Daily Archives: September 9, 2013

Charles Clover

Alexei Navalny delivers a speech on August 25, 2013 during a campaign rally for the Moscow mayoral election (Getty)

While experts agree that the level of falsification in Moscow elections on Sunday was historically low, the narrow margin by which Sergei Sobyanin was elected the mayor of Moscow has given credibility to opposition claims that what fraud there was could have been decisive in the contest.

Mr Sobyanin, the incumbent, won 51.3 per cent of the vote, which put him within a whisker of the 50 per cent total that would have prompted a second-round runoff against Alexei Navalny.

While Mr Navalny got 27 per cent of the vote, analysts say that in a second-round contest between him and Mr Sobyanin some of the protest vote would have gone to Mr Navalny, even though it was unlikely to have been enough to beat the incumbent mayor. Read more

Tony Abbott’s Liberal-National coalition yesterday won a commanding lower house majority, ending six years of Labor party rule. However, the makeup of the senate is yet to be decided. Senate votes take days, if not weeks, to tally, but early figures from the Australian Electoral commission suggest that several new minority parties might hold the balance of power.

In this case, the Australian senate could look decidedly more colourful in July 2014, when the newly elected senators would take their seats.

Clive Palmer (Getty)

Glenn Lazarus, a Palmer United senate candidate, was nicknamed “the brick with eyes” when he played rugby, and once posed naked with only a brick to promote a brick company.

Clive Palmer, who started the Palmer United party, has himself claimed a seat in the house of representatives. He is the multimillionaire owner of coal, iron ore and nickel assets, with plans to build a working replica of the Titanic and put mechanical dinosaurs on a luxury golf resortRead more

James Blitz

David McNew/Getty Images

Did President Bashar al-Assad personally order the chemical weapons attack that was carried out on eastern Damascus on August 21? Or was the decision to mount the attack taken by military commanders without Mr Assad’s knowledge, or that of the closest people to him? As the US presses ahead with its argument that there must be a response to the chemical attack, these questions are increasingly under discussion.

In their intelligence assessments of the August 21 attack, the US, Britain and France have stated with high confidence that the Assad regime was responsible for what happened.

But the question of whether Mr Assad personally knew about the attack in advance – or whether the assault happened without him being forewarned – is an intriguing one. It gained a sharper focus at the weekend after Germany’s Bild am Sonntag paper cited a unnamed German intelligence officials saying they believed he had not given the order. These officials based this assessment on intelligence suggesting Syrian brigade commanders had been asking Mr Assad to allow them to use chemical weapons for the last four and a half months – but permission had always been denied. Read more

By David Gallerano
♦ The Kremlin-backed candidate Sergei Sobyanin beats anti-corruption blogger Alexei Navalny and remains mayor of Moscow, although Navalny’s unexpected result looks like an alarm signal for Vladimir Putin.
♦ A school regional programme shows many families in Spain cannot provide their children with basic needs – namely, food and a balanced diet.
♦ Writer John le Carré discusses his life and recent events with Philippe Sands.
While jihadists and al-Qaeda affiliates prepare on the Syrian mountains for the US attack (with the lessons of Iraq in mind), Syrian refugees are leaving the country and experiencing a hard time in Egypt, where they are now associated with the discredited regime of Mohammed Morsi. In the New York Times Nicholas Kristof outlines two options for the US – intervention or paralysis – and chooses the latter.
The ancient practice of self-immolation – though relatively uncommon – is Chinese farmers’ ultimate protest. Chinese government will probably respond by increasing compensation for expropriated rural land.
♦ Iowa grants gun permits to people who are legally or completely blind. There is disagreement among advocates for the disabled and public officers on whether this endangers public safety.
♦ Brazilian TV network Globo reveals that the NSA spied on Brazilian Oil giant Petrobras, adding to the existing tensions between United States and Brazil. Read more