Election Commission. His business records were acquired through the North Dakota secretary of state’s office.

Data from North Dakota’s Minerals Department shows that the locations of the oil and gas wells matches the coordinates of Burgum’s family farm on his business records. The state’s data does not identify Burgum’s address, but the area where the farm and seven of Continental Resources wells are located is within a small township named Brooklyn.

All seven wells have been active since 2011, just two years after Burgum’s family signed an agreement with Continental Resources. The wells produced over 5,000 barrels of oil and thousands of cubic feet in natural gas in March alone, according to the latest data from Drilling Edge. It’s unclear how many of the seven wells are located directly on the Burgum property.

Burgum was elected governor in 2016 and reelected to a second term in 2020. He’s not running for reelection in 2024.

The Burgum Farm Partnership LLP, which oversees the family farm land in Williams County and Cass County, is worth between $500,001 and $1 million, according to the financial disclosure.

Doug Burgum is a managing partner of the Burgum Farm Partnership, and he signed the businesses’ latest annual report in March. Burgum’s financial disclosure says the governor is a non-managing member and the company is a “family investment” limited liability partnership.

The company’s annual report that was filed to the secretary of state’s office in April lists Burgum, his late brother’s two children, his sister, Barbara, and his own three adult children as managing partners of the family business.

The oil and gas land deal says Continental Resources provides the Burgum Farm Partnership 19% of the proceeds from the sales of oil and gas Continental sold after it is pumped from the Burgum property, according to the contract and experts who reviewed the records.

“The greater benefit is that the Burgum Farm Partnership does not have to invest any money to drill the wells, collect the hydrocarbons (no pipes, no tanks, no roads),” Edward Hirs, an energy fellow at the University of Houston, said in an email after reviewing the contract.

The royalty payments arrive in monthly and quarterly installments, according to the agreement.

The sun sets behind a pumpjack during a gusty night in Fort Stockton, Texas, March 24, 2024.

Brandon Bell | Getty Images

Experts note that landholders leasing their property to oil and gas companies can make thousands of dollars more beyond the royalties in bonuses and other payments.

“The company will usually pay the land owner a ‘bonus’ for signing the lease (usually hundreds or thousands of dollars per acre, depending on how hot the market might be),” said Jack Balagia, an adjunct professor at the University of Texas and former general counsel for Exxon Mobil. 

Ryan Kellogg, a professor at the University of Chicago who reviewed the contract, said the document does not disclose details of a bonus to the Burgum farm company, except to give a low range of how much was paid.

“The up-front bonus payment is not disclosed,” Kellogg said. “It’s just listed as ‘$10 and more’ where the ‘more’ is potentially significant. Bonuses are almost never disclosed in leases.”

The Burgum contract also says that the family business made money from Continental Resources through one initial down payment called “paid-up” on the lease, with no details provided on how much Burgum and his family saw from that part of the agreement.

“By paid-up, [we mean] a lease where all cash for the term of the lease is paid upfront, and by a rental form, we mean one with a down payment and rental payments once a year after that,” said Ted Borrego, an adjunct professor at the University of Houston Law Center.

Burgum drilling contract raises questions

North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum encourages voters to support Republican presidential candidate and former President Donald Trump during a campaign rally in the basement ballroom of The Margate Resort in Laconia, New Hampshire, Jan. 22, 2024.

Chip Somodevilla | Getty Images

Neither of Burgum’s two financial disclosures from his successful runs for governor reveal a land deal with Continental Resources. North Dakota requires candidates for state office to disclose only the names of businesses that do not act as their principal source of income. No other details are required to be disclosed.

Since Burgum first ran for governor in 2016, he’s disclosed to the North Dakota secretary of state’s office that he and his wife, Kathryn, have a financial interest in more than a dozen companies, including Burgum Farm Partnership.

But those three-page state records do not specify how much of a financial interest they have in these companies nor any money they make from those businesses. 

A candidate for president or Congress is required to disclose many more details, including a range of income from each of their assets during the previous 12 months.

Burgum’s federal disclosure report spans 26 pages and reveals scores of closely held LLCs, partnerships and assets. With Burgum’s net worth easily in the hundreds of millions, the Continental lease forms only a small part of his income streams.

Burgum and Trump aligned on energy

Ultimately, it may not matter to Trump whether Burgum has been fully vetted if the governor is the person he wants on his ticket.

For Trump, Burgum represents a key ally in the oil and gas business, as the former president looks to raise money from the industry’s executives.

Dan Eberhart, who runs oil and gas drilling company Canary, said a Trump/Burgum ticket could help to accomplish this.

“Choosing Burgum would bring more industry donors to Trump’s orbit,” Eberhart said in a recent interview.

“Nominating Burgum as VP would send a strong signal to the industry that we would have an important voice in a potential Trump administration,” he added.

President Donald Trump greets Harold Hamm after he was introduced by Hamm at the Shale Insight 2019 Conference in Pittsburgh, Oct. 23, 2019.

Leah Millis | Reuters

Government ethics watchdogs have also started to take notice of the relationship between Trump, Hamm, Burgum and others linked to the oil and gas industry.

“The fact that Mr. Burgum has an income producing, oil and gas lease arrangement with Continental Resources itself raises its own concerns, since Continental Resources’ executive chairman, Harold Hamm, recently participated with other oil and gas executives and Mr. Burgum in the Mar-a-Lago meeting Mr. Trump held last month seeking $1 billion in fundraising from those in attendance,” said Canter.

“Under these circumstances, Mr. Burgum seems to be uniquely positioned to benefit himself both financially and politically depending on what he is able to bring to the table that would serve the respective interests of Trump and Hamm,” she said.

Hamm’s company has had extensive business in North Dakota for over a decade, and the state is ranked in the top three states to produce oil.

In 2022, Hamm announced Continental Resources was investing $250 million into a pipeline that spanned 2,000 miles to capture carbon dioxide and pump it underground for storage in North Dakota. Last year, Hamm donated $50 million to a planned library in North Dakota honoring Roosevelt.

Hamm’s alliance with Burgum preceded a donation Continental Resources made to a PAC that backed the North Dakota governor when he ran for president. The company gave $250,000 to the pro-Burgum Best of America PAC in July, according to FEC filings.

Burgum’s gubernatorial campaign has regularly been backed by other executives in the oil and gas industry, according to data from the nonpartisan OpenSecrets.

Burgum’s successful campaign for governor in 2020 received more than $35,000 from those in the oil and gas industry. That amount is second only to the more than $1 million Burgum put into his campaign.

Correction: This story has been updated to reflect the correct spelling of Make America Great Again Inc. and the correct spelling of Ryan Kellogg’s name.

