Posts Tagged ‘election’

State of emergency in Honduras after post-vote violence

December 2, 2017

AFP

© AFP | Violence erupted for the second consecutive day after opposition candidate Salvador Nasralla claimed fraud and urged his supporters to take to the streets in protest

TEGUCIGALPA (AFP) – The Honduran government declared a state of emergency late Friday and imposed a 10-day curfew in an attempt to stop violent demonstrations across the country triggered by claims of presidential election fraud.Police said at least two officers and 12 civilians were injured, some by gunfire, after clashes in several parts of the country between riot police and opposition supporters.

The violence was sparked by opposition candidate Salvador Nasralla claiming election fraud and calling his supporters onto the streets.

 

An executive decree issued by President Juan Orlando Hernandez, who is seeking re-election despite a constitutional ban on a second term, imposes a nighttime curfew from 6:00 pm to 6:00 am.

Representatives of the country’s Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) and political parties, national and international observers and journalists accredited to cover the elections are exempt.

Thousands of Nasralla supporters blocked roads across the country, and footage of their confrontations with the police — who attempted to disperse demonstrators with tear gas — went viral on social media.

In the capital Tegucigalpa, protesters lit bonfires of sticks and tires on boulevards and on exit routes.

The unrest sparked panic, with people rushing to supermarkets and gas stations to stock up, fearing the riots would prevent them from leaving their homes.

Shops closed by the afternoon and some international flights were suspended at the capital’s airport.

– Cliffhanger vote –

With nearly 95 percent of the ballots counted from last week’s vote, Hernandez had a razor-thin lead of 42.92 percent over Nasralla’s 41.42 percent.

TSE president David Matamoros postponed until Saturday a special count — with officials from both camps present — to review ballots with inconsistencies, blurs and other errors before a result can be declared, following new demands from leftist leader and ex-president Manuel Zelaya.

“Within three days, we will have the result. We accept to recognise the final result if they accept these points,” Zelaya said.

But in an television interview, Nasralla demanded a full recount, warning of possible collusion between the TSE and the government.

“Do not let them steal the presidency,” said activist Juan Barahona of Nasralla’s Alliance of Opposition Against the Dictatorship.

Police said they had arrested 50 people for alleged looting between Thursday and Friday.

Security forces said rioters had damaged businesses and vehicles, some of which had been doused in gasoline and set on fire.

Earlier, Hernandez broadcast a statement calling for calm and predicting “we are going to do very well” in the vote.

The Organization of American States observer mission urged the TSE in a letter Thursday to ensure that 100 percent of the ballots were processed before declaring a result.

“Political parties should be given the opportunity to present challenges. These will have to be dealt with impartially and within a reasonable timeframe and following due process,” it said.

“This is the only way to restore confidence in this election and in the integrity of the popular will.”

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Kenya rights groups: government trying to shut down election court cases

November 6, 2017

By George Obulutsa and John Ndiso

NAIROBI (Reuters) – Kenya’s government is trying to intimidate democracy and human rights groups that could file a legal challenge against an Oct. 26 election won by President Uhuru Kenyatta, the groups said on Monday.

The government’s board that monitors civil society organizations (the NGO Board) summoned three such groups for an audit on Monday, the groups said. Monday is the deadline for filing any challenge to the election at the Supreme Court.

 Image result for President Uhuru Kenyatta, photos
President Uhuru Kenyatta,

Kenyatta won 98 percent of the vote, handing him a second five-year term leading East Africa’s richest economy. Opposition leader Raila Odinga boycotted the vote, saying it would be unfair because the election commission had failed to implement reforms.

The Supreme Court voided the first election in August citing procedural irregularities following an opposition challenge, so any possible fresh legal case is being closely watched.

“It is not a coincidence that the NGO Board has decided to come after these organizations. All three have been instrumental in calling for free, fair, and credible elections,” said a statement from Kura Yangu Sauti Yangu, a coalition of civil society groups that monitored the election.

The name means My Vote My Voice in Kiswahili.

