Tag Archives: elections

Security issues dominate key French vote

Related story: French election a pivotal European test. Above, French CRS police patrol the Champs Elysees Avenue the day after a policeman was killed and two others were wounded in a shooting incident in Paris, France, April 21, 2017. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier

By Leigh Thomas and Marine Pennetier 
April 21, 2017

PARIS (Reuters) – The killing of a policeman by a suspected Islamist militant pushed national security to the top of the French political agenda on Friday, two days before the presidential election.

With the first round of voting in the two-stage election taking place on Sunday, far-right nationalist candidate Marine Le Pen promised tougher immigration and border controls to beat “Islamist terrorism” if elected.

Centrist Emmanuel Macron, who narrowly leads a tight race ahead of Le Pen, said the solutions were not as simple as she suggested, and that there was “no such thing as zero risk”.

Anyone who said otherwise was irresponsible, said Macron, a former economy minister in the government that Le Pen has repeatedly criticised for its security record.

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There are four leading candidates in a race that is still too close to call. Sunday’s voting will be followed by a runoff on May 7 between the top two candidates.

The first poll conducted entirely after Thursday’s attack suggested Le Pen had gained some ground on Macron.

While he was still seen winning the first round with 24.5 percent, his score slipped half a percentage point while Le Pen’s rose by one to 23 percent.

Conservative Francois Fillon, a former prime minister, and the far left’s Jean-Luc Melenchon were both down half a percentage point on 19 percent in the Odoxa poll for the newspaper Le Point.

The attack on the Champs-Elysees boulevard in the very heart of the capital added a new source of unpredictability to an election that will decide the management of France’s 2.2 trillion euro economy, which vies with Britain for the rank of fifth largest in the world.

U.S. President Donald Trump told the Associated Press on Friday he thought the attack will “probably help” Le Pen because she is the candidate who is “strongest on borders, and she’s the strongest on what’s been going on in France.”

Trump told the AP in an interview he was not explicitly endorsing Le Pen but that he believes the attack will affect how French people vote on Sunday.

The outcome could also have a bearing on France’s place in the world and in a European Union still reeling from Britain’s decision to leave. While Macron is ardently pro-EU, Le Pen wants to quit its single currency and potentially hold a referendum on leaving the bloc.

All the candidates are seeking to woo the huge number of undecideds – some 31 percent of those likely to vote, according to an Ipsos poll on Friday.

Fillon also seized on the attack, which was claimed by the militant group Islamic State, saying the fight against “Islamist totalitarianism” should be the priority of the next president. “It’s us or them,” he said.

A combination picture shows candidates for the French 2017 presidential election, 1st row L-R : Nathalie Arthaud, France’s extreme-left Lutte Ouvriere political party (LO) leader, Francois Asselineau, UPR candidate, Jacques Cheminade, Nicolas Dupont-Aignan, Debout La France group candidate, Francois Fillon, the Republicans political party candidate, 2nd row L-R : Benoit Hamon, French Socialist party candidate, Jean Lassalle, Marine Le Pen, French National Front (FN) political party leader, Emmanuel Macron, head of the political movement En Marche ! (or Onwards !), Jean-Luc Melenchon, candidate of the French far-left Parti de Gauche, Philippe Poutou, Anti-Capitalist Party (NPA) presidential candidate, after the official announcement in Paris, France. France goes to the polls on Sunday April 23, 2017 in the first round of its presidential election. REUTERS/Staff

TRUMP TWEET

Financial markets, though, shrugged off the latest twist in the campaign, with French benchmark bond yields hitting a three-month low.

The Champs-Elysees shooting is the latest in a series of attacks by Islamist militants on France since 2015, in which more than 200 people have been killed. A truck ploughed into a Bastille Day crowd in Nice last year, killing more than 80, while coordinated attacks on the Bataclan concert hall and other sites in Paris claimed about 130 lives in November 2015. There have also been attacks on a satirical weekly and a kosher store.