Source link

#Trump #prospect #Doug #Burgum #GOP #oil #baron #Harold #Hamm #allies #business #politics

Opinion: Opinion | Lok Sabha Polls Phase 2: Can NDA Maintain Its 2019 Lead? What Numbers Say

As many as 87 seats are set to go to polls on April 26 in the second phase of the Lok Sabha elections. These seats are spread across 13 states: five each in Assam and Bihar, three each in Chhattisgarh and West Bengal, one each in Jammu & Kashmir and Tripura, 14 in Karnataka, 20 in Kerala, six in Madhya Pradesh, eight in Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh, and 13 in Rajasthan. Apart from these, one constituency in Manipur that voted in the previous phase will witness polling this time too in the remaining booths. Meanwhile, elections in Madhya Pradesh’s Betul have been pushed to Phase 3 after the death of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) candidate. 

In effect – three states, Rajasthan, Kerala and Karnataka – account for over half of the seats going to the polls on April 26. While the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) hopes to maintain – if not improve – its tally, the INDIA (Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance) bloc will need to make a dent in the NDA’s numbers to really gain some edge. 

Turnout In 2019

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress are contesting 70 seats each, while the Communist Party of India (Marxist) (CPI-M) is in the fray in 16 in Kerala. The BSP has put up candidates in 74 constituencies, higher than even the BJP and the Congress. 

In terms of turnout, in 2014, these 87 seats recorded 67.3% polling, and in 2019, the voting percentage rose to 70.1%. The decline in turnout in Phase 1 of the elections has been a subject of intense debate, and hence, how much voting the upcoming phase will see will be monitored closely by all. 

The polling numbers will also have to be tracked not only in total but also seat-wise. Seventy-one of these 87 seats saw higher voting percentages in 2019, and of them, the incumbent party lost in 24. On the other hand, the turnout saw a decline in 17 seats, and the winning party from 2014 lost in six constituencies. 

Winning Margins Bigger For BJP

In the previous elections, the BJP won 52 seats, the Congress 18, while other parties and candidates won 17. Adjusting for allies, the NDA secured victory in 61 constituencies, the INDIA bloc in 23, while non-aligned parties got three seats. For the NDA, the winning margins were around 20% in those 61 seats, meaning that the areas are the alliance’s strongholds and a large number of swing votes will be required to sway the results any other way.

Meanwhile, the Congress’s winning margins in 18 seats in the last election were much smaller – around 10%. This means that a swing of just 5% votes in these regions can put the grand old party on the back foot. Non-aligned parties won with an even thinner margin of 5%, and these seats may see cut-throat contests this time.

Assam And Bihar Contests

Of the five seats going to polls in Assam, the BJP won four last time, and the Congress just one. The latter hopes to gain a few this year on the back of the discontent and the consequent polarisation due to the implementation of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA). 

In Bihar’s five seats that will witness polling tomorrow, the Janata Dal (United) (JD-U) won four and the Congress merely one in the 2019 contest. The Mahagathbandhan formation is hoping to bank on the mistrust and anger that Nitish Kumar’s constant flip-flops may have caused amongst certain sections.

Can Karnataka Spring A Surprise?

Fourteen seats are going to the polls in Karnataka tomorrow. Of them, the BJP won 11 in 2019, while the remaining three were netted by the Congress, the Janata Dal (Secular) (JD-S) and an independent. Given the implementation of the ‘guarantees’ by the Siddaramaiah government since it came to power in the state last year, the Congress hopes to make significant gains this time.

The BJP, meanwhile, hopes to neutralise losses due to anti-incumbency by aligning with H.D. Deve Gowda’s JD(S), which has decent clout in Southern Karnataka. 

The Kerala Battlefront

Kerala is going to be an interesting battle. Of the 20 seats going to polls here, the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) had won 19 seats in the previous Lok Sabha election, while the CPI(M) led Left Democratic Front (LDF) could bag only a single constituency. The BJP hopes to make the contest triangular this time in around five seats where it bagged a 20-30% vote share, and finally open its account in the state. High-profile candidates like Anil Antony, Rajeev Chandrasekhar, Suresh Gopi and V. Muraleedharan may help it in that endeavour, but the battle remains tough.

However, the main contest is between the UDF and the LDF. The two Communist parties and the Congress, which are friends in Delhi but foes in Kerala, have been attacking each other aggressively. While the LDF has attacked the Congress over Rahul Gandhi’s candidature from Wayanad and not Uttar Pradesh, the latter has questioned why Chief Minister Pinayari Vijayan is not behind bars. The Left has also been raising the CAA issue and the Manipur conflict to woo minorities and win a few seats.

Hat-Trick Bid In Rajasthan, Local Currents In Maharashtra

In Rajasthan, the BJP in 2019 had won all the 13 seats that are going to the polls on April 26. The party hopes to score a hat-trick in the state and win all its 25 Lok Sabha seats again. However, a resurgent Congress and the recent Jat/Rajput ire could put a spanner in the works. 

Meanwhile, in Maharashtra, of the eight seats that are poll-bound, the BJP had won three in 2019, the Shiv Sena four, and an independent candidate one. But since then, three erstwhile Sena MPs have joined the Eknath Shinde faction in recent months. The battle in Maharashtra has heated up, with the crucial question for the state and its voters being who the real Sena and the real Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) are. After the splits in both parties, while the symbols are with the Shinde and Ajit Pawar factions, the family legacy rests with Uddhav and Sharad Pawar. The contest has turned somewhat local, which is not good for any incumbent; a Presidential-style battle is usually beneficial. 

In 2019, the BJP won all the eight seats going to the polls in Uttar Pradesh, except one – Amroha – which was bagged by the BSP. This time, with Mayawati’s party not being a constituent of the INDIA bloc, the BJP hopes to win all of these eight seats. That could be possible but not easy, given that the party’s winning margins in two seats last time, Meerut and Baghpat, were just 4,700 and 23,500 votes, respectively. 

To achieve ‘Mission 370’, the BJP will need a strike rate of 83%. It could touch only 72% in the previous Lok Sabha elections. Can it raise its tally this time?

(Amitabh Tiwari is a political strategist and commentator. In his earlier avatar, he was a corporate and investment banker)

Disclaimer: These are the personal opinions of the author.

Source link

#Opinion #Opinion #Lok #Sabha #Polls #Phase #NDA #Maintain #Lead #Numbers

Pioneering policy leadership in a transformative era

With the European Parliament and U.S. elections looming, Europe is facing policy uncertainties on both sides of the Atlantic. Persistent geopolitical turmoil in Ukraine and the Middle East, and threats to democracy — coupled with concerns over slow economic recovery, demographic shifts, climate hazards and the rapid evolution of powerful AI — all add to the complex global political and economic landscape. Europe’s present and future demands leaders who are capable of effectively navigating multifaceted challenges.

