Brazil: “While Lula is in prison there is no democracy in Brazil”

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF BRAZIL’S 247 NEWS)

 

Celso Amorim: “While Lula is in prison there is no democracy in Brazil”

“Sovereignty today is popular sovereignty, which implies democracy. Democracy today in Brazil has a main name: Lula. While Lula is in prison there is no democracy in Brazil. So that we can return to a rational discourse and debate in the country, Lula Livre! “emphasized former minister Celso Amorim

247 – In an interview with the Tutaméia website, former Minister Celso Amorim, ambassador, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Lula and of Dilma Defense, analyzed the current national and international political conjuncture. Amorim countered the Jair Bolsonaro government’s speech on sovereignty and stressed that “sovereignty and democracy are inseparable.”

“Sovereignty today is popular sovereignty, which implies democracy. Democracy today in Brazil has a main name: Lula. While Lula is in prison there is no democracy in Brazil. So that we can return to a rational discourse and debate in the country, Lula Livre! “emphasized the former minister.

Regarding the international crisis generated by the burning of the Amazon, Celso Amorim pointed out that “Amazonia is a national responsibility for a global problem” and that Bolsonaro has a false view of sovereignty when dealing with the issue,

“There is a misappropriation of the term sovereignty in the case of the Amazon. We cannot fall into the trap of accepting that the concept of sovereignty is used to justify improper actions, contrary to our own laws, our constitution and also international commitments that the country has made. ”He said.

Amorin said he was not in favor of international status for the Amazon, as Macron suggested, “but it was Bolsonaro who caused it by making the Amazon issue a worldwide scandal.” 

The former minister also repelled the Bolsonaro government’s subservience to US dictates. “What exists today is mental colonialism. Minds are busy. So it’s ideal. You don’t spend any bullets and even the uniforms of the Marines and dominate. Brazil has never had such an explicit subordination to the US.”

Check out the full interview in Tutaméia .

Meet the TV 247

Israel: The Haredi establishment’s threat to constitutional democracy and equal rights

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

The Haredi establishment’s threat to constitutional democracy and equal rights: No marginal issue

The sex discrimination against women in public spaces is just the beginning of the havoc the ultra-Orthodox are wreaking on Israeli society

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Veteran political analyst Anshel Pfeffer has published an incisive analysis of the dynamics now playing out on the right and far-right of the Israeli political spectrum, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu losing those who used to be his natural political partners: Liberman, Bennett, Shaked, Smotrich (“Netanyahu is Running Out of Natural Partners,” Haaretz, August 13, 2019). The Haredi establishment, he notes, is taking up that slack, however much it has been a reliable partner of his until now.

Pfeffer’s otherwise incisive analysis contains an appalling throwaway line about the Haredi establishment, one that expresses an all too common perception: “[Netanyahu] granted them total hegemony in the narrow areas of public policy and communal autonomy they care about.”

Narrow areas?

The ongoing dismissal, in particular on the left, of the threat to constitutional democracy posed by the religious establishment is a serious danger in its own right. Ben Gurion can be excused for not realizing the danger in giving blanket draft exemption to yeshiva students —  65 years ago. There is no excuse for such blindness now.

The Haredi establishment uses institutions of government, like the courts, and certainly, coalition politics, to further its own narrow, sectoral interests, while having no fundamental loyalty to these institutions. Deputy Minister of Health Litzman, who does not take a “deputy” salary, but a full one, and who has used his office richly (pun intended), for Haredi interests, as he defines them (the victims of the Haredi rapists he has protected, according to a pending indictment, are also Haredi), is “Deputy,” rather than full Minister, because his boss, the Gerer rebbe, and he, do not recognize the State of Israel. The State’s payouts, however, they very much recognize.

The threat to public space — in the news just this week, in the ruling of a court against sex discrimination in a public space in Afula — is huge and ongoing. As the Israel Women’s Network and other groups have noted, this is a war of attrition. Newly minted Transportation Minister Bezalel Smotrich said this himself when, after a flurry of outrage about his call for a theocracy here, he acknowledged that such is not possible now — but that piecemeal steps can be and will be taken. This is why it is so important for Smotrich and his ilk not just to be members of Knesset but ministers, who have  broad discretion, staff, and budgets at their disposal. As with the abortion struggle in the US, piecemeal steps are the means to a larger goal.

If it is acceptable to discriminate against women in public space, we are back to demands for sex discrimination in buses, sidewalks, etc. We already struggle against demands for sex discrimination in universities and in the army, refighting the conclusion long ago reached on the basis of too much sorry experience, that there is no such thing as “separate but equal”; any such demands necessarily and inevitably entail discrimination. The Haredi establishment makes an argument for privilege: its religious “needs” and sexual objectification of women take precedence over equal civil rights. Marginal issue?

