Israel: Wounded Netanyahu in desperate battle for political survival after poll blow

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE LONDON GUARDIAN)

 

Israel: Wounded Netanyahu in desperate battle for political survival after poll blow

Israel’s president to meet PM and opposition leader Benny Gantz in bid to resolve election stalemate
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) and President Reuven Rivlin
 Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, and President Reuven Rivlin. Photograph: Gil Cohen-Magen/AFP/Getty Images

Israel’s president is set to begin two days of consultations with political parties after a deadlocked election last week plunged the country into uncertainty over who will lead the next government.

Near-final results from Tuesday’s poll showed the opposition chief, Benny Gantz, marginally ahead of the prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, with his Blue and White party taking 33 seats out of parliament’s 120. The ruling Likud party has 31.

Critically, neither side appeared able to forge a majority government, even with support from allies in smaller parties.

On Sunday afternoon President Reuven Rivlin will meet both leaders in an attempt to break the stalemate or face the possibility of a potential third round of elections in less than a year. Rivlin holds a largely ceremonial post but is also responsible for choosing the candidate he believes has the best chance of forming a government. Usually, the decision is clear, and often goes to the leader of the largest party, but the muddied result has created an impasse.

Despite being Israel’s longest-serving leader and having a reputation for political sorcery, Netanyahu is fighting a tough battle. On Thursday he acknowledged his plan had failed. “During the elections, I called for the establishment of a rightwing government,” Netanyahu said in a video message. “But unfortunately the election results show that this is not possible.”

After leading the country for 10 consecutive years, Israeli media has questioned whether his era was over. His biographer, Anshel Pfeffer, wrote that, while he may still cling on, “the Netanyahu magic has been broken”.

Fearing defeat, the prime minister has called for his opponent to join him in a unity government, hinting that he might be willing to accept a power-sharing arrangement with Gantz. There is a precedent in Israel for political rivals to serve together after Yitzhak Shamir and Shimon Peres rotated the role of prime minister in the mid-1980s. However, Gantz, a former military chief, swiftly rejected Netanyahu’s offer and said he should lead because his alliance won the most seats. “We will not be dictated to,” he warned.

Israel has held two elections in five months after Netanyahu failed to cobble together a coalition following a similar result in April. Rather than give the opposition a chance to do so, he instead pushed to dissolve the Knesset, triggering repeat elections and giving himself another opportunity.

The gamble has left him in an apparently worse position and the stakes are much higher. In two weeks’ time he will face pre-trial hearings for three corruption cases against him. A majority in the Knesset could give Netanyahu – who denies any wrongdoing – immunity from prosecution.

Avigdor Lieberman, leader of the Israeli secular nationalist Yisrael Beiteinu party
Pinterest
 Avigdor Lieberman, whose party took eight seats, could emerge as kingmaker. Photograph: Jalaa Marey/AFP/Getty Images

At the centre of the impasse, and the man with the key to ending it, is Israel’s apparent kingmaker – the far-right ultra-nationalist Avigdor Lieberman. The staunch secularist took eight seats, but his refusal to join a government with Jewish religious groups has added further blocks.

Politicians from an alliance of the country’s minority Arab population could also play a role, after they became the third-largest bloc in the Knesset. Ayman Odeh, the head of the group, has said that he may back Gantz, but even that would not give the opposition figure a majority.

If Sunday’s talks prove fruitless, Rivlin’s office said he might invite Netanyahu and Gantz back for more consultations. The president is obliged by law to choose a candidate by 2 October, who will then have up to six weeks to form a government. If that person fails, the president can task another, but the process could break down and force the holding of a third election.

Rivlin has said he will do everything in his power to avoid such a costly scenario that would paralyse Israeli politics right into 2020. Yet some say it looks increasingly likely.

“These are early days indeed to try to make sense of what government may emerge from the migraine-inducing complexity of Israel’s elections,” wrote David Horovitz, founding editor of the Times of Israel. “But the outcome everybody professes to want to avoid is already starting to loom in the distance.

“If Netanyahu sees it as his last hope, and Gantz thinks he’ll emerge from it stronger, we may yet have to go through this all again.”

Trump-Ukraine suspicions raise specters of collusion and impeachment

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER)

 

Trump-Ukraine suspicions raise specters of collusion and impeachment

Presidential impeachment looms, and perhaps even removal, because Donald Trump may have colluded after all.

Or, to use the correct legal terminology, maybe the president tried to engage in a “conspiracy” with a foreign government, to wit, an effort to use American assets in a quid pro quo arrangement to directly affect a national election and both nations’ systems of criminal justice.

This is what House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff of California and other Democrats suspect with regard to a whistleblower’s complaint that reportedly was “prompted by President Trump’s interactions with a foreign leader.”

The evidence already indicates a significant likelihood that the suspicions are correct. If — repeat, only if — the reports do prove true, then Trump is in massive trouble.

Granted, Schiff himself is hardly a reliable interpreter of events. He’s a far-left ideological enemy of Trump’s, a publicity hound prone to grandstandinggullibility, and prevarication. Still, even political hacks sometimes stumble upon important information.

What’s known is this: First, former Vice President Joe Biden is suspected by many in Trump world of having used undue influence to kill a Ukrainian investigation into potential illegalities by his son, Hunter. If Biden did so, that would almost surely be illegal and would by all reasonable standards make him unfit for the presidency.

It is not, however, obvious that Biden did what is suspected. Trump and his attorney Rudy Giuliani, though, obviously want Ukraine to r-open the investigation into Biden. It long has been evident that Trump world believes that among the current Democratic presidential candidates, Biden would be his most serious challenger. If Ukraine finds Biden actually did something wrong, or even if they publicly are investigating him, Trump’s reelection prospects surely would improve.

