BAGHDAD: Four of the most senior political leaders in Iraq's fragile coalition have threatened to bring a vote of no confidence in the government unless "autocratic decision-making" stops, a letter published in a state newspaper yesterday said.
Iraq's Shiite, Sunni and Kurd coalition began to creak in December, after US troops left, when the government tried to remove Sunni Deputy Prime Minister Saleh Al-Mutlaq and issued an arrest warrant for Sunni Vice President Tareq Al-Hashemi. Those incidents intensified long-running tensions between the Sunni and Shiite blocs that have hampered the government's ability to pass key legislation.
The Baghdad government and the autonomous Kurdish region are also engaged in a simmering row over oil exports.
The four senior lawmakers Osama Al-Nujaifi, Masoud Barzani, Iyad Allawi and Moqtada Al-Sadr sent the letter to Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki's bloc on Thursday, political sources told Reuters. Some of Maliki's opponents, including Barzani and Sadr, have accused him of becoming a dictator and several of his critics say he deliberately sidelines Sunnis and Kurds.
The letter outlines eight demands to be met by May 13 to ensure the four leaders' support for Maliki's administration.
"In case of a refusal to comply with the principles and frameworks of this agreement, practical steps will be taken, within a period of time not exceeding 15 days, to act upon a vote of no confidence against the government," the letter says.
The letter is dated April 28, the last day of a three-day mini-summit held by the leaders during which they said they tried to find a solution to the political impasse.
Maliki did not attend the meeting, which was held in the Kurdish capital Arbil.
The letter called on the government to stop interfering with the security forces and with the work of Parliament and contained a paragraph criticizing autocratic decision-making.
"Putting an end to any kind of one-man decision-making in the government pyramid and a tendency towards autocracy," the sixth demand reads.
The letter also demanded that a two-term limit for the post of prime minister be retroactively introduced. Maliki is serving his second four-year term as prime minister.
"(This is necessary) in order to ensure a peaceful transfer of power and to establish the foundations and principles of democracy and in order not to allow a climate of dictatorship," it said.
The sole Shiite signatory of the letter, Sadr, has a history of acrimonious relations with Maliki.
Maliki's bloc met on Thursday and pledged to hold a meeting of all of the coalition's political blocs within a week to hammer out a solution to the crisis, Ibrahim Al-Jaafari, chairman of the coalition, said in a statement on his website.
Socialist voters face a nervous wait for the results of today's presidential election runoff between Nicolas Sarkozy and François Hollande after final opinion polls following Wednesday's fiery television debate revealed a late surge in favour of the outgoing president, who has trailed his leftwing rival throughout the race.
The polls indicated that Hollande was still on track to win the second round runoff vote, but revealed that the gap between the presidential rivals had narrowed from 10 percentage points a week ago to between four and six. An Ifop poll for Paris-Match showed Hollande at 52% and Sarkozy at 48%.
On Friday, before the official midnight deadline for campaigning to end, Hollande warned his supporters not to consider the election as being in the bag. At his last campaign meeting in Périgueux in south-west France, he said the battle was not yet won.
"It's true that you are confident and you want to win. I feel it," he told the crowd and sounding a note of caution. "I don't want to be a killjoy, but don't make what could be the fatal mistake of thinking that the game is already over that you needn't turn out. I have to tell you that I am sure of nothing. This victory is still not certain."
At his final campaign meeting at the Sables-d'Olonne on France's Atlantic coast, Sarkozy, who needs to pick up votes from Marine Le Pen's far-right Front National, which scored nearly 18% in the first round of polling, was still confident that he could snatch victory and promised that Sunday's result would be a "surprise".
"Each of you has the future of the country in your hands," he said. "Nobody's vote counts more than another. You have no idea how many things are at play on this knife edge."
If the Socialist candidate is elected the 24th president of the French republic, Hollande and his supporters are expected to hold a party at the Bastille on his return to Paris .
