Entries in Parliament (18)


Japan’s Conservative Party Returns to Power

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(TOKYO) -- Japan’s conservative Liberal Democratic Party staged a dramatic comeback Sunday, winning a landslide victory in the powerful lower house of Parliament, just three years after it was ousted from power.

Exit polls showed the main opposition party en route to secure a two-thirds majority with coalition party New Komeito, handing Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda and his Democratic Party of Japan a crushing defeat. The super majority allows the LDP to take control of both houses of Parliament, ending a deadlock that has plagued Japan for years and led to political instability.

The win paves the way for former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s return, just five years after he resigned from office, citing health concerns. Abe’s year-long term was marred by scandals involving cabinet ministers, and the 58-year-old said he had yet to regain “100 percent of the trust” back from voters.

“People are watching closely to see if the LDP can really respond to the expectations of the people,” he said, in an interview with broadcaster NHK. “We are determined to produce results.”

Abe is expected to shift Japanese policy to the right, calling for a revision of Japan’s pacifist constitution, and increased military spending. He has advocated for a tougher stance against China in the ongoing territorial dispute over the Senkaku islands.

“This is the territory of Japan. That is a reality that will never be changed,” he reiterated Sunday.

Abe has promised more public spending and aggressive monetary policy to weaken a strong yen and lift the economy out of a 20-year slump. He has supported the use of nuclear power, despite increasing anti-nuclear sentiment stemming from the Fukushima nuclear disaster last year.

Noda resigned as party leader, apologizing for the dismal election results.

“Politicians need to be judged by the results that we deliver, and the greatest responsibility for this great defeat falls on myself,” he told reporters.

The DPJ swept to power in 2009, after half a century of nearly uninterrupted rule by the LDP, vowing bold change. But the party failed to follow through on its campaign promises. Former Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama was forced to resign over the controversy surrounding U.S. Marine base Futenma in Okinawa. His successor Naoto Kan stepped down over his handling of the March 11, 2011 tsunami and nuclear disaster. Noda never recovered from an unpopular push to double the sales tax to deal with Japan’s mounting public debt.

Several third parties emerged to appeal to voters disenchanted with the LDP and DPJ, but only one, the right-leaning Japan Restoration Party, won a significant number of seats. Led by conservative former Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara, the group picked up more than 40 seats, establishing itself as a major third party force.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Power Struggle Continues in Egypt

AFP/GettyImages(CAIRO) -- The tug of war for power in Egypt intensified on Tuesday when the country’s High Constitutional Court blocked a decree by the newly-elected Islamic president to reconvene the nation’s parliament.

Parliament did reconvene for a brief time on Tuesday -– less than an hour -- but it was long enough for members to agree by a voice vote to take the issue of a dissolved government body to an appeals court.

Egypt’s parliament was disbanded in June by the country’s military leaders after the high court ruled the parliamentary elections were unconstitutional.

The country’s Supreme Council of Armed Forces has been in charge since the ouster last year of longtime leader Hosni Mubarak, and only turned over control to President Mohamed Morsi after giving itself legislative authority and stripping him of many presidential powers.

Morsi defied the court and the military council by calling parliament back into session.

Morsi’s supporters in his Freedom and Justice Party say parliament fills a legislative void, but political opponents say his decree just created a crisis.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton commented on the country’s political instability on Tuesday, saying, “We’ve seen over the last few days that there is a lot of work ahead for Egypt to keep this transition on course.  Democracy really is about empowering citizens to determine the direction of their own country.”

Clinton will travel to Egypt later this week.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Greek Election Results Could Spur Global Financial Crisis

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(ATHENS, Greece) -- Greek voters may hold the future of global banks and the single currency euro in their hands when they head to the polls on Sunday for the country's Parliamentary election.

One of the two leading parties is opposed to the austerity measures placed on Greece in exchange for its financial bailout. Should the party gain control of the country's government, they could scrap the bailout and withdraw Greece from the euro, setting off a chain reaction that may lead to the failure of a number of banks worldwide.