Hence, Giuliani’s now-admitted efforts to ask Ukraine’s current regime to ensnare Biden in a major investigation. If Giuliani did so at Trump’s request, which is certainly not far-fetched, that alone would be dicey behavior. As the United States is a key ally for Ukraine’s very survival, any implied pressure on it from someone acting for the president, on behalf of the president’s political interests, would be ethically questionable.

Yet Trump is now suspected of doing even worse, than that. A whistle blower filed a report to the inspector general for the U.S. intelligence community — a complaint the White House is withholding from Congress, but whose existence if not exact details are known — alleging an “urgent” matter arose from a “promise” Trump made in a phone call with a foreign leader. Available evidence makes it almost certain that the complaint involved July 25 call to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, at a time when Trump was delaying a $250 million military assistance package for Ukraine already approved by U.S. law.

Trump subsequently allowed the aid to go forward.

In sum, Democrats suspect Trump conditioned the aid delivery on Ukraine’s willingness to investigate Biden.

Every bit of circumstantial evidence so far, including Giuliani’s similar mission and including a Ukrainian official summary of that July 25 phone call, makes that suspicion entirely plausible. If so, it would be a serious conspiracy indeed.

Substitute “Ukraine” for “Russia,” in this sentence from special counsel Robert Mueller’s explanation (p. 66) as to what potential crime he was investigating: “coordination or conspiracy … with respect to Russia providing assistance to the campaign in exchange for any sort of favorable treatment in the future.” In the new Ukraine case, the suspected quid pro quo is obvious and far worse than what Mueller investigated. If the president uses U.S. taxpayer-financed military supplies as, in effect, a bribe to induce a foreign government to harass the president’s domestic opponent, it’s a horrible crime.

If it is true, this is a scandal much worse than Watergate. If it’s true, Trump must be removed from office.

China: British PM in limbo after MPs reject his Brexit plan, elections

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SHANGHAI CHINA NEWS AGENCY ‘SHINE’)

 

British PM in limbo after MPs reject his Brexit plan, elections

AFP
British PM in limbo after MPs reject his Brexit plan, elections

AFP

A handout photograph released by the UK Parliament shows Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson gesturing as he reacts to main opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn during his first Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons in London on September 4, 2019.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government was left in limbo on Wednesday after MPs voted to derail his Brexit plan and rejected his call for an early election to break the political deadlock.

Just six weeks after taking office, Johnson lost his majority in the House of Commons as his own MPs joined opposition parties to stop him taking Britain out of the EU next month without a deal.

On Wednesday evening, they approved a bill that could force Johnson to delay Brexit to January or even later if he cannot agree exit terms with Brussels in time.

Johnson says he does not want a “no deal” exit on October 31 but says he must keep that option open in order to get an agreement.

He said the bill, which was being debated in the upper House of Lords into the night, “destroys the ability of government to negotiate” — and said he had no option to call an election to win a new mandate.

“If I’m still prime minister after (the vote on) Tuesday October 15 then we will leave on October 31 with, I hope, a much better deal,” he told MPs.

Labour rejects ‘cynical’ move

But in yet another twist in the tortuous Brexit process, the opposition Labour Party refused to vote for the election, which requires the backing of two-thirds of MPs.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said that while he wanted an election, he would not support the prime minister’s “cynical” call until the law blocking “no deal” was implemented.

The default legal position is that Britain will leave the EU on October 31 unless it delays or asks to stay in the bloc.

Corbyn said: “Let this bill pass, then gain royal assent, then we will back an election so we do not crash out with a no-deal exit from the European Union.”

Johnson accused Corbyn of being frightened of losing, but urged the opposition to reconsider over the next few days.

For now, he is unable to pursue his Brexit plan — the central focus of his leadership — or call an election that might change the situation.

Across the Atlantic, US President Donald Trump earlier offered his support, telling reporters: “Boris knows how to win. Don’t worry about him. He’s going to be OK.”

‘Sham’ negotiations

Johnson took office in July, three years after the 2016 referendum vote to leave the EU, promising to deliver Brexit whatever happens.

He says he wants to renegotiate the divorce deal his predecessor Theresa May agreed with Brussels, while at the same time stepping up preparations for a disorderly exit.

Johnson insisted his team was making “substantial progress.”

But the bloc has so far refused to reopen the text, and a senior EU source poured cold water on the idea that a deal could be struck at next month’s Brussels summit.

The European Commission says Britain has yet to come up with any alternative for the most controversial element of the current deal, the so-called “backstop” plan for the Irish border.

Corbyn said the negotiations Johnson talked about “are a sham — all he’s doing is running down the clock.”

The European Commission also said the risk of a “no deal” exit has increased, a prospect many fear because of the economic damage risked by severing 46 years of UK-EU ties overnight.

England: Boris Johnson’s intention is clear: he wants a ‘people v parliament’ election

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE LONDON GUARDIAN)

 

Boris Johnson’s intention is clear: he wants a ‘people v parliament’ election

The plan to prorogue parliament is a nakedly populist move that Johnson hopes will lead to a parliamentary majority

 Boris Johnson confirms plan to suspend UK parliament – video

Boris Johnson’s plan to prorogue parliament ahead of a Queen’s speech on 14 October is intended to provoke parliamentarians into blocking a no-deal Brexit, or triggering a general election through a vote of no confidence. Both are feasible in the time available.

