Category Archives: European Politics

No party wins majority in Czech election

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October 26, 2013

PRAGUE (AP) — A special parliamentary election held in the Czech Republic left no party with a majority on Saturday, which could lead to protracted negotiations aimed at forming a coalition government.

andrej-babis czechThe two-day election was called to end a political crisis triggered by the center-right government’s collapse in a whirlwind of allegations about corruption and marital infidelity. With all the votes counted by the Czech Statistics Office, the left-wing Social Democrats won 20.45 percent, or 50 seats, in the 200-seat lower house of Parliament. The party’s ally, the Communists, finished third, receiving 14.91 percent of the vote, or 33 seats.

The Communists had hoped to give the Social Democrats their tacit support in a government that would give the Communists a share of the power for the first time since the 1989 Velvet Revolution, which ended 40 years of communist rule in the country.

“The result is not what we expected,” Bohuslav Sobotka, the chairman of the Social Democrats, said, referring to the worst election result for his party since 1993, when Czechoslovakia split into two countries: the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

In the republic, Parliament’s lower house dominates the legislative process, and the leader of its strongest party is generally asked by the president to try to form a new government. But that is not expected to be easy this time, given the election result for the top seven parties of the 24 that competed in the election.

The new centrist ANO (YES) movement, which campaigned on an anti-corruption ticket, finished in a surprisingly strong second place, with 18.65 percent, or 47 seats. “No government would be able to do without it,” said analyst Tomas Lebeda, regarding the forthcoming coalition talks.

ANO, which had reached out to voters disgusted by corruption scandals, is led by a billionaire businessman Andrej Babis. On Saturday, he criticized a plan by the Social Democrats to increase corporate and personal income taxes for those in the highest bracket. “Our country needs economic stability,” he said. “What we need is low taxes.”

The election was called after Prime Minister Petr Necas’ center-right coalition broke down in June amid a spy scandal and corruption allegations. They included the arrest of Jana Nagyova, Necas’ closest aide, with whom he was having an affair. She is suspected of bribery and ordering a military intelligence agency to spy on Necas’ then estranged wife.

Necas has since divorced his wife, Radka, and married Nagyova. Necas’ conservative Civic Democrats party was clearly punished by voters, receiving just 7.72 percent of the vote, or 16 seats. “It’s a fatal loss,” said its acting chairman, Martin Kuba.

Another conservative member of the former government, the TOP 09 party, captured 11.99 percent of the vote, or 26 seats. The new populist Dawn of Direct Democracy movement got 6.88 percent, while Christian Democrats returned to Parliament after a three-year absence with 6.78 percent. Both those parties now have 14 seats.

The Social Democrats said they are ready to open negotiations about forming a new government with any party except the Civic Democrats and the TOP 09 party. “Our goal is to create a stable government,” Sobotka said.



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Italian anti-establishment leader refuses to endorse the left or right

Tariq Jeeroburkhan

March 29, 2013 – The gridlock in Italian politics just got a bit tighter as Beppe Grillo, leader of the Italian anti-establishment Five-Star Movement party announced he would not endorse either the centre-left party of Pier Luigi Bersani or the centre-right party of former Premier Silvio Berlusconi so that an empowered government might be formed.

grillo2The results of the last Italian general election created an equal division amongst the three parties in the formation of a government, which meant that negotiations and discussions among the parties would be required to avoid another general election.

Beppe Grillo is a former comedian and entertainer, whose disillusionment with the entire Italian political landscape, especially after the years of perceived Berlusconi Inc. corruption, led to his formation of a protest party that has been supported by a significant quantity of the Italian population who feel the same way and share Grillo’s frustrations.

The Five-Star Movement (FSM) is a political movement, newly created as an anti-establishment party and in direct protest of the reigning political entities. And much as the newly-formed Party of Citizen’s Rights (SPOZ) in the Czech Republic created under the same circumstances by Milos Zeman, and other citizen’s movements organizing for the same purpose across the world, the FSM is receiving immediate support and success – much to the dismay of those dependent on the current political hierarchies.

The next step in the Italian process will be for current President Giorgio Napolitan to meet with the different representatives and determine if there is enough common ground for a way forward to be possible, or new elections will be required.

Another possibility is the continuation of the temporary government Mario Monti had presided over since 2011 – but Monti only received 10% of the popular vote in the last election, running a distant fourth. However, despite refusing to vote in confidence of a government formed by either of the two establishment parties, Grillo’s movement has indicated that it would support the continuation possibility.

On his blog, Grillo also made it clear that he does not believe that a formation of a government is even necessary for parliamentary representatives to pass laws and legislation.

grillo“Parliament is sovereign, or at least it should be,” he wrote. “We don’t need a government for a new electoral law, or to enact urgent measures to help small business or to cut funds from the provinces.”