However, previous attacks that have taken place shortly before elections, including the November 2015 attacks in Paris ahead of regional polls, and a shooting in a Jewish school before the 2012 presidentials, did not appear to boost the scores of those espousing tougher national security.

An assault on a soldier in February at Paris’s Louvre museum by a man wielding a machete also had no obvious impact on this year’s opinion polls, which have consistently said that voters see unemployment and the trustworthiness of politicians as bigger issues.

SECURITY FORCES ON ALERT

One policeman was shot dead and two others were wounded in Thursday night’s attack.

Investigators are trying to assess whether the gunman had accomplices, anti-terrorism prosecutor Francois Molins told a news conference, adding that the shooter had never shown any signs of radicalisation despite a long police history.

After an emergency meeting of security officials, Prime Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said security forces, including elite units, were on alert to back up the 50,000 police earmarked to ensure safety during the election.

“The government is fully mobilised. Nothing must be allowed to impede the fundamental democratic process of our country,” Cazeneuve told reporters. “It falls to us not to give in to fear and intimidation and manipulation, which would play into the hands of the enemy.”

Controls on immigration and national security are cornerstones of Le Pen’s National Front agenda, and on Friday she said she would reinstate border checks and expel foreigners who are on intelligence services’ watch lists.

Macron was quick to respond.

“I’ve heard Madame Le Pen saying again recently that, with her in charge, certain attacks would have been avoided,” he told RTL Radio. “There’s no such thing as zero risk. Anyone who pretends (otherwise) is both irresponsible and deceitful.”

TIGHT RACE

In an Elabe poll conducted on Wednesday and Thursday, and published on Friday, both Fillon and Melenchon were seen narrowing Macron and Le Pen’s lead.

Should both Macron and Le Pen make it to the second round, he was likely to win the runoff by 65 percent to 35, according to the survey for BFM TV and L’Express magazine.

Fillon, who has slowly clawed back some ground lost after a fake jobs scandal, saw his score in the first round rise half a percentage point to 20 percent.

Melenchon, who would hike taxes on the rich and spend 100 billion euros ($107 billion) of borrowed money on vast housebuilding and renewable energy projects, gained 1.5 points to 19.5 percent as he built further on the momentum he has generated with strong performances in television debates.

If Melenchon makes it to the runoff, he was projected by the survey to beat either Le Pen or Fillon by comfortable margins, although he was seen losing to Macron by 41 percent to 59.

Copyright Reuters 2017

(Additional reporting by Elizabeth Pineau, Ingrid Melander, Laurence Frost, Bate Felix, Jean-Baptiste Vey, John Irish; Writing by Richard Balmforth; Editing by Kevin Liffey and Cynthia Osterman)

Next story:  French election a pivotal European test, analysis by Richard Maher: French voters go to the polls on April 23 for the first round of what has been the most unorthodox, unpredictable and potentially momentous presidential contest in recent French history. It could have repercussions far beyond the continent.

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Justin Trudeau’s speech to his kids

Canada's Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau greets his sons Justin (L), Sacha (R) and Michel after returning home from a foreign trip in Ottawa, in a 1983 file photo. Canada's new prime minister, Justin Trudeau, is moving back to the house where he grew up. The Liberal leader, son of former prime minister Pierre Trudeau, led his party to victory in a federal election on Monday, defeating Stephen Harper's Conservatives by a wide margin. REUTERS/Andy Clark

Canada’s Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau greets his sons Justin (L), Sacha (R) and Michel after returning home from a foreign trip in Ottawa, in a 1983 file photo. Canada’s new prime minister, Justin Trudeau, is moving back to the house where he grew up. The Liberal leader, son of former prime minister Pierre Trudeau, led his party to victory in a federal election Oct. 19, defeating Stephen Harper’s Conservatives by a wide margin. REUTERS/Andy Clark 

PENNEY KOME: OVER EASY
October, 2015

“Dear kids, we are starting on a new adventure together,” newly-elected Justin Trudeau said from the giant overhead TV screen. I was standing in Liberal candidate Matt Grant’s post-election party when Trudeau’s acceptance speech appeared on overhead TVs in the Red and White Club in Calgary, Alberta’s, McMahon Stadium. I’d been a poll-watcher, overseeing the ballot count, and I was dropping off the poll sheets. And there was Justin Trudeau, taking up national air time by talking to his kids.

