Albania’s local elections cancelled amidst political protests

Albania is heading for a political showdown between President Ilir Meta and Prime Minister Edi Rama. The President has said he is cancelling local elections scheduled for June 30th but the Prime Minister insists they will go ahead.

The President’s actions come after many weeks of street protests led by anti-government protesters who accuse the government of fraud and corruption. Petrol bombs were thrown at the Prime Minister’s office before activists were dispersed by police using tear gas and water cannon.

The opposition wants the government to step down and call an early general election. In the meantime they planned to boycott the local polls.

This situation comes at the worst time for the government of Albania which is looking to open talks on joining the EU. 

Moldova enters political crisis as President Dodon stripped of his duties (UPDATED: Crisis over)

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Protests have been held in Chisinau for many weeks

20/6/19 UPDATE: The political crisis is over as the Democratic Party have resigned and accepted the new coalition’s right to govern. An update written on the (American) International Republican Institute blog gives one take on what has happened.

Moldova has been plunged into political crisis after the Constitutional Court dimissed President Igor Dodon and handed his powers to Pavel Filip who promptly dissolved parliament and called fresh elections. However the Parliament has refused to recognise the court’s ruling and has recognised the new government of Maia Sandu, former World Bank adviser and Education Minister.

The origins of this crisis are the inconclusive elections held in April. At that time no party won an overrall majority and negotiations started to form a coalition government. But with three very different political forces in the country – Dodon’s pro-Russian Socialist Party, Filip’s Democratic Party and Sandu’s pro-Western ACUM bloc – this looked an impossible task. This was exacerbated by the close result of the election in which the Socialists won 35 seats, the Democratic Party 30 seats and ACUM 26 seats of the 101 seat legislature.

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Maia Sandu of the ACUM bloc

In Saturday, Dodon and Sandu announced an unlikely alliance with Sandu being named Prime Minister and a Socialist Party MP taking the Speaker’s chair. This alliance appear aimed at keeping the oligarch leader of the Democratic Party – Vladimir Plahotniuc – out of power. However the Constitutional Court ruled that the coalition had not been formed before the mandated time limit of 7th June and declared Dodon stripped of his office as he had failed to call the fresh elections required when no government could be formed in time. Filip was named President and he immediately called elections for September 6th.

With Parliament refusing to recognise the authority of Filip, the stand-off threatens disorder in the country which is already split with an unrecognised territory of Transnistria claiming independence. Transnistria is home to a vast Cold War Russian arms dump which is guarded by Russian forces. Regarded as a frozen conflict, there is concern that instability in the country could lead to a return to arms. Both the EU and NATO have appealed for calm.

You can find a preview I wrote about the inconclusive elections here.

Kazakhstan election gets a failing grade from OSCE/ODIHR

Yesterday’s snap Presidential election in Kazakhstan has been assessed very negatively by OSCE/ODIHR, the most respected international group present in the country. The election was called after interim President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev called the poll having taken over from long time President Nursultan Nazarbayev .

The full OSCE/ODIHR statement can be found here. It is a preliminary statement and the final report will be issued in a couple of months once the election processes, including any complaints and appeals, have been dealt with.

In short, OSCE/ODIHR found that:

  • there were a few positives, including that the central election commission held its meetings in public;
  • the campaign environment was not equal, with huge bias being shown towards the incumbent;
  • although there were seven candidates, including one woman, there was no real choice available to voters;
  • restrictions on freedom of assembly and arrests of those who expressed views opposed to the incumbent regime meant there was not an open campaign environment;
  • there were indications of malfeasance on Election Day including of ballot box stuffing;
  • counting and tabulation procedures were particularly problematic with evidence of manipulation of the vote.

Mr Tokayev was declared the winner with 70.76% of the vote – well down on the 98% which his predecessor was recorded as having gained last time.

This report presents a challenge both to the Kazakh regime and to other governments. The Kazakh regime has shown in the past that it does not take much notice of OSCE/ODIHR reports. Will they do so this time? And similarly for the OSCE member governments that commissioned this mission – will they take any account of the problems with the election and will any action follow?

 

UPDATE: A Chatham House paper on the elections and what happens next is here.

 

Sudan moves to swift polls as agreement between military and opposition collapses

Sudan’s army leaders have called for elections in the country to be held within nine months after fresh protests brought the end of an agreement between the opposition and military.

The regime of President Omar al-Bashir was toppled in April after months of protests. The army moved against the former leader and appeared to be working with the opposition. An agreement was in place for elections to take place in three years time as the opposition said that it would take that long for the grip of the old regime on the levers of power to be loosened.

However the military launched a brutal attack on protesters in Khartoum recently and has been condemned internationally. The head of the Transitional Military Council, General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, said in a statement broadcast on state television that they had decided to “stop negotiating with the Alliance for Freedom and Change and cancel what had been agreed on”.

Opposition groups believe that elections held in just nine months time will allow remnants of the old regime to maintain their grip on power.

Algerian elections cancelled as elites bow to street protests

Algeria’s Constitutional Council has postponed the Presidential election planned for July 4th amid claims that no suitable candidates had come forward. The move will be seen as a victory for street protesters who have rallied against the old order in the country.

The country has been gripped by street protests which resulted in the resignation of long-time leader Abdelaziz Bouteflika two months ago. The 80 year old had been in power for more than two decades. Protesters had been skeptical about the election which they saw as being in the grip of the old elites and the army.

Abdelkader Bensalah had been appointed as interim President with a mandate to stay on until July 9th, but his term is now going to be extended and it is he who has been tasked with organising fresh elections, although no date has been set.

General Ahmed Gaïd Salah, had been overseeing the poll as the head of the Army and key powerbroker in the country. However the election was cancelled after the two candidates who came forward were deemed to be invalid due to a lack of supporting signatures.

The New York Times has more.

Israel will go to the polls again in September as coalition talks fail

Fresh elections will be held in Israel on 17th September after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was unable to secure a new coalition deal. This will be the first time that the country has faced two general elections in one year.

The results of April’s election were, as ever, inconclusive and required a coalition. Netanyahu seemed in prime position to bring together right wing and religious parties under the leadership of his Likud Party, but former Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman held out for his plan to force ultra-orthodox students to complete military service – something that angered religious parties. 

With no deal apparent by the deadline of midnight on Wednesday, Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin would have had the ability to ask another member of parliament – either from within the putative right ring coalition or former Army Chief of Staff Benny Gantz whose Blue and White Party came second – to try to form a government. However the Parliament chose instead to force another election.

Netanyahu will be hoping that he can pin the blame for the failure of talks on Lieberman and persuade voters to return a stronger Likud presence. Gantz will be seeking to capitalise on the failure to form a right wing government to make gains for the centre and left. But any changes in outcome will likely be small and a further period of coalition negotiations will be needed.

One consequence of this vote will be that Netanyahu, who will continue as Prime Minister until the election, will become Israel’s longest-serving leader in July. He is still awaiting possible bribery and fraud charges.

Netanyahu threatens a second election as coalition talks stall

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has threatened to call fresh elections as talks to form a new coalition have stalled. By law, a new cabinet has to be in place by Wednesday, but former defence minister Avigdor Lieberman’s ultranationalist secular party, Yisrael Beiteinu has failed to find common ground with religious parties over plans to force ultra-orthodox religious students to undertake national service.

If no cabinet can be presented to the President by Wednesday then another MP could be asked to try. This, however, is unlikely to succeed as Netanyahu is the dominant force in Israeli politics.

Israel has never had two parliamentary elections in a year and it seems likely that Lieberman will back down to avoid being labelled as the cause of instability. Netanyahu is putting pressure on his proposed ally by means of a bill to force new elections.