The Haredi establishment fully supports immunity legislation for Netanyahu, not only as a quid pro quo for his favors but because Minister of Interior Arye Deri, is under police investigation for serious financial crimes and Deputy Minister of Health Yaacov Litzman is too, with the police investigative unit recommending indictment.

The Haredi establishment backs legislation to gut the authority of the Supreme Court by giving the Knesset the power through simple majority vote to override any Supreme Court ruling. This would end the separation of powers and the very meaning of a Supreme Court as the arbiter of constitutionality.

The Haredi establishment runs a vast patronage system in the yeshivas and in the Chief Rabbinate. Keeping Haredi males illiterate and financially dependent on it is the base of that establishment’s power: perpetuation of this system is its call on the public purse. Its right to continue depriving that population of basic secular education — math, English, civics, history — is therefore, its prime demand, which government after government, yes, Labor-led, too — grants, with the rest of us paying for it with our taxes not once, in ever escalating subsidies, but perpetually, to support a growing, impoverished population. Why do yeshiva students get automatic exemption from army or alternative service and university students do not? Equal rights?

Study after study has shown the inflation of prices we pay for food in order to support the patronage system which is the kashrut kingdom of the Chief Rabbinate.

To dismiss all this as some marginal issue is beyond comprehension and effectively, collusion with the abuse the Haredi establishment hopes to keep perpetuating.

While Netanyahu, increasingly cornered by various dynamics, may be further sidling up to the Haredi establishment, his opposition in the Blue and White party is hardly showing awareness of, or determination about, the threat to constitutional democracy, equal rights, or rational government, posed by the Haredi establishment.

All this is anything but a marginal issue and, whereever we are on the political spectrum, we minimize it at our peril.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Shulamit S. Magnus is a professor of Jewish history and an award-winning author of books on Jewish modernity and on Jewish women’s history.
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About BDS and Congressional and Other Manipulations

So many resolutions in Congress about BDS; ostensibly, these are about being for and against boycotts and the right to boycott though it is clear that, without mentioning BDS or Israel, specifically, that is what all this is about.

For some, it’s hard to follow the moves till now but the various motions and anti-motions are just beginning. All this has become a political live-wire between the Republican and Democratic parties, with the Republicans sensing a juicy opportunity to exploit Democratic division and paint that party as anti-Israel, or even ant-Jewish, facts be damned. When Jews and Israel, the Jewish state, become stand-ins for dividing lines between major parties and segments of popular opinion, it is not good news for the Jews. Some have felt that a choice between Jewish and constitutional, democratic commitments is what is called for in this moment. That is not true, at all.

There is no contradiction between upholding the Constitution and the constitutional right to free speech, including speech with which one disagrees, and supporting the right of individuals, or states, or the Federal government, not to give their private business, or government business, to entities that boycott Israel. Either boycotts are ok or they aren’t. And they are.

The question is selective use of them, and in particular, in this case, the language used in supporting them, and disgusting analogies that are employed, that are intended to serve, and that serve, to demonize Israel. Not to oppose specific policies but to continue an obscene discourse, promoted about no other state or people on earth, about a “right to exist.”

BDS, of course, is marketed as boycotting only Israeli products from over the Green Line but anyone with an honest interest in all this needs also to be aware of the founding history and continued purpose of BDS, which has nothing to do with selective boycott or specific Israeli policies, but with deliberately misleading people about the founding history and continued purpose of BDS. Anyone who wants to dissociate from settlements or products from over the Green Line cannot credibly dissociate from the larger context in which organized efforts to this end are being waged. Which does not mean that individuals can’t follow their consciences about this but that they need to be aware of their bedfellows, whose “conscience” may be running on an entirely different agenda.

Google, “BDS,” if you never have, and see what comes up; try to get the BDS founding charter. See the language used by the organization itself to define its goals; the dishonesty. Here is cut-and-paste, with interpolation by me, in caps:

“Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) is a Palestinian-led movement for freedom, justice and equality. BDS upholds the simple principle that Palestinians are entitled to the same rights as the rest of humanity. (DOES THIS INCLUDE SELF-GOVERNING JEWS?).