Justin Trudeau is embraced by his wife Sophie Gregoire as he watches results at his election night headquarters in Montreal, Quebec, October 19, 2015. REUTERS/Chris Wattie

Justin Trudeau is embraced by his wife Sophie Gregoire as he watches results at his election night headquarters in Montreal, Quebec, October 19, 2015. REUTERS/Chris Wattie

Of course, every candidate starts by thanking family and friends. Trudeau started by talking about positive politics and Wilfrid Laurier’s promise that “sunny ways” win more voters than fearmongering. I was pleased that he thanked his wife, television host Sophie Gregoire, by her full name, and gave her a separate turn in the spotlight. He paused when the crowd picked up her name and chanted, “So-phie! So-phie!” Then he went on to talk to his kids and I thought, by golly, George Lakoff was right!

In 2002, linguist George Lakoff divided conservatives from liberals by their parenting models. The author of “Don’t Think of an Elephant” explained Republican successes by the metaphors the GOP developed to mobilize conservative voters.

Chief among these were the “strict father” hooks Republicans used to practice us-and-them politics. “The conservative worldview, the strict father model, assumes that the world is dangerous and difficult and that children are born bad and must be made good. The strict father is the moral authority who supports and defends the family, tells his wife what to do, and teaches his kids right from wrong,” usually by applying painful discipline, a 2003 Berkeley student magazine quotes Lakoff.

By contrast, Lakoff said that “the progressive worldview is modeled on a nurturant parent family. Briefly, it assumes that the world is basically good and can be made better and that one must work toward that. Children are born good; parents can make them better. Nurturing involves empathy, and the responsibility to take care of oneself and others for whom we are responsible ….”

Conservatives were winning, said Lakoff in 2003, but only because they’d spent 30 years perfecting their marketing techniques, code words and dogwhistles. Also, of course, much of the Conservative base comes from Christian congregations where pastors re-inforce political messages. Liberals had been stuck herding cats while they scrambled to develop language that motivated a much wider group. In 2008 and again 20012, Barack Obama used nurturing parent metaphors (and a beautiful family) to bring new voters into the electoral fold.

Now here was a victorious Justin Trudeau glorying in the nurturing parent metaphor. His beautiful young family is part of his identity and will be part of his public life too. This is a dad who hugs his kids, not one who offers handshakes, who declares that “positive, optimistic, hopeful vision of public life isn’t a naive dream. It can be a powerful force for change.” Sunny ways, my friends. Canada has gone from a Prime Minister who evoked fear and loathing, to one to one who isn’t afraid to appear vulnerable and caring.

Liberal leader Justin Trudeau is accompanied by his mother Margaret Trudeau (L) and his wife Sophie Gregoire, daughter Ella Grace and sons Hadrien (foreground) and Xavier (R) as he watches results at his election night headquarters in Montreal, Quebec, October 19, 2015. REUTERS/Chris Wattie

Liberal leader Justin Trudeau is accompanied by his mother Margaret Trudeau (L) and his wife Sophie Gregoire, daughter Ella Grace and sons Hadrien (foreground) and Xavier (R) as he watches results at his election night headquarters in Montreal, Quebec, October 19, 2015. REUTERS/Chris Wattie

Copyright Penney Kome 2015

Penney KomePenney Kome is co-editor of Peace: A Dream Unfolding (Sierra Club Books 1986), with a foreward by the Nobel-winning presidents of International Physicians for Prevention of Nuclear War.