Making matters even murkier is the fact that Presidential elections are due to be held in mid-May, at the conclusion of Napolitan’s seven-year term and under Italian law, only the President can dissolve Parliament.

Apparently, some of the discussions and negotiations among the three top parties to form government have included possible arrangements as to who the next President should be – further infuriating the FSM supporters who see that as being just another example of democracy being taken out of the people’s hands.


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Parliamentary Strategy Aplenty! ( the Czech Republic)

Tariq Jeeroburkhan

February 19, 2013 – I know we had over a decade of minority governments in this country, so I won’t blame anyone for forgetting.

1358726-img-milos-zemanFor those of you just now beginning to remember, or in some new cases realize, the inconsequenctiality of a minority opposition in the Canadian Parliamentary system – which de facto renders the entire parliamentary process status non grata, there is an entire world of real-life examples as how government could and does function.

There was an elected Presidential change this past month in the Czech Republic that could have telling effects on the stability of the current three-party coalition government in that country. The anticipation of potential deals and double-deals over the coming months should leave any political strategists’ mouth drooling.

The newly elected President on the second ballot is Milos Zeman from the Party of Civic Rights. Milos Zeman does not sit until March, but there are changes afoot in the left-right dynamic of Czech politics – changes that might have been occurring here in Canada if our democracy did not reward majority government mandates with virtual dictatorship.

Mr. Zeman brightens the outlook for the entire European Union by making his first demand that the EU flag flies before the Castle in Prague – the Czech equivalent of Parliament. This indicates a return to the idea and commitments of a European community, a different path from the current Prime Minister, who had been supported by the previous President.

What shook up the political scene was the new President’s demand for immediate elections to reorganize the current three-party coalition government which would be sitting for three years in May, and is led toward the right by Prime Minister Petr Necas.

The president-elect also agreed with suggestions that there should be some sort of integration talks amongst the left parties, but only after the next election.

Milos Zeman leans more to the left then previous President Vaclav Claus, whose interventions supporting the Prime Minister had enabled Necas’ coalition government to remain intact on several occasions – something that Mr. Zeman showed that he does not intend to do by making his call for immediate parliamentary elections.

Zeman was Social Democrat prime minister between 1998 and 2002, party chairman until 2001 when he decided not to seek re-election. He left the party in 2007 over differences with the party in direction and vision, starting his own party – The Party of Citizen’s Rights (SPOZ). In March, 2013 he will be sworn in as President.



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China and Japan begin phasing out of US Dollar

Press Trust Of India / Beijing –

May 30, 2012 – Regarded as a major boost for China’s campaign to globalise its currency, China and Japan have agreed to start direct trading in their own currencies beginning later this week.

The move between world’s second largest economy China and third largest economy Japan will bring the yuan one step closer to becoming a truly global currency, official media here said.

Japan ranks fourth among China’s trading partners after the European Union, the US and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, while China has been Japan’s largest trading partner for the past three consecutive years. Bilateral trade rose 14.3 per cent year-on-year to reach USD 344.9 billion last year.

The trading marks the first time for China to allow a major currency other than the US dollar to be traded directly against the Chinese currency RMB, or the yuan.

As part of the efforts between China and Japan to strengthen cooperation in developing the financial market, the move serves as an important means of promoting direct yuan-yen trading, the People’s Bank of China said in a statement.

Analysts see this move as a broader strategy by China to reduce dependence on US dollar as well as internationalise its currency. China reportedly chose Japanese Yen because of the large amount of trade between the two countries stretching over USD 400 billion. It also expected to help them to deal with currency uncertainty due to EU debt crisis.

According to the announcement Yuan-yen trading will start on China’s inter-bank foreign exchange market on Friday.

The central parity rate of the yuan against the yen will be based on the average price of offers made by registered dealers before the opening of the market each business day, state run Xinhua reported.

With the greenback as an intermediate currency, the yuan is currently allowed to be traded against eight other currencies on the market, including the euro, British pound, Hong Kong dollar, Japanese yen, Malaysian ringgit, Russian ruble, Australian dollar and Canadian dollar.

China and India reached an agreement to permit USD one billion under external commercial borrowing by private sector last year.

The new move is expected to boost trade between China and Japan the two leading economies in the wake of the eurozone’s economic downturns, and more importantly, promote greater internationalisation of the yuan, analysts said. “A directly-formed yuan-yen exchange rate will help enterprises mitigate risks brought by a fluctuating US dollar and reduce exchange losses for Chinese and Japanese companies,” Ding Zhijie, dean of the School of Banking and Finance with the University of International Business and Economics said.


