Populist legacy will weigh on Poland’s next government

Populist legacy will weigh on Poland’s next government
Donald Tusk said that PiS has spent its last few weeks in power ‘wreaking havoc, destroying the Polish state.’ (Reuters/File)
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Updated 10 December 2023
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Populist legacy will weigh on Poland’s next government

Populist legacy will weigh on Poland’s next government
  • A coalition of pro-EU parties headed up by former European Council President Donald Tusk won a majority in parliamentary elections against the right-wing populist Law and Justice party

WARSAW: Expectations for Poland’s pro-EU government which is due to take power next week are sky-high but current ruling nationalists will still be a powerful and influential opposition, analysts say.

A coalition of pro-EU parties headed up by former European Council President Donald Tusk won a majority in parliamentary elections on Oct. 15 against the right-wing populist Law and Justice party, also known as PiS.

Tusk, who is also a former prime minister, will have his work cut out after eight years of PiS in power.

“There won’t be any miracles” as the new government faces daily battles with PiS which “will continue to fight,” Jaroslaw Kuisz, a political analyst, said.

“It will be like going through mud” and quick change is unlikely as PiS leaves “a judicial minefield,” he said.

PiS will be the biggest single party in the new parliament with 194 out of 460 seats in the lower house and has shown it intends to be a combative opposition.

The party also has allies in the presidency, the central bank and the supreme court, as well as several important judicial and financial state institutions.

It also dominates state media organizations, which have become a government mouthpiece during its rule.

Analysts speak of a “spider’s web” woven by PiS by putting allies in influential roles with mandates that will last long into the new government’s tenure.

President Andrzej Duda is due to step down ahead of a presidential election in 2025 but he could use blocking tactics between now and then, vetoing legislation brought to him by the pro-EU majority in parliament.

The head of state gave an insight into his intentions by initially nominating the PiS Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki to form a new government even though it was clear the party had no majority from the outset. He effectively gave PiS two more months in power.

Tusk has reacted angrily, saying on Friday that PiS has spent its last few weeks in power “wreaking havoc, destroying the Polish state.”

Kuisz said the party has used the time “to reinforce itself institutionally and financially.”

PiS has named two former ministers to head up important state financial institutions and new prosecutors.

The president has also approved 150 new judges nominated by a body that was criticized by the EU as being too much under the influence of PiS.

Controversial judicial reforms introduced by PiS have pushed Brussels to freeze billions of euros in funding destined for Warsaw which Tusk wants to unblock.


Four men charged in US with transporting suspected Iranian-made weapons

Four men charged in US with transporting suspected Iranian-made weapons
Updated 47 min 32 sec ago
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Four men charged in US with transporting suspected Iranian-made weapons

Four men charged in US with transporting suspected Iranian-made weapons

WASHINGTON: Four men have been charged after the US Navy interdicted a vessel in the Arabian Sea last month that was transporting suspected Iranian-made weapons, the US Justice Department said on Thursday.

Two US Navy Seals died during the interdiction, which happened in international waters near the coast of Somalia.

In a statement following the seizure of the vessel, the US Central Command said the seized contraband consisted of both "Iranian-made ballistic missile and cruise missiles components."

"Seized items include propulsion, guidance, and warheads for Houthi medium range ballistic missiles (MRBMs) and anti-ship cruise missiles (ASCMs), as well as air defense associated components,"  CENTCOM said.

"Initial analysis indicates these same weapons have been employed by the Houthis to threaten and attack innocent mariners on international merchant ships transiting in the Red Sea," it said.

The weapons parts were seized from a dhow — a traditional masted sailing vessel — which was deemed unsafe and sunk. Fourteen crewmembers were taken into custody.

The seizure of the weapons came after US and British forces hit scores of rebel targets across Yemen, a move triggered by the rebels' repeated attacks on shipping.

Attacks by and against the Huthis, part of the "axis of resistance" of Iran-aligned groups, have raised concerns about violence spreading in the region from the Gaza war.

The Houthis say their attacks on Red Sea shipping are in solidarity with Gaza, where Iran-backed Hamas militants have been at war with Israel for more than three months.


France expels “radical” Tunisian imam — interior minister

France expels “radical” Tunisian imam — interior minister
Updated 23 February 2024
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France expels “radical” Tunisian imam — interior minister

France expels “radical” Tunisian imam — interior minister
  • “The radical Imam Mahjoub Mahjoubi has just been expelled from the national territory,” Darmanin said

PARIS: France has expelled a Tunisian imam for “radicalism” and “unacceptable remarks,” Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said in a statement on X.
“The radical Imam Mahjoub Mahjoubi has just been expelled from the national territory, less than 12 hours after his arrest. We will not let people get away with anything,” Darmanin said in a statement on X.