Read her bio on Facts and Opinions here.

Contact:  komeca AT yahoo.com

 


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References:

“Don’t Think of an Elephant, George Layoff:  http://www.berkeley.edu/news/media/releases/2003/10/27_lakoff.shtml

Berkeley student magazine: http://www.berkeley.edu/news/media/releases/2003/10/27_lakoff.shtml

Related stories on F&O:

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Facts and Opinions is a boutique journal, of reporting and analysis in words and images, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O is funded by you, our readers. We are ad-free and spam-free, and we do not solicit donations from partisan organizations. Please visit our Subscribe page to chip in at least .27 for one story or $1 for a day site pass. Please tell others about us, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

 

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Voting and Canadian values

By David Suzuki
October, 2015

When my grandparents arrived from Japan in the early 1900s, Canada was far less tolerant than it is today. Women and minorities couldn’t vote, nor could Indigenous people who had lived here from time immemorial. In 1942, the government took away my Canadian-born family’s property and rights and sent us to an internment camp in the B.C. Interior simply because of our ancestry.

David Suzuki

Photo by Kent Kallberg, Creative Commons via Suzuki Foundation
http://davidsuzuki.org.

Canada has come a long way in my lifetime. Women can vote, as can Asians, other minorities and Indigenous people. Homosexuality is no longer a crime punishable by imprisonment, as it was until 1969. We’ve learned to take better care of each other through rational social programs like universal health care, welfare and unemployment insurance, and a culture of tolerance for the many people from diverse backgrounds who contribute so much to our peace and prosperity — many of whom came here as refugees or immigrants seeking better lives.

Because of my family background and all I’ve witnessed, I take democracy and voting seriously. That’s why I’m dismayed to see the current federal election descend into a divisive discourse that reminds me of all we’ve worked to overcome.

Canada is the envy of the world, thanks to our diverse population and the politicians from all parties who have steered us on a course of increasing tolerance and acceptance. Despite our differences, we’ve built a country that has avoided much of the insanity afflicting our neighbours to the south, such as mass shootings, rampant racism and politicians who reject science and, apparently, rational thought.

Canada isn’t perfect, but if we want to continue down a progressive path we must talk about the real challenges facing our country, including maintaining and strengthening our respect for diversity. This election should also be about our response to the greatest threat humanity faces, climate change, and the many ways we can confront it by moving to a clean-energy future that will benefit our health, well-being and economy.

We should be talking about the challenges faced by First Nations, Inuit and Metis people, many of whom don’t have access to clean drinking water and who are still overcoming the effects of the systemic racism perpetrated in residential schools. We should be talking about ethics, the Senate, corruption and the ways in which our political leaders communicate — or not — to us. We should be talking about trade deals, endangered species, protecting water resources, our responsibilities to the rest of the world and so much more.

Instead, this election has bogged down into “dead cat” distractions like niqabs, an issue that affects almost no one! Many people see the niqab as a symbol of women’s oppression, but this isn’t about protecting women’s rights. Whether or not we agree with the custom of wearing niqabs — or burkas or turbans or beards, or the Christian fundamentalist belief that women should submit to their husbands — our Constitution guarantees the right of people to practise their religions as long as doing so doesn’t impinge on the rights of others. Our courts have repeatedly reaffirmed these rights. Very few women have even asked to wear veils at the citizenship ceremony, and those who do must remove the face covering for identification beforehand.

For any party to stoop to or fall for this deflection is deplorable and un-Canadian. For voters to allow this small-minded bigotry to distract them from issues that really matter is a step backwards. History has shown where scapegoating minorities can lead.

Fortunately, most Canadians share the values of tolerance and acceptance. And most want a government that leads on issues that matter. A recent poll by the Environics Institute for Survey Research and the David Suzuki Foundation found a strong majority of Canadians want the government to take action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and confront climate change. It also showed Canadians have confidence in the renewable energy sector and support carbon pricing through carbon taxes or cap-and-trade.

