Sinn Fein surges as most popular party in Irish election

Irish republican Sinn Fein party leader Mary Lou McDonald (C) celebrates with her supporters after she takes the Dublin Central constituency on the first count in the RDS centre in Dublin, Ireland on February 9, 2020, the day after the vote took place in the Irish General Election. (AFP)
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Updated 10 February 2020

Sinn Fein surges as most popular party in Irish election

DUBLIN: Nationalist party Sinn Fein won the popular vote in Ireland’s general election, ballot counts revealed Sunday, with the one-time political wing of the IRA disrupting a duopoly of center-right parties which have historically controlled the Republic.
After all 39 constituencies across Ireland were tallied Sinn Fein received 24.5 percent of the first preference vote, outstripping the opposition Fianna Fail party on 22.2 percent and incumbent prime minister Leo Varadkar’s governing Fine Gael party on 20.9 percent.
Ireland operates on a single transferable vote system and Sinn Fein ran a slate of just 42 candidates for the 159 seats contested, meaning its strong performance may not result in it becoming the biggest party in Ireland’s next parliament.
But the left-wing party started celebrating its surge after campaigning on issues of health care and housing.
“It’s official (Sinn Fein) won the election — highest popular vote,” tweeted leader Mary Lou McDonald.
Counting is expected to continue on Monday, with analysts saying it could take two to three days before full results are known.

Fine Gael and Fianna Fail have traditionally taken turns in power in the Republic.
“It seems that we have now a three party system,” said Varadkar at the counting center for his Dublin West constituency.
“That is going to make forming a government quite difficult.”
Varadkar failed to take the first of four seats as the count unfolded, with a Sinn Fein candidate announced as the first new lawmaker in his region.
Varadkar was elected on the fifth round of vote counts, relying on redistributed ballots in a morale-bruising episode for the premier.
At 2315 GMT state broadcaster RTE reported that 60 of 159 seats were filled, with 29 going to Sinn Fein.
But due to ballot transfers and Sinn Fein’s smaller slate of candidates an overall seat forecast should not be extrapolated from the early set of lawmakers elected.

Leaders entered negotiation mode as it became clear the next government will need to contain more than one party.
McDonald arrived at the main count center in the capital to a huge fanfare from supporters and was returned to her central Dublin seat on Sunday evening.
“This is changing the shape of an old Irish politics. This is not a transient thing, this is just the beginning,” she told reporters.
In the last election in 2016, Sinn Fein got 13.8 percent of the vote.
McDonald said the two other main parties were “still in a state of denial, they’re still not listening to what the people have said.”
The 50-year-old said she ideally wanted “a government with no Fianna Fail or no Fine Gael in it” and had made contact with smaller parties, but added: “I will talk to and listen to everybody.”
Sinn Fein’s flagship policy is uniting Ireland and the British territory of Northern Ireland, reversing the partition of the island of Ireland in 1921.
Varadkar reiterated his campaign position that he would not form a coalition with Sinn Fein because of its past links to the Irish Republican Army paramilitary.
“Nobody can be forced into some sort of forced marriage or forced coalition,” he said.
Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin was elected to his seat in the city of Cork. He has previously said he would not back Fine Gael in a “grand coalition.”
But on Sunday night he seemed to soften his stance against a potential coalition with Sinn Fein.

“This is not just a change election — it has changed Irish elections themselves for the foreseeable future,” wrote columnist Fintan O’Toole in The Irish Times newspaper.
“For a huge chunk of voters, change is being seen as something that comes from outside the system.”
Sinn Fein was “once inextricable from the IRA” and considered a “pariah” he said, but younger voters in particular were drawn by the party’s promise of addressing income inequality.
Notably, an exit poll put Sinn Fein comfortably ahead with voters aged 18-24 and 25-34, with support at 32 percent in each age bracket.
But even once the make-up of the new chamber emerges, it could take much longer to cobble together a government.
Following Ireland’s 2016 election it took 70 days before a new minority coalition government was formed under Fine Gael.