The three organizations summoned on Monday, Katiba Institute, Muslims for Human Rights and Inuka Trust, belong to the coalition. The head of Muslims for Human Rights said he had planned to file a court challenge.

Kura Yangu Sauti Yangu deployed 2,000 monitors for last month’s vote and said it found multiple cases where results from polling stations differed from results on the forms posted on the election portal.

“They are trying to attack everywhere to see who is preparing to go to court so that they stop it,” Tom Oketch, secretary general for the Coalition for Constitutional Implementation, told a news conference.

Kenya is a regional hub for trade, diplomacy and security and its prolonged election season has disrupted its economy.

Calls to Fazul Mohamed, the NGO Board’s executive director, went unanswered. Mwenda Njoka, a spokesman for the interior ministry, under which the board falls, said only Mohamed could comment.

After the August election police and tax authorities raided the Africa Centre for Open Governance, a group that had highlighted problems with election preparations.

The government threatened to shut the group and the Kenya Human Rights Commission over alleged procedural irregularities before the interior minister suspended the moves.

Editing by Katharine Houreld and Matthew Mpoke Bigg

Catalan separatists would lose votes in December election: polls

November 5, 2017

AFP

© AFP/File | Catalonia’s parliament voted in October to declare independence from Spain and proclaim a republic, leading Madrid to impose direct rule on the region
BARCELONA (AFP) – Catalonia’s separatist ERC party, whose leader is in custody, would win December regional elections but the independence coalition as a whole could lose its absolute majority in parliament, according to opinion polls published Sunday.

PDeCAT, the party of deposed Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont, who is currently in Belgium and refused to appear before a judge in Madrid last week, would only come fourth, the two surveys suggest.

According to one poll published in Catalan daily La Vanguardia, independence parties ERC, PDeCAT and the far-left CUP would only win 46 percent of votes, 1.8 percent down on the last election in September 2015.

The poll — which was carried out from October 30 to November 3 — also suggested pro-unity parties would win more votes than in 2015.

It said the conservative Popular Party of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, the centrist Ciudadanos and Catalonia’s Socialist party would together win 44 percent, or five percent more.

Most of the remaining 10 percent, it said, would go to Catalunya en Comu, a party that is anti-independence but supports holding a legal referendum.

Catalonia is currently under direct rule from Madrid after its majority separatist parliament last month declared independence, and Rajoy called a December 21 election in a bid to “restore normality” to the region.

And on Thursday, a Spanish court detained ERC leader Oriol Junqueras and other deposed regional ministers over their role in Catalonia’s independence drive.

The poll in La Vanguardia found that the three independence parties would get 66 to 69 lawmakers in the 135-seat regional parliament, where an absolute majority is 68.

The clear winner would be ERC (Republican Left of Catalonia), followed by Ciudadanos, which was founded in Catalonia as an anti-independence party, and the Socialist party.

Puigdemont’s conservative PDeCAT would come fourth, with 14 to 15 seats.

In another poll published by the conservative La Razon daily, the three separatist parties would only secure 65 lawmakers, seven less than in the 2015 election.

It also said the number of pro-independence voters would drop from 1.9 million in 2015 to 1.7 million out of a total electorate of over five million people.

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Pro-Catalonia independence parties seen winning election: poll

November 5, 2017

November 5, 2017

MADRID (Reuters) – Pro-Catalonia independence parties will win the regional election in December but are unlikely to take a parliamentary majority, a survey published in La Vanguardia showed on Sunday.

According to the GAD3 poll of 1,233 people between Oct. 30 and Nov. 3, pro-independence parties ERC, PDECat and CUP would win the election with between 66 and 69 seats in the 135-seat parliament.

Reporting by Paul Day; Editing by Robert Hetz

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BBC News

Catalonia election: Puigdemont calls for united independence front

  • 4 November 2017
People hold banners reading "Freedom Political Prisoners" during a gathering in support of the members of the dismissed Catalan cabinet after a Spanish judge ordered the former Catalan leaders to be remanded in custody pending an investigation into Catalonia"s independence push, outside Barcelona"s town hall, Spain, November 3, 2017
More protests were held in Barcelona on Friday against the detention of Catalan separatists. Reuters photo

Catalan ex-leader Carles Puigdemont has called for separatist parties to unite in upcoming regional elections to continue a push for independence.