In the final days of this long election, we must demand more from those who hope to govern us. We need to ensure that this election is decided on real issues that affect all Canadians, and not on pointless distractions. Most importantly, we all need to get out and vote! It’s about the future of our country.

Copyright David Suzuki 2015

David Suzuki is a scientist, broadcaster, author and co-founder of the David Suzuki Foundation. Written with contributions from David Suzuki Foundation Senior Editor Ian Hanington.

Click here for more works in F&O’s Focus on Canadian politics

References and further reading:

  • Women can vote: http://www.chrc-ccdp.ca/en/browseSubjects/votingRights.asp
  • Homosexuality is no longer a crime: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/timeline-same-sex-rights-in-canada-1.1147516
  • Insanity that has afflicted our neighbours to the south: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/18/opinion/crazy-talk-at-the-republican-debate.html?_r=0
  • Climate change: http://www.davidsuzuki.org/issues/climate-change/science/climate-change-basics/climate-change-101-1/
  • Clean energy future: http://davidsuzuki.org/publications/finding-solutions/2015/spring/the-time-to-invest-in-clear-energy-is-now/
  • Don’t have access to clean drinking water: http://davidsuzuki.org/blogs/science-matters/2014/11/clean-drinking-water-should-be-a-human-right-in-canada/
  • Dead cat: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/who-is-lynton-crosby-the-evil-genius-behind-harpers-campaign/article26331033/
  • Courts have repeatedly reaffirmed these rights: http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/zunera-ishaq-cleared-by-court-to-take-citizenship-oath-wearing-niqab-1.3257762
  • Recent poll by the Environics Institute for Survey Research and the David Suzuki Foundation: http://www.davidsuzuki.org/media/news/2015/09/national-survey-reveals-growing-majority-support-for-government-action-on-climat/

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Marg!, Princess Warrior joins the fray

Newfoundland writer, actress and comedian, Mary Walsh, finally chimed in on the Canadian election with her character, Marg! Princess Warrior, this week with her Marg Brings Change campaign. Made famous on This Hour has 22 Minutes, Marg has been smiting politicians with her foam sword for many years and her love for Stephen Harper is legendary.

“Don’t waste time turning in your neighbours on the barbaric Harper hotline; send some real ‘cents’ to Ottawa instead,” advises Princess Warrior Marg Delahunty.

“Prime Minister Harper didn’t want to save Syrian refugees, our right to privacy or democracy, but he did want to save the penny. Unfortunately, like the cent, Harper will take a while to get out of our system so let’s send a load of cents to Ottawa now — and on October 19.”

Joining the ever-increasing crowd of prominent Canadian musicians, writers, artists, scientists, social activists, unions, environmentalists and the millions of Canadians who want change this election, Marg urges Canadians to help her bring change to Harper.

“I’ll give Mr. Harper our two cents,” Marg promises Canadians. In a campaign launched today entitled, Marg Brings Change, the Princess Warrior has created a video calling for Canadians to click on the virtual cent on her website www.margbringschange.ca ; she vows to match every click and every share with a real cent. Later this month Marg will personally deliver everybody’s two cents to Mr. Harper.**

“And vote!” the Princess Warrior commands. “Vote anything but Conservative! Don’t make me come back and smite you!”

**All money will go to aiding Syrian refugees in Canada.

Watch the Video, Click the cent, Share widely and Help Marg bring your two cents to Ottawa!

Visit www.margbringschange.ca

or the Facebook page: Marg Brings Change
https://www.facebook.com/Marg-Brings-Change-1474903259506286/timeline/

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Today’s election could change Greece — and Europe

Some 100,000 anti-austerity protesters demonstrate in front of the Greek parliament in 2011. Photo by Kotsolis via Wikipedia, Creatiive Commons

Some 100,000 anti-austerity protesters demonstrate in front of the Greek parliament in 2011. Photo by Kotsolis via Wikipedia, Creatiive Commons

For years the world has watched Greece, the cradle of democracy, implode in protests and economic decline. Indebted Greece has long been ill-served by its political and business leaders, and lately beholden to creditors bent on austerity. And today when the Greek people go to the polls in a general election —  if most pundits are right — not only Greece will change, but the ripples will be felt throughout Europe and globally.