The last time parliament stepped in to block no deal earlier in the year, the necessary legislation was passed in just three days. Johnson has deliberately left enough time for parliament to seize control again. That’s because Johnson’s real objective is to use Brexit to win a general election, rather than use a general election to secure Brexit. By forcing the hands of his opponents, he has defined the terrain for a “people versus parliament” election. Expect him to run on “Back Boris, Take Back Britain”. He will say that the only way to definitely leave on 31 October is to give him a parliamentary majority to do so. The man of Eton, Oxford and the Telegraph will position himself as the leader of the people against the hated establishment and “remainder elite”.

Johnson’s electoral strategy is simple: unite the Brexit-supporting right of politics behind him while remainders are fractured across Labor, the SNP, Liberal Democrats and Greens. Since the day he took office, Johnson has been acting to consolidate the votes of leave supporters behind him. From Brexit party supporters to leave-backing Labor voters, Johnson has sought to create a winning electoral coalition.

The Tories have spent recent weeks closing off predicted Labor attack lines. Sajid Javid has announced a one-year spending review will take place on 4 September. After nearly a decade of relentless reductions in spending, the public have plainly tired of austerity. Waiting times in the NHS are longer; class sizes are larger; and the police are no longer able to keep up with rising crime or keep many communities safe. Johnson’s government has already promised more spending in each of these areas.

Sajid Javid
Pinterest
 ‘The Tories have spent recent weeks closing off predicted Labor attack lines. Sajid Javid has announced a one-year spending review will take place on 4 September.’ Photograph: Matt Dunham/PA

But these are very Tory announcements, with an added right-wing edge. So the leaked proposal to invest in schools is to be accompanied by proposals to allow teachers to use “reasonable force” against pupils, and the additional resources for the police include proposals to allow all officers to carry Tasers. There is no serious public policy discussion about precisely how much force grown adults should use against children, just as the problem with knife crime is not the police’s ability to pacify knife-wielding youths with Tasers. These plans are red meat for the Tory base, designed to distract from rather than solve the problems our society faces.

The political logic is obvious. In 2017, Theresa May lost the slim Tory majority she inherited from her predecessor in an election campaign that turned away from Brexit and towards the state of the country at home. Labor’s clear anti-austerity message resonated across the Brexit divide and paid electoral dividends for the party. Johnson is aiming to prevent such a turn taking place this time.

Yet the public will be skeptical that the same people who needlessly degraded public services are now prepared to invest in them. While Johnson is unconstrained by principle or the shackles of ideology, he leads a cabinet of the hard right of the Conservative party. For those who have dedicated a lifetime to hacking back the state and severing Britain’s ties with the European Union, it seems unlikely that they are on board with a project of investment in public services. But they are certainly committed to a no-deal exit that is an Atlanticist project rather than a unilateral one – and to the aggressive tax cuts that Johnson has promised. This is a government that intends to realign Britain to the US and is set to govern just like US Republicans – cut taxes first, then maintain spending to blow up the deficit before using that to justify far deeper spending cuts.

So why would the public believe what Johnson says? The real secret of populists, from Donald Trump to Matteo Salvini to Johnson, is the conflation of transgression with truthfulness. The willingness to engage in bigotry and violate hard-won social norms against racist, homophobic or misogynistic language convinces people that these politicians “speak their mind” and “say what they think”. Paradoxically, their lack of virtue confirms their veracity.

Their bigotry is the result of calculation rather than miscalculation – and the predictable howls of outrage from critics only serves to amplify the message. The upcoming election will turn on whether Johnson is found out for what he is: Trump with a thesaurus, whose real agenda of a Brexit for the elite is disguised behind the thin veneer of a few spending announcements that come after a desperate decade of the degradation of Britain at home and abroad.

 Tom Kibasi is director of the Institute for Public Policy Research. He writes in a personal capacity

Since you’re here…

… we have a small favor to ask. More people are reading and supporting The Guardian’s independent, investigative journalism than ever before. And unlike many news organisations, we have chosen an approach that allows us to keep our journalism accessible to all, regardless of where they live or what they can afford. But we need your ongoing support to keep working as we do.

The Guardian will engage with the most critical issues of our time – from the escalating climate catastrophe to widespread inequality to the influence of big tech on our lives. At a time when factual information is a necessity, we believe that each of us, around the world, deserves access to accurate reporting with integrity at its heart.

Our editorial independence means we set our own agenda and voice our own opinions. Guardian journalism is free from commercial and political bias and not influenced by billionaire owners or shareholders. This means we can give a voice to those less heard, explore where others turn away, and rigorously challenge those in power.

We need your support to keep delivering quality journalism, to maintain our openness and to protect our precious independence. Every reader contribution, big or small, is so valuable. Support The Guardian from as little as $1 – and it only takes a minute. Thank you.

Saudis: EU to Observe Elections in Tunisia

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

EU to Observe Elections in Tunisia

Sunday, 4 August, 2019 – 11:45
The head of Tunisian Independent High Authority for Elections, Nabil Baffoun, attends a news conference in Tunis, Tunisia, March 6, 2019. Reuters file photo
Tunis – Mongi Saidani
The European Union announced sending a 38-member Election Observation Mission (EOM) on August 23 to overlook presidential and parliamentary elections in Tunisia. It said this move comes as a response to a request by the Independent High Authority for Elections.

Ten observers will be deployed in Tunis, with the remainder distributed to several polling stations throughout the country.

According to the EU, the mission will work “independently, impartially and fully in line with international standards,” to monitor elections.

This would give greater credibility to the elections’ results and maintain the level of political support for the emerging Tunisian democracy.

Ten candidates have submitted their papers to run for the early presidential elections, scheduled to be held on September 15.