The snap poll was called by Spain after the Catalan parliament declared independence and Madrid reacted by imposing direct rule.

Mr Puigdemont’s appeal came a day after a Spanish judge issued an EU warrant for his arrest – he is in Belgium.

Despite being sought by the courts, he says he is ready to run in the poll.

Four of his allies in Belgium also face possible extradition, while eight other former officials remain in custody in Spain.

They all face charges of rebellion, sedition and misuse of public funds for pursuing Catalan independence. There have been large demonstrations in Catalan cities in protest.

Mr Puigdemont has said he will not return to Spain unless he receives guarantees of a fair trial.

He says he can campaign in the December 21 election from outside Catalonia and the Spanish government has said that any accused politician can run in the election unless they are actually convicted, the Associated Press reports.

In a tweet on Saturday, he said it was time “for all democrats to unite. For Catalonia, for the freedom of political prisoners and for the republic.”

He included a link to an online petition calling for secessionist parties to unite against Madrid in the regional vote. The petition now has more than 39,000 signatures.

Belgian authorities, meanwhile, are reviewing the arrest warrants issued by the Spanish judge.

The process could take up to three months “under exceptional circumstances”, the justice ministry said.

The other warrants are for:

  • Meritxell Serret, former agriculture minister
  • Antoni Comín, former health minister
  • Lluís Puig, former culture minister
  • Clara Ponsatí, former education minister

Spain issues warrant for Catalan ex-leader

Five senior members of the Catalan parliament, as well as Speaker Carme Forcadell, are facing the same charges but, because of their parliamentary immunity, their cases are being handled by the Supreme Court. Their hearings have been postponed until 9 November.

The regional parliament in Catalonia voted to proclaim an independent republic just over a week ago, following an illegal referendum on independence organised by the Catalan government on 1 October

No other country recognised the move and the Spanish central government moved swiftly to impose control, using emergency powers under the constitution.

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-41871276

UK officials want to know if Russia meddled in the Brexit vote

October 25, 2017
They’ve asked Facebook to provide information on Russian-purchased ads.
NurPhoto via Getty Images

UK officials are wondering if Russia tampered with its Brexit referendum and they’ve now officially asked Mark Zuckerberg to look into whether Facebook possibly played a role, The Guardian reports. Damian Collins, the UK’s chair of digital, culture, media and sport committee sent Zuckerberg a letter saying that the committee was investigating fake news and wanted Facebook to provide them with any information it had on politically-divisive advertisements purchased by Russian actors.

In the letter, Collins said, “Part of this inquiry will focus on the role of foreign actors abusing platforms such as yours to interfere in the political discourse of other nations. It is for this reason that I am requesting that Facebook provides to my committee details relating to any adverts and pages paid for or set up by Russian-linked accounts.” Specifically, the committee wants to know if Russia-linked accounts purchased ads on Facebook, how much they paid to do so and how many times those ads or pages were viewed.

Facebook announced a few weeks ago that Russian groups purchased around $100,000 worth of ads used to spread fake news during the 2016 US presidential election and that around 10 million people viewed them. Those ads and related information have been handed over to congressional investigators. Following the US election and the reports that Facebook played a hand in the spread of fake news, the company made a concerted effort to minimize its impact on the French and German elections earlier this year.

Collins and the committee have asked that Facebook provide them with the requested information by November 7th.

Argentine president’s coalition sweeps midterm elections

October 23, 2017

AFP

© Argentine Presidency / AFP | Argentinian President Mauricio Macri during the legislative election, in Buenos Aires on October 22, 2017.

Text by NEWS WIRES

Latest update : 2017-10-23

Candidates allied with Argentine President Mauricio Macri enjoyed sweeping victories in Sunday’s mid-term election, strengthening his position in Congress while dimming prospects for a political comeback by his predecessor Cristina Fernandez.