The world's central banks are said to be standing ready to act in case of a financial crisis.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Egyptian 'Coup' Dissolves Parliament

Egyptian presidential candidate Ahmed Shafiq attends a press conference in Cairo. (AFP/GettyImages)(CAIRO) -- In the final days before this weekend's landmark presidential run-off election, Thursday brought a pair of decisions that threw Egypt's fledgling democracy into doubt.

Egypt's Supreme Constitutional Court ruled that one third of the Muslim Brotherhood-led Parliament must be immediately dissolved. The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, the country's ruling military, quickly declared full legislative authority, saying that if a portion of the parliament was unconstitutional, that rendered the entire parliament unconstitutional.

"We saw a coup in Egypt today," said Shadi Hamid, director of research at the Brookings Doha center. "It was an all out power grab. The regime's apparatus is going into full force. And so far, it's a remarkable and successful coup."

In the second ruling, the Mubarak-appointed judges voted that Ahmed Shafiq, Egypt's former interim prime minister during the revolution, will be allowed to remain on the ballot in the run-off election against the head of the Muslim Brotherhood, Mohammed Morsi, scheduled for June 16 and 17.

"All this equals a complete coup d'etat through which the military council is writing off the most noble stage in the nation's history," Mohamed el-Beltagy, a senior member of Morsi's Freedom and Justice Party, wrote on his Facebook wall. "This is the Egypt which Shafiq and the military council desire."

Shortly after the rulings were handed down, Shafiq gave a press conference that looked and sounded much like a victory speech. Shafiq told a cheering crowd, "The age of settling accounts is over and gone. The age of using the law and the country's institutions against any individual is over."

In his speech, Shafiq, a close friend of Mubarak's, described a modern, free Egypt where every individual has a vote, promising landmark reforms. "We love you, President Shafiq," the crowd chanted in response.

But former International Atomic Energy Agency chief, Mohamed El Baradei warned that Egypt is entering a dangerous phase.

"Electing a president without having a constitution or parliament means electing a president with absolute power," el-Baradei said.

After the recent parliament elections, the Muslim Brotherhood stands to lose the most from today's rulings, and many wondered whether Morsi would still run this weekend or whether the Muslim Brotherhood would pull out in protest.

The Council on Foreign Relations' Steven Cook described two camps arising out of today's decisions: "Those [Muslim Brotherhood members] that believe Egypt is still within their grasp, and those [Muslim Brotherhood members] that are more reluctant to continue the fight, reluctant to run at all."

But former presidential candidate Abul Fotoh said Egyptians were up for the fight.

"Keeping the military candidate (in the race) and overturning the elected parliament after granting the military police the right to arrest is a complete coup and whoever thinks that millions of youth will let it pass is deluding themselves," Fotoh said in a statement.

Michael Hanna, fellow at the Century Foundation, isn't sure young revolutionaries will be as eager as last year.

"There is still a huge gulf of mistrust between the Muslim Brotherhood and the revolutionaries which presents a real stumbling block," he said. Whether people take their outrage to the voting booths, or to the street is yet to be seen.

Today's rulings come on the heels of a Justice Ministry decree on Wednesday that granted the military council authority to arrest civilians. The legal combination leaves SCAF squarely at the helm for the foreseeable future. And if Shafiq wins, many argue that it will effectively set the clock back to February 2011.

"With no parliament, and no constitution, [the military] will be governing the country," said Hamid. "SCAF has outmaneuvered everyone, and it has been masterful."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Greek President Quits Attempts to Form Coalition Government

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(ATHENS, Greece) -- Ten days after the general election held on May 6, Greek President Karolos Papoulias has decided to quit trying to cobble together a coalition government as no combination of parties with the required minimum of 151 MPs in the 300-seat Greek Parliament could be found.  The president has announced that another general election should take place Sunday, June 10 or June 17.

This is bad news for the European Union and United States, since Greece will be without political leadership for a month, and private markets have long lost patience with the unending crisis. 

Greece, a NATO member and long-time U.S. ally, could even be pushed out of the European Union and its financial Eurozone.  That could trigger a crash in the markets in Spain, where the economy is five times bigger than Greece’s. 

The economic recovery of all of Europe is jeopardized, and, as President Obama has repeated on numerous occasions, the U.S. economy needs a strong Europe -- the number one buyer of American exports.