Five among these 10 represent well-known political parties including Head of the Democratic Patriots’ Unified Party Mongi Rahoui, President of the Democratic Current Mohamed Abbou, Head of the Republican People’s Union (L’Union Populaire Républicaine) Lotfi Mraihi, President of the Free Destourian Party (Free Constitutional Party) Abir Moussi and Head of the Heart of Tunisia Party Nabil Karoui

The other five, however, are independent and don’t represent any political party in the country, and they include Mounir Joumai, Nidal Karim, Hamdi Alia.

Prime Minister Youssef Chahed, Defense Minister Abdul Karim al-Zubaidi and former Prime Minister Mehdi Jomaa are also expected to run for the presidential elections.

The number of political and social parties backing Zubaidi has increased on Saturday after leaderships of Ennahda Party and Nidaa Tounes announced they would vote for him.

In this context, Head of Tunisian Independent High Authority for Elections Nabil Baffoun affirmed the proposal to revise chapter 49 of the Tunisian Electoral Code concerning the appeals of the results relating to the presidential elections, or the enactment of a special statute relating to the electoral dates for the premature elections.

In case the deadlines were shortened, coordination with the Administrative Court (a court that hears appeals by the candidates) will take place in a bid to respect the constitutional term for electing new president within a maximum period of 90 days, which ends on October 24.

If the parliament approves the Independent High Authority for Elections’ proposal, the second round of presidential elections will be held before September 29, respecting constitutional deadlines.

Moscow Police Detain Hundreds At Latest Election-Related Protest

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF NPR NEWS)

 

Moscow Police Detain Hundreds At Latest Election-Related Protest

Police officers detain opposition candidate and lawyer Lyubov Sobol in Moscow on Saturday. Sobol was one of more than 600 arrested in Saturday’s protests, according to an independent monitoring agency.

Dmitry Serebryakov/AP

Police detained 600 protesters in Moscow on Saturday, according to OVD-info, an independent group that monitors protests and policing in Russia.

Demonstrators in Moscow have been demanding that opposition candidates be allowed to register in city elections. Police arrested more than 1,000 people at an election-focused protest last week.

Reuters reporters in Moscow on Saturday said they witnessed dozens of arrests; OVD-info reports that police beat multiple demonstrators with clubs.

The Moscow City Duma is controlled by the pro-Kremlin United Russia party. All of its 45 seats, which carry five-year terms, are up for re-election on Sept. 8. The disagreement between protesters and election authorities hinges on the signature-gathering process for candidates. Election authorities say certain opposition candidates did not gather enough valid signatures on their nominating petitions to be eligible for the race. Opposition candidates and their supporters say signatures have been invalidated for political reasons, to hinder the democratic process and prevent anti-Kremlin candidates from getting on the ballot.

Lyubov Sobol, one of the opposition candidates who election officials say failed to qualify for the ballot, was one of the protesters arrested on Saturday. Sobol has been on hunger strike for 21 days, according to the BBC.

As NPR’s Lucian Kim has reported, the Moscow city elections have national significance; opponents of Russian President Vladimir Putin are trying to use local elections to chip away at his political support in advance of Russia’s 2024 presidential election.

“Moscow is the key,” Kim told Morning Edition last month. “It’s Russia’s largest city and is probably also the place where the opposition has a potentially large support base.”

According to Kim, a Putin spokesperson has said that though the Kremlin is following the developments, local elections remain under the jurisdiction of local authorities.

The Associated Press reported Saturday that Russia’s Investigative Committee plans to open a criminal case against the anti-corruption foundation of prominent opposition figure Alexei Navalny. Navalny is currently serving a 30-day jail sentence for his role in last week’s protest, and he recently raised the possibility that he had been poisoned while in custody.

Moscow’s police have been criticized for using violent methods to control protests. According to the BBC, Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin said protesters last week“simply compelled the police to use force, which was perfectly appropriate for the situation.”

Fontanka.ru, a local news site, reported that 2,000 people rallied in St. Petersburg on Saturday to support protesters in Moscow. Local police said 1,000 were in attendance.

Moscow Mitch McConnell The Trumpian And Putin Bitch

Moscow Mitch McConnell The Trumpian And Putin Bitch

 

This letter to you today is not the type of letter that I ever thought I would need to write but it has become very clear that these thoughts and opinions need to be vocalized. First, Mitch McConnell is one of my home states two Senators, the other being Rand Paul so I have been reading up on Moscow Mitch for a long time now and the more I learn about this douche bag the sicker I get of him. I am going to pop some realities at you about this man then simply think what you will. I know that many folks won’t care if everything I say was to be proven to be the total truth beyond a doubt and some of you will probably get even more pissed off at him than you are now.

 

Mr. McConnell has already stated that he is running for re-election in the November 3rd, 2020 election cycle. He was born on February 20th of 1942 so if he wins re-election as our state Senator he would be just barely shy of his 79th birthday when the new cycle begins letting him be in Office until just shy of his 85th birthday. This would also be his 8th term in the Senate and the reality is that he is the second most powerful person in our Nation so for a person as power hungry and money hungry as he is I believe that he will try to stay in Office until the day he dies.

 

Now, lets talk about our Nations elections that is and has been fixed by Russian interference since at least 2016. Our security agencies have proven that the Russian government at the direction of Mr. Trumps good friend President Putin have been trying to ‘fix’ all of our elections even at the State level. Even though Mr. Trump supposedly won the most electoral votes in 2016 he did lose to crooked Hilary by more than 3 million actual votes. But think about what I am getting ready to discuss with you about 2016, even during the primaries. The CIA, FBI and NSA all know that Russia was infiltrating the elections in all 50 States. Do you remember how most folks thought that Trump was nothing but a joke running for the Office of President, then he started winning primaries? What if he actually didn’t win most or any of those primaries, Putin did? Think about it, why would Putin wait until the main election to start fixing things for his puppet Trump? Really, if Russia hadn’t fixed the State and Federal elections Mr. John Kasich would probably be our President now. But, then again if the DNC hadn’t fixed the Democratic primaries for crooked Hilary Senator Bernie Sanders would probably be our President, but certainly not this idiotic Clown we have now.