A free-spending populist who nearly bankrupted the country during her 2007-2015 rule, Fernandez came in a distant second in her race for the Senate representing Buenos Aires, Argentina‘s most populous province.

With 98 percent of ballots counted by the interior ministry, Macri‘s former education minister, Esteban Bullrich, had 41.34 percent versus 37.27 percent for Fernandez in the province that is home to nearly 40 percent of Argentine voters.

Macri’s “Cambiemos” or “Let’s Change” coalition won the top five population centers of Buenos Aires City, and Buenos Aires, Cordoba, Santa Fe and Mendoza provinces. No single party had won all five in a mid-term vote since 1985.

“Today the change elected in 2015 has been consolidated,” Vice President Gabriela Michetti told voters.

The election results, largely in line with pre-vote opinion polls, robbed the opposition of the two-thirds majority needed to block presidential vetoes, said Ignacio Labaqui, a local analyst with New York-based consultancy Medley Global Advisors.

“This is a significant boost for the Macri administration, particularly because of the defeat of Cristina in Buenos Aires province,” Labaqui said.

Fernandez’s second-place showing still grants her one of the province’s three Senate seats under Argentina’s list system.

One third of the Senate and half of the house were elected, and Macri’s coalition will not have a majority.

The private sector has worried about a political resurgence by Fernandez, who is loved by millions of low-income Argentines helped by generous social spending during her administrations.

Fernandez thanked voters at her campaign headquarters and said her Citizen’s Unity party would remain a firm opposition to Macri’s economic model.

Isolated

Critics say Fernandez’s growth-at-all-costs policies stoked inflation and distorted the economy through heavy-handed currency controls. She has been further isolated politically by graft accusations.

Fernandez, who as a senator will have immunity from arrest but not from trial, says there may have been corruption in her government but denies personal wrongdoing.

Bullrich and Fernandez were tied in a non-binding primary in August but Bullrich pulled ahead in polls soon after, helped by a burst of economic growth as Fernandez failed to unify the Peronist opposition behind her.

“People are more confident in the future, the economy, in making investments. They are tired of corruption and populism,” said Cecilia de Francesca, a 50-year-old writer who was celebrating at the Cambiemos campaign headquarters.

Argentina’s Merval stock index and its peso currency have strengthened on bets Fernandez would not get enough support to launch a serious bid for the presidency in 2019.

Investors, particularly in Argentina’s vast agriculture and budding shale oil sectors, have said they want to see Macri push through labor and tax reforms aimed at lowering business costs in Latin America’s third-biggest economy.

(REUTERS)

Kenya bans opposition protests as election crisis deepens

October 12, 2017

AFP

© AFP / by Tristan MCCONNELL | The ban on protests came a day after opposition supporters in Kisumu blocked streets and burned tyres. Several people were injured in clashes with police

NAIROBI (AFP) – Kenya’s government on Thursday banned protests in main city centres, citing lawlessness during opposition rallies against the electoral commission ahead of a scheduled presidential poll re-run.

The move comes as opposition leader Raila Odinga called for daily protests next week to keep up pressure on election officials to reform, after his refusal to take part in the October 26 vote plunged the country into uncertainty.

“Due to the clear, present and imminent danger of breach of peace, the government notifies the public that, for the time being, we will not allow demonstrations within the central business districts of Nairobi, Mombasa and Kisumu,” said Security Minister Fred Matiangi.

“The inspector general of police has been advised accordingly.”

Opposition MPs said they would defy the order and continue the protests which have seen hundreds of opposition supporters march through the streets, sometimes burning tyres and clashing with police who have used tear gas to disperse crowds.

Though relatively small, the protests have caused outsized disruption, forcing shops to close up and deterring some from visiting city centres on demonstration days.

There have also been incidents of pickpocketing and muggings on the edges of the protests.

Matiangi said the protests had resulted in “attacks on police stations, attacks on police officers occasioning grievous bodily harm, serious disruption of normal business, assault on innocent civilians, destruction and looting of property,” and threatened legal action.