“Israel is occupying and colonising (SIC) Palestinian land, (NOTE THE FAILURE TO DESIGNATE WHAT PALESTINIAN LAND IS INTENDED. THAT EXCLUSION IS QUITE DELIBERATE, SINCE THE FOUNDERS OF BDS CONSIDER ALL OF ISRAEL, PRE-1967, TOO, “PALESTINIAN LAND,” AND EQUATE ZIONISM WITH “SETTLER COLONIALISM” OF, E.G., THE BOERS IN SOUTH AFRICA. THE ISSUE IS NOT THE WEST BANK , OR 1967, AS IT IS FOR SO MANY WHO SEEK TWO STATES FOR TWO PEOPLES, THAT IS, A NEGOTIATED END TO THE NATIONALITY/ LAND CONFLICT HERE, BUT ISRAEL ITSELF. WHY DON’T BDS’ FRAMERS JUST COME OUT AND SAY THIS, THAT THE GOAL IS THE END OF ISRAEL? BECAUSE THAT WOULD BE A HARDER SELL TO NICE, LIBERAL PEOPLE, WHILE MISLEADING PEOPLE IS SO MUCH MORE EFFECTIVE), discriminating against Palestinian citizens of Israel and denying Palestinian refugees the right to return to their homes. (OK, IN CASE YOU MISSED IT OR DID NOT WANT TO TAKE MY WORD FOR IT IN THE ABOVE COMMENT, HERE IT IS, THE RIGHT OF RETURN AND THE END OF ISRAEL. THIS, WHILE NO SIMILAR CLAIM HAS BEEN OR IS BEING PRESSED IN OTHER NATIONALITY CONFLICTS AND ABOUT OTHER STATES, NOT LEAST, ARAB STATES, CREATED SINCE THE END OF WORLD WARS ONE AND TWO. PALESTINIAN ADVOCATES, TO BE SURE, ARE ENTITLED TO MAKE AN EXCEPTIONAL CASE FOR THEIR CAUSE BUT THE REST OF US SHOULD BE AWARE THAT THAT IS WHAT THIS IS). Inspired by the South African anti-apartheid movement, the BDS call urges action to pressure Israel to comply with international law. (NICE! COMPARE ISRAEL, WITH ARAB MKS, MEMBERS OF THE SUPREME COURT, THE MEDICAL AND UNIVERSITY AND BANKING  ESTABLISHMENTS, ON THE BEACHES AND IN THE SWIMMING POOLS, IN THE BUSES, TRAINS, STREETS, CAFES, THEATERS– WITH APARTHEID SOUTH AFRICA– OR NAZI GERMANY. BY ALL MEANS, DON’T CONFINE THE DISCUSSION TO THE OCCUPATION REGIME ON THE WEST BANK; MAKE IT ABOUT ISRAEL ITSELF. NEEDLESS TO SAY, DON’T SAY ANYTHING ABOUT THE CORRUPT, REPRESSIVE, PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY (PA), NEVER MIND, HAMAS; OR ABOUT SEVERAL PEACE DEALS THAT THE PA REJECTED, UNDER WHICH THERE WOULD HAVE BEEN A PALESTINIAN STATE, WITH A CAPITAL IN JERUSALEM, SEVERAL TIMES OVER, LONG AGO.)

“BDS is now a vibrant global movement made up of unions, academic associations, churches and grassroots movements across the world. Thirteen years since its launch, BDS is having a major impact and is effectively challenging international support for Israeli apartheid and settler-colonialism.” NOTE THE SLEIGHT OF HAND IN THE FINAL WORDS HERE, WHICH CHARACTERIZE ISRAEL’S EXISTENCE AS INHERENTLY ILLEGITIMATE.

Me again, straight up:

It’s a free country and people are free to support, or oppose, boycotts, or other political and economic activities, as they wish. Many liberals are pushing to boycott US states that have recently passed legislation banning abortion. That is their right. And individuals and governments can choose where they give their business: either boycotts are ok or they aren’t; it can’t be had both ways. Telling people they can’t support boycotts, punishing them via employment or other measures, is clearly unconstitutional. It is also politically, stupid.

It is stupid for people who support Israel to align that support with anti-constitutional , anti-democratic, anti-liberal measures. It may be more than just stupid; it offends the Jewish principles of many. But at the least, it is does not serve Israel’s interests, indeed, is very counter-productive to those interests. And to those of Diaspora Jews. This tactic is a set-up  for charges of that old, Jew-hating canard of Jewish “dual loyalty; or for accusations of “self-hatred” and “assimilation.” All this is lose-lose for Jews and we should not allow ourselves to be played like this.

We CAN, and indeed, must walk and chew gum at the same time . This may be, indeed, is, challenging, but not in fact, that complicated.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Shulamit S. Magnus is a professor of Jewish history and an award-winning author of books on Jewish modernity and on Jewish women’s history.
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Hong Kong: The Next Bloodbath

Hong Kong: The Next Bloodbath

 

I very much fear that Hong Kong is going to be the next Tienanmen Square except on a much larger scale. The Communist government in Beijing have used the financial muscle generated in Hong Kong to build their country and their military power ever since England turned it back over to them. Now the Chinese government is facing a quandary of sorts. If they do nothing and the protesters continue to stay united against the intrusions of Beijing then the government would have to either back down which would make them look weak or use their military to stop the protesters. Personally I believe that the government will use force to end the peoples blockades of government buildings, stores, and the streets. I can’t help but wonder how many people will be murdered by China’s military in this process. How many protesters will sacrifice their lives in hoping that the West will come to their aid? Personally I do not believe that the U.S. nor the UN will do anything accept talk and issue sanctions which will save no lives in Hong Kong. This is just as I believe that Beijing will totally get away with attacking the legitimate government of China that resides on Taiwan as the world sits back and wrings their hands and whine. Obviously this is just my opinion but this is how I honestly see these events playing out.

