More than 200m Indonesians to vote in world’s biggest single-day election

More than 200m Indonesians to vote in world’s biggest single-day election
This combination photo shows Indonesia's presidential candidates Ganjar Pranowo (C), Prabowo Subianto (L) and Anies Baswedan speaking during the first presidential election debate in Jakarta on Dec. 12, 2023. (AFP)
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Updated 13 February 2024
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More than 200m Indonesians to vote in world’s biggest single-day election

More than 200m Indonesians to vote in world’s biggest single-day election
  • Polls show Prabowo Subianto, son-in-law of former dictator Suharto, in the lead
  • Incumbent president’s son is Subianto’s running mate after controversial court ruling

JAKARTA: More than 200 million Indonesians are expected to go to the polls on Wednesday in the world’s largest single-day election to choose not only a new president and vice president, but also parliamentary and local representatives.

The simultaneous presidential and legislative elections will determine who will succeed President Joko Widodo, who is serving his second and final term, as well as some 20,000 national, provincial, and district parliamentary positions.

The presidential election, which will mark Indonesia’s first change of leadership in a decade, is a three-way race between current Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto, former Jakarta governor Anies Baswedan and former Central Java governor Ganjar Pranowo.

The 75-day presidential election campaign ended on Saturday, with several opinion polls showing Subianto in the lead.

General elections in Indonesia, the world’s third-largest democracy, are a massive undertaking, with over 204 million of the country’s 270 million population registered to vote across an archipelago made up of some 17,000 islands. Young people make up the majority of registered voters this year, over half of whom are aged between 17 and 40, according to the General Elections Commission.

This election season, the fifth since Southeast Asia’s largest economy began democratic reforms in 1998, has raised concerns that the country is in danger of sliding back toward its authoritarian past under the late military ruler Suharto who held power for over three decades.

“This election is crucial as it will determine whether we will be led by an element of the New Order, which was a dictatorship, or continue the leadership of candidates from the reformation era,” Saidiman Ahmad, researcher at Saiful Mujani Research and Consulting, told Arab News.

Ahmad was alluding to Subianto, the former son-in-law of Suharto and former military general, who has been accused of human rights violations in East Timor and faced allegations of involvement in the kidnapping and torture of pro-democracy activists in 1997 and 1998.

In his third race to become president — after twice losing to Widodo — Subianto has the incumbent leader’s son, Gibran Rakabuming Raka, as his running mate.

The arrangement was possible after a controversial ruling by the constitutional court, headed by Widodo’s brother-in-law Anwar Usman, changed the eligibility criteria for presidential and vice-presidential candidates, allowing Raka to run alongside Subianto. Aged 36, Raka did not meet the previous constitutional requirement of 40 years to compete for the office.

Widodo, who presided over steady growth and relative stability during his back-to-back terms, has faced mounting criticism over his perceived political meddling and push to establish a political dynasty.

Didik Hariyanto, a lecturer at Paramadina University, told Arab News that this election is a “test for democracy and the spirit of the 1998 reform” in Indonesia.

“Why so? Because one of the contestants was involved in a process that concerns a ‘serious’ breach of ethics to run as a vice presidential candidate,” Hariyanto said, referring to an ethics council finding Usman guilty of making changes to election candidacy requirements.

“It so happens that the contestant in question is the child of President Joko Widodo, and there are concerns among the public that with the father’s power and in order to support his son, state instruments have been mobilized.”

Tunggal Pawestri, a women’s rights activist and executive director of Humanis Foundation, said the entire election process has been problematic.

“I think this is a threat to our democracy, a threat to the fruits of reformation that we have continued to fight for in the last 25 years. This election is controversial because it feels as if we are going back to the New Order era,” Pawestri told Arab News.

But the controversies also became a point of entry for 18-year-old voter Natasia, who started doing more research as the political developments piled up.

“I think the controversies surrounding the election this time around is why many young people are more interested in it,” she said. “I’ve considered all aspects, including their character and background. I want to vote because I want to support my choice of candidates with my voting right.”

 


Ukraine suspends consular services abroad for men of fighting age

Updated 18 sec ago
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Ukraine suspends consular services abroad for men of fighting age

Ukraine suspends consular services abroad for men of fighting age
Ukraine’s foreign affairs ministry “announced a temporary suspension of accepting new applications for consular services” for men between 18 and 60
It made an exception for documents allowing Ukrainians to return to Ukraine