“It is the responsibility of the organiser that all participants remain peaceful. The organisers shall be held personally liable for any breach of law during the demonstrations,” he said.

– Stage set for clashes? –

Odinga said this week that he was withdrawing from the scheduled re-run, against President Uhuru Kenyatta whose victory in the original August poll was annulled last month by the Supreme Court citing widespread irregularities.

Odinga said that without fundamental reforms to the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), the vote would not be free and fair.

“All indications are that the election scheduled for 26 October will be worse than the previous one,” he said, announcing his withdrawal Tuesday.

The IEBC has dismissed most of Odinga’s demands and on Wednesday said that he had not filled in the appropriate form withdrawing from the re-run and therefore was still a candidate alongside Kenyatta.

The commission also agreed to add six candidates who contested the original poll after the High Court ruled they should not be excluded.

In the most recent protests, on Wednesday, several people were injured in the western city of Kisumu, an opposition stronghold, where protesters clashed with police.

The banning of demonstrations sets the stage for more violence if NASA leaders push ahead with their threat to protest, with the next one promised on Friday.

Violence in the days following August’s vote left at least 37 dead, according to a rights group, with almost all of the victims killed by police, according to a local human rights group.

by Tristan MCCONNELL
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Kenyan police fire teargas at opposition protesters in capital

October 2, 2017

NAIROBI (Reuters) – Kenyan police fired tear gas in the capital Nairobi on Monday at opposition supporters protesting against the retention of the election officials they blame for last month’s botched elections.

Police also fired teargas to disperse protesters in the western city of Kisumu, Reuters witnesses in both cities said. Fresh presidential elections are due to be held Oct. 26 after the Supreme Court voided August’s polls due to irregularities.

Reporting by Katharine Houreld; Editing by Robin Pomeroy

Image may contain: one or more people, people standing and outdoor

Policemen attempt to disperse opposition supporters protesting against the retention of the election officials they blame for last month’s botched elections, in Nairobi, Kenya October 2, 2017. REUTERS/Thomas Mukoya Reuters

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By George Obulutsa

NAIROBI (Reuters) – Police fired tear gas at opposition supporters in the Kenyan capital Nairobi on Monday who were calling for officials they blame for last month’s botched presidential elections to be sacked, Reuters witnesses said.

A re-run is due to be held Oct. 26 after the Supreme Court voided the Aug. 8 vote due to irregularities. The court criticized election the board on procedural grounds but did not find any individual at the board responsible.

Police also fired teargas to disperse protesters in the western city of Kisumu, according to another Reuters witness. At least 28 people were killed in unrest following last month’s vote.

Whether the re-run will go ahead as planned looks increasingly uncertain as the parties of the two candidates, Kenyatta and opposition leader Raila Odinga are sparring over proposed changes to the election system to prevent the Supreme Court from annulling the results again.

Kenyatta’s ruling Jubilee Party presented parliament with proposed changes last week but Odinga’s coalition has said it will not take part unless these are dropped.

Kenya is a key Western ally in a region often roiled by violence.

Businesses were paralyzed in Kisumu, the opposition stronghold, on Monday after police and demonstrators clashed.

(Additional reporting by Katharine Houreld in Nairobi and Kevine Omollo in Kisumu; Writing by Maggie Fick and Clement Uwiringiyimana; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)

Google Conducting Broad Investigation of Russian Influence

September 30, 2017

Google also talking with congressional officials who are investigating Russian interference in election

Image may contain: one or more people and outdoor

Google is conducting a broad internal investigation to determine whether Russian-linked entities used its ads or services to try to manipulate voters ahead of the U.S. election, according to a person familiar with the matter, a move that comes after Facebook Inc. and Twitter Inc. said Russian actors used their sites.

Google, part of Alphabet Inc., is also talking with congressional officials who are investigating Russian efforts to influence the election, and plans to share its findings with them once completed, this person said.