At the European University Institute (EUI) in Florence, we are committed to developing a groundbreaking executive program that prepares professionals for multilevel policymaking of the 21st century. Our new EUI Global Executive Master (GEM) aims to transform policy professionals into agents of change and enhance their skills as effective managers and leaders who inspire and drive sustainable change.

Listening and responding to the needs of policy professionals is at the core of our new program.

New leaders wanted

George Papaconstantinou is dean of executive education of the European University Institute, and a former Minister of Finance and Minister of Environment and Energy of Greece. | via European University Institute

Just as public policy has changed in the past 20 years, so has executive education for public policy professionals. Listening and responding to the needs of policy professionals is at the core of our new program. The new GEM takes our commitment to training professionals to respond to today’s cross-border issues to the next level; it stands out from other executive master programs through its dedication to providing a personalized career development journey.

Launching in September 2024, the GEM has a two-year, part-time format, with three week-long study periods in Florence, and two additional visits to global policy hubs. This format, combined with online modules, allows policy professionals to integrate full-time work commitments with professional growth and peer exchange, building their knowledge, skills, and networks in a structured way.

This allows policy professionals to integrate full-time work commitments with professional growth and peer exchange.

During the first year, EUI GEM participants take four core modules that will set the basis for a comprehensive understanding of the complex task of policymaking, and its interaction with government, the economy and global trends. In the second year, they have the possibility to select courses in one or more of four specializations: energy and climate; economy and finance; tech and governance; and geopolitics and security.

These core and elective courses are complemented by intensive professional development modules and workshops aimed at enhancing skills in the critical areas of change management, project management, strategic foresight, leadership, negotiations, policy communications, and media relations.

Through the final capstone project, EUI GEM participants will address real policy challenges faced by organizations, including their own, proposing solutions based on original research under the guidance of both the organizations concerned and EUI faculty.

In addition, the program includes thematic executive study visits for in-depth insights and first-hand practical experience.

In addition, the program includes thematic executive study visits for in-depth insights and first-hand practical experience. Participants attend the EUI State of the Union Conference in Florence, a flagship event that brings together global leaders to reflect on the most pressing issues of the European agenda. They explore the role of strategic foresight in EU institutions’ policy planning through an executive study visit to Brussels, complemented by dedicated training sessions and networking opportunities. A final Global Challenge study visit aims to encourage participants to engage with local policy stakeholders.

Bridging academia and practice

Since its inaugural executive training course in 2004, the EUI has successfully trained over 23,000 professionals of approximately 160 nationalities, in almost 600 courses. The EUI GEM leverages this expertise by merging the academic and practical policy expertise from our Florence School of Transnational Governance and the Robert Schuman Centre, as well as the academic excellence in the EUI departments.

The EUI GEM’s aspiration to bridge the gap between academia and practice is also reflected in the faculty line-up, featuring leading academics, private-sector experts, and policymakers who bring invaluable expertise into a peer-learning environment that fosters both learning and exchange with policy professionals.

Effective, agile and inclusive governance involves interaction and mutual learning between the public sector, the private sector and civil society actors, all acting as change agents. That is why our program is designed to bring innovative perspectives on public policy from all three: the public and the private sector, as well as civil society, and we welcome applications from all three sectors. 

An inspiring environment

EUI GEM participants spend 25 days in residence at the magnificent Palazzo Buontalenti, headquarters of our Florence School of Transnational Governance. The former Medici palace harbors art-historical treasures in the heart of Florence. In September 2024, a dedicated executive education center will be inaugurated at Palazzo Buontalenti, coinciding with the arrival of the participants of the first GEM cohort.

The GEM is poised to redefine the standards for executive education and empower a new generation of policy practitioners. We are ambitious and bold, and trust that our first cohort will be, too. After all, they are the first to embark on this adventure of a new program. We can’t wait to welcome them here in Florence, where the journey to shape the future begins. Will you join us?

Learn more about the EUI Global Executive Master.

The EUI Global Executive Master | via European University Institute



Source link

#Pioneering #policy #leadership #transformative #era

Senegal’s presidential election: A look at the four main candidates

After a political crisis with many twists and turns, Senegalese voters go to the polls on Sunday to choose their new president. Seventeen contenders are hoping to succeed President Macky Sall. FRANCE 24 examines the political backgrounds and main proposals of  four candidates: Amadou Ba, Bassirou Diomaye Faye, Idrissa Seck and Khalifa Sall.

Issued on:

5 min

A fast-paced electoral campaign is coming to an end for 17 Senegalese presidential candidates. Over just two weeks, they have been striving to convince voters to support them at the polls on Sunday.

This extraordinary campaign was cut short by the political crisis that began on February 3, when Sall cancelled the election that had been scheduled for February 25. Senegalese lawmakers voted to postpone the vote to December 15, but the Constitutional Council voided the cancellation and the postponement and forced Sall to set a new date. 

Read moreHow Senegal’s presidential election was postponed, reinstated and moved up

Sall is nearing the end of two terms (2012-2024) at the head of one of West Africa’s most stable countries. The constitution doesn’t allow him to run for a third mandate.

On March 9, two days after the council confirmed the March 24 vote, Senegal’s presidential candidates launched their campaigns. The 17 hopefuls have increased their trips and public meetings over the last few days to boost visibility and present their ideas on issues including sovereignty, civil liberties, emigration, schools, unemployment and a fishing industry crisis.

Here’s a look at the four main candidates’ key proposals:

  • Amadou Ba, the continuity candidate

Senegalese Prime Minister Amadou Ba speaks in Dakar on December 21, 2023. © Seyllou, AFP

Prime Minister Amadou Ba, 62, is a ruling party candidate and Sall’s preferred successor. The former minister of economy and finance and then foreign affairs, Ba presents himself as a candidate for stability and the continuity of the incumbent’s economic record, while also promising a return to calm after months of political crisis.

Ba focused his campaign programme on youth employment in a country where three-quarters of the population is under 35. His key promise: to create 1 million jobs by 2028 through public/private partnerships and investment in agriculture, industry, infrastructure and renewable energies.

He also calls for updating “conventions and contracts signed by the state of Senegal in the field of natural resources”, providing a minimum financial allowance to the elderly and accelerating the construction of a national school of cultural arts and crafts.