 

 

Brazil: Focus of political struggle should be the defense of sovereignty, says Lula

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF BRAZIL’S 247 NEWS)

 

Focus of political struggle should be the defense of sovereignty, says Lula

“Raduan has synthesized very well what the president wants to be the watchword of all Brazilian Democrats: to fight with every possible means to defend national sovereignty, whether material, pre-salt, Embraer or humanistic. ”Said writer Fernando Morais, while reporting his meeting and writer Raduan Nassar with former president

Squid
Lula (Photo: Ricardo Stuckert)

By Henrique Nunes from PT News Agency

It must be acknowledged that an encounter between a biographer, a writer, and a popular leader held in political prison for a crime he never committed was unlikely to happen by chance. It must also be admitted that only someone of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva ‘s greatness would motivate the visit of leading names in national culture such as biographer Fernando Morais and writer Raduan Nassar .

Both had already met the former president in the unfair prison, but separately. On Thursday (8), however, they joined the Federal Police headquarters with an even greater mission: to deliver to Lula the letter of representatives of the Association of Judges for Democracy (AJD) in defense of their immediate release and for the restoration of Brazilian democracy . .

With the literary verve that consecrated him, Morais philosophizes about the task received from the judges and judges who sign the document – written before the intimidating attempt to transfer Lulafrom Curitiba to São Paulo . “Lula was very touched by the letter. Nietzsche and Paulo Coelho said that there are no coincidences. Not by chance this letter was delivered by me and Raduan the next day of a new violence against Lula (…) We fulfill with great honor and joy the task that you ( juristsand judges ) gave us ”, explains the biographer, whose next The book will be precisely about Lula’s two political prisons in 1980 and the current one.

Known for his concise frank speech, Raduan went straight to the point: “I found the president extraordinarily determined to fight for Brazil’s sovereignty. Free squid ASAP! Lula is a politically arrested president and this is unbearable for all of us. ”

The struggle for national sovereignty, by the way, is one of Lula’s most avid wishes and has the unconditional support of Fernando Morais . “Raduan has synthesized very well what the president wants to be the watchword of all Brazilian Democrats: to fight with every possible means to defend national sovereignty, whether material, pre-salt , Embraer or humanistic. ”Reiterates the writer, for whom the support of jurists is the most perfect“ translation to Brazil of which there are judges and judges ”.

Hong Kong: Police In Hong Kong Fire Tear Gas As Demonstrators Rally In Response To Attack

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF NPR)
(HONG KONG IS IT GOING TO BE THE NEXT TIANANMEN SQUARE MASSACRE BY THE COMMUNIST MURDERERS OF BEIJING?)(oped: oldpoet56)

Police In Hong Kong Fire Tear Gas As Demonstrators Rally In Response To Attack

A protester helps a fellow demonstrator after police fired tear gas in the district of Yuen Long in Hong Kong on Saturday. Demonstrators defied a police ban to rally.

Anthony Wallace/AFP/Getty Images

Protesters in Hong Kong defied orders to not demonstrate on Saturday, gathering to denounce the police and government in an area where pro-democracy activists were attacked last weekend.

Protesters swarmed a major road in the district of Yuen Long clutching umbrellas to shield themselves from police cameras and tear gas that was later used against them at various sites along the route of their march.

The rally stemmed from an attack last Sunday at a train station in Yuen Long that left dozens of locals and pro-democracy activists wounded. The masked assailants, who wore white shirts and carried clubs, are suspected of having ties to organized crime groups known as triads.

On Saturday, the standoffs between police and protesters resulted in blocked roads and canisters of tear gas being fired. Police officers tried to disperse crowds on Castle Peak Road, Hong Kong’s longest road, and outside of a village where protesters had marched toward a police line.

Roy Kwong, a leading pro-democracy lawmaker, accused the police of firing tear gas near a home for the elderly, according to Hong Kong Free Press.

The demonstrations appear to have started peacefully, as one prominent protester, the singer Denise Ho, autographed hard hats for smiling demonstrators. A protester strung an anti-police banner outside of the Yuen Long police station and “a very friendly policeman came out of the watch tower to tell him to be careful not to fall,” said Hong Kong-based writer and lawyer Antony Dapiran.

At the Yuen Long train station, funeral bouquets were placed on the ground for Carrie Lam, Hong Kong’s chief executive whom critics call “Beijing’s puppet,” and Stephen Lo, the police commissioner. Chants of “Reclaim HK! Revolution of our time!” could be heard as people moved through the station.

As the day wore on, the Hong Kong government warned people to leave Yuen Long, saying that some protesters were hurling brickscarrying iron poles and blocking roads with fences.

