Tag Archives: elections

N. Korea to hold parliamentary elections in March

PYONGYANG, NORTH KOREA (BNO NEWS) — North Korea will hold parliamentary elections in the second week of March, marking the country’s first election since Kim Jong-un was promoted to Supreme Leader following the death of his father in December 2011, state-run media reported on Wednesday.

A brief dispatch from the state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said the Presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly had decided to hold an election on March 9 to elect deputies for North Korea’s 13th parliament. The 12th and current parliament was formed in 2009 and consists of 687 legislators.

“The Presidium of the DPRK Supreme People’s Assembly (SPA) decided to hold an election of deputies to the 13th SPA on March 9, Juche 103 (2014), according to Article 90 of the Socialist Constitution of the DPRK,” KCNA said in its report, referring to the country’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. “The decision was promulgated on Tuesday.”

The election in March will be the first for leader Kim Jong-un, who took over to lead the impoverished and secretive country in December 2011 after his father, Kim Jong-il, died of a heart attack. Foreign experts and observers believe the elections may signal possible changes in the country’s power elite under the new leadership.

North Koreans last went to the ballot box in July 2011 to ‘elect’ deputies to provincial, city and county assemblies. But voters who showed up had little choice but to vote for ‘candidates’ who were already selected for them by the ruling party, with the government reporting a 99.97 percent turnout among registered voters and those on the ballots receiving 100 percent of the vote.

Dutch stamp dealer Willem van der Bijl, who was briefly detained and accused of being a spy in 2011 during his 24th trip to the country, provided a unique insight into the election process in a 2012 interview with NK News, an independent American news website that focuses on events in North Korea.

Van der Bijl appeared in a posting on the website of the state-run Pyongyang Times newspaper after the elections took place and seemed to praise the process. “Looking round the poll, I have been greatly impressed by the free and democratic elections and I have had a better understanding of the DPRK’s reality,” he was quoted as saying in the report, that later turned out to be partially fabricated.

The stamp dealer told NK News that he had visited a polling station on election day and told North Korean journalists that the experience had given him a “totally new view” on how elections are held in North Korea, and that he was “surprised” to see how the country’s system works.

“This was an ironic comment – in my view – on what I had seen,” he said. “From their point of view, a foreigner who says he is surprised, etc., and if you miss the ironic undertone, it is a perfect piece of propaganda. Later I found out my ‘interview’ is on the internet as well, and even signed by me, with what is indeed my signature, as a scan from my passport.”

Van der Bijl described a process in which voters have little choice but to vote in favor of the pre-selected candidate. “The voter is allowed to take a piece of paper from one of the piles at the table, in front of the officials, and visible to everybody in the room,” he said. “The paper is, per pile, colored green or red, and it is your ‘free’ choice as to whichever color you like. After you took, in front of everybody, your – green, I hope – piece of paper, you … are able to put it in a box.”

In North Korea, all residents are legally required to vote during elections unless they have left the country with permission or if they work at sea. A similar process to what Van der Bijl described has also been reported in which voters are able to vote against the selected candidate by picking up a red pen, but doing so is known to result immediate arrest and severe punishment.

Former East Timor military chief Ruak wins presidential elections

DILI, TIMOR-LESTE (BNO NEWS) — Former East Timor independence fighter José Maria Vasconcelos, who is better known as Taur Matan Ruak, has won Monday’s run-off presidential election, officials at the National Electoral Commission (CNE) said on Tuesday.

Vasconcelos, 55, the former commander of the Armed Forces of National Liberation of East Timor (FALINTIL) which fought against the Indonesian occupation of the island from 1975 and 1999, faced former national parliament president Francisco Guterres.

According to preliminary results released by the CNE on Tuesday, Vasconcelos won more than 61 percent of the vote with some 452,000 ballots – or approximately 98 percent of all ballots – counted. His opponent Guterres, who is also known as Lu Olo and won the first round on March 17, gathered some 38 percent of the vote.

After Monday’s run-off election, United Nations (UN) Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and his top envoy in East Timor, which is formally known as Timor-Leste, congratulated the people of the country for the ‘peaceful and orderly’ election process.

“The peaceful and orderly manner in which the people of Timor-Leste exercised their right to vote, reflects once again their commitment to stability, democracy and national unity,” Ban’s spokesperson said in a statement, which also reiterated the continued UN support for the upcoming parliamentary election in July.

Ban’s Special Representative in East Timor, Ameerah Haq, reported that the second round went off ‘very smoothly’ after visiting five polling stations. U.S. State Department spokesman Mark Toner also congratulated East Timor and said the election appeared to have been ‘free and fair.’