Indian court accused of ‘betrayal’ over mosque verdict

Updated 01 October 2020

Indian court accused of ‘betrayal’ over mosque verdict

  • Senior BJP officials acquitted of conspiracy to destroy historic Muslim place of worship

NEW DELHI: A special court in the northern Indian city of Lucknow on Wednesday acquitted all 32 politicians and senior leaders from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of conspiring to demolish the 16th-century Babri Mosque in 1992, ruling that the move was not “preplanned.”

Muslims described the judgment as “yet another betrayal by the judiciary.”

The BJP under the leadership of then-party president Lal Krishna Advani led a political campaign in the late 1980s and early 1990s to build a temple on the site of the disputed 16th-century mosque in the eastern city of Ayodhya, claiming that it was built by the first Mughal ruler Babar. 

On Dec. 6, 1992, in response to a call by BJP leaders, hundreds of Hindu extremists gathered at the disputed site and demolished the mosque, resulting in religious riots across the country that claimed more than 2,000 lives.

Most of the BJP leaders and its affiliates were blamed for razing the Babri Mosque.

However, on Wednesday, Surendra Kumar Yadav, the judge at the special court, said that the demolition of the 500-year-old mosque was not pre-planned.

“They have been acquitted for lack of evidence,” defense lawyer K.K. Mishra said after the verdict.

Muslims reacted to the verdict with disappointment.

“The judgment pronounced by the special CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation) court is wrong. We will appeal in the high court,” Zafaryab Jilani, general secretary of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board, said.

The BJP was elated with the court’s decision.

“It is a moment of happiness for all of us; we chanted ‘Jai Shri Ram’ (Hail Ram) after the court’s verdict. The judgment vindicates my personal and BJP’s belief and commitment toward the Ram Janmabhoomi Movement. Along with millions of my countrymen, I now look forward to the completion of the beautiful Shri Ram Mandir (temple) at Ayodhya,” 92-year-old Advani, one of the accused in the case, said.

Another BJP leader and former party president, Murli Manohar Joshi, who was also among the accused, called the judgment “historic.”

“This proves that no conspiracy was hatched for the incident in Ayodhya. Our program and rallies were not part of any conspiracy,” Joshi, 86, said.

The verdict comes 10 months after the Supreme Court’s controversial judgment giving the disputed land to a Hindu trust and awarding five acres of land to Muslim petitioners to build a structure of their choice at another location in the city.

“It’s a betrayal by the court,” Ayodhya-based Hajji Mahboob, one of the original Muslim petitioners, told Arab News.

“So many BJP leaders have claimed openly that they were involved in demolishing the Babri Mosque. If the court gives this kind of one-sided verdict, I can only say that it is compromised,” he said.

“We know that there cannot be any justice for Muslims in this country because all the decisions given by the courts are wrong,” he added.

Reacting to the verdict, the main opposition Congress party said it was “counter to the Supreme Court judgment.” 

The apex court held that the demolition of the Babri mosque was clearly illegal and an “egregious violation of the rule of law.” 

“But the Special Court exonerated all the accused. It is clear that the decision of the Special Court runs counter to the decision of the Supreme Court,” Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala said.

The demolition of the mosque was “a deep-rooted political conspiracy to destroy the country’s communal amity and brotherhood, and to usurp power at any cost,” he added.

According to Hilal Ahamd, of New Delhi-based think tank Center for the Study of Developing Societies, there is a growing belief among Muslims that India is a Hindu country and “they have to adjust themselves accordingly.”

Meanwhile, former chairman of the minority commission Zafar ul Islam Khan said the verdict will encourage the BJP to take the law into its own hands in the belief that the police and judiciary will protect them.

Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay, a New Delhi political analyst who has written several books on the Hindu right-wing politics, said: “The demolition of the mosque was a criminal offense and the failure to establish guilt after 28 years is unfortunate.”

He described the verdict as “a betrayal for Muslims and risky for the security of the country if its largest minority keeps getting marginalized like this.”