The Hong Kong Police Force said that officers would disperse demonstrators from Yuen Long, but that protesters remained at the train station. They said a maximum penalty of five years in prison could be imposed on protesters.

Faceoffs between protesters and police broke out during a demonstration in the district of Yuen Long in Hong Kong on Saturday.

Anthony Wallace/AFP/Getty Images

Washington Post reporter Shibani Mahtani told NPR that both protesters and police appeared to be digging in, with people “basically pulling up bricks from the sidewalk” and arming themselves with iron rods and makeshift shields from wood found nearby.

Mahtani said that children and elderly people participated in the rally, but that protesters were predominantly young and appeared ready to “suit up” and “start essentially building weapons.”

One of the protest organizer’s, Max Chung, told Radio Television Hong Kong that he was “not concerned about my safety, but of course, I am concerned about everyone else’s safety.”

Protesters reportedly circumvented the police’s orders not to assemble, using social media channels to organize under the pretext of a “full-gear shopping day” and playing Pokémon Go in the area.

The police also banned a protest scheduled to take place Sunday in Sheung Wan, a lively neighborhood known for shopping and traditional Chinese medicine shops. Police said they denied the authorization because of public safety and order concerns, according to the Hong Kong Free Press.

On Friday, as part of a summer racked by protests, thousands of people filled the arrivals terminal of the bustling Hong Kong International Airport, demanding change.

A crowd of protesters blocks a police van during a demonstration on Saturday.

Anthony Wallace/AFP/Getty Images

The original protests started in response to a bill that would have allowed extraditions to mainland China, prompting fears that vocal Hong Kong activists would face prosecution in courts controlled by Beijing’s Communist Party. Hong Kong’s embattled chief executive has since declared the bill “dead,” but she has refused to formally withdraw the measure.

After weeks of protests, the demands of demonstrators have expanded. They have called for an independent inquiry into the police’s use of force at rallies and condemned the authorities for what they decry as a sluggish response to Sunday’s attack at the train station. Protesters have also pushed for the right to directly elect their leaders, who must now be approved by Beijing.

Lo, the police commissioner, told reporters that officers were slow to respond to last weekend’s attack because nearby stations were closed during the protest and police needed to “redeploy manpower from other districts.” He vowed to bring the offenders to justice and denied accusations that the police had worked with triads to target anti-government protesters, according to Reuters.

The recent unrest has also prompted a new contingent of protesters — those who are coming out to support the police and Beijing.

In China, one of the country’s most popular television shows denounced the protest on Saturday and blamed “external forces” for causing chaos, according to the South China Morning Post. Beijing also reportedly blocked mainlanders’ access to international news sites, denying them a chance to hear the voices of people fighting for democracy in Hong Kong.

Once a British colony, Hong Kong was returned to China in 1997 under a “one country, two systems” framework. Under Hong Kong’s Basic Law, the city is guaranteed “a high degree of autonomy” for 50 years. But fears of encroachment on democratic institutions have grown.

“Protesters aren’t even thinking that far,” Mahtani says. “They’re thinking about tomorrow; they’re thinking about next week.”

This week, China’s Defense Ministry spokesman, Wu Qian, told reporters that the Chinese military could be deployed to Hong Kong to maintain public order if Hong Kong asks the central government for help.

A government spokesperson for Hong Kong said authorities would not turn to the Chinese army for assistance because they were fully able to maintain order and deal with local affairs.

Russia: Putin’s Goon Squads Arrest At Least 1,000 Citizens At A Moscow Rally

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE BBC)

 

Russia protests: Thousand arrests at Moscow rally

Media caption Police marched away detainees

Police in Moscow have detained more than 1,000 people at a rally, in one of the biggest crackdowns in years.

Demonstrators were dragged away from the city hall as security forces used batons against the crowd.

People were protesting against the exclusion of opposition candidates from local polls. The opposition say they were barred for political reasons.

Some of the candidates banned from standing in the 8 September election had been detained earlier.

Officials disqualified about 30 people, saying they had failed to collect enough valid signatures to stand.

At least 1,074 arrests were made at the banned rally, officials say, while monitors reported 1,127 detentions.

Moscow’s Mayor, Sergei Sobyanin, has called the demonstration a “security threat”, and promised to maintain public order.

Anger is widespread among opposition supporters at the way the city is run and the ruling United Russia party.

Opposition leader Alexei Navalny, a fierce critic of President Vladimir Putin, was jailed for 30 days on Wednesday after calling for Saturday’s unapproved demonstration.

Mr Putin was on a trip to the Baltic Sea on Saturday for a dive in a submersible. “There are a lot of problems on Earth, so to diminish their amount one has to go up and deep down,” he remarked.

What happened this Saturday?

Last Saturday, more than 20,000 Russians took to the streets, demanding fair elections, and dozens were arrested.

It is unclear how many people turned up for the new unauthorised rally on 27 July but the numbers seem to have been sharply down.

According to police, about 3,500 people gathered, including about 700 journalists.

