MADRID: Spain held its second parliamentary election this year on Sunday, with voters seen likely to deliver no clear winner, an even more fragmented parliament and a sizeable boost to the far right.Opinion polls ahead of the vote have shown no single party winning a majority. The Socialists are again the front-runners but likely to win slightly fewer seats than in the last ballot in April, while the conservative People’s Party (PP) could gain votes.The far-right Vox could become the third-largest party just months after winning its first parliamentary seats — its popularity boosted by violent separatist protests in Catalonia that have overshadowed the whole campaign.Acting Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez called the election — the fourth in four years — betting that a new vote would strengthen his hand after his Socialist Party won in April but then failed to forge the alliances needed to form a government.Spain has struggled to put stable governments together since new parties emerged from the financial crisis, following decades during which power oscillated between the Socialists and the PP.Esperanza de Antonio, a 64-year old retired history teacher voting in Madrid for the Socialists, was concerned over the rise of Vox, which she called a danger to democracy.“I’m saying this because I’ve taught about fascism for 30 years,” she told Reuters. Older Spaniards still remember first-hand the 1939-1975 dictatorship of Francisco Franco.But Carmen Queral, a 44-year old primary school teacher, said a strong Vox was precisely what Spain needed. “We need change,” she said after voting at a central Madrid polling station.One thing was certain on Sunday: voters are increasingly fed up of being called to the polls — there were also regional and European Union elections this year. That alone increases the chances that parties will make more of an effort this time to reach a deal over governing and shy away from a repeat ballot.“Well I’m bored because this is not normal,” voter Elisa Varea said. “It’s not normal that they don’t reach an agreement. If there are no absolute majority, the least they could to is to support each other to lift the country because like this we are not going anywhere.”Official turnout data at 6 p.m. (1700 GMT), showed a drop in voter numbers from the previous election — around 56.8% compared with 60.7% in April. Polls close at 8 p.m. and the vast majority of results should be known by midnight.
’WORKING TOGETHER’A minority government led by the Socialists appears the most likely outcome, opinion polls showed, but a bigger question is who the Socialists may ally with and how long any government can last with a very fragmented parliament.Pablo Iglesias, leader of the far-left Unidas Podemos, which had tried and failed to hammer out a coalition government deal with Sanchez, made a new call for a leftist alliance.“On our behalf we are going to leave the arguments behind and start working together,” he told reporters after voting.Sanchez avoided questions on Sunday about a likely political stalemate, only calling on Spaniards to get out and vote.
CATALAN ISSUEThe fiercely anti-separatist rhetoric of Vox and to a lesser degree the PP has struck a chord with many voters in light of the wave of separatist demonstrations in Catalonia in the country’s extreme northeast.Polls suggest that support for Vox could as much as double, even if pollsters have found it difficult to estimate the new party’s popularity.In the Gracia neighborhood of Barcelona, Anna Torres, 72, said she voted for the left-wing, pro-independence ERC.“We have to protest because we disagree. It’s an injustice,” she said, referring to the long prison sentences handed down to nine separatist leaders in mid-October.She criticized Catalonia’s three main separatist parties for not running under one platform and said her vote would be useless because Spain would most likely have another election soon because no party would reach a majority.Madrid sent 2,500 additional national police officers to reinforce Catalonia’s regional police force.In total more than 92,000 police will be deployed across Spain to safeguard the vote.
Trump suggests he may give written testimony in House probe
SEOUL: North Korea has responded to a tweet by US President Donald Trump that hinted at another summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, saying it has no interest in giving Trump further meetings to brag about unless it gets something substantial in return. The statement on Monday by Foreign Ministry adviser Kim Kye…
SEOUL: North Korea has responded to a tweet by US President Donald Trump that hinted at another summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, saying it has no interest in giving Trump further meetings to brag about unless it gets something substantial in return.
The statement on Monday by Foreign Ministry adviser Kim Kye Gwan is the latest call by North Korea for US concessions ahead of an end-of-year deadline set by KimJong Un for the Trump administration to offer mutually acceptable terms for a deal to salvage nuclear diplomacy.
Kim Kye Gwan says Washington must discard what North Korea sees as its “hostile” policies to keep the negotiations alive.