Excerpt of an analysis by academic Theo Papadopoulos:

Syriza is poised to win by a large margin and this victory will end four decades of two-party rule in Greece.

Since 2010 – and as a result of austerity measures – the country has seen its GDP shrink by nearly a quarter, its unemployment reach a third of the labour force and nearly half of its population fall below the poverty line.

With the slogan “hope is coming” Syriza, a party that prior to 2012 polled around 4.5% of the vote, seems to have achieved the impossible: creating a broad coalition that, at least rhetorically, rejects the TINA argument (There Is No Alternative) that previous Greek administrations have accepted. In its place, Syriza advocates a post-austerity vision, both for Greece and Europe, with re-structuring of sovereign debt at its centre.

How significant is this victory for Europe and the rest of the world? Comments range from grave concerns about the impact on the euro and the global economy to jubilant support for the renewal of the European left. For sure, Syriza is at the centre of political attention in Europe.  Click here to continue reading  Why the Greek election matters.

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Why the Greek election matters

The Hellenic Parliament. Photo by A. Savin via Wikipedia, Creative Commons

The Hellenic Parliament. Photo by A. Savin via Wikipedia, Creative Commons

By Theo Papadopoulos, University of Bath
January 24, 2015

The Greek election on January 25 will be the most important in recent memory. If the pollsters are proven correct, Syriza is poised to win by a large margin and this victory will end four decades of two-party rule in Greece.

Since 2010 – and as a result of austerity measures – the country has seen its GDP shrink by nearly a quarter, its unemployment reach a third of the labour force and nearly half of its population fall below the poverty line.

With the slogan “hope is coming” Syriza, a party that prior to 2012 polled around 4.5% of the vote, seems to have achieved the impossible: creating a broad coalition that, at least rhetorically, rejects the TINA argument (There Is No Alternative) that previous Greek administrations have accepted. In its place, Syriza advocates a post-austerity vision, both for Greece and Europe, with re-structuring of sovereign debt at its centre.

How significant is this victory for Europe and the rest of the world? Comments range from grave concerns about the impact on the euro and the global economy to jubilant support for the renewal of the European left. For sure, Syriza is at the centre of political attention in Europe.

The origins of the party are to be found in a series of splits and consolidations involving various left-wing political groupings that, in one form or another, were originally related to the Communist Party of Greece. Syriza in its current form is a strategic coalition comprising a variety of political platforms that include social democrats, radical socialists and communists, environmentalists, anti-globalisation campaigners and human rights advocates.

Its original base comprised small business owners, academics and teachers with very little appeal among traditional working class voters. But the party’s current appeal is far broader, extending to the middle classes that were hit so hard by austerity measures (especially those associated with the public sector), as well as self-employed people, ex-small business owners, unemployed and underemployed people (especially youth).

Unlike other EU countries, these parts of the Greek electorate are not attracted to ultra-nationalist Eurosceptic parties. As traditional left-of centre voters they find attractive Syriza’s political narrative, a combination of anti-establishment discourse, mild left-wing patriotism, a vision that another Europe is possible and a vague hope for improving their economic and social condition.

Not all are convinced by Syriza, however. The voters attracted to far-right party Golden Dawn are traditional anti-communists who used to belong to the conservative New Democracy party or LAOS, a smaller nationalist ultra-right party.

Their appeal is among the lower middle classes (and some ultra conservative working class) who have been also hit hard by austerity. These voters have bought into the rhetoric that culprits behind Greece’s demise are the corrupt political elite and the large number of illegal migrants.