Police detain a protester in Moscow, 27 JulyImage copyright REUTERS
Image caption Riot police detained hundreds of protesters on Saturday

Police in riot gear pushed back the crowd from barriers surrounding the mayor’s office in central Moscow, hauling off detainees to police stations.

A number of protesters could be seen bleeding while at least two members of the security forces reportedly received eye injuries from pepper spray.

Presentational grey line

A powerful message to the regions?

Oleg Boldyrev, BBC News, Moscow

No -one was under any illusion that the large gathering would impress authorities into letting people express themselves peacefully. This rally went very much the same way others have done – arbitrary detentions, standoffs, crowds breaking off into the side streets.

The question is whether the anger over not being able to nominate a candidate – even for lower-level, city elections – would galvanise Muscovites into bigger, sustained expressions of dissent. After all, there are lots of residents not happy with the way Moscow government and Mayor Sobyanin run the city, or respond to popular concerns.

Police detain a protester in Moscow, 27 JulyImage copyrightREUTERS

Certainly, the would-be candidates, most of them seasoned anti-Putin activists, are hoping that the resentment will linger. That is exactly why policy handlers in the Kremlin are desperate to put a lid on it.

With both Mr Putin’s ratings falling and the United Russia party deeply unpopular, chanting crowds in the capital may send a very powerful message to other regions preparing to hold their elections.

Presentational grey line

How did we get here?

Local elections usually attract little attention in Russia.

The Moscow authority does not control the city’s budget or choose key official appointments, and previous votes have passed without major protests or press interest.

But this year some Muscovites are infuriated at what they see as brazen attempts to disqualify independent politicians from running.

Lyubov SobolImage copyrightAFP/GETTY
Image captionLyubov Sobol is one of the opposition candidates barred from standing

Candidates were asked to collect 5,000 signatures to stand. This limit was made even harder to match because a signature “means volunteering one’s personal information for the government’s database of opposition supporters”, democracy activist Vladimir Kara-Murza wrote in the Washington Post.

Many candidates managed to meet the threshold but the electoral commission ruled some signatures ineligible, saying they were unclear or the addresses provided were incomplete, and barred the candidates from taking part.

Opposition groups say the authorities had no reason to rule them ineligible – claims that electoral officials denied. “We have no reason to doubt our experts,” commission member Dmitry Reut said, according to media reports.

Mr Navalny, who addressed the crowds last Saturday, is not one of the candidates, although he stood in Moscow’s mayoral elections in 2013 and won 27% of the vote in a result he disputed.

Ella Pamfilova, the head of the electoral commission, said the protests would not change their decisions. “It doesn’t matter, not even a bit of it,” she said, dismissing the demonstrations as “political”.

The authorities banned this Saturday’s rally on the grounds that there were threats of violence against the commission.

Police then raided the homes of several opposition politicians, and called them in more for questioning.

What’s been the reaction?

Election candidate and opposition leader Dmitry Gudkov tweeted that the council had “died under Putin”.

“The last illusion that we are able to participate legally in politics has disappeared.”

Some newspapers also denounced the raids. Novaya Gazeta ran the headline Moscow City Terror on Friday, while Vedomosti said authorities were using force to suppress the protest “having failed to counter it with political means”.

Presentational white space

Russian government paper Rossiyskaya Gazeta, however, accused the opposition of “blackmail” and “an unacceptable attitude to the statutes of law”.

Political analyst Abbas Gallyamov told BBC Russian that the official response was designed to dissuade people from taking part. Any mass action would suggest the opposition had taken the initiative from the government.

Some believe the demonstrations could actually benefit the local authorities by reducing turnout.

“Young opposition supporters will not come to the polls, while the older generation whom the authorities are counting on vote out of habit,” Denis Volkov, an expert at independent think tank Levada Center, told the BBC. “The authorities will orient themselves towards them.”

Protesters Fill Prague Square Again, in New Struggle for Country’s Soul

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK TIMES)

 

Protesters Fill Prague Square Again, in New Struggle for Country’s Soul

Tens of thousands rallied in the Czech capital on Tuesday to demand the resignation of Prime Minister Andrej Babis. Credit David Josek/Associated Press

PRAGUE — In the square in the heart of Prague, where crowds gathered three decades ago in their bid to wrest freedom from Communist rule and where independence was proclaimed seven decades before that, protest songs rang out again on Tuesday night.

Tens of thousands of men, women and children, coming from across the Czech Republic, waving flags and carrying signs attacking the government, gathered for what they said was yet another struggle for the soul of their democracy.

What started six weeks ago as a relatively contained protest — over the appointment of a justice minister many believe will protect Prime Minister Andrej Babis from potential fraud charges — has grown into something broader and possibly harder to control. Organizers said Tuesday that as many as 120,000 people had attended the protest, a count that would make it one of Prague’s largest demonstrations since 1989.