  • Bassirou Diomaye Faye, the anti-system candidate
Senegalese presidential candidate Bassirou Diomaye Faye gestures during a press conference in Dakar on March 15, 2024.
Senegalese presidential candidate Bassirou Diomaye Faye gestures during a press conference in Dakar on March 15, 2024. © John Wessels, AFP

Bassirou Diomaye Faye, 44, a replacement for opposition leader Ousmane Sonko who was excluded from the presidential race in January, has had even less time than other candidates to campaign in person. The cofounder of the opposition Pastef party, who was released from prison along with Sonko on March 14, is campaigning against the country’s political class and promises to reclaim Senegal’s “sovereignty”, a term used 18 times in his electoral platform.

To this end, Faye proposes getting rid of the CFA franc inherited from the colonial era to introduce a new currency, and to make the teaching of  English widespread in a country where the official language is French. He also says he wants to renegotiate mining and hydrocarbon contracts as well as defence agreements.

The Pastef platform also aims for institutional reform with the creation of the role of vice president and safeguards to check the power of the president, including potential removal from office.

  • Idrissa Seck, the veteran candidate
Idrissa Seck, founder of the Rewmi party, is seen during an opposition press conference in Dakar on January 15, 2019. Seck was also a candidate in Senegal’s 2019 presidential election.
Idrissa Seck, founder of the Rewmi party, is seen during an opposition press conference in Dakar on January 15, 2019. Seck was also a candidate in Senegal’s 2019 presidential election. © Seyllou, AFP

Former prime minister Idrissa Seck, who served under ex-president Abdoulaye Wade between 2002 and 2004, is running in a fourth consecutive presidential race. The 64-year-old former Sall opponent, who long maintained the suspense surrounding his eventual candidacy, has put his political experience and knowledge of the inner workings of government to use in his bid to win over voters.

Among his signature proposals are compulsory military service, the creation of a common currency for West African countries and a fund financed by oil and gas companies to compensate for damage to the fishing industry. 

The founder of Senegal’s Rewmi party also proposes to devote 60 percent of public investment to areas outside the Dakar region.

  • Khalifa Sall, the comeback candidate
Presidential candidate Khalifa Sall greets supporters during a tour of several areas in Senegal’s capital Dakar on March 9, 2024.
Presidential candidate Khalifa Sall greets supporters during a tour of several areas in Senegal’s capital Dakar on March 9, 2024. © Seyllou, AFP

Khalifa Sall (no relation to the outgoing president) is another Senegalese political heavyweight trying his luck in the race. Sentenced to five years in prison and a fine of 5 million CFA francs for fraud and embezzlement of public funds in 2018, the leader of the Taxawu Senegal coalition was barred from entering the 2019 presidential contest. Macky Sall’s rival has since returned to politics thanks to a presidential pardon and a law authorising the restoration of civil rights for convicted people who were amnestied following a national dialogue initiated by the government in May 2023.

In this election, the 68-year-old Sall is presenting himself as the candidate to heal a “damaged” country. The man who sees himself as the heir to Senegal’s socialist party promises to institute a citizen-initiated referendum. He also pledges to devote at least 1,000 billion CFA francs (1.5 billion euros) of the annual national budget to agriculture.

Sall’s foreign policy programme aims to “diversify and rebalance” diplomatic and economic partnerships by “strengthening (global) south-south cooperation and cooperation with emerging countries”.

This article is a translation of the original in French.

 

The 17 candidates in Senegal’s presidential election

Anta Babacar Ngom

Amadou Ba

Boubacar Camara

Déthié Fall

Daouda Ndiaye

Khalifa Sall

Idrissa Seck

Mame Boye Diao

Mouhamed Boun Abdallah Dionne

Aliou Mamadou Dia

Malick Gackou

Aly Ngouille Ndiaye

Mamadou Lamine Diallo

Serigne Mboup

Pape Djibril Fall

Bassirou Diomaye Faye

Thierno Allassane Sall

Source link

#Senegals #presidential #election #main #candidates

‘Shpilkin method’: Statistical tool gauges voter fraud in Putin landslide

As many as half of all the votes reported for Vladimir Putin in Russia’s presidential election last week were fraudulent, according to Russian independent media reports using a statistical method devised by analyst Sergey Shpilkin to estimate the extent of voter manipulation.

Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed a landslide victory on Sunday that will keep him in power until at least 2030, following a three-day presidential election that Western critics dismissed as neither free nor fair.

The criticism is shared by Russia’s remaining independent media outlets, which have published their estimates of the extent of voter manipulation during the March 15-17 election that saw Putin clinch a fifth term in office with a record 87% of ballots cast.

Massive fraud

“Around 22 million ballots officially in favour of Vladimir Putin were falsified,” said the Russian investigative journalism website Meduza, which interviewed Russian electoral analyst Ivan Shukshin.

Important Stories, another investigative news website, gave a similar number, estimating that 21.9 million false votes were cast for the incumbent president.

The opposition media outlet Novaya Gazeta Europe came up with an even bigger number, claiming that 31.6 million ballots were falsified in Putin’s favour.

That figure “corresponds to almost 50 percent of all the votes cast in the president’s favour, according to the Central Election Commission [Putin received 64.7 million votes]”, said Jeff Hawn, a Russia expert at the London School of Economics.

All three estimates suggest that “fraud on a scale unprecedented in Russian electoral history” was committed, added Matthew Wyman, a specialist in Russian politics at Keele University in the UK.

The three news outlets all used the same algorithmic method to estimate the extent of voter fraud. It is named after Russian statistician Sergey Shpilkin, who developed it a decade ago.

Shpilkin’s work analysing Russian elections has won him several prestigious independent awards in Russia, including the PolitProsvet prize for electoral research awarded in 2012 by the Liberal Mission Foundation.

However, he has also made some powerful enemies by denouncing electoral fraud. In February 2023, Shpilkin was added to Russia’s list of “foreign agents”.

Shady turnout figures

The Shpilkin method “offers a simple way of quantitatively assessing electoral fraud in Russia, whereas most other approaches focus on detecting whether or not fraud has been committed”, said Dmitry Kogan, an Estonia-based statistician who has worked with Shpilkin and others to develop tools for analysing election results. 

This approach – used by Meduza, Important Stories and Novaya Gazeta – is based “on the turnout at each polling station”, said Kogan.

The aim is to identify polling stations where turnout does not appear to be abnormally high, and then use them as benchmarks to get an idea of the actual vote distribution between the various candidates.

In theory, the share of votes in favour of each candidate does not change – or does so only marginally –according to turnout rate.

In other words, the Shpilkin method has been able to determine that in Russia, candidate A always has an average X percent of the vote and candidate B around Y percent, whether there are 100, 200 or more voters in an “honest” polling station.

