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Spain general election result too close to call.

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Source: Reuters

Voting started on Sunday in Spain’s most divisive and open-ended election in decades, set to result in a fragmented parliament in which the far-right will get a sizeable presence for the first time since the country’s return to democracy.

After a tense campaign dominated by issues such as national identity and gender equality, the likelihood that any coalition deal will take weeks or months to be brokered will feed into a broader mood of political uncertainty across Europe.

At least five parties from across the political spectrum have a chance of being in government and they could struggle to agree on a deal between them, meaning a repeat election is one of several possible outcomes.

Beyond that, the result is too close to call.

Voting started at 9 am (0700 GMT) and ends at 8 pm in mainland Spain for what will be the country’s third national election in four years, each of which has brought a further dislocation of the political landscape.

 “After many years of instability and uncertainty, it’s important that today we send a clear, defined message about the Spain we want. And from there a broad parliamentary majority must be built that can support a stable government,” Sanchez told reporters after voting in a polling station near Madrid.

It is uncertain if Sanchez will manage to stay in office and how many allies he would need to gather together in order to do so.

If, in addition to far-left anti-austerity party Podemos and other small parties, Sanchez also needs the support of Catalan separatist lawmakers, talks will be long and their outcome unclear.

Opinion polls, which ended on Monday, have suggested it will be harder for a right wing split between three parties – the center-right Ciudadanos, conservative People’s Party (PP) and Vox – to clinch a majority, but this scenario is within polls’ margin of error and cannot be ruled out.

Voting in Barcelona, Ciudadanos leader Albert Rivera renewed calls to oust Sanchez, whose more conciliatory tone toward Catalan separatists has angered the right, which called Sanchez a “traitor” throughout a campaign often dominated by the secession crisis.

“These are not any normal elections. At stake is whether we want to remain united, if we want to continue being free and equal citizens, if we want a Spain that looks to the past or the future, a country of extremes or of moderation,” Rivera told reporters after casting his ballot.

KNOWN UNKNOWNS

With the trauma of military dictatorship under Francisco Franco, who died in 1975, still fresh in the memory for its older generation, Spain had long been seen as resistant to the wave of nationalist, populist parties spreading across much of Europe.

Some voters still stood by this. “I’m more of a Ciudadanos or PP voter but I’m so scared of Vox that I voted for the left-wing bloc, for the Socialists,” Julio Cesar Galdon, a 27-year-old political science graduate said after voting in central Madrid.

But this time Vox will get seats, boosted by voter discontent with traditional parties, its focus on widespread anger at Catalonia’s independence drive, and non-mainstream views that include opposing a law on gender violence it says discriminates against men.

One of several unknowns is how big an entry Vox will make in parliament’s lower house, with opinion polls having given a wide range of forecasts and struggled to pin down the party’s voter base.

“This campaign has been different. There are two sides, one fighting more for the interests of Spaniards and another fighting for its own interest,” he said while voting in Madrid, adding that he preferred not to give his full name.

The high number of undecided voters – in some surveys as many as four in ten – has also complicated the task of predicting the outcome, as have the intricacies of a complex electoral system under which 52 constituencies elect 350 lawmakers.

That system is untested in Spain’s new political era, marked by the definitive end of the long-held dominance of the PP and the Socialists.

Voters in the depopulating rural heartlands – many of whom are old and may well feel little direct connection to the country’s young, male, urban political elite – are of particular importance.

They proportionally elect more lawmakers than the inhabitants of big cities, but at the same time the cut-off point for parliamentary representation there is trickier to reach, making the outcome harder to predict the more parties there are.

Another unknown is the impact of two televised debates early in the week. They may well influence the outcome in a country where a small difference in votes can make a huge difference in terms of seats.

While Vox’s leader was excluded from the TV debates, which analysts said could help his narrative of being against “the system”, Sanchez was rather subdued and Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias, whose party was struggling in polls, was considered by many as having given a strong performance.

“I believe we achieved something important for everyone, regardless of their politics, by debating ideas and rejecting insult, tension and over-reaction,” Iglesias said of his party’s campaign after voting on Sunday morning.

An opinion poll will be published at 8 pm, and results will trickle in through the evening with almost all votes counted by midnight.

In the past two elections, the 8 pm opinion polls failed to give an accurate picture of the eventual outcome and it took time for preliminary results to do so.


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24 Hours Across Africa

Erdogan congratulates rival over massive victory

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Source:Reuters- Turkey’s opposition has dealt President Tayyip Erdogan a stinging blow by winning control of Istanbul in a re-run mayoral election, breaking his aura of invincibility and delivering a message from voters unhappy over his policies.

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Ekrem Imamoglu of the Republican People’s Party (CHP) secured 54.21% of votes, according to state-owned Anadolu news agency – a far wider victory margin than his narrow win three months ago.

The previous result was annulled after protests from Erdogan’s Islamist-rooted AK Party, which said there had been widespread voting irregularities. The decision to re-run the vote was criticized by Western allies and caused uproar among domestic opponents who said Turkey’s democracy was under threat.

On Sunday, tens of thousands of Imamoglu supporters celebrated in the streets of Istanbul after the former businessman triumphed over Erdogan’s handpicked candidate by almost 800,000 votes.

“In this city today, you have fixed democracy. Thank you Istanbul,” Imamoglu told supporters who made heart signs with their hands, in an expression of the inclusive election rhetoric that has been the hallmark of his campaigning.