“This is about more than just corruption,” said Tomas Peszynski, 44, holding the corner of an oversize European Union flag. “This is about an abuse of the system of government and a fight to protect the institutions of democracy.”

Mr. Babis has responded with his characteristic bravado — he said the large crowd size was a reflection of the nice weather — and he has condemned those leading investigations into his business dealings as being part of vast political conspiracy.

“We have Babis hysteria again,” he recently told lawmakers. “Try to do something for the people instead, don’t just take a swipe at Babis.”

Mr. Babis has been battling accusations of corruption for years and, in an interview last year, he did not hide his anger, saying it was impossible to defend himself from the constant stream of attacks. But he has proved resilient, having already survived a no-confidence vote in Parliament.

However, the large demonstrations — with organizers promising more in the weeks to come — present a different challenge.

In neighboring Slovakia, months of protests fueled by anger over corruption forced the government to collapse and paved the way for a newcomer, Zuzana Caputova, to win the presidential election this year. The success of the movement there was closely watched by organizers in their brother nation, as the two countries have called themselves since their peaceful separation in 1993.

In fact, Mr. Babis was elected to Parliament in 2013 in part because of a promise to battle corruption.

With a net worth estimated at around $4 billion, he presented himself as someone who could not be corrupted. And as a businessman who came from outside the familiar cast of political elite tainted by years of scandal, he promised a new era.

The voters agreed. In 2017 parliamentary elections, Mr. Babis and his party won a resounding victory, and he was named prime minister.

Image
Mr. Babis in Parliament last week. “Try to do something for the people instead, don’t just take a swipe at Babis,” he has told his critics.Credit Martin Divisek/EPA, via Shutterstock

Now, many accuse him of betrayal, and worse, engaging in an effort to bend the legal system to protect himself as he faces increased scrutiny over how his sprawling conglomerate — which includes more than 200 businesses, from agriculture to media — used funds provided by the European Union.

“We believed what he was saying when he was first elected,” said Dagmar Pavelkova, 27. “But there were just too many stories about his corruption and now he is trying to manipulate the legal system to get off.”

She traveled three hours from Hranice na Morave with her husband, who carried a sign with the famous words of the anti-Communist hero Vaclav Havel: “Truth and Love Will Prevail.”

Mr. Babis has been dogged by accusations of corruption for years, but the recent protests began in April, shortly after the police recommended that he face fraud charges in connection with a European Union subsidy to finance construction of a resort near Prague, called the Stork’s Nest.

The next day, the justice minister, Jan Knezinek, resigned. He was replaced by Marie Benesova, who is close to the country’s president, Milos Zeman, an ally of Mr. Babis. The move set off immediate outrage.

Under the Czech system, while the police can recommend an indictment, only the state’s prosecutor, who is appointed by the justice minister, can file charges.

For his part, Mr. Babis dismissed the police investigation as a politically orchestrated attack.

An audit by the European Commission made public last week has been harder to ignore. It found that Mr. Babis’s company, Agrofert, has benefited from European Union funds. Since he stands to gain from the success of his company — even though he maintains he has divorced himself from its operation — the audit found that his impartiality was compromised, first when he served as finance minister and later when he became prime minister.

“I strictly reject this opinion and I will fight for it to be changed,” Mr. Babis said. “The Czech Republic certainly won’t have to return any subsidies. There’s no reason for that, because I’m not violating any Czech or European legal norms.”

Speaking in a session of Parliament on Tuesday, Mr. Babis stepped up his attacks on his opponents.

“I consider the audit an attack on the Czech Republic, an attack on the interests of the Czech Republic,” he thundered. “It is a destabilization of the Czech Republic.”

While the crowd of protesters on Tuesday was large, Mr. Babis’s Anos party still has a solid base of support. In the recent European Parliament election, affiliated candidates got some 20 percent of the vote, the highest of any party.

But more than anything else, the results showed how fractured the political landscape in the country has become.

The Social Democrats, who were at the center of Czech politics for a quarter-century, are now just one of a handful of parties fighting for the vote of an angry and disillusioned electorate.

Many of those on the square on Tuesday rejected party labels.

Jitka Cvancarova, a famous Czech actress who spoke from the stage in front of the National Museum, said that values should be at the core of any decent society.

“Mr. Babis,” she said, addressing the prime minister directly. “You can probably buy a lot, but you cannot buy our honor, our hearts or our freedom.”

Hana de Goeij contributed reporting from Prague.

A version of this article appears in print on , on Page A5 of the New York edition with the headline: Crowds Fill Prague Again, Provoked by Corruption. Order Reprints | Today’s Paper | Subscribe

Britain Elections: Tories and Labour punished for Brexit contortions

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE BBC)

 

European elections 2019: Tories and Labour punished for Brexit contortions

Nigel FarageImage copyright PA

The scrap has started.