In polling stations with high voter turnout, “we realised that this proportional change in vote distribution completely disappears, and that Vladimir Putin is the main beneficiary of the additional votes cast”, said Alexander Shen, a mathematician and statistician at the French National Centre for Scientific Research’s Laboratory of Computer Science, Robotics and Microelectronics in Montpellier. .

To quantify the fraud, Putin’s score is compared with what the result would have been if the distribution of votes had been the same as at an “honest” polling station. The resulting discrepancy with his official score gives an idea of the extent to which the results were manipulated in his favour.

The Shpilkin method makes it possible to put a figure on the “ballot box stuffing and accounting tricks to add votes for Vladimir Putin”, said Shen.

Limitations of the Shpilkin method

However, “this procedure would be useless if the authorities used more subtle methods to rig the results”, Kogan cautioned. 

For instance, if the “fraudsters” took votes away from one of the candidates and attributed them to Putin, the Shpilkin method would no longer work, he explained.

“The fact that the authorities seem to be continuously using the most basic methods shows that it doesn’t bother them that people are aware of the manipulation,” Kogan added.

Another problem with the Shpilkin method is that it requires “at least a few polling stations where you can be reasonably sure that no fraud has occurred”, said Kogan, for whom that condition was not easy to be sure about in last week’s presidential election.

“I’m not sure we can really reconstruct a realistic distribution of votes between the candidates, because I don’t know if there is enough usable data,” added Shen.

Does this negate the validity of the estimates put forward by independent Russian media?

Kogan said he stopped trying to quantify electoral fraud in Russia in 2021. He explained: “At the time, I estimated that nearly 20 million votes in the Duma [lower house] election had been falsified. Then I said to myself, ‘what’s the point in going to all this trouble if the ballots were completely rigged?’”

Nevertheless, he said it is important to have estimates based on the Shpilkin method because even if it is difficult to get a precise idea, “the order of magnitude is probably right”. 

These rough estimates are also “an important political weapon”, said Wyman, stressing the need to “undermine the narrative of the Russian authorities, who claim that the high turnout and the vote in favour of Putin demonstrate that the country is united”.

It is also an important message to the international community, added Hawn.

“The stereotype is that Russians naturally vote for authoritarian figures,” he said. “By showing how inflated the figures are, this is a way of proving that the reality is far more nuanced.”

This article has been translated from the original in French

Source link

#Shpilkin #method #Statistical #tool #gauges #voter #fraud #Putin #landslide

Navalny widow joins protest against Putin in Berlin on final day of voting

Yulia Navalnaya, the widow of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, took part in a noon protest against President Vladimir Putin on Sunday in Berlin on the final day of the country’s elections. Thousands of people also turned up at polling stations across Russia to take part in what the anti-Kremlin opposition said was a peaceful but symbolic political protest against Putin’s re-election. 

Navalny spokeswoman Kira Yarmysh posted pictures on X of Navalnaya standing in line in Berlin where Russians queued up to vote. Activists said that some people chanted “Yulia, Yulia”, and clapped.

Queues of people were also seen forming outside polling stations in Moscow and Saint Petersburg at noon, when Russia‘s opposition called for people to collectively spoil their ballots or vote against Putin.

Others had vowed to scrawl the name of late opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who died last month in an Arctic prison, on their ballot paper.

More than 74 people have been detained in thirteen Russian cities in connection to the presidential election taking place, the OVD-Info protest-monitoring group said.

The three-day vote had already been marred by a surge in fatal Ukrainian bombardmentincursions into Russian territory by pro-Kyiv sabotage groups and vandalism at polling stations.

Ukrainian drones attacked at least eight Russian regions overnight and on Sunday morning, with some reaching as far as the Moscow region, the defence ministry said.

Three airports serving the capital briefly suspended operations following the barrage, while a drone attack in the south sparked a fire at an oil refinery.

In the Russian-controlled part of Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia region, where voting is also taking place, “kamikaze drones” set a polling station ablaze, according to Moscow-installed authorities.

The defence ministry said it had “intercepted and destroyed 35 unmanned aerial vehicles” across the country.

The turnout at Russia’s presidential election hit 67.54% on Sunday, surpassing 2018 levels several hours before the end of polling, according to the TASS news agency. The 2018 turnout was 67.5%.

Last ‘legal’ protest

There were repeated acts of protest in the first days of polling, with a spate of arrests of Russians accused of pouring dye into ballot boxes or arson attacks.

Read more‘Noon against Putin’: Navalny’s last wish and an act of Russian opposition

Before his death in an Arctic prison last month, opposition leader Alexei Navalny urged Russians to collectively vote at noon in a protest the opposition dubbed “Midday Against Putin”.

AFP reporters saw an increase in people queuing outside polling stations at midday (09:00 GMT) in Moscow and Saint Petersburg.

“This is the last kind of protest action through which you can legally express yourself. It’s safe,” 29-year-old IT worker Alexander told AFP.

He voted around noon at a polling station in Maryino, a district of Moscow where Navalny used to cast his ballot.

“If I didn’t do it, I’d feel like a coward,” he said.

Elena, 52, who also voted around noon, doubted the demonstration would have much of an impact. 

“Honestly, I don’t think it will show anything,” she told AFP.

Any public dissent in Russia has been harshly punished since the start of Moscow’s offensive in Ukraine on February 24, 2022 and there have been repeated warnings from the authorities against election protests.

‘Difficult period’

The 71-year-old Putin, a former KGB agent, has been in power since the last day of 1999 and is set to extend his grip over the country until at least 2030.

If he completes another Kremlin term, he will have stayed in power longer than any Russian leader since Catherine the Great in the 18th century.

He is running without any real opponents, having barred two candidates who opposed the conflict in Ukraine.

Read moreRussia’s presidential election: Three Putin challengers but little suspense

The Kremlin has cast the election as an opportunity for Russians to show they are behind the assault on Ukraine, where voting is also being staged in Russian-held areas.

In a pre-election address on Thursday, Putin said Russia was going through a “difficult period”.

“We need to continue to be united and self-confident,” he said, describing the election as a way for Russians to demonstrate their “patriotic feelings”.

The voting will wrap up in Kaliningrad, Russia’s western-most time zone, at 18:00 GMT and an exit poll is expected to be announced shortly after that.

A concert on Red Square is being staged on Monday to mark 10 years since Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula – an event that is also expected to serve as a victory celebration for Putin.

‘No validity’

Ukraine has repeatedly denounced the elections as illegitimate and a “farce”, and urged Western allies not to recognise the result.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, as well as more than 50 member states, have slammed Moscow for holding the vote in parts of Ukraine.

Guterres said the “attempted illegal annexation” of those regions has “no validity” under international law.

Ahead of the election, Russian state media have played up recent gains on the front and portrayed the conflict as a fight for survival against attacks from the West.

Moscow has also sought to press its advantage on the front line as divisions over Western military support for Ukraine have led to ammunition shortages, although Kyiv says it has managed to stop the Russian advance for now. 

In Ukraine, a Russian missile strike on the Black Sea port city of Odesa on Friday killed 21 people including rescue workers responding to an initial hit – an attack President Volodymyr Zelensky described as “vile”.

In Russia’s border city of Belgorod, Ukrainian shelling killed a 16-year-old girl and wounded her father, the region’s governor said Sunday.

The governor has ordered the closure of shopping centres and schools in Belgorod and the surrounding area for two days because of the strikes.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, REUTERS)

Source link

#Navalny #widow #joins #protest #Putin #Berlin #final #day #voting

Russians vote in presidential election amid sporadic acts of protest

Russia began three days of voting Friday in a presidential election that is all but certain to extend President Vladimir Putin’s rule for six more years after he stifled dissent.

At least half a dozen cases of vandalism at polling stations were reported, including a firebombing and several people pouring green liquid into ballot boxes — an apparent nod to the late opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who in 2017 was attacked by an assailant splashing green disinfectant in his face.

Voting is taking place through Sunday at polling stations across the vast country’s 11 time zones, in illegally annexed regions of Ukraine and online. Putin cast his ballot online, according to the Kremlin.

The election comes against the backdrop of a ruthless crackdown that has crippled independent media and prominent rights groups and given Putin full control of the political system.

Read moreFive things to know about Russia’s upcoming presidential election

It also comes as Moscow’s war in Ukraine enters its third year. Russia has the advantage on the battlefield, where it is making small, if slow, gains. A Russian missile strike on the port city of Odesa killed at least 14 people on Friday, local officials said.

Ukraine, meanwhile, has made Moscow look vulnerable behind the front line with long-range drone attacks deep inside Russia and high-tech drone assaults that put its Black Sea fleet on the defensive.

Border clashes

Russian regions bordering Ukraine reported a spike in shelling and repeated attacks this week by Ukrainian forces, which Putin described Friday as an attempt to frighten residents and derail the vote.

“Those enemy strikes haven’t been and won’t be left unpunished,” he vowed at a meeting of his Security Council.

“I’m sure that our people, the people of Russia, will respond to that with even greater cohesion,” Putin said. “Whom did they decide to scare? The Russian people? It has never happened and it will never happen.”

Read more‘Noon against Putin’: A small gesture and a powerful symbol of Russia’s opposition

 

By the time polls closed Friday night at Russia’s westernmost region of Kaliningrad, more than a third of the country’s eligible voters had cast ballots in person and online, according to the Central Election Commission. Online voting, which began Friday morning, is available around the clock in Moscow and 28 other regions until 8 p.m. local time Sunday.

Officials said voting proceeded in an orderly fashion, but in St. Petersburg, a woman threw a Molotov cocktail on the roof of a school that houses a polling station, local news media reported. The deputy head of the Russian Central Election Commission said people poured green liquid into ballot boxes in five places, including Moscow.

News sites also reported on the Telegram messaging channel that a woman in Moscow set fire to a voting booth. Such acts are incredibly risky since interfering with elections is punishable by up to five years in prison.

The election holds little suspense since Putin, 71, is running for his fifth term virtually unchallenged. His political opponents are either in jail or in exile; Navalny, the fiercest of them, died in an Arctic penal colony last month. The three other candidates on the ballot are low-profile politicians from token opposition parties that support the Kremlin’s line.

‘No opposition. No freedom. No choice’

Observers have little to no expectation the election will be free and fair.

European Council President Charles Michel mordantly commented Friday on the vote’s preordained nature. “Would like to congratulate Vladimir Putin on his landslide victory in the elections starting today. No opposition. No freedom. No choice,” he wrote on X, formerly Twitter.

Beyond the few options for voters, the possibilities for independent monitoring are very limited.

No significant international observers were present. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s monitors were not invited, and only registered candidates or state-backed advisory bodies can assign observers to polling stations, decreasing the likelihood of independent watchdogs. With balloting over three days in nearly 100,000 polling stations, any true oversight is difficult anyway.

“The elections in Russia as a whole are a sham. The Kremlin controls who’s on the ballot. The Kremlin controls how they can campaign. To say nothing of being able to control every aspect of the voting and the vote-counting process,” said Sam Greene, director for Democratic Resilience at the Center for European Policy Analysis in Washington.

Ukraine and the West have also condemned Russia for holding the vote in Ukrainian regions that Moscow’s forces have seized and occupied.

In many ways, Ukraine is at the heart of this election, political analysts and opposition figures say. They say Putin wants to use his all-but-assured electoral victory as evidence that the war and his handling of it enjoys widespread support. The opposition, meanwhile, hopes to use the vote to demonstrate its discontent with both the war and the Kremlin.

Two anti-war politicians were banned from the ballot after attracting genuine — albeit not overwhelming — support, depriving the voters of any choice on the “main issue of Russia’s political agenda,” said political analyst Abbas Gallyamov, a former Putin speechwriter.

‘Most vapid’ campaign since 2000

Russia’s scattered opposition has urged those unhappy with Putin or the war to show up at the polls at noon on Sunday, the final day of voting, in protest. The strategy was endorsed by Navalny not long before his death.

“We need to use election day to show that we exist and there are many of us, we are actual, living, real people and we are against Putin. … What to do next is up to you. You can vote for any candidate except Putin. You could ruin your ballot,” his widow, Yulia Navalnaya, said.

How well this strategy will work remains unclear.

Golos, Russia’s renowned independent election observer group, said in a report this week that authorities were “doing everything so that the people don’t notice the very fact of the election happening.”

The watchdog described the campaign ahead of the vote as “practically unnoticeable” and “the most vapid” since 2000, when Golos was founded and started monitoring elections in Russia.

Putin’s campaigning was cloaked in presidential activities, and other candidates were “demonstrably passive,” the report said.

State media dedicated less airtime to the election than in 2018, when Putin was last elected, according to Golos. Instead of promoting the vote to ensure a desired turnout, authorities appear to be betting on pressuring voters they can control — for instance, Russians who work in state-run companies or institutions — to show up at the polls, the group said.

The watchdog itself has been swept up in the crackdown: Its co-chair, Grigory Melkonyants, is in jail awaiting trial on charges widely seen as an attempt to pressure the group ahead of the election.

“The current elections will not be able to reflect the real mood of the people,” Golos said in the report. “The distance between citizens and decision-making about the fate of the country has become greater than ever.”