“We came to embrace everyone,” Imamoglu said. “We will build democracy in this city, we will build justice. In this beautiful city, I promise, we will build the future.”

The High Electoral Board has yet to announce the formal results, but Erdogan has already congratulated Imamoglu for his victory and Imamoglu’s rival, Binali Yildirim, of the ruling AK Party wished him luck as mayor barely two hours after polls closed.

Erdogan has ruled Turkey since 2003, first as prime minister and then as president, becoming the country’s most dominant politician since its founder, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, nearly a century ago.

His AK Party has strong support among pious and conservative Turks and its stewardship of Turkey’s economy through a decade and a half of construction-fueled growth helped Erdogan win more than a dozen national and local elections.

But economic recession and a financial crisis have eroded that support, and Erdogan’s ever-tighter control over government has alarmed some voters.

Turkey’s lira tumbled after the decision to annul the March vote and is down 8% this year in part on election jitters. It firmed to 5.72 overnight from Friday’s close of 5.8140 but eased back to 5.7750 by 0500 GMT.

Imamoglu won support even in the traditionally pious Istanbul districts, once known as AK Party strongholds, ending the 25-year-long Islamist rule in the country’s largest city.

“This re-run (election) was one to put an end to the dictatorship,” said Gulcan Demirkaya, a 48-year-old housewife in Istanbul’s AKP-leaning Kagithane district. “God willing, I would like to see him as the president in five years’ time. The one-man rule should come to an end.”

The results are likely to trigger a new chapter in Turkish politics, with the country’s top three cities now held by the opposition, and could trigger cracks within Erdogan’s AK Party, while bringing the economic troubles more to the center.

“This is definitely going to have an impact on the future of Turkish politics given the margin of victory. It’s alarming sign for the AKP establishment,” said Sinan Ulgen, visiting scholar at Carnegie Europe in Brussels and former Turkish diplomat.

Analysts say the loss could set off a Cabinet reshuffle in Ankara and adjustments to foreign policy. It could even trigger a national election earlier than 2023 as scheduled, although the leader of the AKP’s nationalist ally played down that prospect.

“Turkey should now return to its real agenda, the election process should close,” MHP party leader Devlet Bahceli said. “Talking of an early election would be among the worst things that can be done to our country.”

The uncertainty over the fate of Istanbul and potential delays in broader economic reforms have kept financial markets on edge. Threats of sanctions by the United States if Erdogan goes ahead with plans to install Russian missile defenses have also weighed on the markets.


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24 Hours Across Africa

Czech: Protesters Call for PM Babis resignation.

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Source: Reuters, An estimated quarter of a million Czechs rallied in Prague on Sunday to demand the resignation of Prime Minister Andrej Babis, in the biggest show of public discontent since the 1989 Velvet Revolution which overthrew Communism.

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The rally in Letna park was the culmination of a series of demonstrations in recent weeks against Babis, who has faced investigations over alleged fraud and conflicts of interest, claims he vehemently denies.

Organizers said they believed that about 250,000 people had attended Sunday’s rally. Phone operator T-Mobile said its network usage analysis put the number of participants at over 258,000. A police spokesman declined to give an estimate.

The total population of the Czech Republic is 10.7 million.

Protesters carried banners saying “Resign”, “We’ve had enough”, “We won’t give up democracy”, and others waved Czech and EU flags. Many families brought children to the rally, which was peaceful as were other recent protests against both Babis and his justice minister.

Babis has said people have the right to protest but has firmly refused to step down. His populist ANO movement remains the most popular party, although its support has dipped slightly in the past two months to 27.5%, according to a poll by Kantar agency released on June 9.

Babis also has enough backing in parliament, where a no-confidence vote planned for Wednesday is likely to fail.

Police proposed in April that Babis, a billionaire businessman-turned-politician sometimes likened to U.S. President Donald Trump, should be formally charged for fraud in tapping a European Union subsidy a decade ago to build a hotel and conference center outside Prague. He denies any wrongdoing.

The appointment of a new justice minister just after the police announcement prompted rallies by demonstrators suspicious that Babis was trying to influence proceedings. Babis has also vigorously denied that claim.

“Our country has many problems and the government is not solving them. It is not solving them because the only worry of the prime minister is how to untangle himself from his personal problems,” said Mikulas Minar, a 26-year-old theology student who set up the Million Moments for Democracy, a civic group that organized the protests.

“It is unacceptable for our prime minister to be a person under criminal investigation,” he told the crowd from a giant rock festival-like stage.

No politicians were invited to address the rally, the organizers said.

Filip Rubas, who joined protests in 1989 against the then communist regime, said he turned out on Sunday to send a message to politicians that they will be held accountable.

“We think our leaders need to be reminded very strongly that they do not own our country, that they are not above the law (or constitution) and that there are still enough caring people who are not brainwashed by hateful propaganda,” said Rubas, 50.

He traveled to the rally with his wife and a group of friends from Brno, the country’s second city, 200 km (125 miles) from Prague.

Babis, 64, suffered another setback from leaked preliminary results of an audit by the European Commission, which determined he is in conflict of interest as the beneficiary of trust funds where he had transferred his chemicals, farming, media and food business, valued at $3.7 billion by Forbes.

Babis insists the audit, which said companies in the trust fund should not be eligible for EU development subsidies, is wrong and this would be proven in the final conclusions, expected late this year or early in 2020.


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