Were these results an overwhelming cry for us to leave the EU whatever the cost? Or a sign, with some slightly convoluted arithmetic, that the country now wants another referendum to stop Brexit all together?

Guess what, the situation is not quite so black and white, whatever you will hear in the coming hours about the meaning of these numbers.

The Brexit Party’s success was significant – topping the poll, successfully building on Nigel Farage’s inheritance from UKIP. As a one-issue party, his new group is the biggest single winner.

But the Lib Dems, Greens, Plaid and SNP – all parties advocating the opposite – were victors too.

Those who have been clearly pushing the case for another referendum in order to slam the brakes on Brexit have, this morning, a new confidence, a vigour with which they will keep making their case.

Smashed

While those two sides fight over this election’s true meaning, what is clear is that the two biggest parties have been damaged by their various contortions over Brexit, punished by the fiasco at Westminster, and beaten by rivals who have offered clarity while they have tried to find nuanced ways through.

The Tories’ performance is historically dreadful. This is not just a little embarrassment or hiccup. In these elections the governing party has been completely smashed.

And for the main opposition to have failed to make any mileage out of the Tories’ political distress is poor too – with historic humiliations in Scotland and Wales for Labour as well.

There is immediate pressure, of course, on Labour to argue more clearly for another referendum, to try to back Remain, to shore up that part of their coalition. The dilemmas over doing so still apply even though more and more senior figures in the party are making the case.

Shades of grey

And with the success of The Brexit Party, there is a push for the Tories to be willing to leave the EU without a deal whatever the potentially grave economic costs.

The Tory leadership contest in the wake of these results runs the risk of turning into bragging rights over who can take a harder line on Brexit.

In these elections it seems both of our main Westminster parties have been punished for trying to paint shades of grey when the referendum choice was between black and white. And there is a chance that encourages both of them to give up fighting for the middle.

But that could set our politics on a course where, whatever happens, half of the country will be unhappy. Nothing about these dramatic results sketches out a straightforward route.

Brazil: “ONLY LULA CAN RELEASE THE MILITARY FROM THE BOLSONARO PRISON”

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF BRAZIL’S 24/7 NEWS)

 

Hong Kong lawmakers fight over extradition law

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE BBC)

 

Hong Kong lawmakers fight over extradition law

Media caption Tensions flared up with some lawmakers jumping over tables

Fighting erupted in Hong Kong’s legislature on Saturday over planned changes to the law allowing suspects to be sent to mainland China for trial.

Several lawmakers were injured and one was taken to hospital as politicians clashed in the chamber.

Critics believe the proposed switch to the extradition law would erode Hong Kong’s freedoms.

But authorities say they need to make the change so they can extradite a murder suspect to Taiwan.

One pro-Beijing lawmaker called it “a sad day for Hong Kong”.

Pro-democracy lawmaker James To originally led the session on the controversial extradition bill but earlier this week those supportive of the new law replaced him as chairman.

Tensions boiled over on Saturday, with politicians swearing and jumping over tables amid a crowd of reporters as they fought to control the microphone.

Scuffles broke out in Hong Kong's legislature over proposed changes to extradition lawsImage copyright REUTERS
Image caption Opponents and supporters of the bill clashed in the legislature
Gary Fan stretchered out after clashes between opponents and supporters of Hong Kong's proposed extradition law changesImage copyright REUTERS
Image caption Pro-democracy lawmaker Gary Fan was taken out on a stretcher

Pro-democracy legislator Gary Fan collapsed and was carried out on a stretcher, while one pro-Beijing legislator was later seen with his arm in a sling.

Why change the extradition laws?

Under a policy known as “One Country, Two Systems”, Hong Kong has a separate legal system to mainland China.

Beijing regained control over the former British colony in 1997 on the condition it would allow the territory “a high degree of autonomy, except in foreign and defence affairs” for 50 years.

But Hong Kong’s pro-Beijing leader Carrie Lam earlier this year announced plans to change the law so suspects could be extradited to Taiwan, Macau or mainland China on a case-by-case basis.

Hong Kong's leader Carrie LamImage copyright REUTERS
Image caption Some critics say Carrie Lam has “betrayed” Hong Kong over the law change

Ms Lam has cited the case of a 19-year-old Hong Kong man who allegedly murdered his pregnant girlfriend while on holiday in Taiwan before fleeing home.

While Taiwan has sought his extradition, Hong Kong officials say they cannot help as they do not have an extradition agreement with Taiwan.

Why object to the switch?

The proposed change has generated huge criticism.

Protesters against the law marched on the streets last month in the biggest rally since 2014’s pro-democracy Umbrella Movement demonstrations.

Even the normally conservative business community has objected. The International Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong said the bill has “gross inadequacies” which could mean people risk “losing freedom, property and even their life”.

And Chris Patten, the last British governor of Hong Kong, told the government-funded broadcaster RTHK last month the proposal was “an assault on Hong Kong’s values, stability and security”.