 

Now, back to Moscow Mitch and why he won’t allow any bill to be brought to the Senate floor that would help stop the Russian interference in our next set of elections. First, he using his position as the Head of the Senate to totally nullified the existence of the Federal Congress. Anything and everything that the Congress has passed and sent onto the Senate he has not allowed it to hit the Senate floor for a vote. This is why he is the second most powerful person in our Nation. He is controlling not only the Senate but the House also. There is good reason why he doesn’t want to stop the Russians form messing up our elections, as the votes get fixed for Trump to win, the Republican Senators win riding Trump’s coat tails. As long as this is allowed to continue the Republicans will control the Senate thus keeping McConnell in this high perch of power. In other words it behooves him personally ego wise and financially to not stop the election interference. Just like Mr. Trump has sold out America and all of our people to Mr. Putin, so has Moscow Mitch.

 

 

Why won’t the Senate protect American elections?

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE BROOKINGS BRIEF)
(Moscow Mitch The Trumpian Bitch?) oped: oldpoet56)

Why won’t the Senate protect American elections?

Darrell M. West and Raj Karan Gambhir

Editor’s Note:This post is part of “Cybersecurity and Election Interference,” a Brookings series that explores digital threats to American democracy, cybersecurity risks in elections, and ways to mitigate possible problems.

Cybersecurity & Election InterferenceThe United States is at risk of serious foreign intervention and disinformation in the 2020 elections. When asked during his testimony to the House Judiciary Committee whether Russia could interfere in the 2020 elections, Robert Mueller responded that they are “doing it as we sit here.” The very next day, the Senate Intelligence Committee reported that “the Russians had attempted to intrude in all 50 states” during the 2016 election. A blog post by Brookings Institution Fellow Margaret Taylor furthermore shows that our European allies have experienced similar Russian activities over the last few years in their national elections, the Brexit campaign, and European Union parliamentary races. Even as the scope of Russian intent and ability becomes increasingly clear, Senate Republicans have done nothing to address this problem.

It is not as if there aren’t good ideas to protect American elections. Four major pieces of election security legislation have been introduced over the last two years: the Secure Elections Act (introduced by Senators James Lankford (R-OK) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN)); Defending American Security from Kremlin Aggression Act (introduced by Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Cory Gardner (R-CO), Ben Cardin (D-MD), and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH)); Defending Elections from Threats by Establishing Redlines Act (Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD)); and Securing America’s Federal Elections Act (introduced by Representative Zoe Lofgren (D-CA19)).

As noted below, the bills demonstrate relative bipartisan agreement over several key remedies. A number of members have proposed providing additional funding for the Election Assistance Commission, sharing election security expertise with the states, providing paper ballot backups of electronic voting systems, sanctioning financial institutions that support foreign interference, authorizing retaliatory actions against any nation interfering in American elections, and requiring intelligence agencies to determine whether any foreign agents interfered in American elections. A version of these ideas already has been approved by the U.S. House of Representatives on a 225 to 184 vote, but has been repeatedly blocked from a Senate vote by Senate Majority Leader McConnell (R-KY). Calling the bill “highly partisan,” McConnell blocked a unanimous consent vote on the bill just hours after Mueller’s testimony.

This Senate inaction brings to mind Albert Einstein’s infamous definition of insanity as repeating the same behavior but expecting a different outcome. With no beefing up of election defenses and high odds of continuing foreign interference, 2020 will likely see the same problems of 2016: campaigns that sow discontent and play on societal divisions, active efforts to undermine electoral legitimacy, and widespread public doubts following the campaign about the integrity of the election process itself. Americans will wake up on Wednesday, November 4, 2020 wondering how the U.S. electoral process again fell prey to foreign interference and why political leaders failed to defend our vital democratic processes.

Providing additional funding for the Election Assistance Commission

In looking across the proposed bills, there are a number of promising ideas designed to secure U.S. elections. One of them advanced in the Secure Elections Act is the creation of an Election Assistance Commission grant program that provides funding for states and localities to secure electoral processes and upgrade equipment. The idea is that since elections largely are administered at the state and local level, additional funding for those entities would enable them to update their equipment, install the latest cyber-security protections, and make sure that vital infrastructure is protected during the election.

Sharing election security expertise

Several of the proposed bills give the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) a major role in advising the states, offering them technical expertise, and being proactive in dealing with possible cyber-threats. Since this department works to counter terrorism and maintain vital infrastructure, the department has expertise to evaluate hardware and software for cyber-security risks. Armed with that information, it could provide help to state and local agencies charged with administering the upcoming elections.

Providing paper ballot backups of electronic voting systems with an audit trail

A number of local jurisdictions have moved to electronic voting machines in recent years, although in most cases, this equipment is not connected to the internet in order to minimize opportunities for hacking. However, there still could be software bugs that distort the vote or systematically under-count certain areas. Given that possibility, it is important to have paper ballot backups of electronic voting systems and the possibility of conducting an audit if any irregularities are spotted. That way, voters can feel confident their votes will be counted and there are mechanisms to evaluate the vote in case anything is contested.

Sanctioning financial institutions that support foreign interference

The Defending American Security from Kremlin Aggression Act establishes financial sanctions that could be applied against countries, financial institutions, or individuals that “facilitate illicit and corrupt activities, directly or indirectly, on behalf of Putin.” The idea is that Russians could be discouraged from malicious behavior if they think there will be serious consequences.