Golden Dawn’s popularity has fallen slightly in recent months, but it is still strong and according to recent polls it is likely to gain 6% of the vote. But the party is politically isolated, with its leadership in prison and no access to mainstream media. It is unlikely that will play any role in the forming of any government in future.

How likely is that Alexis Tsipras, Syriza’s charismatic 41-year-old leader, will be “the Communist Harry Potter who could implode the eurozone”?

Despite the scaremongering that often surfaces in media reports, it is clear that the majority of Syriza representatives want to avoid having to take Greece out of the common currency. Despite some eurosceptic voices in the party, the leadership can hardly be characterised as anti-European. In internal discussions, various factions within Syriza have argued for introducing a national currency but these have remained, so far, a minority voice within the party.

Instead, the current leadership of Syriza has made numerous statements that it does not intend to destroy the euro or force Greece out of the eurozone. But they also mentioned that they are not willing to keep Greece into the eurozone at any cost. If Greece leaves the euro under Syriza, it will happen not because its leadership wants to but because it will be forced to.

This rather ambivalent message has served Syriza well both domestically and externally. Domestically, it alleviated the fears of many disaffected middle class voters who are very sceptical about a return to Drachma.

Externally, it indicates the spirit with which Syriza will approach any forthcoming negotiations with the troika (the International Monetary Fund, the European Central Bank and the European Commission). Namely, that Syriza does not share the same neoliberal economic policy agenda as Greece’s lenders – and certainly challenges Germany’s insistence on continuation of austerity – but it is willing to compromise over a mutually beneficial deal.

In terms of political rhetoric, Syriza has stated its political ambition is to change Europe as well as Greece. In what is admittedly a clever political move Syriza refused to accept the narrative of Greek exceptionalism when it comes to sovereign debt.

While attacking the incompetence and corruption of the two-party establishment that has run Greece since the 1970s, Syriza has framed the issue of Greek sovereign debt as part of the wider issue of European economic governance and, most recently, promoted the idea of a European summit on debt. In this way it opened a political space both for itself and other European political forces to change the dominant economic narrative in the EU.

Is the EU establishment going to respond? The announcement of new quantitative easing measures from the ECB marks a change in economic policy but according to chief Mario Draghi, Greece could be treated differently and any help will come with conditions. The months ahead will be tense and uncertain but one thing is for sure: nothing will be the same in Greek and European politics after Monday.

Creative Commons

Further reading:

The Conversation

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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Help sustain independent, non-partisan and professional journalism by buying a $1 day pass or subscription to Facts and Opinions. An online journal of first-rate reporting and analysis, without borders, F&O is employee-owned, does not carry advertising, and is funded entirely by readers. Click here to purchase a $1 day pass or subscription, from $2.95/month to $19.95/year. Receive free blog emails via the form on FRONTLINES. Thank you for your patronage. Please tell others about us.

 

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The Public as Watchdog: Crowdsourcing, the Indonesian Case

By Ruli Manurung, University of Indonesia, The Conversation
Published on F&O July 21, 2014

Indonesia_DPR_session

The People’s Representative Council in Jakarta. Photo by Indonesian government, public domain

This year’s presidential election in Indonesia is unlike anything we’ve seen before. Not only for the stark differences between the candidates and the tightness of the race but also for the sheer public enthusiasm in guarding the votes.

A few hours after polling stations closed, various TV stations reported quick counts and exit polls from different survey outfits. Most pointed to a 5-6% win for the presidential ticket of Joko Widodo and Jusuf Kalla over Prabowo Subianto and Hatta Rajasa. But at least three pollsters suggested a narrower victory in the other direction.

Within an hour of each other, both camps made victory speeches on national TV. Confusion ensued. Debates about the merits of sampling methodologies surfaced.

Above all, this created a heightened awareness among the public about the vote-counting process.

In Indonesia, official election results can take weeks to be announced. The presidential election was held on July 9, yet the formal announcement is expected on July 22.