His campaign team has refused to give details of any planned celebrations, for fear of appearing too confident and spooking the electorate. However, the square, former site of the notorious prison overrun and later destroyed during the French Revolution, is seen as the most likely venue for a mass gathering because of its powerful association with the left.
As Sarkozy has discovered to his cost, celebrations matter in politics. His decision to savour his 2007 victory at one of the most expensive restaurants, Fouquet's, on the Champs Elysées followed by a holiday on the yacht of a billionaire businessman friend must have seemed like a good idea at the time. But the image came back to haunt him as the global economic crisis struck, and ultimately served to reinforce the impression of a showy lifestyle and a sense that he was acting as a "president of the rich".
During the election race, it was a marked contrast to Hollande's approach, as the Socialist artfully positioned himself as Sarkozy's polar opposite: Monsieur Normal, more Swatch than Rolex and "a man of the people". It was telling that, like Ms Bruni-Sarkozy, Hollande's partner, the former journalist Valérie Trierweiler, was often on the campaign trail, but usually some way behind, out of the camera shot.
Hollande has been circumspect about his choice of prime minister and cabinet posts if he wins, insisting that he has not drawn up a shortlist. Speculation has centred on his long-time friend and supporter Jean-Marc Ayrault, 62, deputy mayor of Nantes and head of the Socialist party group in the National Assembly, and Martine Aubry, 61, Hollande's rival for the party's presidential nomination and head of the party. He has promised to have an equal number of women in his government and to reintroduce a ministry of women's rights.
It would be interesting to be a fly on the wall in the White House tonight. If Hollande gets in, which looks increasingly likely, Obummer re-election will be sunk.
The name of the poison pill left by Sarkozy is FOAT.
As the Telegraph says: Rather, the market has persuaded itself that Hollande is more moderate than he tried to sound on the stump, and that his "growth agenda" of tax grabs and public-sector job schemes will rapidly be neutralised by force of fiscal circumstance
If not FOAT comes into play The Euro starts unraveling, Wall Street takes a big hit and along with it the dollar and the US economy will be in turmoil during the election.
So bye, bye Obama.
...about speculation against France on the new French debt futures (FOAT) market, speculation broadened on the French Left over the last 36 hours in relation to the FOAT founder Deutsche Borse and whether a geopolitical move by Berlin might also be part of the mystery.
To recap: despite an obvious danger that the new FOAT will allow market-maker Morgan Stanley to hedge its Greco-French exposure to Frances disadvantage, Nicolas Sarkozy allowed the markets April 16th debut to go ahead. This has created some speculation as to whether Sarkozy plus others may be creating a poison pill for Francois Hollande should he win the election.
Now the French Left is beginning to accuse Germany of complicity. Deutsche Börses new futures contract, they added, may promote a self-fulfilling prophecy and shows that Eurex anticipates speculation against the French debt at a time when the pressure on the sovereign markets continue to escalate.
A reminder that other countries also are in deep trouble, not just the U.S....
Greeks head to the polls Sunday in their most critical and uncertain election in decades, with voters set to punish the two main parties that are being held responsible for the countrys dire economic straits. Such is the disillusionment with the socialist PASOK party and conservative New Democracy, which have been alternating in power for the last 38 years, that neither is expected to garner enough votes to form a government. Days of wrangling over forming a coalition will likely ensue, with the prospect alarming to Greeces lenders and much of the countrys population of another round of elections if they fail.
Public anger has been so high that politicians have been forced to maintain low-profile campaigns for fear of physical attacks on the streets in a country battered by business closures and hundreds of thousands of job losses.
The last opinion polls published before a two-week blackout ahead of the election showed PASOK and New Democracy hemorrhaging support since the last election in 2009. Their support has reached historic lows, plunging to percentages last seen in the mid-1970s after the 1974 fall of the seven-year military dictatorship.
The stakes couldnt be higher. Entirely dependent on billions of euros worth of international rescue loans from other European countries and the International Monetary Fund, Greece must impose yet more austerity measures next month, if it is to keep the money flowing and prevent a default and a potentially disastrous exit from the euro.