North Korea says it won’t give Trump a summit for free
WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump suggested Monday he might be willing to offer written testimony in the House impeachment inquiry over whether he pressured Ukraine’s president to investigate Joe Biden and his son as he withheld aid to the country.In a pair of tweets, Trump says he will “strongly consider” an offer by House Speaker Nancy…
WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump suggested Monday he might be willing to offer written testimony in the House impeachment inquiry over whether he pressured Ukraine’s president to investigate Joe Biden and his son as he withheld aid to the country.In a pair of tweets, Trump says he will “strongly consider” an offer by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to testify before the House impeachment panel.Trump tweeted, “She also said I could do it in writing. Even though I did nothing wrong, and don’t like giving credibility to this No Due Process Hoax, I like the idea & will, in order to get Congress focused again, strongly consider it!”Pelosi told CBS’ “Face the Nation” on Sunday that Trump could come before the committee and “speak all the truth that he wants.”
France’s yellow vests stage new protests for anniversary
COLOMBO: Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who spearheaded the brutal crushing of the Tamil Tigers 10 years ago, stormed to victory Sunday in Sri Lanka’s presidential elections, seven months after Islamist extremist attacks killed 269 people.Rajapaksa conducted a nationalist campaign with a promise of security and a vow to crush religious extremism in the Buddhist-majority country following the…
COLOMBO: Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who spearheaded the brutal crushing of the Tamil Tigers 10 years ago, stormed to victory Sunday in Sri Lanka’s presidential elections, seven months after Islamist extremist attacks killed 269 people.Rajapaksa conducted a nationalist campaign with a promise of security and a vow to crush religious extremism in the Buddhist-majority country following the April 21 suicide bomb attacks blamed on a homegrown militant group.His triumph will, however, alarm Sri Lanka’s Tamil and Muslim minorities as well as activists, journalists and possibly some in the international community following the 2005-15 presidency of his older brother Mahinda Rajapaksa.Mahinda, with Gotabaya effectively running the security forces, ended a 37-year civil war with Tamil separatists. His decade in power was also marked by alleged rights abuses, murky extra-judicial killings and closer ties with China.Gotabaya, a retired lieutenant-colonel, 70, nicknamed the “Terminator” by his own family, romped to victory with 51.9 percent of the vote, results from the two-thirds of votes counted so far showed.“I didn’t sleep all night,” said student Devni, 22, one of around 30 people who gathered outside Rajapaksa’s Colombo residence. “I am so excited, he is the president we need.”Rajapaksa’s main rival, the moderate Sajith Premadasa of the ruling party, trailed on 42.3 percent. The 52-year-old conceded the race and congratulated Rajapaksa.On Sunday three cabinet members resigned — including Finance Minister Mangalar Samaraweera.The final result was expected later on Sunday with Rajapaksa due to be sworn in on Monday. Turnout was over 80 percent.Premadasa had strong support in minority Tamil areas but a poor showing in Sri Lanka’s Sinhalese heartland, a core support base where Rajapaksa won some two-thirds of the vote.Saturday’s poll was the first popularity test of the United National Party (UNP) government of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe.Wickremesinghe’s administration failed to prevent the April attacks despite prior and detailed intelligence warnings from India, according a parliamentary investigation.Premadasa also offered better security and a pledge to make a former war general, Sarath Fonseka, his national security chief, projecting himself as a victim seeking to crush terrorism.He is the son of assassinated ex-president Ranasinghe Premadasa who fell victim to a Tamil rebel suicide bomber in May 1993.But Gotabaya is adored by the Sinhalese majority and the powerful Buddhist clergy for how he and Mahinda ended the war in 2009, when 40,000 Tamil civilians allegedly perished at the hands of the army.Under his brother, Gotabaya was defense secretary and effectively ran the security forces, allegedly overseeing “death squads” that bumped off rivals, journalists and others. He denies the allegations.This makes the brothers detested and feared among many Tamils, who make up 15 percent of the population. Some in the Muslim community, who make up 10 percent, are also fearful of Gotabaya, having faced days of mob violence in the wake of the April attacks.Under Mahinda, Sri Lanka also borrowed heavily from China for infrastructure projects and even allowed two Chinese submarines to dock in Colombo in 2014, alarming Western countries as well as India.Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted on Sunday that India looked forward to “deepening the close and fraternal ties… and for peace, prosperity as well as security in our region.”The projects ballooned Sri Lanka’s debts and many turned into white elephants — such as an airport in the south devoid of airlines — mired in corruption allegations.Unlike in 2015 when there were bomb attacks and shootings, this election was relatively peaceful by the standards of Sri Lanka’s fiery politics.The only major incident was on Saturday when gunmen fired at two vehicles in a convoy of at least 100 buses taking Muslim voters to cast ballots. Two people were injured.According to the Election Commission the contest was, however, the worst ever for hate speech and misinformation.