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Latest Afghanistan agreement shows that U.S. government still doesn’t get it

Tariq Jeeroburkhan

May 11, 2012 During a midnight deal signed in Kabul last week, President Obama extended the stay of U.S. troops in Afghanistan until 2024. Regardless of the justifications used to keep troops in the foreign country, the basic point, coming from working and underclass people at home in the U.S., is still not being addressed.

While the anti-war crowd has always been opposed to the war and destruction in Afghanistan, people throughout the social and political spectrum are finally beginning to realize the simple equation that every dollar spent in Afghanistan means one less dollar spent here. And this realization is becoming more and more apparent as more people need more of those dollars here.

Maybe that is a reason why even Mitt Romney supporters are evenly in favour of withdrawing American financial and personnel commitments from Afghanistan starting now, not even waiting for 2014.

It may come as no surprise, therefore, that the effective decade-long extension of American tax dollar commitments to Afghanistan has not been publically announced, least of all portrayed as such to the American people by the mainstream U.S. media.

The point is not for the Obama-edition of the U.S. political class to figure out new ways to justify continuing the cash flow for military and resource industry complexes, as it comes up with new excuses to stay in Afghanistan — it’s about Obama realizing that American citizens are asking for those networks and resources that Obama is committing to Afghanistan, to be established and committed here at home, including American citizens.

Obama had held off U.S. troop withdrawal from Afghanistan until the election year when the timing of troop withdrawal (or at least the announcement) could have been used and marketed to re-establish himself as the peacemaker.

Unfortunately, his administration, among countless others previous, has failed to see that the logic behind appeasing the “peace-niks” is not just about winning a voting demographic; it’s about preserving a country, at home, that is worth protecting.

The Republicans have done everything possible to give the impression that it isn’t safe to withdraw troops from Afghanistan, and the mainstream media has done everything possible to use those contrived safety concerns to overshadow reporting on the reality of crumbling local infrastructures that need a financial and resource-based infusion domestically.

This has become more than just a voter issue to win points in an election race — it’s about doing what needs to be done to re-establish the U.S., domestically, as a country and citizenry worth saving. It’s not about protecting the jewels of empire and imperialism and holding onto them for display like trophies in a case, either. It’s about spreading the wealth domestically, and that begins with a re-prioritizing of nationalism over imperialism.

The midnight deal ratified by Presidents Obama and Karzai last week in Kabul took the United States in the complete opposite direction and kept domestic taxpayers on the hook for another ten years at least.

Although the agreement, which provides the framework for co-operation based on already established partnerships, is in effect until 2024 — it doesn’t come into effect until both parties complete “their respective internal legal requirements necessary for the entry into force of this agreement.” The agreement also gives either country the option to break out of the deal, by giving a year’s notice and also allows both countries to renew the agreement indefinitely, come 2024.

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The Comment Tree – May 2, 2012

Tariq Jeeroburkhan

A weekly collection of posts and commentary from social and mainstream media sources – keeping up to date with the topics of interest in the current news cycle, international and domestic.

Random Thoughts

Chris Alivisatos – Just filling out my “Organ Donor” card. To the Con/Reform party I leave my liver and my anus: one is shot, the other to kiss. To the NDP I leave my brain, with the loss of Jack (no disrespect intended, he was a great man) you could use it. To the Liberals I leave my testicles, because you seem to have lost yours.

Niki Ashton – I want to warn Harper that I’m going to be using the F-word in the House – “feminism”.

Ron Waller – Our ancestors sacrificed their lives so we could have freedom. All that’s asked of us is to act responsibly to preserve the world for future generations. If we are too greedy and selfish to do that we are nothing more than good-for-nothing ingrates and our ancestors died in vain.

Richard Diamond – Lighting a tire fire at dusk to celebrate Earth Day.

Peter Bienart – Certainly, no American familiar with the way the United States government treated German-Americans during World War I, Japanese-Americans during World War II, or even Muslim-Americans during the “War on Terror” has any cause for sanctimony.

Quebec Student Protests

Matthew Brett – The movement today is one of resistance and social change. People are refusing to pay for decades of corporate tax cuts, deregulation, economic crises and environmental exploitation. And while the conditions in Quebec are unique, many of the basic principles apply across Canada and most of the industrialized world. A spirit of political agitation, resistance and civil disobedience is emerging that will likely broaden in the months and years ahead.

Jameela Jeeroburkhan – For those of you far flung and perhaps unaware, college and university students in Quebec have been protesting the government’s unilateral increase of tuition fees by 75% over 5 years. Their cause is symbolized by the red square.