The counting process, as regulated in the 2008 General Elections Law, is a lengthy and laborious one. The Indonesia Election Commission (KPU) tallies the results in gradual steps, starting from individual voting stations to the villages, up to the districts, regencies and cities, provinces and finally nationwide. Analysts have criticised the process as being prone to manipulation.

To minimise electoral fraud, the KPU decided this year to make results available through its website.

The tallies from individual voting station, known as the C1 forms, are scanned and the resulting images uploaded by officials onto the KPU servers. As of this writing, the coverage has reached 98.29 per cent of 478,828 stations.

The Commission also made tabulation results at the district level (known as the DA1 forms), at the regency level (the DB1 form) and at the provincial level (the DC1 form) available online.

KPU should be commended for this. It provided an unprecedented measure of transparency and accountability to the vote counting. But this is not the only good thing to come out of it.

The public, worried that cheating might occur, went straight to KPU’s website to check the tally results. Overnight, various volunteer groups popped up on Facebook and Twitter to coordinate the manual checking of the scanned C1 forms.

Some were mainly concerned with the validity of the forms. (Do the numbers tally? Are all witness signatures present? Is there any evidence of tampering?) Others tried to verify the forms with members of the public who had taken photos of the tally results and posted them on social media.

But one issue stood in the way of C1 forms being truly useful: they were available only in scanned image form. This means the public could not easily find out aggregate results. For this to happen, the data must first be entered in numeric format into a computer. This data-entry task, involving almost half-a-million forms, is no mean feat.

Enter crowdsourcing. A portmanteau of crowd and outsourcing, it means the accomplishment of a task by making it available over the web, and having a very large number of workers (sometimes volunteers, sometimes paid) chip away at the task until it is solved. Due to the heightened public awareness finding volunteers was easy.

From an IT viewpoint, the task was not very challenging. It only required: (i) the database of all individual voting stations in Indonesia; (ii) a way to relate this data to the scanned C1 forms on the KPU servers; and (iii) a simple web-based application that allows users to enter the numerical data from the forms into the database.

KPU enabled the first two points by sharing its data through web services at dapil.kpu.go.id and tps.kpu.go.id. As for the last point, this is a standardised information system task, although some effort is required to make the data-entry process run as smoothly as possible and to mitigate the risks from potential malicious users.

Within three to four days of the elections, at least four similar initiatives had emerged: realcount.herokuapp.com, solusirfid.com/pemiluc1, kawal-suara.appspot.com and kawalpemilu.org.

Of these, the last one has gained the greatest traction. It has achieved over 95% coverage of all voting station data entries. This last system is also notable for being developed by a team of Indonesians who are geographically distributed across Jakarta, Singapore and Silicon Valley.

Mirroring the openness of the KPU, all of these systems make their results available online. The data are organised in tabular form, starting from the national level and allowing users to “drill down” all the way to individual voting stations. Here users can compare for themselves the data on record with the actual scanned forms.

These crowdsourced results quickly became credible sources of information and have served to clarify much of the confusion that initially arose from the conflicting quick count results. Given that the crowdsourcing initiatives mentioned above converged on the same result independently, they also provide valuable triangulation data to increase confidence in the result. That the scanned forms are hosted on the KPU servers directly ensures the provenance of the source of data, preventing any allegation of tampering at this level.

All of this has served as a case study in open government data. The idea behind this principle is that certain data must be made available for public viewing (and subsequent use). Open data increases transparency and accountability. It also enables the public to develop novel and useful applications of the data, particularly when made available through the internet.

If the scale, speed and effectiveness of the various initiatives that used the KPU data over the past two weeks are anything to go by, we might be witnessing the start of a game-changing policy shift in public engagement in Indonesia and beyond.

Creative CommonsThe Conversation

Ruli Manurung does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations.

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Further reading on F&O
 Indonesia’s White Knight stumbles at the first fence by Jonathan Manthorpe, April 2014

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