KYIV: Ukraine authorities on Tuesday suspended consular services for men of fighting age living abroad, after announcing measures to bring them home amid manpower shortages in the army fighting Russia.
Ukraine’s army has been struggling to hold frontlines, partly due to a lack of soldiers over two years into Russia’s invasion.
Ukraine’s foreign affairs ministry “announced a temporary suspension of accepting new applications for consular services” for men between 18 and 60.
It made an exception for documents allowing Ukrainians to return to Ukraine.
The move would likely oblige Ukrainian men to return from abroad to undergo administrative procedures that were previously available abroad.
The government has already adopted a mobilization law, due to come into force on May 18, that toughens penalties against draft dodgers and obliges men to keep their military registration up-to-date.
The ministry said men would be able to access consular services once the law came into force and “after updating their military registration.”
“Male citizen of Ukraine aged 18 to 60 with valid military registration documents will have full access to consular services,” the ministry said.
Ukrainian men have been forbidden to leave the country since the invasion began, apart from a few exceptions.
But some lived away before the war began, and Ukrainian media estimates that thousands more illegally fled the country.

Major arrests at NYU campus as Gaza protests spread

New York University students set up a
New York University students set up a "Liberated Zone" tent encampment in Gould Plaza at NYU Stern School of Business.
Updated 23 April 2024
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Major arrests at NYU campus as Gaza protests spread

New York University students set up a "Liberated Zone" tent encampment in Gould Plaza at NYU Stern School of Business.
  • Some of America’s most prestigious universities have been rocked by protests in recent weeks
  • On Tuesday, the New York Police Department said 133 people had been arrested at NYU and released after being issued with court summons

NEW YORK: More than 130 people were arrested overnight during pro-Palestinian protests at the New York University campus, as student demonstrations gather pace in the United States over the Israel-Hamas war.
Some of America’s most prestigious universities have been rocked by protests in recent weeks as students and other agitators take over quads and disrupt campus activities.
The demonstrations come amid sweeping debates over Israel’s assault on Gaza, following Hamas’s deadly invasion on October 7.
Such bastions of higher education — Harvard, Yale, Columbia and others — are grappling for a balance between students demanding free speech rights and others who argue that campuses are encouraging intimidation and hate speech.
On Tuesday, the New York Police Department told AFP that 133 people had been arrested at NYU and released after being issued with court summons, as protests also intensify at Yale, Columbia University and other campuses.
As the holiday of Passover began Monday night, police began detaining demonstrators at an encampment at NYU who had earlier refused orders to disperse.
A New York University spokesman said the decision to call police came after additional protesters, many of whom were not thought to be affiliated with NYU, suddenly breached the barriers erected around the encampment.
This “dramatically changed” the situation, the spokesman said in a statement on the school’s website Monday, citing “disorderly, disruptive and antagonizing behavior” along with “intimidated chants and several antisemitic incidents.”
“Given the foregoing and the safety issues raised by the breach, we asked for assistance from the NYPD. The police urged those on the plaza to leave peacefully, but ultimately made a number of arrests.”
The spokesman said the school continues to support freedom of expression and the safety of students.
But protests have grown large and disruptive enough — New York Police Department spokesmen have spoken of their officers facing violence when confronting protesters at NYU — to draw the attention of President Joe Biden and his administration.
“Anti-Semitic hate on college campuses is unacceptable,” US Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona posted on X on Tuesday, expressing concern about the unrest.
The protests began last week at Columbia University, also in New York, with a large group of demonstrators establishing a so-called “Gaza Solidarity Encampment” on school grounds.
But more than 100 protesters were arrested after university authorities called the police onto Columbia’s campus Thursday, a move that seemingly escalated tensions and sparked a greater turnout over the weekend.
Social media images late Monday appeared to show pro-Palestinian Jewish students holding traditional seder meals inside the protest areas on campuses including at Columbia.
There were also demonstrations at MIT, the University of Michigan, UC Berkeley and Yale, where at least 47 people were arrested Monday after refusing requests to disperse.


France arrests eight in PKK financing probe

France arrests eight in PKK financing probe
Updated 23 April 2024
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France arrests eight in PKK financing probe

France arrests eight in PKK financing probe
  • The arrests took place in the Paris region and in southern France, the PNAT anti-terror unit said
  • French prosecutors suspect the eight of preparing and financing terrorist acts

PARIS: French police arrested eight men on Tuesday as part of an investigation into the finances of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), banned as a terror organization by Turkiye and its Western allies, anti-terrorism prosecutors told AFP.
The arrests took place in the Paris region and in southern France, the PNAT anti-terror unit said.
The PKK has been designated a terrorist organization by Turkiye, the United States and the European Union.
French prosecutors suspect the eight of preparing and financing terrorist acts, and of conspiring to extort, or attempt to extort, funds to finance a terrorist organistion between 2020 and 2024, the PNAT said.
Investigators believe the eight to be connected to a campaign to collect funds from Kurdish business people and other Kurds in France, a source close to the case added.
Police can hold the suspects for up to 96 hours for questioning, the source said.
Another source said the funds were destined for use in Belgium, where police on Monday raided Kurdish-run media as part of a probe undertaken at the request of a French anti-terror judge, the PNAT said.
The PKK has waged a decades-long insurgency for greater autonomy for the Kurdish minority of Turkiye in the southeast of the country, in a standoff with the Ankara government that remains unresolved to this day.