Authors

In addition, the bill “would give prosecutors additional authorities to pursue federal charges for the hacking of voting systems and create a National Fusion Center to respond to hybrid threats of disinformation and other emerging threats from Russia”. There are provisions that specifically would impose sanctions for “Russian interference in democratic processes.”

Authorize retaliatory actions against any nation interfering in American elections

The Defending Elections from Threats by Establishing Redlines (DETER) Act would allow the President to impose sanctions against any country identified as a threat. Among the actions that could invite retaliation “include a foreign government or agent purchasing political advertisements to influence an election” or “using social media to spread false information, hacking and releasing or modifying election- or campaign-related information or hindering access to elections infrastructure, such as websites for polling places.”

Requiring intelligence agency leaders to determine whether any foreign agents interfered in American elections

The DETER Act would mandate that the director of national intelligence determine within 30 days of the national election whether “the government of a foreign country, or any person acting as an agent of or on behalf of that government, knowingly engaged in interference in the election.” Under threat of sanction, foreign agents specifically would not be allowed to “spread significant amounts of false information to Americans. They also cannot hack, leak or modify election and campaign infrastructure, including voter registration databases and campaign emails.”

Why the Senate inaction in the face of a clear foreign danger?

A number of arguments have been made to justify the votes of those who opposed the House bill or are supporting Senate inaction. One is a state’s rights argument suggesting that the federal government should not have a major role in electoral security given the country’s history of state and local control of balloting. While it certainly is important to maintain state and local control of elections, providing federal assistance to upgrade voting machines does not violate existing legal or constitution provisions. There is a long history of the federal government paying for voting equipment and offering technical assistance. Many states lack funding for voting machines and the federal government often has funded upgrades and improvements. There is ample precedent for national authorities to protect vital infrastructure in the face of foreign threats.

Another rationale concerns the financial cost of electoral security. The idea is at a time when America is running a trillion-dollar budget deficit, it should avoid unnecessary expenditures. Rather, lawmakers should focus on vital priorities and critical infrastructure. Yet electoral security should fall within each of those principles. Having secure elections is essential to democracy. There is no excuse for not spending several hundred million dollars (a very small portion of the overall federal budget) on meaningful steps to protect American elections. Democracy is too important to be risked for a relatively small amount of money.

Short of these criticisms, it is hard to see any justified reason not to enact some type of electoral security measures. As is clear to all who study American elections and have heeded the warnings of our European allies, the intelligence community, and the Special Counsel—the Russian threat is real. Given these dire circumstances, it is difficult to fathom why Senate leadership is refusing to allow a vote on such important legislation, and therefore risking the integrity of the democratic process. Americans should demand Senate action to protect U.S. elections from foreign interference.

Israel: Election lists close with rifts leaving Liberman as kingmaker

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Election lists close with rifts on left and right, leaving Liberman as kingmaker

Three major takeaways as 32 parties register with the Central Elections Committee for the September 17 national vote

Raoul Wootliff
Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman in Tel Aviv, July 30, 2019. (Tomer Neuberg/ Flahs90)

Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman in Tel Aviv, July 30, 2019. (Tomer Neuberg/ Flahs90)

With 47 days to go until the September 17 national vote, all 32 parties set to run in the election, and their electoral slates, have been registered with the Central Elections Committee.

Here are three takeaways from two fairly humdrum days at the committee, as the parties filed ahead of Thursday’s midnight deadline:

1. Divided Right

The most exciting drama leading up to the closing of registration was the protracted effort, which went down to the wire, to merge the extremist Otzma Yehudit party with the newly formed United Right union.

Pressure to reach an agreement continued right up until the deadline, with party leader Itamar Ben Gvir saying he had been asked to hold out a little while longer by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has been pushing for the merger on the grounds that right-wing votes could be wasted if Otzma Yehudit, whose name means Jewish Power, failed to clear the 3.25% electoral threshold.

In the end, however, those efforts failed and United Right, led by popular former justice minister Ayelet Shaked, filed its own party list without Otzma Yehudit or Moshe Feiglin’s quasi-libertarian hard-right Zehut (or, indeed, the tiny anti-LGBT Noam party, which had temporarily agreed to run with Otzma Yehudit.) Likud has (generously) estimated that those three parties are worth roughly four to five percent of the vote (180,000-216,000 votes).

The decision to forgo a merger, which United Right has said was due to Ben Gvir refusing to take any spot on the joint slate below eighth place, may well end up being good for the right-wing union and bad for Netanyahu, reducing his chances of gaining the support of at least 61 of the 120 eventual Knesset members.

Otzma Yehudit’s Itamar Ben Gvir speaks to reporters at the Knesset before his far-right party submits its electoral slate to the Central Elections Committee on August 1, 2019. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

Instead of gathering the fringes of Israel’s right-wing, the new union has brought together the mainstream factions on the right — Shaked’s New Right and the religious-Zionist union, United Right Wing Parties — all but guaranteeing their own political survival, but not necessarily Netanyahu’s.

The union headed by Shaked could end up being a direct threat to his own support: it may boost the right-wing bloc somewhat, but it is just as likely to drain support from the Likud in favor of the new United Right, with many Likud voters likely amenable to Shaked and the type of party she is forming.

At the same time, tens or hundreds of thousands of right-wing votes may now be lost in the election if they go to Ben Gvir or Feiglin’s factions, and those parties fail to clear the threshold and enter the Knesset.

2. Democratic Camp(s)

At the other end of the political spectrum, Thursday also saw hopes dashed for a grand left-wing union made up of the Democratic Camp — itself a merger between Meretz, former prime minister Ehud Barak’s Israel Democratic Party and ex-Labor MK Stav Shaffir — and the recently announced Labor-Gesher partnership.