Selena Gregoire – If the Plan Nord goes through, we’re finished. It will damage our territory. I’m doing this for my children, so they don’t lose our way of life, so they can go out and hunt in the forest when they’re older. We have to protest so they recognize our rights.

Rex Murphy – It doesn’t take a University degree to realize that vandalism is not protest.

Michael Marin – Quebec students aren’t selfishly protesting a modest tuition increase. They’re fighting a policy that is economically and socially unjustifiable. They see the long-term implications that their Ontario counterparts failed to see 15 years ago.

Marijuana Legalization

Lorne Bozinoff – For a majority of Canadians, the war on this particular drug needs to end. The public no longer favours devoting the time and resources required to restrict marijuana use and possession, while many feel the best strategy is to legalize and tax its sale.

Michael MacDonald – Without the U.S. on board, Canada would be unable to consider legalization because of the potential effects on border trade.

Otto Perez Molina – We all agree that drugs are bad for our health and that therefore we have to concentrate on impeding their consumption, just as we combat alcoholism and tobacco addiction. However, nobody in the world has ever suggested eradicating sugarcane plantations, or potatoes and barley production, in spite of these being raw materials in the production of the likes of rum, beer and vodka. And we all know that alcoholism and tobacco addiction cause thousands of deaths every year all over the world.

Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) – We are extremely concerned that Canada is implementing mandatory minimum sentencing legislation for minor marijuana-related offences similar to those that have been such costly failures in the United States. These policies have bankrupted state budgets as limited tax dollars pay to imprison non-violent drug offenders at record rates instead of programs that can actually improve community safety.

Summit of the Americas Reactions

Nancy Pelosi There has to be an investigation to see how this could have happened, and those responsible should have to pay a price. But as with all these things, there are many people in the Secret Service who do their job responsibly, and we can’t paint everyone with the same brush. But nonetheless, those people who were responsible have brought disgrace and it’s disgusting.

Greg Grandin – Latin Americans themselves are creating these bodies that are excluding the United States, that are deepening integration, political and economic integration. This seems to be a venue in which they come together in order to criticize Washington, quite effectively.

Evo Morales – All the countries here in Latin America and the Caribbean want Cuba to be present. But the United States won’t accept; it’s like a dictatorship.

Juan Manuel Santos – There was no declaration because there is no consensus

Mark Entwistle – (For) the robust regional powers like Brazil and Mexico, it’s using the Cuba item as a means of sending a message, particularly to the United States, that their views have to be taken seriously and that they’re major regional players.


If you have a comment or suggestion for what will be top in the news cycle next week –

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Tunisie, les éditocrates repartent en guerre

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Alain Gresh

Les élections tunisiennes seront à marquer d’une pierre blanche sur la longue voie des peuples arabes vers la démocratie.

October 28, 2011 – C’est la première élection libre tenue dans le monde arabe depuis plus de cinquante ans – à l’exception, particulière, de la Palestine où le scrutin s’était tenu sous occupation.

La campagne a été animée, la participation massive malgré tous les Cassandre qui prétendaient le peuple déçu par l’absence de changements, comme si le peuple ne s’intéressait qu’aux questions de subsistance et pas à la liberté et à la démocratie.

Bien sûr, les élections n’ont pas été parfaites. Certains ont évoqué le poids de l’argent, notamment avec cet homme d’affaires basé à Londres qui a réussi à obtenir un grand nombre de députés (sans doute en amalgamant les rescapés de l’ancien régime).

Mais peu de démocraties ont réussi à régler le problème des rapports entre la politique et l’argent – que l’on songe aux Etats-Unis ou à la France. Les Tunisiens ne s’y sont pas trompés et tous les observateurs ont noté non seulement la forte participation, mais aussi l’émotion et la joie de personnes qui faisaient la queue pendant des heures pour glisser un bulletin dans l’urne.

Mais voilà : certains n’acceptent la démocratie que lorsque les électeurs votent comme ils le souhaitent. Que le peuple palestinien sous occupation vote pour le Hamas, et l’Occident organise le blocus du nouveau gouvernement et sa chute. Que les Tunisiens votent pour Ennahda, et voilà nombre de nos éditorialistes, ceux-là même qui affirmaient que le printemps arabe avait vu la disparition des islamistes, s’interroger gravement et reprendre une vieille antienne : les Arabes ne sont pas mûrs pour la démocratie ou, comme ils l’écrivaient avant, mieux vaut Ben Ali que les islamistes.

Heureusement, tous ne sont pas sur la même longueur d’ondes, mais le titre « Après le régime de Ben Ali, celui du Coran » du journal de 7 heures de France-Inter le 25 octobre résume la position de toutes les chaînes de Radio France, mobilisée sur un anti-islamisme primaire.

…l’article continue:

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