Dutch intelligence sees the wars in Gaza and Ukraine as triggers for terrorist threats

Dutch intelligence sees the wars in Gaza and Ukraine as triggers for terrorist threats
Updated 23 April 2024
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Dutch intelligence sees the wars in Gaza and Ukraine as triggers for terrorist threats

Dutch intelligence sees the wars in Gaza and Ukraine as triggers for terrorist threats
  • The Israel-Hamas war in Gaza and the destruction of a Qur’an outside parliament last year are “trigger events” for extremists
  • “The terrorist threat is serious at this moment,” the agency’s director-general, Erik Akerboom, told AP

ZOETERMEER, Netherlands: The Dutch national intelligence agency said Tuesday that threats targeting the Netherlands are increasingly connected to worldwide turmoil, including the wars in Gaza and Ukraine.
Although the number of terror attacks across Europe has been down in recent years, the General Intelligence and Security Service in its annual report said the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza and the destruction of a Qur’an outside parliament last year are “trigger events” for extremists.
“The terrorist threat is serious at this moment,” the agency’s director-general, Erik Akerboom, told The Associated Press.
Akerboom said he is particularly concerned about big events, noting that the agency is working closely with French authorities to prevent incidents during the Paris Olympics this summer.
In December, the Dutch counterterrorism agency increased the country’s threat alert to its second-highest level because of concerns about the Daesh group’s Khorasan affiliates, Akerboom said. IS-K, a Central Asian affiliate, was responsible for the attack at a suburban Moscow concert hall that killed at least 133 people in March.
According to the new report, “global jihadism has been the greatest terrorist threat for years in the Netherlands.” Incidents such as the one last April, when an anti-Islam activist tore pages from the Qur’an in front of the Dutch parliament building, put the Netherlands on the map of targets.
About a dozen terror attacks were thwarted by authorities in Europe last year and in four cases, suspects were arrested in the Netherlands, the report said. None of those attacks was focused on the Netherlands, according to Akerboom.
The Dutch also see threats from China, in particular cyberattacks, as a major concern. Akerboom said China is producing more hackers to break into Dutch systems than the Dutch can produce to defend them. The security service has cited China as the biggest threat to the country’s economic security.
Russia also continues to pose a risk to the Netherlands amid Moscow’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. So-called peace protests in Amsterdam which call for the Dutch to stop sending arms to Ukraine have included demonstrators paid by Russian sources to attend and given prefabricated slogans, the security service has asserted.
The Netherlands is of particular interest to Moscow in part because of the international institutions housed here, including the International Criminal Court. The Hague-based court is investigating crimes in Ukraine and has issued arrest warrants for President Vladimir Putin and other Russians.


Sunak says UK to raise defense spending amid global threats

Sunak says UK to raise defense spending amid global threats
Updated 23 April 2024
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Sunak says UK to raise defense spending amid global threats

Sunak says UK to raise defense spending amid global threats
  • “In a world that is the most dangerous it has been since the end of the Cold War, we cannot be complacent,” Sunak told reporters
  • The increase in spending from 2.3 percent will see the UK become one of the highest spenders on defense in the 32-member defense alliance

WARSAW: Britain will raise defense spending to 2.5 percent of GDP by 2030 in a “most dangerous” world, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said Tuesday during a visit to Poland.
The commitment came as NATO countries face pressure to raise defense spending in the face of global threats, particularly from Russia.
“In a world that is the most dangerous it has been since the end of the Cold War, we cannot be complacent,” Sunak told reporters in Warsaw, where he held a press conference with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg.
The increase in spending from 2.3 percent will see the UK become one of the highest spenders on defense in the 32-member defense alliance after the United States, the British government said.
It means the UK is expected to spend £87 billion on defense in 2030-31, an increase of £23 billion over current levels.
“I believe we must do more to defend our country, our interests, and our values,” Sunak said, announcing “the biggest strengthening of national defense for a generation.”
Western nations are under pressure to boost defense funding following Moscow’s invasion of its neighbor Ukraine as well as the threat of escalation in the Middle East.
EU chief Ursula von der Leyen recently called for a “European awakening on defense and security.”
Brussels is set to come up with more proposals for financing the defense push by a summit of EU leaders in June.
Sunak has also faced calls from his Conservative Party to boost defense spending, with some calling for a level of three percent of GDP.
On Tuesday, Sunak also announced £500 million additional funding for Ukraine’s war effort against Russia.