Navalny mother says being pressured into ‘secret’ burial

Navalny mother says being pressured into ‘secret’ burial
Updated 22 February 2024
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Navalny mother says being pressured into ‘secret’ burial

Navalny mother says being pressured into ‘secret’ burial
  • The Navalny case remained in the international spotlight with US President Joe Biden meeting the Russian politician’s widow and daughter, Yulia and Dasha Navalnaya, in San Francisco
  • Lyudmila Navalnaya, mother of President Vladimir Putin’s most outspoken critic, said she had been shown his body in a morgue in Salekhard

MOSCOW: The mother of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who died in an Arctic prison last week, said Thursday officials were pressuring her to agree to a “secret” burial for her son.
The Navalny case remained in the international spotlight with US President Joe Biden meeting the Russian politician’s widow and daughter, Yulia and Dasha Navalnaya, in San Francisco on Thursday.
Lyudmila Navalnaya, mother of President Vladimir Putin’s most outspoken critic, said she had been shown his body in a morgue in Salekhard, the nearest town to the remote prison, after several days of being refused access.
“Yesterday evening they secretly took me to the morgue where they showed me Alexei,” she said in a video released on social media by Navalny’s team.
But she said investigators wanted her son, who was 47, to be buried “secretly, without a chance to say goodbye.
“They are blackmailing me, they put conditions for where, when and how Alexei should be buried. This is illegal,” she said.
Navalny, whose death was announced last Friday, galvanized mass protests against Putin, winning popularity with a series of investigations into state corruption.
He was poisoned with a Soviet-era nerve agent in 2020, then jailed in 2021 after returning to Russia following a period of treatment in Germany.
He was sentenced to 19 years in prison on extremism charges and sent to IK-3, a harsh penal colony beyond the Arctic Circle known as “Polar Wolf.”
Western governments and Russian opposition figures have accused the Kremlin of being responsible for Navalny’s death on February 16.
Biden met privately with the Navalny’s widow and daughter “to express his heartfelt condolences for their terrible loss,” the White House said.
The White House also backed the mother’s campaign to retrieve Navalny’s body.
“The Russians need to give her back her son,” US National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters.
Personal tensions between Biden and Putin increased after the US leader called his Russian counterpart a “crazy SOB” an election campaign event late Wednesday.
Putin responded with his sarcasm, referring to his recent remark that he would prefer the more “predictable” Biden over Donald Trump in the White House.
“He can’t of course say to me: Volodya, well done, thank you (for the endorsement), you’ve helped me a lot?” Putin said.
Hundreds of people have been detained in Russia in recent days at events to pay tribute to Navalny and his widow has vowed to continue his work.
Lyudmila Navalnaya traveled to Russia’s Far North the morning after Navalny’s death was announced, hoping to be able to see and retrieve her son’s body.
“They want to take me to the edge of a cemetery to a fresh grave and say: Here is where your son lies. I am against that.
“I want that for those of you for whom Alexei is dear, for everyone for whom his death became a personal tragedy, to have the possibility to say goodbye to him.”
She said she recorded the video because investigators were “threatening” her.
“Looking me in the eye, they said that if I do not agree to a secret funeral they’ll do something with my son’s body... I ask for my son’s body to be given to me immediately,” she said.
Navalny’s mother also said that investigators had told her they knew the cause of death but did not say what it was.
The Kremlin has refused to say when the body will be handed over and has branded Western accusations as “hysterical.”
Putin has remained silent on the death of his main political opponent.
Navalny’s spokesman Kira Yarmysh said that a medical report on the death shown to Lyudmila Navalnaya “stated that the cause of death was natural.”


Albanian parliament ratifies migration centers deal with Italy

Albanian parliament ratifies migration centers deal with Italy
Updated 22 February 2024
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Albanian parliament ratifies migration centers deal with Italy

Albanian parliament ratifies migration centers deal with Italy
  • First example of a non-European Union country accepting migrants on behalf of an EU nation
  • Accord has drawn comparisons with Britain’s plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda

TIRANA: Albanian lawmakers on Thursday ratified a migration deal with Italy under which Rome will build processing centers for migrants that it will send on to its Balkan neighbor across the Adriatic Sea.
It is the first example of a non-European Union country accepting migrants on behalf of an EU nation, and is part of an EU-wide campaign to clamp down on irregular immigration that has fueled a rise in the popularity of the far right.
The accord has drawn comparisons with Britain’s plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda in East Africa as a deterrent to further migrant journeys in small boats across the Channel from France organized by human traffickers.
Seventy-seven deputies in the 140-seat parliament voted in favor of the deal, announced in November, under which Italy will open two camps in EU-candidate Albania, one of Europe’s poorest and least developed countries.
“Albania is standing together with Italy by choosing to act like an EU member state,” Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama wrote on social media platform X following parliament’s vote.
“No country can solve such a challenge alone. Only a stronger, braver and more sovereign Europe loyal to itself can.”
Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni replied on X, thanking Rama, Albania’s institutions and people “for their friendship and collaboration.”
One of the camps Italy plans to set up on the Albanian coast would screen sea migrants on arrival, and a second nearby would hold them while asylum applications are processed. Migrants would then either be allowed to enter Italy or be repatriated.
An Italian government source said Rome aimed to have the centers in Albania operational by this spring.
The deal has drawn international criticism from human rights advocates, and domestically from those who fear its impact on Albania’s security and on its financially vital tourist industry.
“This (tourist area) will not be the same again once the migrant processing centers are built,” said Arilda Lleshi, an activist who protested in front of parliament during the vote.
“We have reasons to believe that these (migrant centers) will be a security problem for the whole area.”
The agreement was challenged before Albania’s Constitutional Court by the main opposition Democratic Party, which argued that it broke the constitution by ceding sovereignty over Albanian soil to another country.
The Constitutional Court rejected the claims and gave a green light last month. While UN officials have criticized the Italy-Albania deal, the European Commission has said it does not appear to breach EU law as it falls outside its jurisdiction.
Rights experts warn it might be hard for Italian courts to promptly process asylum requests or appeals against detention orders from people hosted in another country, and lengthy procedures could put an unjustified burden on migrants.


Indonesia urges G20 countries to push for immediate ceasefire in Gaza

Indonesia urges G20 countries to push for immediate ceasefire in Gaza
Updated 22 February 2024
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Indonesia urges G20 countries to push for immediate ceasefire in Gaza

Indonesia urges G20 countries to push for immediate ceasefire in Gaza
  • FM Marsudi calls for increased support for Palestine through UNRWA
  • G20 foreign ministers gather in Rio de Janeiro as Brazil kicks off group’s presidency

JAKARTA: Indonesia’s foreign minister has called on G20 countries to push for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza as the group’s top diplomats gathered for the first ministerial meeting under Brazil’s presidency. 

Foreign ministers of the group of the 20 biggest global economies gathered in Rio de Janeiro Feb. 21-22 to address international issues and set a roadmap for work to accomplish ahead of a leaders’ summit in November. 

Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi said Israel’s ongoing onslaught on Gaza was an “atrocity that goes beyond any plausible justification,” as she addressed a session on the G20’s role in the wake of global tensions.

 

 

“G20 must act now to end this crisis … First, push for an immediate and permanent ceasefire at any cost,” Marsudi told the participants. 

“This is the ultimate game-changer to stop the bloodshed, ease humanitarian suffering, and create a conducive environment for a fair negotiation toward a two-state solution.”

More than 29,300 Palestinians have died with over 69,000 injured during four months of Israel’s military operations in Gaza, according to the enclave’s health authorities.

Indonesia has long been among the Palestinian peoples’ most vocal advocates in multiple international forums, and is among more than 50 countries which are presenting arguments at the International Court of Justice this week in a case against Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories.

Indonesia’s stance is partly informed by seeing Palestinian statehood as mandated by the nation’s constitution, which calls for the abolition of colonialism. 

In Brazil, Marsudi also urged other G20 nations to avoid double standards and to work together to lower global tensions and prevent further escalation. 

“We cannot stand by and watch this horror unfold. We cannot turn a blind eye to the suffering of civilians, including women and children. We cannot ignore our moral and legal obligations to protect human rights and uphold international law,” she said. 

 “We must not stand idly as Israel continues to destroy homes, hospitals, schools, and refugee camps … Now, more than ever, Palestine needs our solidarity and help.” 

She also appealed to G20 members to increase their support for Palestine, including through the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees, which has suffered funding cuts after Israel accused some of its staff of being involved in the Oct. 7 attack by Gaza-based militant group Hamas. 

“We have to show the world that we are united and capable of being a catalyst for positive change to any crisis,” Marsudi said. “Let us show to the world that we, G20 members, are contributors to peace and stability.”