Archive for the ‘elections’ Category

Prison Terms Cripple Myanmar Democracy Movement

November 16, 2008

In a devastating week for Myanmar’s democracy movement, dozens of its members have been sentenced to length prison terms, as the military-ruled government locks away writers and Buddhist monks — as well as musicians, a poet and at least one journalist.

By MICK ELMORE, Associated Press Writer

By the weekend, more than 80 had received sentences of up to 65 years — a move that seemed designed to keep them jailed long past the upcoming elections, activists and analysts said Sunday.

“They are clearing the decks of anyone who is likely to challenge their authority ahead of the election” in 2010, Larry Jagan, a Bangkok-based newspaper columnist and Myanmar analyst, said of the generals who rule the country.

Myanmar's pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi. Twenty-three ... 
Myanmar’s pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi. Twenty-three pro-democracy activists arrested during anti-junta demonstrations in Myanmar last year were each sentenced to 65 years in jail.(AFP/MYANMAR NEWS AGENCY/AFP)

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Good looks help women candidates, men not so much

October 31, 2008

Women running for top offices need to appear competent and attractive, according to a new study. For male candidates, seeming competent may be enough.

By RANDOLPH E. SCHMID, AP Science Writer

It’s a finding that could help justify heavy spending on makeup and wardrobe for Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin, while at the same time raising questions about the need for a man like John Edwards to invest in a costly haircut.

“What we found was quite startling,” said Joan Y. Chiao of Northwestern University’s psychology department.

For male candidates, the only thing that mattered to male voters was competence, while female voters preferred men who seemed both competent and approachable.

But for “female candidates for a hypothetical election for the United States presidency, both male and female voters were more likely to vote for candidates that were both competent and attractive,” Chiao said in a telephone interview.

“Neither trait (alone) was sufficient to predict whether a person was going to vote for that candidate,” she added. Chiao’s findings are being published online by the journal PLoS ONE.

“For female candidates, it really matters if they’re perceived as competent and perceived as attractive. Those two qualities are sort of twin predictors of whether or not someone is going to be more or less likely to vote for them,” Chiao stressed.


“There are a lot of potential theories,” she said. Most likely may be the way people choose friends and mates.

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Tibet unrest colors Taiwan elections

March 22, 2008
By PETER ENAV, Associated Press Writer 

TAIPEI, Taiwan – Voters were deciding Saturday whether to stick with a party that has struggled to improve ties with rival China or switch to one promising peace with the island’s giant neighbor.

Taiwan's opposition Nationalist Party presidential candidate ...
Taiwan’s opposition Nationalist Party presidential candidate Ma Ying-jeou shakes hands with supporters as he parades through neighborhoods of Taipei, Taiwan, Friday, March 21, 2008. Taiwan’s presidential candidates Ma and ruling party Democratic Progressive Party’s Frank Hsieh are canvassing the island one day before Taiwan will hold its fourth directly-elected presidential poll on Saturday, March 22, 2008.(AP Photo/Wally Santana)

Just two weeks ago, opposition candidate Ma Ying-jeou seemed ready to cruise to victory, promising to improve relations with China and even work toward a common market with the Communist country.

But ruling party candidate Frank Hsieh appears to have been closing the gap. His party used the last day of campaigning to fan outrage over China’s crackdown in Tibet.

Hsieh warns that China’s crackdown in Tibet could be replicated in Taiwan, which split from the mainland amid civil war in 1949. Beijing still considers the island to be part of its territory and has threatened to attack if Taiwan rejects unification and seeks a permanent break.

“If Ma is elected, Taiwan’s future will be in danger,” Hsieh told a cheering crowd at a rally Friday in the southern city of Chiayi. “It will be the same for China to attack Tibet or Taiwan because it will be China’s domestic issue.”

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U.S. Aircraft Carriers Sent Toward Taiwan Before Election

March 19, 2008

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Two U.S. aircraft carriers, including the USS Kitty Hawk, have been sent to the Taiwan region for training exercises during this weekend’s Taiwanese election, a U.S. defense official said on Wednesday.

The two warships were “responsibly positioned” in the Pacific Ocean somewhere east of Taiwan and would remain in place through Saturday’s presidential election and referendum on U.N. membership, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

He declined to elaborate on the positions of the two ships and could identify only the Kitty Hawk by name.

China has claimed sovereignty over self-ruled Taiwan since 1949, when Mao Zedong‘s Communists won the Chinese civil war and Chiang Kai-shek‘s Nationalists fled to the island.

Beijing has vowed to bring Taiwan under its rule by force if necessary.

The Kitty Hawk has approached Taiwan before previous elections to discourage any military action from China, which lies about 99 miles northwest of the island.

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USS Kitty Hawk CV-63.jpg

Incentives package prepared for Iran

March 18, 2008

By Nicholas Kralev
The Washington Times
March 18, 2008

The United States and four other veto-wielding states on the U.N. Security Council are preparing a package of incentives aimed at Iran’s newly elected parliament in hopes of ending the country’s uranium-enrichment program — the main impediment to improved ties between Iran and the West.

A cleric casts his ballot in Iran's parliamentary election at ...
cleric casts his ballot in Iran’s parliamentary election at a polling station in the city of Qom, 120 km (75 miles) south of Tehran March 14, 2008.(Ahmed Jadallah/Reuters)

The proposal includes economic, technological and security benefits, spare parts for Iran’s aging fleet of Boeing aircraft and help developing a civilian nuclear energy program, U.S. and European officials said yesterday.

The effort resembles a 2006 offer that Tehran rejected, prompting a series of U.N. sanctions.
Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (C) attends a ceremony ... 
Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (C) attends a ceremony to mark the Iranian New Year holiday, called Norouz, in Tehran March 17, 2008. Iran’s New Year starts on March 20 this year.
REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah (IRAN)

This time, officials said, they will be more specific about the timing of the incentives. They also expressed hope it will persuade new members of parliament after elections Friday.

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Iranians Vote in Twisted Version of Parliament Elections

March 14, 2008
By NASSER KARIMI, Associated Press Writers

TEHRAN, Iran – Iranians voted Friday in elections likely to yield little change: Conservatives and allies of the hardline president are expected to retain control of parliament after many reformists were barred from even running.
Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei greets the media ... 
Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei greets the media before casting his ballot in Iran’s parliamentary elections in Tehran, Iran, Friday March 14, 2008.
(AP Photo/Hasan Sarbakhshian)

As polls opened, state radio urged a strong turnout so that Iranians could present a unified front to the West. “Iranians will go to ballots to send a message to those who are not able to see unity of Iranians behind (the country’s) achievements,” it said.

The Islamic republic’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, cast his vote at a religious center next to his residence in Iran, tucking a folded paper into a transparent plastic box.

Khamenei has said that Iranians should bring to parliament anti-U.S. candidates “whose loyalties are to Islam and justice.”

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Obama tries to allay Jewish concerns

March 14, 2008
By PHILIP ELLIOTT, Associated Press Writer

CLEVELAND – Barack Obama has a solid Senate record in support of Israel.
He sings the praises, too, of Jewish civil rights workers who fought for blacks’ rights in the U.S. And he says he wants to patch up “a historically powerful bond between the African-American and Jewish communities.”

Yet there is unease among some Jewish voters about the Illinois senator and Democratic presidential contender.


Part of it is a division between blacks and Jews that’s been growing for years, a split that Obama has challenged fellow blacks to confront.

Another element is the praise Obama has received from Black Muslim leader Louis Farrakhan, whose disparaging comments about Judaism are toxic to many voters. Obama’s own pastor has a history of supporting Palestinian causes.

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Commander warns of al-Qaida threat

March 6, 2008

(AP)  WASHINGTON – The military commander in charge of domestic security says al-Qaida may be working more urgently to plan an attack on the U.S. to maintain its credibility.
U.S. Air Force Gen. Gene Renuart, gestures during a news conference ... 
U.S. Air Force Gen. Gene Renuart, gestures during a news conference at Central Command Center, Doha, Qatar in this April 10, 2003 file photo. Renuart, the military commander in charge of defending the U.S. homeland, said he believes there are al-Qaida cells in the U.S. or people working to create them.
(AP Photo/Richard Lewis, File)

Air Force Gen. Gene Renuart, who is chief of the U.S. Northern Command, told reporters he has not seen any direct threats tied to the U.S. presidential elections. But he says it would be imprudent to think that such threats are not there.

While he believes that U.S. authorities have thwarted attacks on a number of occasions, he says terrorist cells may be trying harder than ever to plot high-impact events.

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Candidates Can Benefit from….Civility (WOW!)

February 20, 2008

By Jennifer Harper
The Washington Times
February 20, 2008

Perhaps it’s the one thing political strategists have not tried: Civility. Some say etiquette and decorum could provide a valuable edge for White House hopefuls along a shrill campaign trail.
“Civility plays very well with the American public. You can’t underestimate the power of it in a campaign, or in the White House itself,” said Selwa “Lucky” Roosevelt, who was chief of protocol for the United States from 1982 to 1989.

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The Right Honourable
 Margaret Thatcher
 The Baroness Thatcher, LG, OM, PC, FRS
Margaret Thatcher
Lady Thatcher is often remembered
for her civility.

Putin: Persistent, Popular, Pugnacious…Paranoid

February 20, 2008

By David J. Smith
Tbilisi 24 Saati
February 18, 2008

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s two farewell performances—farewell as president, anyway—revealed no new substance.

Instead, his February 8 Development Strategy to 2020 speech and his February 14 mega-press conference showcased a persistent, popular and pugnacious Kremlin strongman who increasingly defines Russia in terms of foreign bogymen.

Take heed.

Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin
Владимир Владимирович Путин
Vladimir Putin

Putin’s twelve-year strategy—to use his word—must have brought a smile to the face of anyone nostalgic for Soviet times. It was stuff worthy of a Communist Party Congress: denunciation of earlier times, glowing progress report, indignant criticism of unnamed officials, frank talk of what is yet to be done and a pinch of paranoia.

Putin’s Russia is looking more-and-more Soviet—or maybe some of us are only now noticing how Russian the Soviet Union was.

These days, of course, Putin mixes capitalist and socialist themes. Investment, stock market capitalization and GDP are all skyrocketing.

And Russia has made major advances in machine building, transportation, housing, education and health care. One expected happy peasant girls to dance across the stage, their baskets brimming with food for the people!

However, Putin’s February 8 speech was more notable for what it did not say. Russia’s soon-to-be prime minister failed to mention Dmitry Medvedev, the man he chose for Russians to elect as president on March 2.

Dmitry Anatolyevich Medvedev
Дмитрий Анатольевич Медведев

Medvedev, it seems, has little to do with Putin’s strategy to persist in the Kremlin.

In his 4½-hour Saint Valentine Day press conference, though, Putin managed a few words about Medvedev. Prime Minister Putin will place President Medvedev’s picture on his wall. “We will establish our personal relations,” said Putin, “I assure you there will be no problems here.”

There will be no problems because Putin reread the Russian Constitution to achieve an understanding that had eluded him during eight years as president. “The highest executive authority in the country is the government, which is led by the prime minister.”

Putin’s Duumvirate with Medvedev may change some of the Kremlin’s personal dynamics and style, but he said, “If I see that in this post I can continue realizing these goals, I will work as long as possible.”

Though Putin’s switcheroo may appear odd to some westerners, his persistence in the Kremlin is fine with most Russians.

With the presidential election less than two weeks away, Medvedev shuns campaigning and debates, counting on Putin’s popularity to elect him president. Expect him promptly to appoint Putin prime minister.

With this kind of popularity, it was appropriate for Putin to give his Castroesque press conference on February 14. An adoring Russian journalist even passed him a Valentine Day present—a wire service photo captured Putin leaving the stage clutching the pink and red heart.

In this loving environment, concern for the integrity of elections and the scrutiny of foreign observers is misplaced. Indeed, there will be no observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the foremost election observation group.Asked about the OSCE spurning the March 2 presidential election, a pugnacious Putin replied, if the election monitors want to teach something, “Let them teach their wives to make shchi.” (Shchi is a Russian cabbage soup.)

And there was plenty more in that vein.

Asked about reports of corruption, he replied that these were rumors that journalists “picked from a nose and smeared onto their papers.”

One might dismiss these remarks as crude muscle flexing for domestic consumption, but Putin’s pugnacity sparks greater concern when considered with his apparently growing paranoia in the international arena.

“I cannot but say a few words…about our foreign policy strategy,” said Putin toward the end of his strategy speech. No foreign policy strategy followed—nothing about trade, neighbors, world peace, climate change or any of the usual foreign policy topics.

Instead, Putin recapitulated his familiar grievances against the west: American missile defenses in Central Europe, “a new spiral in the arms race,” purportedly violated treaties and NATO enlargement.

Then he added, “A fierce battle for resources is unfolding, and the whiff of gas or oil is behind many conflicts.”

In his press conference, Putin connected western criticism of Russian elections with disagreement on Kosovo: “Who is going to listen to Russia’s position on Kosovo if Russia itself is supposedly an undemocratic country?”

On most of these matters the Russian position is just plain wrong.

On Kosovo, Moscow has a point, but stupid western diplomacy is just that, not an anti-Russian plot. Criticism of Russia’s democracy deficit is well founded and unconnected to Kosovo.

But cogent arguments only detract from the image Putin is creating. “We are effectively being forced into a situation where we have to take measures in response, where we have no choice but to make the necessary decisions.”

One cannot escape the fear that Putin is not cataloging Russian foreign policy challenges—or even grievances—but defining Russia by his paranoia.

David J. Smith is Director, Georgian Security Analysis Center, Tbilisi, and Senior Fellow, Potomac Institute for Policy Studies, Washington.

Peace and Freedom wishes to thank Ambassador Smith andMr. James T. Hackett who made use of this article on the internet possible.