New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras is expected to come in first, thereby benefiting from a bonus 50 seats in the 300-member parliament. But even with that he would fall far short of the 151 seats needed to form a government. Opinion polls projected him winning not more than 25.5 percent.
PASOK, which stormed to victory in the last parliamentary election in 2009 with more than 43 percent and George Papandreou at its helm, has seen its support collapse over the past two years. Now headed by former finance minister Evangelos Venizelos, it is fighting off a challenge by anti-bailout left-wing parties, with opinion polls projecting PASOK to win between 14.5 and 19 percent. If that happens, it would be the lowest since November 1974, when the party won 13.5 percent just two months after being founded.
Venizelos warned that Greece faces default and mass poverty if voters back anti-bailout parties.
Sunday will decide whether we remain in Europe and the euro, and we stay on a course that is difficult but safe, after having covered most of the distance, to finally emerge from the crisis and (austerity), he said during his final campaign rally in central Athens on Friday night. Or it will (determine) whether we embark on an adventure, sliding back many decades and taking the country to default, to leave Greeks facing mass poverty.
Repeated rounds of tax increases and reductions of salaries and pensions over the past two years have seen the country mired in a fifth year of recession and unemployment spiral to above 21 percent. The backlash has seen voters turn to smaller groups and mostly anti-bailout offshoots created by disgruntled deputies who rebelled rather than vote in favor of the measures.
Up to an unprecedented 10 parties have been projected to win more than the 3 percent minimum threshold for a parliamentary seat. That includes the extreme right Golden Dawn, which has been riding high on the emotive issue of illegal immigration, promising to clean up crime-ridden, ghetto-like city neighborhoods and mine the countrys borders to stop more migrants getting in.
People are not choosing smaller parties because they believe in their agendas, political communications expert Spiros Rizopoulos said. I doubt if anyone has ever read an agenda of a smaller party. Its because they want to protest a decision that has been made that led Greece into the bailouts and the ensuing austerity.
For the past six months, New Democracy and PASOK have been uneasy bedfellows in a coalition government cobbled together under technocrat Prime Minister Lucas Papademos. The former European Central Bank head was appointed after Papandreou was forced to resign following a sudden decision to put the countrys second bailout to a referendum.
The coalition, which initially also included a small right-wing party, was formed with the sole mandate of securing the countrys second bailout and a massive bond swap deal with private creditors that wiped more than (euro) 100 billion ($130 billion) off the countrys national debt.
With both secured in early April, elections were called.
Samaras has insisted he will not enter into a coalition with his Socialist rivals.
It is not in the interest of the Greek people to have a power-sharing government of this kind to exist, he told supporters at his main campaign rally in Athens on Thursday night.
Disastrous for whom? I understand the arguments, but, at root it really does seem to be all about the elites and their cronies.
If you want to have a country, then you have to have control over you currency. The Greeks (and most of Europe) do not have the latter so they also don't really have the former regardless of how it's spun.
This is an interesting stage in the EURO play. It looks like either Greece will be kicked out of the Euro or Germany will leave, as they have no intention of indefinitely carrying Greek freeloaders. On Friday, the German Finance Minister, Wolfgang Schauble, issued a blunt warning to Greek voters in yesterday's parliamentary elections, in which many are expected to turn to minority parties opposed to the strict austerity terms of the country's bailout.
''If Greek voters were to vote for a majority that does not honour those agreements, then Greece will have to bear the consequences,'' Mr Schauble said.
Politicians fear Greece could renege on promises to foreign lenders, leading to bankruptcy and an exit from the euro, risking contagion to other countries.
A multi-volume chronology and reference guide set detailing three years of the Mexican Drug War between 2010 and 2012.
Rantburg.com and borderlandbeat.com correspondent and author Chris Covert presents his first non-fiction work detailing
the drug and gang related violence in Mexico.
Chris gives us Mexican press dispatches of drug and gang war violence
over three years, presented in a multi volume set intended to chronicle the death, violence and mayhem which has
dominated Mexico for six years.