Congressional leaders have scrutinized Facebook and Twitter for Russian activity on their sites—and criticized the tech companies for their lack of disclosure of such information.

Google, pending a potential meeting with lawmakers, has said little. Earlier this month, the company said it found no evidence that it sold election-related ads to Russian actors. But it didn’t say how deeply it was investigating the issue, or whether there was other types of Russian interference on its platform.

No automatic alt text available.

On Friday, the company said, “We will of course cooperate with inquiries; we’re looking into how we can help with any relevant information.”

Google also hasn’t said whether it will accept an invitation this week from the Senate Intelligence Committee to testify publicly on Nov. 1 about Russian interference. The committee also invited Facebook and Twitter. Facebook said it hasn’t yet accepted the invitation. Twitter also hasn’t responded, a person familiar said.

It is unclear what sort of activity, if any, happened on Google’s sites. But Google runs the world’s largest advertising business and largest online-video site, YouTube, making it an obvious place for investigators to look.

Rep. Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, which is investigating Russian influence on the election, said that lawmakers want to speak to Google “given their dominant force online that has an advertising component.”

Google sells ads above its search results, before YouTube videos and on third-party websites and apps. Google even offers a specific ad tool for political campaigns that it says will help advertisers “win the moments that win elections.”

Google’s YouTube site is also one of the world’s largest social-media communities, with more than 1.5 billion monthly users, compared with more than 2 billion on Facebook and 328 million on Twitter.

The site is also a hotbed for highly partisan political videos, including misleading and false content. And it is a primary way Russian media with direct links to the Russian government reach viewers, particularly in the Western world.

House Intelligence Committee ranking Democrat Adam Schiff (D-CA)Photo: jim bourg/Reuters

Russian state media RT, which a U.S. intelligence report said aimed to meddle in the election, has 2.2 million subscribers and 2.1 billion views on its English-language YouTube channel. The organization says it has more than 5 billion views across its YouTube channels, making it the site’s most watched news network.

Twitter on Thursday singled out RT as an advertiser that was part of Russian interference on its site. RT spent $274,100 to advertise on Twitter during the campaign, the company said.

RT couldn’t immediately be reached, but in a note sent earlier Friday, RT’s editor in chief, Margarita Simonyan said RT had been “spending money on our advertising campaigns, just like every media organization in the world.”

The Russian broadcaster has previously disputed the U.S. intelligence report.

Facebook said earlier this month that Russian entities paid $150,000 to run 5,200 divisive ads on its platform during the campaign. It identified roughly 450 Russian-linked accounts as having purchased ads—a list that it shared with Twitter and Google, according to people familiar with the matter.

Twitter said Thursday that it found 201 accounts on its service linked to the Russian actors identified by Facebook.

Google’s investigation, however, is much broader than the Facebook list, according to one of the people.

While outside researchers were able to get a picture of abuse on Facebook and Twitter by examining the likes, retweets and shares on those platforms, Google’s search-based business model makes it more difficult for outside parties to identify such activity, said Graham Brookie, deputy director with Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab.

Given the sophistication of the Russian campaigns, Mr. Brookie said it is likely Google will uncover something. “If you’re running a messaging campaign that is as sophisticated as microtargeting demographics on Facebook, then there’s no way you’re going to sit there from a communication standpoint and say ‘Google doesn’t matter to us,’” he said.

The Russians “looked at a tool kit in a lot of the same ways that a political campaign would look at a tool kit,” Mr. Brookie said. “And the sophistication with which they used their tool kit was very similar to a lot of political campaigns in the U.S. Every single political campaign in the U.S. would not ignore Google.”

—Byron Tau contributed to this article

Write to Jack Nicas at jack.nicas@wsj.com and Robert McMillan at Robert.Mcmillan@wsj.com

https://www.wsj.com/articles/google-conducting-broad-investigation-of-russian-influence-1506724811

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Germans Go To The Election Polls

September 24, 2017

Germans are voting in a federal election that is expected to deliver a fourth term to Chancellor Angela Merkel. It is also expected to see the right-wing populist AfD party enter parliament for the first time.