(AP)

Source link

#Russians #vote #presidential #election #sporadic #acts #protest

The ‘generals’ elections’ that turned against Pakistan’s military

Pakistan’s 2024 general elections were dubbed the “most rigged” in the country’s history, with the popular Imran Khan barred from running and the military seen as backing former prime minister Nawaz Sharif. That was before results showed Khan-backed independent candidates leading the race. The stage appears to be set for a turbulent period after an irate electorate reacted to the military’s perceived meddling in politics – again.

Voters in the 2024 Pakistani general elections manoeuvred sheaves of ballot papers offering a profusion of symbols including tables, chairs, apples, airplanes, calculators and kitchen appliances. But there was no cricket bat on the ballot. 

With former cricket star and prime minister Imran Khan behind bars, his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party was banned from using its signature icon in a country where symbols are important tools for the electorate because of high illiteracy rates. This forced PTI-backed candidates to run as independents, each using different symbols that stretched ballot papers and the national imagination.

The country’s real power-wielder, however, was not on the ballot paper, and Pakistanis were never given a symbol or say on the issue.

The 2024 general election was dubbed the most rigged in Pakistan’s history, with wags on social media calling it the “generals’ election”, referring to the all-powerful military in the nuclear-armed South Asian nation.

The consensus ahead of the vote was that regardless of who forms a government, the army would continue to rule the roost. The newly elected civilian administration would simply have to follow the rules of the Pakistani power game to survive.

In the course of its 76-year history, Pakistan has developed a system that some scholars call a “hybrid regime” featuring a mix of civilian politics and military interference in electoral democracy. The tacit agreement sees the generals controlling defence and foreign policies, leaving domestic socioeconomic issues to the politicians.

But the hybrid model has been changing in recent years, putting Pakistan in dangerous terrain. And the man widely believed to be calling the shots in the military has done little to inspire national confidence.

Prospect of a ‘chatterbox’ parliament

With Khan losing military support, and his party stymied at the poll, the military’s chosen candidate, veteran politician Nawaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) party was expected to snag an outright win.

An outright Sharif win would see the dynastic Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) – led by Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, son of assassinated premier Benazir Bhutto – going into opposition. It would see the two establishment parties once again dominating Pakistani politics.

But after a surprisingly strong showing by PTI-backed independent candidates, who led the national election results, Sharif changed tack on Friday, declaring he would form a coalition government.

“We don’t have enough of a majority to form a government without the support of others and we invite allies to join the coalition so we can make joint efforts to pull Pakistan out of its problems,” he said.

Nawaz Sharif, center, addresses supporters in Lahore, Pakistan, February 9, 2024. © K.M. Chaudary, AP

Under Pakistan’s electoral rules, victorious independent candidates can join any party in the 336-seat National Assembly. With the imprisoned Khan facing nearly 200 legal charges ranging from corruption to leaking state secrets, experts predict the popular former cricketer-politician is likely to remain behind bars for several years.

The results of Thursday’s vote point to fractious political period ahead, warns Ayesha Siddiqa, senior fellow at King’s College, London, and author of “Military Inc.: Inside Pakistan’s Military Economy”. “If there are many independents in parliament, it will make the house a chatterbox,” she noted. “It will be an unruly, funny kind of parliament with everyone going for each other’s jugulars.”

Khan’s fall from military grace

Overseeing the political turbulence is the man at the helm of the military, Pakistani army chief General Asim Munir. This comes as the country faces major economic and security crises.

Khan may be behind bars, but he remains a political force. The former cricketer-politician maintains that the myriad legal charges against him are politically motivated. Most Pakistanis, including Khan’s opponents, do not disagree. A weak judiciary means Pakistan is ranked 130th out of 142 countries on the World Justice Project’s Rule of Law index.

A poster of Imran Khan on display at his party office in Islamabad, February 9, 2024.
A poster of Imran Khan on display at his party office in Islamabad, February 9, 2024. © Anjum Naveed, AP

Since General Munir was appointed army chief in November 2022, Khan’s legal woes have multiplied. At times, they have taken an absurdly personal turn.

Relations between the two men have been acrimonious since Khan was elected prime minister in 2018 and replaced Munir as chief of Pakistan’s Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI) spy agency with a loyalist, according to Pakistani media reports.

Read morePakistan army chief’s deepening rift with Imran Khan

On February 3, just days before the election, a Pakistani court sentenced Khan and his wife Bushra Bibi to seven years in jail in a case related to their marriage, which it declared “un-Islamic”.

The verdict was widely criticised by legal experts as a “disgrace” and a “damning blot” on Pakistan’s judiciary.

Sharif rises again

When he stood for elections in 2018, Khan was widely seen as the military’s candidate, “handpicked, groomed and installed” by the generals. But that was until Khan fell out with the army in a fate shared by Sharif, the politician widely tipped to be Pakistan’s new prime minister.

Khan and Sharif’s reversal of fortunes reflects the dramatic shift in Pakistani politics, which has been likened to a “Game of Thrones”. In 2017, Sharif was ousted as prime minister when he attempted to institute civilian oversight of the military. After he was hit with a slew of corruption charges, Sharif went into self-imposed exile abroad to avoid serving sentences. Khan at that time was viewed as the army’s favourite son.

But as the country spiralled into political turmoil last year, with Khan’s supporters storming army residences and bases in unprecedented displays of disaffection with the military, Sharif was back in the generals’ favour.

After four years of exile, Sharif returned to Pakistan last October.  Within weeks of his return, his convictions were overturned, leaving him free to seek a fourth term in office.

A businessman and former chief minister of Punjab, Pakistan’s most populous and prosperous province, Sharif has a record of pursuing economic growth and development. During his previous stints as prime minister, the billionaire politician sought closer trade ties with India, Pakistan’s giant neighbour and arch-foe.

Sharif’s return to Pakistan was widely viewed as a sign that the military was seeking a safe pair of hands to handle the country’s crippling economic crisis. But over the past few months, the military has been increasingly encroaching on the economic turf.

Army takes top seat on economic council

More than seven decades after independence, Pakistan is facing its worst economic crisis. Inflation has hovered around 30 percent, sending the currency, the rupee, into freefall. Last year, the impoverished South Asian nation narrowly escaped a sovereign debt default when the IMF approved a $3 billion bailout package.

While it was provided a band-aid from the brink, Pakistan still has to tackle major structural problems since it is seeking a new IMF bailout programme after the current arrangement expires in three weeks.

As the crisis deepened last year, Pakistan established an apex economic body, the Special Investment Facilitation Council (SIFC), to coordinate economic and fiscal policies. 

The formation of the SIFC was touted as a key move to raise international investor confidence and uphold democratic governance. But then the army secured a top seat at the economic policy table, raising eyebrows in fiscal circles with the announcement that the co-chair of the new SIFC was none other than army Chief General Munir.