Estonian journalist arrested in Russia ahead of presidential elections

PSKOV, Russia (BNO NEWS) — An Estonian journalist working for Estonian Public Broadcasting (ERR) was arrested in northwestern Russia on Thursday for allegedly filming without special permission from the Foreign Ministry, the broadcaster reported.

ERR correspondent Igor Taro was arrested in Pskov Oblast after interviewing a regional campaign representative for Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who is participating in Sunday’s presidential election and is expected to win despite widespread protests to demand free elections. He had also interviewed community members and a local representative of the Communist Party.

Taro, who was filming a report for ERR’s Eesti Television (ETV), was working with a valid journalist visa which he had previously used. However, during campaigns ahead of elections in Russia, foreign journalists are required to apply for special permission from the Foreign Ministry.

ERR reported that police interrogated Taro for about three hours after which he was charged with “illegal filming in foreign territory” and released. He was taken to the Estonian consulate and is scheduled to appear in court on late Friday morning, the broadcaster said.

Taro said he does not believe the filmed footage contains sensitive material, but police officers nonetheless confiscated his camera and memory card. Police said the equipment would be returned to Taro after the material has been deleted from the memory card.

“Can you imagine a situation in which, during the Estonian presidential election, a Russian journalist would be arrested and his or her equipment confiscated?” said ETV news chief Urmet Kook, as quoted by ERR. Kook said the incident demonstrates that Russian authorities fear objective media coverage of the presidential election.

Last month, tens of thousands of protesters gathered in downtown Moscow to express their opposition to Putin’s expected return to the Kremlin. A crowd, estimated at approximately 120,000 by organizers but given as a little over 35,000 by police, chanted slogans against Putin, who was barred by the Constitution from standing for a third consecutive term in 2008 and handed over power to his hand-picked successor Dmitry Medvedev.

Rallies also took place in about 30 other Russian cities. Police estimated that 5,000 people rallied against Putin in St. Petersburg, but local organizers put the number at more than 20,000. Russian news agencies said police figures of the number of protesters were believed to be false.

State-run pollster VTSIOM said last month that support for Putin is at 52 percent, with Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov and Liberal Democratic party head Vladimir Zhirinovsky tying for second with 8 percent. A poll by the independent Levada Center, however, said that a mere 49 percent of Russians believe the elections will be fair.

On December 4, Russia held parliamentary elections which many Russian voters and international observers said were marred by large-scale fraud. The ruling United Russia party won more votes than any of the other three parties, but it still suffered a significant drop from the two-thirds constitutional majority it had enjoyed for the past four years.

Throughout December, huge demonstrations took place across the country to criticize the elections which they claim were rigged in favor of Vladimir Putin’s governing United Russia party. Some of the demonstrations were the largest since the fall of the Soviet Union.

Tens of thousands rally across Russia to demand free elections

MOSCOW (BNO NEWS) — Tens of thousands of Russians on Saturday participated in rallies across the country both in support and against Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, local news agencies reported.

Protesters gathered in downtown Moscow to express their opposition to Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s expected return to the Kremlin next month, despite the Artic-like cold that has gripped the capital. The protests came exactly a month before the March 4 presidential polls.

A crowd, estimated at approximately 120,000 by organizers but given as a little over 35,000 by police, chanted “Russia without Putin!” People of all ages and political affiliations protested against Putin, who was barred by the Constitution from standing for a third consecutive term in 2008 and handed over power to his hand-picked successor Dmitry Medvedev.

Rallies also took place in about 30 other Russian cities. Police estimated that 5,000 people rallied against Putin in St. Petersburg, but local organizers put the number at more than 20,000.

Opposition figurehead Alexei Navalny, the man who instigated the current protests, attended the rally but did not speak. No arrests were reported on Saturday amid a heavy police presence, RIA Novosti reported.

Meanwhile, Putin supporters rallied to urge an end to the protests and demanded political stability. Police said 140,000 people were at the pro-Putin rally in Moscow, but a RIA Novosti correspondent said attendance was far lower.

Reports on Friday said state employees were being coerced into attending the rally, and Putin acknowledged that this was possible. Russian news agencies said police figures of the number of protesters were believed to be false.

State-run pollster VTSIOM said on Friday that support for Putin is at 52 percent, with Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov and Liberal Democratic party head Vladimir Zhirinovsky tying for second with 8 percent. A poll by the independent Levada Center, however, said that a mere 49 percent of Russians believed the elections would be fair.

On December 4, Russia held parliamentary elections which many Russian voters and international observers said were marred by large-scale fraud. The ruling United Russia party won more votes than any of the other three parties, but it still suffered a significant drop from the two-thirds constitutional majority it has enjoyed for the past four years.

Throughout December, huge demonstrations took place across the country to criticize the elections which they claim were rigged in favor of Vladimir Putin’s governing United Russia party. Some of the demonstrations were the largest since the fall of the Soviet Union.

Kuwait’s emir dissolves parliament; elections to be held within months

KUWAIT CITY (BNO NEWS) — The emir of Kuwait on Tuesday dissolved parliament amid an ongoing crisis over allegations of corruption, the state-run Kuwait News Agency (KUNA) reported.

Emir Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah issued the decree to dissolve parliament, citing ‘deteriorating conditions’ as the reason. The decision paves the way for elections, which must be held within 60 days, according to KUNA.


”Due to the deteriorating conditions that led to obstruction of process of achievements and threatened the country’s higher interests, it became necessary to resort to the people to select their representatives, overcome existing obstacles and realize national interests,” the emir stated.

The dissolution of parliament comes less than a week after the emir named Jaber Al-Mubarak Al-Hamad Al-Sabah as the new prime minister. Former Prime Minister Sheikh Nasser Al-Mohammad Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah submitted his resignation on November 27, claiming that the “negative practices” of some members of Parliament have obstructed the national action process.
  

The premier also condemned “MPs’ actions of inciting the masses, sowing seeds of sedition and hatred among the various segments of the Kuwaiti society.” “Therefore, under these circumstances, it has become impossible for the government to pursue shouldering its responsibilities and fulfilling duties,” he added.

His resignation came less than two weeks after opposition-led protests turned violent when hundreds of demonstrators stormed Parliament. Shortly after the clashes, the emir ordered the National Guard and the Interior Ministry forces to take all “necessary measures” to end chaos in the country.

The opposition pledged to continue supporting youth activists regardless of the price they might pay. They warned the “corrupt government” against any attempt to establish a police state or undermine the democratic system in the country.

Protests have taken place across Kuwait throughout the year, since before the so-called Arab Spring. However, protests against government corruption have recently increased.

Russia kicks off ‘day of silence’ ahead of general elections

MOSCOW, RUSSIA (BNO NEWS) — Russia on Saturday began its so-called ‘day of silence’ as the country prepares to hold parliamentary elections on Sunday, local media reported.

The so-called ‘day of silence’ is held to prevent any political pressure on voters as no active campaigning by any of the candidates is allowed during the period. Polling and political advertisements in the media are also prohibited prior to Sunday’s polls.

Current Russian President Dmitry Medvedev is leading the pro-Kremlin United Russia party, which has dominated parliament, RIA Novosti reported, noting that all of Russia’s seven registered political parties will participate in Sunday’s polls.

The first polling stations will be opening Sunday morning at 8 a.m. local time in Kamchatka and Chukotka regions in Russia’s Far East. In total, some 96,000 polling booths have been set up across the country.

Russia’s elections will be additionally supervised by 650 international observers in order to ensure a fair and transparent election.

UN, U.S. congratulate Kyrgyzstan after peaceful elections

NEW YORK (BNO NEWS) — The United Nations and U.S. President Barack Obama on Monday commended the people of Kyrgyzstan for conducting presidential elections in a peaceful manner on Sunday.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged all political forces in the country to work together to ensure a stable post-electoral period. “[Ban] wishes to assure the people of Kyrgyzstan of the continued support of the United Nations,” his spokesman said.

The Special Representative for Central Asia, Miroslav Jenca, stressed that the election should contribute to a democratic, secure and prosperous future for all citizens of Kyrgyzstan. Jenca visited the Kyrgyz capital on Sunday and met with President Roza Otunbaeva, Chair of the Central Election Commission Tuigunaly Abdraimov and other officials during a two-day visit.

U.S. President Barack Obama also congratulated the people and the government of Kyrgyzstan. “In casting their ballots, the Kyrgyz people have taken an important and courageous step on the path of democracy and demonstrated their commitment to an orderly and open transition of power,” he said.

Obama added: “The people of Kyrgyzstan will have a partner in the United States as they undertake the hard work of building upon the democratic gains of the past eighteen months and realizing a democratic, prosperous and just future for all Kyrgyz citizens.”

The presidential poll came a year after the Central Asian country experienced deadly clashes between ethnic Kyrgyz and ethnic Uzbeks. Hundreds of people were killed and an estimated 375,000 others were displaced.

According to early reports, former Prime Minister Almazbek Atambayev was in the lead of the polls. Outgoing President Roza Otunbayeva took power after a violent uprising against the regime of Kurmanbek Bakiyev last year.

UN: Elections and security a top priority after Libya’s liberation

NEW YORK (BNO NEWS) — The United Nations (UN) has stressed that organizing an electoral process and establishing public security in war-torn Libya are the country’s top priorities

UN Special Representative for Libya, Ian Martin, told the UN Security Council during a briefing on Wednesday that Libya’s transitional authorities should act swiftly to respond to the North African nation’s most pressing needs following Sunday’s declaration of liberation.

With the commitments made by the National Transitional Council (NTC) in its constitutional declaration, Martin highlighted several aspects which require immediate attention, including preparations for elections, establishing public security and controlling the flow of weapons in the country.

The NTC has 30 days to establish an interim government, 90 days to adopt electoral legislation and set up an electoral body, and 240 days to hold elections for national congress. Martin underlined the importance to build a modern nation-state based on the principles of democracy, human rights, the rule of law and respect for minority rights.

In particular, Martin said the NTC must establish guidelines on the handling of its detainees following alleged violations of their rights, including the alleged mistreatment of former leader Muammar Gaddafi, which Martin said is within the scope of the International Commission of Inquiry in Libya mandated by the UN Human Rights Council.

Martin said the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) has already been working closely with members of the NTC, discussing proposed electoral laws, the future electoral management body and efforts to promote civic education.

Martin also pointed to the hand-over and control of the flow of weapons as a priority in the NTC’s agenda, noting that the NTC has already committed to remove heavy weaponry from city centers and collecting light arms. He also emphasized it must be done in conjunction with the establishment of public security to offer former combatants new opportunities.

Furthermore, Martin voiced his concern for the large amounts of weaponry left by the ousted Gaddafi regime, which include chemical weapons and Man-Portable Air Defense Systems (MANPADS).

“The challenge will be to develop rapidly opportunities for the future of combatants, making available to them support in returning to normal civilian life, or integrating them into a professional police force and national army,” Martin said.

The Special Representative also reiterated the UN’s support to deliver aid to citizens affected by the recent conflict and said missions to Sirte and Bani Walid were already providing food, drinking water and other non-food items to the local population in those cities.

As well as security and elections, Martin said authorities are concerned with strengthening public financial management, establishing rules to ensure fiscal transparency, and starting a reconciliation process.

EU to observe Tunisian elections following January’s revolution

BRUSSELS (BNO NEWS) — The European Union (EU) on Wednesday announced that it will be observing Tunisia’s upcoming Constituent Assembly elections.

European Parliament Member Michael Gahler will be leading the EU’s Election Observation Mission for the Constituent Assembly elections, which are scheduled to take place on October 23 across the African country. The elected Assembly will have the fundamental task of writing the new Constitution of the country.

According to the EU, 130 observers will assess pre-election preparations and campaigning all over Tunisia, voting, counting and tabulation processes, as well as the post-election period. The first experts arrived in the country on September 8, and they will be gradually joined by the 120 other observers. A delegation of 15 Members of the European Parliament will reinforce the mission for the election period.

The EU has been extending its full support to the Tunisian people’s aspiration for freedom, democracy and dignity, following January’s revolution, and the EU said it will continue to support the Tunisian authorities and society in their path to democracy, in full respect of universal values.

“These elections represent an historical moment in the transition process of Tunisia towards democracy,” said Catherine Ashton, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the European Commission, following Tunisia’s invitation to observe the elections.

“I wish to Michael Gahler and his team all success in their independent assessment of these important elections,” Ashton added, as the elections mark the Tunisian citizens’ first opportunity to freely choose their representatives.

Poland to hold parliamentary elections on October 9

WARSAW (BNO NEWS) — Polish President Bronislaw Komrowski announced on Thursday that the country’s parliamentary elections will take place on October 9.

“According to the article 98 of the Polish Constitution, from today August 4, we officially start the election calendar,” Komrowski said, signaling the start of the election campaign, as reported by The News.

Komrowski said the election will be held over one day after politicians were debating whether to hold voting over two days to ensure a higher turnout. “The new laws introduce the possibility to vote with a representative and by mail for Polish people living abroad,” he added, explaining the new solutions to attract voters.

The largest opposition party, Law and Justice (PiS), had called for the election to be held at the end of October, but the President’s Office commented that this would clash with the Catholic holiday of All Saints’ Day.

Opinion polls have consistently put the ruling centre-right Civic Platform, led by Prime Minister Donald Tusk, in the lead and commentators expect a second term of office for the party.

Critics have said that having an election during Poland’s six-month rotating presidency of the European Union, which began on July 1, could distract the government. President of the European Commission Jose Manuel Barroso, however, stated that he does not have a problem with it.