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Saturday, April 28, 2012

Tear gas used as 25,000 rally for Malaysia reforms

Malaysian police fired tear gas and chemical-laced water on Saturday at thousands of demonstrators demanding an overhaul in electoral policies they call biased ahead of national polls expected soon.
At least 25,000 demonstrators had swamped Malaysia’s largest city in one of the Southeast Asian nation’s biggest street rallies in the past decade.
The demonstration reflected concerns that Prime Minister Najib Razak’s ruling coalition which has held power for more than 50 years will have an unfair upper hand in elections that could be called as early as June.
Activists have alleged that the Election Commission is biased and claimed that voter registration lists are tainted with fraudulent voters.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

France election: Hollande takes lead into second round

French President Nicolas Sarkozy faces an uphill struggle in the second round of the presidential election, after coming second in Sunday's first vote.

He won only 27.1% of the vote, while his socialist rival Francois Hollande took 28.6%, the first time a sitting president has lost in first round.

The two men will face each other in a second round of voting on 6 May.

Third-place Marine Le Pen took the largest share of the vote her far-right National Front has ever won with 18.1%.

The BBC's Christian Fraser in Paris says his narrow victory in this round gives Francois Hollande crucial momentum ahead of the run-off in two weeks' time.

Analysts suggest Mr Sarkozy will now need to appeal to the far-right voters who backed Ms Le Pen if he is to hold on to the presidency, but Mr Hollande remains the front runner.

Around one in five people voted for the National Front candidate, including many young and working class voters, putting her ahead of seven other candidates.

Start Quote

Whereas Francois Hollande can tack to the centre, President Sarkozy must appeal to the right”

Debating debates

The poll has been dominated by economic issues, with voters concerned with sluggish growth and rising unemployment.

After the results began to come in, Mr Hollande said he was "best placed to become the next president of the republic" and that Mr Sarkozy had been punished by voters.

"The choice is simple, either continue policies that have failed with a divisive incumbent candidate or raise France up again with a new, unifying president," Mr Hollande said.

It is the first time a French president running for re-election has failed to win the first round since the start of the Fifth Republic in 1958.

Mr Sarkozy - who has been in power since 2007 - said he understood "the anguish felt by the French" in a "fast-moving world".

Analysis

The focus of the Socialist Party these past few weeks was to deny any momentum to President Sarkozy. The first cheer came when the result appeared on the TV screens. Any lead at this stage is considered a strong performance.

The second cheer came for Jean-Luc Melenchon who called on his supporters to join forces with those of Mr Hollande to defeat Nicolas Sarkozy.

Nothing will be taken for granted here. In 1995 Lionel Jospin lost a first-round lead. Greater efforts will be made in the next week to get out the vote.

But 350 polls published since this campaign began have put Mr Hollande in a commanding lead for round two. The celebrations must wait another two weeks - but they are daring to believe.

He called for three debates during the two weeks to the second round - centring on the economy, social issues, and international relations.

Mr Hollande promptly rejected the idea. He told reporters that the traditional single debate ahead of the second round was sufficient, and that it should "last as long as necessary".

Far-right shock

Turnout on Sunday was high, at more than 80%.

Ms Le Pen, who leads the anti-immigration National Front, achieved more than the breakthrough score polled in 2002 by her father and predecessor, Jean-Marie Le Pen, who got through to the second round with more than 16%.

After the vote, Ms Le Pen told jubilant supporters that the result was "only the start" and that the party was now "the only opposition" to the left.

Leftist candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon, who was backed by the Communist Party, came fourth with almost 12%.

He urged his supporters unconditionally to rally behind Mr Hollande in the run-off.

Francois Hollande vows to be a "candidate for all" who want change in France

Centrist Francois Bayrou, who was hoping to repeat his high 2007 score of 18%, garnered only about 9%.

Polls suggest Mr Hollande will comfortably win the second round.

The BBC's Chris Morris in Paris says that if Mr Sarkozy cannot change the minds of a substantial number of people, he will become the first sitting president to lose an election since 1981.

Wages, pensions, taxation, and unemployment have been topping the list of voters' concerns.

President Sarkozy has promised to reduce France's large budget deficit and to tax people who leave the country for tax reasons.

Far-right leader Marine Le Pen urged her supporters to "go on fighting"

Mr Hollande has strongly criticised Mr Sarkozy's economic record.

The Socialist candidate has promised to raise taxes on big corporations and people earning more than 1m euros a year.

He also wants to raise the minimum wage, hire 60,000 more teachers and lower the retirement age from 62 to 60 for some workers.

If elected, Mr Hollande would be France's first left-wing president since Francois Mitterrand, who completed two seven-year terms between 1981 and 1995.

BBC

Vested interests in India playing up military threat: Chinese daily

‘Propaganda that India can counter China seeks to raise spending on foreign weapons systems'

Following the launch of Agni-V, India and China must guard against “vested interests” that were playing up the “China threat” and promoting an arms race between the neighbours, the Communist Party-run The Global Times newspaper said on Sunday.

In the wake of the launch of India's first intercontinental ballistic missile with the capability of reaching most cities in China, both countries “should beware of efforts to create widespread fear and tension,” the paper said in an editorial on its website, due to be published on Monday.

“By playing up the ‘China threat' and postulating that India can ‘counter and contain China,' vested interests are hoping to ensure that more and more money is spent on foreign weapons systems rather than domestic manufacture,” said The Global Times, which is known for its strong nationalistic positions but also seen to echo the views of the more hard-line sections within the party and military.

Several state-run media publications have in recent days published commentaries hitting out at the launch of Agni-V, which was widely seen here as being directed at China. The government, however, played down the launch, with the Foreign Ministry stressing that both countries were not rivals but partners.

“Although there is an international effort to paint India and China as enemies and to make the two countries go to war with each other, such an effort will fail,” the newspaper said. “The Chinese and Indian people share a long history and culture, and what is needed is more discussion between the two about their economics, education, tourism and culture.”

It said bad relations would “hurt both countries and aid those who seek to subjugate Asia and the world.”

Strength in unity

“Together, India and China can make Asia strong. Divided, not only these two countries but all of Asia will remain weak,” the editorial said.

The commentary did, however, also echo recent articles published in the official media that played down the threat to China posed by the Indian military.

The Global Times said China had “raced ahead and “outclassed India” in both economic and technological fields, and celebrations in India over Agni-V “conceal the inadequacies” of the missile programme. It claimed that “pressure from NATO member countries” had slowed down the speed of development and restricted the range of Indian missiles. As India, unlike China, imported most of its critical weapons systems from France, the U.S., Russia and Israel, it also faced the risk that these countries could “cut off supplies ammunition during a conflict”.

“By now, India ought to be a space power,” the editorial said. “However, the country is so far behind China in this field that it is embarrassing.”

The Hindu