German Reichstag building

Polling stations opened at 8 a.m. local time (0600 UTC) on Sunday at 88,000 locations across Germany.

Some 61.5 million people are eligible to cast their ballots in the long-awaited election, in which Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU), along with its Bavarian sister party the Christian Social Union (CSU), is projected to win the largest share of votes.

Opinion polls put the CDU/CSU bloc’s popularity at 34-36 percent, ahead of the Social Democrats (SPD)’s 21-22 percent – a lead that suggests Merkel’s victory is all but assured. If the polls are to be believed, the 2017 election will also see a far-right party, the Alternative for Germany (AfD), win seats in the Bundestag.

First projections of the election results are expected when the polls close at 6 p.m.

Infografik DeutschlandTrend Sonntagsfrage 14.09.2017 ENG

Steinmeier: ‘Go and vote!’

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier on Sunday issued an appeal to citizens to cast their ballots.

“Voting is a civic duty. Go and vote!” the former foreign minister wrote in an opinion piece published in the Bild am Sonntag newspaper.

“Every vote counts – your vote counts,” Steinmeier said. “People who don’t vote allow others to decide the future of our country.”

Turnout is expected to be higher than the 2013 participation rate of 71.5 percent. According to the Federal Office of Statistics, one-third of voters are older than 60, meaning the German electorate has never been this old. The number of first-time voters has remained stable at around 3 million.

Campaign posters for Merkel and SchulzMerkel is all but certain to return as chancellor

The return of the far-right and FDP

Although another Merkel mandate at the chancellery may appear a foregone conclusion, her CDU/CSU party would still in all likelihood need to cobble together a coalition to lead government. To that end, the results of several smaller parties will be key.

The far-right populist AfD was polling at 10 to 13 percent, which would put it in third placebehind the two biggest parties and give it more seats in the Bundestag than either the Left party or the Greens. Despite a string of controversies, including party co-leader Alexander Gauland saying that there were some aspects of World War II of which Germany should be proud, it seems that the AfD’s anti-immigration, anti-Islam positions have struck a chord with some voters.

The fate of the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP) will also be significant. In 2013, Merkel’s preferred coalition partner failed to gain the 5 percent of the vote needed to enter the Bundestag. Banking on charismatic party leader Christian Lindner, the FDP looked poised to make a comeback with current polling hovering around 9.5 percent.

Nevertheless, even such a victory might not be enough for Merkel. In order to not have a minority government, German coalitions seek a 50 percent or higher mandate, and the CDU and FDP together might not be able to clear that hurdle. This would leave smaller parties like the Greens, and – though less likely, the Left – as power brokers in the coalition talks that will follow the election. As for the AfD, all of Germany’s other major parties have said they will refuse to govern with the far-right newcomer.

Infografik DeutschlandTrend Koalitionspräferenzen ENG

In final push, Merkel and Schulz combat voter apathy

Despite the uniform poll numbers, Merkel and her SPD challenger Martin Schulz were still hard at work at the campaign trail on Saturday, making their final pleas to voters.

In Aachen, near his hometown, Schulz tried a last-ditch attempt to save his party from the historic losses the polls appear to foretell.

“She wants to keep the past, I want to shape the future,” Schulz told the excited crowd, before referring to the AfD as the “gravediggers of democracy” and urging Germans to go out and vote – especially to keep the far-right from gaining ground.

The chancellor made similar comments in her final days on the campaign trail.

“My request to everyone is that they vote, and vote for those parties that adhere 100 percent to our constitution,” said Merkel, highlighting fears that low voter turnout could lead to major gains for the AfD.

Germany enjoys relatively high turnout compared to other countries: in 2013, 71.5 percent of the electorate cast their ballots in the federal election. However, with many assuming Merkel’s defense of the status quo will emerge victorious, on top of an SPD campaign that failed to inspire, it remains to be seen how many will feel compelled to head to the ballot box this time around.

es,nm/se (AFP, Reuters)

http://www.dw.com/en/germany-heads-to-the-polls/a-40655495