At 2 p.m. Tuesday, Papoulias had organized a meeting in the presidential palace in Athens, with leaders of almost all the major Greek political parties.  Only the leaders of the Communist and Neo-Fascist parties were left out.  Two hours later, the politicians came out without a word for journalists.

Fifteen minutes later came a communique from the presidency, announcing the calling of new elections.  From this point, the constitution explicitly sets the course.  The senior judge in the highest rank temporarily assumes the office of prime minister.

The meeting called for May 16 at the presidency is intended solely for the appointment of three ministers to handle the transitional electoral process.

The bone of contention remains the famous “memorandum” of fiscal and structural reforms that the International Monetary Fund, European Central Bank and European Union have imposed on Greece in exchange for some 240 billion euros worth of subsidized loans, to be released in installments, depending on progress made.

The socialist PASOK and conservative ND parties, who had accepted the terms of this memorandum at the beginning of the year, reiterated that the country should stick to them; all other parties campaigned to reject it, and they still refuse the terms. 

The problem is that the last election dealt huge losses to both PASOK and ND, leaving them with only 149 seats in total.  The two parties alternately ruled Greece since the fall of a military regime in 1974.

Saying that Greece must honor its signature to avoid exclusion from the euro area, PASOK and ND have already begun negotiations to form a front that can win the required majority in Parliament.  The various small liberal parties, who accept global capitalism and who believe that no country can live beyond the wealth it produces are being targeted.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Disputes Continue over Syria's Parliamentary Elections

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(DAMASCUS, Syria) -- Syria's parliamentary elections nearly 10 days ago spurred just over half of all eligible voters to head to the polls, government officials in Damascus claimed Tuesday.

Syrian election committee chairman Khalaf al-Izzaoui boasted that about five million Syrians voted to elect a new parliament although there was no way of verifying this figure since independent monitors were not allow to observe polling stations.

Opposition groups had called for a boycott of the May 7 election, contending that it was a sham attempt by President Bashar al-Assad to claim he brought political reform to Syria.

For instance, while several new parties took part in the election aside from the usual ruling Baathist bloc, activists alleged they were simply creations of the authoritarian government.

Critics also said there was virtually no voting in cities and towns that have been under siege since al-Assad instituted a crackdown on his political foes in March 2011 that has been responsible for between 9,000 and 11,000 deaths.

In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Tuesday the Syrian vote was "neither free, fair, transparent or representative of the Syrian people" since it occurred in an atmosphere of ongoing violence.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Lawmakers’ Drunken Brawls Mean New Rules at Parliament’s Bars

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(LONDON) -- It just got a little bit harder for British lawmakers to drink on the job at the House of Commons.

The House of Commons’ four bars, which open every day and stay open well into the night when Parliament is in session, have established new rules to curtail drunkenness and avoid a repeat of the brawl that sloshed Labor MP Eric Joyce got into earlier this year after a long night of drinking.

In March, Joyce was accused of assault and a month later confessed to throwing punches at lawmakers, even head-butting a fellow MP at one Commons’ watering hole, the Stranger’s Bar. Joyce was later suspended and said he wouldn’t run for re-election in 2015.

Under the new rules “to promote responsible alcohol use” that the House Commission announced Tuesday, bartenders would be instructed to “refuse to serve customers when necessary.”

Lawmakers, who long appreciated bartenders’ quick feet and loose wrists, can now expect to have their Pimm’s cups and other boozy drinks "topped up less frequently.”

On the plus side, as if to compensate for the new constraints, MPs will have a greater choice of drinks, but on the down side, they’ll all contain less alcohol than what was previously on tap. Lawmakers can enjoy “a wider range of nonalcoholic drinks and lower strength beers,” is the way the Commons Commission put it in a statement.

Perhaps most vexing to MPs used to their daily tipple are the higher prices they’ll have to pay for their beverages. Drinks had long been subsidized, meaning an MP paid about half of what an ordinary Londoner shelled out for the same beer at a nearby pub.