Despite significant internal criticism over the decision, newly elected Labor leader Amir Peretz opted to run independently of the newly formed Democratic Camp, and instead position Labor as a left-leaning socio-economic party less focused on diplomatic and peace issues.

There has been lingering anger within Labor over Peretz’s decision to merge the faction with former lawmaker Orly Levy-Abekasis’s Gesher party, which is further to the right on the political spectrum and failed to pick up enough votes to enter the Knesset in April’s elections. Others within Labor, notably the party’s No. 2 MK, Itzik Shmuli, meanwhile, had pushed Peretz to cooperate with the Democratic Camp on a joint slate in an effort to win as many seats as possible for the left.

MK Amir Peretz, leader of the Labor party, right, and Orly Levy, head of the Gesher party, seen at an opening event for the new election headquarters in Tel Aviv, on July 24, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

As Peretz and Levy-Abekasis presented their slate on Thursday, Shmuli stood by their side, telling press afterwards that Labor was “the true camp for Israeli democrats.” A few hours earlier, Shaffir, Shmuli’s one-time partner when leading the 2011 social protests, had said that her party would be the one to “ensure the future of Israeli democracy.”

Labor has seen its fortunes tumble in recent years, hit by a rightward shift among Israeli voters, turmoil within the party, and the emergence of various new political players that have eroded its base. In April’s election, it dropped from the 24 Knesset seats it received as part of the Zionist Union in 2015 to just six. In total, the party gained only 4.43 percent of the national vote.

Peretz’s decision to stay out of the Democratic Camp will determine whether Labor, still plagued by internal divisions, will be able to regain its past glory. More likely, with the party currently hovering at around six seats, not far from the electoral threshold (as opposed to Democratic Camp’s nine to twelve seats), it may mean that the election campaign could become a fight for Labor’s very survival.

3. Liberman’s gain

While the right and left kept each other on their toes until the final hours before the Thursday night deadline, the only major party to casually file its slate on Wednesday, avoiding speculation and spin, was Avigdor Liberman’s Yisrael Beytenu.

Being the first to finalize its electoral list, and doing so without the need for other partners, symbolized the image of Yisrael Beytenu as a sturdy, trustworthy and even centrist party that Liberman has cultivated over the past few weeks. It also underlines his confidence given the gains his party has seen in polling, jumping from the five seats it received in April’s election to 11 in a survey released on Thursday night.

According to that Channel 13 poll, the right-wing and ultra-Orthodox parties together would win 54 seats without Liberman, while the center-left and Arab factions would have 46, meaning neither side could form a coalition without Yisrael Beytenu. That means that the former defense and foreign minister would again hold the balance of power and that Netanyahu will likely be unable to form a coalition without him.

Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman at a campaign event for his party in Tel Aviv on July 30, 2019. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Such a turn of events would mark the second time this year that Liberman has been in the kingmaker position. In May, weeks after the previous elections, Netanyahu failed to form a new coalition when Liberman refused to join his government.

Perhaps more significantly for Liberman, Thursday’s poll showed that half of Israeli voters want to see a unity government between the Likud and Blue and White parties that does not include ultra-Orthodox factions. Yisrael Beytenu has vowed, if it holds the balance of power, to indeed force a coalition of Likud and Blue and White that does not include religious parties.

Thus, amid the splits on both right and the left, Liberman emerges from the quagmire precisely where he wants to be — as the man potentially holding the keys to a very different union: a unity government.

Israel: 32 Parties register for September elections, down from 47

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

32 parties register electoral slates for September vote, down from 47 last time

Polls suggest only nine parties may enter Knesset; a party headed by cult leader’s four wives submits slate; one aiming to advocate release of Rabin’s assassin Yigal Amir does not

Benny Gantz, head of Blue and White party, speaks outside the Central Elections Committee in Jerusalem, August 1, 2019. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

Benny Gantz, head of Blue and White party, speaks outside the Central Elections Committee in Jerusalem, August 1, 2019. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

With 47 days to go until the September 17 national vote, all 32 parties set to run in the election, and their electoral slates, have been registered with the Central Elections Committee.

The committee’s doors opened Wednesday for the parties jostling for the Knesset’s 120 seats and closed at midnight Thursday.

The total of 32 factions is down from the last election cycle, when a record 47 parties registered for the April 9 vote. The smaller number is partially a result of mergers between parties after several weeks of horse-trading.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu heads the list for his Likud party, followed by Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein, Foreign Minister Yisrael Katz, Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan, and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, whose Kulanu party merged with Likud in May, was placed 5th. Gideon Sa’ar, Miri Regev, Yariv Levin, Yoav Gallant and Nir Barkat round out the top 10 for Likud.

The electoral ticket submitted by Blue and White was almost identical to the one that competed in April’s elections, with changes made only to the order of candidates below number 30 on the slate. Benny Gantz, Yair Lapid, Moshe Ya’alon and Gabi Ashkenazi occupy the top four slots.

Lapid, who merged his Yesh Atid party with Gantz’s Israel Resilience to form Blue and White ahead of the previous elections in April, is set to take over as prime minister from Gantz during the term as part of a rotation deal, if Blue and White forms the next government.

Likud and Blue and White are expected to dominate the vote, with polls predicting around 30 seats for each, roughly the same as in April.

The newly-formed United Right, an amalgamation of the New Right and the Union of Right-Wing Parties, is headed by former justice minister and New Right leader Ayelet Shaked, followed by URWP’s Rafi Peretz and Bezalel Smotrich, with former New Right chair Naftali Bennett placed at four. Latest polls suggest it may be headed for about 11 seats.

