22 September 2005 Edition

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International News in brief

No clear winner in German Elections

Provisional results in Germany's parliamentary elections give the Christian Democrats 35.2% of the vote, or 225 seats, against 34.3% for Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's Social Democrats. The results left neither Angela Merkel's, seen as the country's Margaret Thatcher, Christian Democrats nor Schroeder's Social Democrats in a strong position to assemble a new coalition -- although both said they would try. The official result reflected counting in 298 of 299 districts; voting in the final district, in the eastern city of Dresden, has been delayed until 2 October because of the death of one of the candidates.

One very clear feature of the election has been the outstanding performance of the Left Party which has jumped from two to 54 seats. Led by former Social Democratic Finance Minister Oskar Lafontaine, the Left Party is seen as a genuine left-wing alternative to the increasingly neo-liberal SPD.

Provisional election results

o CDU/CSU: 35.2% (225 seats)

o SPD: 34.3% (222)

o Free Democrats: 9.8% (61)

o Left Party: 8.7% (54)

o Greens: 8.1% (51)

Left-wing coalition victory in Norway

Following the Norwegian parliamentary elections on 12 and 13 October, Jens Stoltenber, leader of the largest party, the Labour Party, initiated the contacts with leaders of the Socialist Left Party and the Centre Party.

The red-green alliance won 87 seats out of the Norwegian parliament's 169, while the central-right coalition backed by the outgoing government won 82.

Looking at the electoral programmes the red-green alliance could be expected to put special emphasis on education, employment, services for the elderly and gender equality. At the same time an increase in the level of taxation and a stop to the process of privatisation of the schools and hospital initiated by the previous government should be part of the agenda.

Elections in Afghanistan

The turnout in Afghanistan's parliamentary and provincial elections on Sunday 18 September was down by more than 20% compared to last year's presidential elections according to official sources. These parliamentary elections were the first in some three decades. From nearly 5,800 candidates just over 10% are women. Four years after US-led forces toppled the Taliban, security remains a prime concern, with at least seven candidates killed during the campaign.


The spokesperson of the Zapatista Movement, Subcomandante Marcos, will initiate a tour of Mexico as the country prepares for general elections. Marcos wants to bring "the words and rights of Mexican poor, to the people of Mexico. The Zapatistas, struggling for the rights of indigenous people in Southern Mexico, announced that this is a political and democratic initiative and that Marcos and those accompanying him will be unarmed. They will be leaving San Cristobal de las Casas on 1 January 2006 and arrive in Mexico City on 24 June, a week before the date chosen for the elections.

Pakistani President insults rape victims

An atrocious gang rape in Pakistan has generated massive publicity since the victim spoke out about her ordeal. Rapes are commonplace in many rural parts of the country but Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, in an interview published by the Washington Post accused women who have taken a public stand on the issue as having only "a money-making concern". Musharraf's comments have been condemned by Dawn, Pakistan's leading English-language daily.

Black week in Iraq

Residents of Tal Afar, the target of the latest US offensive against the Iraqi insurgence have denounced the use of Napalm and widespread torture against its population.

On the other hand in a statement attributed to Al Qaeda the organisation claims that the missiles that hit the Green Zone had chemical warheads.

About 150 people were killed in a devastating series of suicide car bombings and shootings in Iraq on Wednesday 14 September, on the second bloodiest day since the US President declared the end of the main military operations after the invasion of Iraq.

Section of Apartheid wall to be demolished

The Supreme Court in Israel has ordered the destruction of part of the Apartheid Wall that the current administration is building on Palestinian land. The section to be demolished is located in the West-Bank, near Tulkarem and by the illegal Jewish settlement of Alfei Menashe. The wall surrounded five Palestinian villages, depriving more than 1,000 Palestinian farmers from accessing their lands, expropriated to build the wall.

This unanimous decision of the nine judges has been hailed as a victory for the Palestinian and human rights organisations fighting against the wall. In June 2003, an Israeli court declared illegal 30 kilometres of the wall. However, neither of the court decisions refers to the judgment of the La Hague International Court that declared the illegality of the construction of the wall.

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