When ‘dangerous duffers’ call the shots

The 2024 vote saw the army playing an exceptionally heavy card, even by Pakistani standards. The tactic appeared to have failed, with voters overcoming the odds to elect PTI-backed candidates. But this could spell a period of further turbulence, analysts warn.

“Assuming most of the independent candidates are PTI, if [Sharif’s] PML-N has to form a government, it will have to form a coalition,” said Siddiqa. “The weaker the coalition, the stronger [the] military.”

The military’s meddling in politics has long earned the wrath of Pakistani democratic rights defenders. Nearly 15 years ago, one of the country’s leading human rights lawyers, the late Asma Jehangir, created a stir when she called the country’s military leaders “duffers” on a live TV show.

Jehangir subsequently modified her monicker to “dangerous duffers”, noting that the term implied the military top brass was “not only incompetent, but incapable of learning”. 

The latest election has shown that Jehangir’s verdict still holds, according to Siddiqa.    

“They haven’t changed that much, they’re still dangerous duffers because they think they have a role in governance,” she said. “But the military is a strong pole, and so are the political parties. With this election, the political parties are back in play. It now depends on how they conduct themselves.”

In the past, Pakistan’s political parties have formed common cause with the army in a bid to unseat rivals. The lack of civilian unity to relegate the military to the barracks has enabled the generals to periodically meddle with the ballots. Following Thursday’s vote, social media sites were awash with messages by Pakistanis calling for dialogue and national unity. If their calls are ignored, it will not be for the first time in Pakistan’s troubled history.

Source link

#generals #elections #turned #Pakistans #military

Polls close in Pakistan after millions vote in election marred by violence

Millions of Pakistanis voted Thursday in an election marred by rigging allegations, with authorities suspending mobile phone services throughout the day and the country’s most popular politician in jail.

At least seven officers were killed in two separate attacks targeting election security details, and officials reported a string of minor blasts in southwestern Balochistan province that wounded two people.

Pollsters predicted a low turnout from the country’s 128 million eligible voters following a lacklustre campaign overshadowed by the jailing of former prime minister Imran Khan, and the hobbling of his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party by the military-led establishment.

The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) is expected to win the most seats in Thursday’s vote, with analysts saying its 74-year-old founder Nawaz Sharif has won the blessing of the generals.

Adding to concerns about the integrity of the vote, authorities announced just before polls opened that they had suspended mobile telephone services across the country “to maintain law and order” after two blasts on Wednesday that killed 28 people.

Nighat Dad, a lawyer who runs the not-for-profit Digital Rights Foundation, said the outage “is an attack on the democratic rights of Pakistanis”.

“Shutting down mobile phone services is not a solution to national security concerns. If you shut down access to information you create more chaos”.

Voters in Pakistan rely on a text messaging service to confirm the polling station where they are registered.

Forty-year-old Abdul Jabbar said the internet disruption stopped him and his wife from using the service. 

“Other PTI supporters helped us to trace it in the end,” he told AFP.

Khan’s party calls decision to suspend mobile service a ‘betrayal’


Polling stations opened at 8:00 am (0300 GMT) and were due to close at 5:00 pm. They were guarded by armed security forces.

“My only fear is whether my vote will be counted for the same party I cast it for. At the same time, for the poor it does not matter who is ruling — we need a government that can control inflation,” said Syed Tassawar, a 39-year-old construction worker

First-time voter Haleema Shafiq, a 22-year-old psychology student, said she believed in the importance of voting.

“I believe in democracy. I want a government that can make Pakistan safer for girls,” she told AFP in Islamabad.

In the central city of Multan, Ayesha Bibi said the next government must provide more schools for rural women. 

“We came here by foot and then on a tractor trailer. It was a very difficult and hard journey,” said the housewife. 

More than 650,000 army, paramilitary and police personnel were deployed to provide security for an election already marred by violence.

Five security personnel were killed Thursday in an attack in Kulachi in northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, a police official said, adding that a separate mortar attack on a polling station in the province caused no casualties.

In Balochistan province, two security officers were killed and nine wounded by a blast near a polling station in Lajja town, another official said. 

The Balochistan port city of Gwadar saw 14 “minor blasts”, injuring two people, police official Zohaib Hassan said. 

On Wednesday, at least 28 people were killed and more than 30 wounded by two bomb blasts outside the offices of candidates in the province in attacks claimed hours later by the Islamic State group.

Read moreDeadly twin blasts target Pakistani candidate offices on eve of election

 

Justifying the mobile phone shutdown, an interior ministry spokesman said “security measures are essential to maintain law and order situation and to deal with potential threats”.

The foreign ministry said land borders with neighbours Iran and Afghanistan would also be closed to all traffic Thursday as a security measure.

The election figures are staggering in the nuclear-armed nation of 240 million people — the world’s fifth-most populous.

Nearly 18,000 candidates are standing for seats in the national and four provincial assemblies, with 266 seats directly contested in the former — an additional 70 reserved for women and minorities — and 749 places in the regional parliaments.

Tables turned

Thursday’s election has a similar air to the 2018 poll, but with the tables turned. 

Then, it was Sharif who was disqualified from running because of a string of convictions for graft, while Khan swept to power with the backing of the military, as well as genuine support. 

As he cast his vote at a school in Lahore Thursday, Sharif denied that he had made any deal with the military to rule.

“Actually I have never had any problems with the military,” he said.

The history of Pakistan elections is chequered with allegations of rigging but also favouritism, said Bilal Gilani, executive director of polling group Gallup Pakistan.

“It’s a managed democracy that the military runs,” he said.

Read moreRevolving door politics? Shadow of military looms over Pakistan elections

Unlike the last poll, however, the opposition party has had its name removed from ballots, forcing PTI-selected candidates to run as independents.

Khan, a former international cricketer who led Pakistan to victory in the World Cup in 1992, was last week sentenced to lengthy jail terms for treason, graft, and an illegal marriage.

A PTI official told AFP that Khan had been allowed a postal ballot from Adiala Jail.

Analysts say the character assassination shows how worried the military is that PTI-selected candidates could still prove a decisive factor in Thursday’s vote.

If Sharif does not win a ruling majority, he will most likely still take power via a coalition with one or more junior partners — including the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), another family-run dynasty now led by Bilawal Bhutto Zardari.

Whoever wins takes over a deeply divided country, observers say, with the economy in tatters.

Inflation is galloping at nearly 30 percent, the rupee has been in free fall for three years and a balance of payments deficit has frozen imports, severely hampering industrial growth.

(AFP)

Source link

#Polls #close #Pakistan #millions #vote #election #marred #violence