But compare their lot to that of their counterparts on the other side of the Atlantic, where alcoholic drinks -- actually only beer and wine -- are served only in the U.S. Capitol’s Members Dining Room and only until 2:30 p.m. when Congress is in session.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Queen Elizabeth Delivers Diamond Jubilee Speech to Parliament

(LONDON) -- Britain’s second-longest serving monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, praised the British virtues of “resilience, ingenuity and tolerance” and vowed to rededicate herself to the service of her country in a speech on Tuesday before Parliament, marking her 60 years on the throne.

In the landmark address to both Houses of Parliament, the 85-year-old queen also made an uncharacteristically personal statement in praise of her husband, Prince Philip, for standing by her side.

“Prince Philip is, I believe, well known for declining compliments of any kind. But throughout he has been a constant strength and guide,” she said.  “During these years as your queen, the support of my family has, across the generations, been beyond measure.”

The 90-year-old prince, whom the queen wed in 1947, underwent a health scare late last year when he was hospitalized for emergency heart surgery that caused him to miss the traditional Christmas festivities with the royal family.

However Philip was by the queen’s side on Tuesday and on Feb. 6, the day she officially took over the throne 60 years ago as a 25-year-old when her father, George VI, died.

The queen joins an elite club in reaching the 60-year, or Diamond Jubilee, milestone.  Only Queen Victoria served longer, 63 years in all, a feat Queen Elizabeth noted in her speech.

“So, in an era when the regular, worthy rhythm of life is less eye-catching than doing something extraordinary, I am reassured that I am merely the second sovereign to celebrate a Diamond Jubilee,” she said.

Tuesday’s speech by the queen was only the sixth address she has delivered to both Houses of Parliament in her six decades of rule. She gave similar speeches in celebration of her Golden Jubilee in 2002 and Silver Jubilee 25 years earlier in 1977, according to the BBC.

Among the 400 guests in attendance at today’s speech were Prime Minister David Cameron, members of his Cabinet, former prime ministers Tony Blair and Gordon Brown along with Labor leader Ed Miliband.

“I have been privileged to witness some of that history and, with the support of my family, rededicate myself to the service of our great country and its people now and in the years to come,” the queen told those gathered, echoing the vow of service she made on Ascension Day in February.

The queen eschewed the traditional robes and gowns befitting such a historical event and instead opted for her signature look, a matching coat, dress and hat, this time in buttercup yellow.  She did deliver the address in the ancient Westminster Hall, a historical setting she reflected on in her remarks.

“We are reminded here of our past, of the continuity of our national story and the virtues of resilience, ingenuity and tolerance which created it,” she said.

The queen was gifted a Diamond Jubilee window from the members of both Houses during the event to mark her 60-year reign.  The stained-glass window will be installed above the North Door of Westminster Hall later this year, the BBC reports.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Iranians Head to the Polls to Vote on Parliament

BEHROUZ MEHRI/AFP/Getty Images(TEHRAN, Iran) -- Iranians are headed to the polls on Friday to vote in a major parliamentary election that could reset the political power balance in Tehran.

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the country's highest power, is urging people to vote in a sign of support for the Islamic Republic.

Those at the polls will have a limited selection -- the only candidates allowed to run are from Iran's conservative ruling elite.  And within them there's a battle: candidates who support President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad versus his harshest critics. Should his critics win, it will be a blow to Ahmadinejad at home.

The election comes at a time when Iranians are feeling the pain of economic sanctions and finding it harder to make ends meet. Iran's government is also feeling a pinch -- sanctions imposed by the West are restricting its oil sales. 

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


'Take Your Daughter to Work Day' for Italian EU Parliament Member

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(STRASBOURG) -- Italian MEP Licia Ronzulli brought her 18-month-old daughter Victoria to work at the European Parliament in Strasbourg Wednesday.

According to The Mirror, Little Victoria enthusiastically wore a headset, played with Ronzulli’s BlackBerry and even raised her hand to vote alongside Mom, who is a member of the Environment, Health and Food Safety Commission.

This wasn’t the first time the working mom proved she could do it all. Little Victoria accompanied her mom to work when she was only six weeks old back in September 2010.

But she wasn’t quite as enthusiastic then as she was Wednesday, sleeping through the entire session while mom was hard at work.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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