New Right chairwoman Ayelet Shaked speaks to reporters in the West Bank settlement of Efrat on July 22, 2019. (Gershon Elinson/Flash90)

Ayman Odeh, Mtanes Shihadeh, Ahmad Tibi and Mansour Abbas lead the newly reunited Joint (Arab) List, which is also polling at around 11.

On the center-left of the spectrum, and polling at around six seats, Labor-Gesher is headed by Labor chief Amir Peretz, followed by Gesher’s Orly Levy-Abekasis, and Itzik Shmuli and Merav Michaeli of Labor.

Nitzan Horowitz of Meretz leads the Democratic Camp’s list, followed by ex-Labor MK Stav Shaffir, Israel Democratic Party’s Yair Golan and Meretz’s Tamar Zandberg. Former PM Ehud Barak was placed 10th on the list. This alliance is seen heading for about nine seats.

Avigdor Liberman, who helped precipitate the upcoming election by refusing to join a Netanyahu-led coalition, heads his Yisrael Beytenu party, which could be the kingmaker between the blocs, polling at around 10-11 seats.

The religious Mizrahi Shas party will once again run under the helm of party leader Aryeh Deri, while its Ashkenazi UTJ counterpart will once again be headed by Yaakov Litzman. The two ultra-Orthodox parties are seen heading for 13 seats between them.

Most polls show no other parties beyond these nine with a realistic chance of garnering enough support to enter the Knesset. That includes the far-right Otzma Yehudit and Moshe Feiglin’s quasi-libertarian hard-right Zehut.

The Kahanist Otzma Yehudit party faced immense pressure to join forces with United Right, but in the end filed to run on its own slate. The party’s list of candidates is headed by Itamar Ben Gvir, followed by former Kahane spokesman and current Hebron community leader Baruch Marzel.

Next on the slate is activist Adva Biton, whose daughter Adele was killed as a result of a 2013 West Bank terror attack, Otzma Yehudit director-general Yitzhak Wasserlauf, and Benzi Gopstein, who heads the Lehava anti-miscegenation group.

Negotiations regarding the submissions continued until the last minute, notably the protracted effort to merge the extremist Otzma Yehudit party with the newly-formed United Right union.

Pressure to reach an agreement continued right up until the deadline, with party leader Ben Gvir saying he had been asked to hold out a little while longer by Netanyahu, who has been pushing for the merger on the grounds that right-wing votes could be wasted if Otzma Yehudit, whose name means Jewish Power, failed to clear the 3.25% electoral threshold.

Thursday also saw hopes dashed for a grand left-wing union made up of the Democratic Camp — itself a merger between Meretz, Barak’s Israel Democratic Party and Shaffir — and the recently announced Labor-Gesher partnership.

Gesher party chair Orly Levy-Abekasis (L) and Labor head Amir Peretz announce their joint run in the September election, in Tel Aviv, July 18, 2019. (Roy Alima/Flash90)

Despite significant internal criticism over the decision, newly-elected Labor leader Peretz opted to run independently of the Democratic Camp, and instead position Labor as a left-leaning socio-economic party less focused on diplomatic and peace issues.

Below are all parties set to run in the election, in the order in which they registered:

1. The Da’am: Green Economy – One State
2. Social Leadership
3. Economic Power
4. Yisrael Beytenu
5. Zechuyoteinu Bekoleinu (“Our Rights Are in our Vote/Voice”)
6. Zehut
7. Uncorrupted Red White
8. Pirate Party
9. Mitkademet
10. The Gush Hatanachi (Bible Bloc)
11. Shas
12. Justice, headed by Avi Yalou
13. Kama
14. Kavod HaAdam
15. United Torah Judaism
16. Respect and Equality
17. Democracy Party
18. Noam
19. Blue and White
20. Israel Brothers for Social Justice
21. Seder Hadash
22. Likud
23. Popular Unity
24. Democratic Camp
25. Tzomet
26. Ichud Bnei HaBrit
27. Joint List
28. Otzma Yehudit
29. Secular Right
30. Tzafon
31. United Right
32. Labor-Gesher

The Kama (Advancing Individual Rights) party is headed by four wives of a polygamous cult leader, Daniel Ambash, who was convicted of sadistic abuse of his family members six years ago. Most of the wives have never renounced Ambash, a Bratslav ultra-Orthodox Jew. They still live together, view themselves as his wives and revere him. Aderet Ambash, chair of the new pro-polygamy party, said that the new faction aims to fight to keep the government from intervening in Israelis’ private lives.

A political party aiming to free Yigal Amir, the man who assassinated prime minister Yitzhak Rabin at a peace rally nearly 24 years ago, did not register. It wasn’t immediately clear why the party, Nura Deliba, did not submit its list.

Orly Adas, the director of the Central Elections Committee, had earlier told Channel 13 there was no legal precedent to ban the party from registering to run, but said the Knesset panel would try to prevent it.

The effort to form the party, whose name means “fire of the heart in Aramaic,” was condemned by Labor’s Peretz, who said the party celebrating the assassination of the Labor prime minister “crossed a red line.”

READ MORE:
dawns-ad-lib.com®  

➳ a convivial atmosphere 🐣 🍴 ♨

super market

Jo Bhi Bikega Achha Bikega

HopsSkipsandJumps

Retired and travelling - it doesn't get better than this!

Real Currencies

Supporting People and the Commonwealth and resisting the Money Power by defeating Usury

Peas & Peace

Vegan (Plant Based) & Wellness

A lot from Lydia

You can learn a lot from Lydia...(It's a song, not a promise.)

LEAPING LIFE

Pause, Breathe, Live!

Consumed by Ink

A word after a word after a word is power. --Margaret Atwood

%d bloggers like this: