Western European News Digest
On Eve of French Elections: Vote Fraud Becomes an Issue
For the first time ever in France, 1.5 million voters in 82 districts will vote on electronic machines, amidst much opposition to this in the country. Recently, a further scandal has broken out because some municipalities, such as Issy les Moulineaux, under the control of André Santini, a deputy mayor close to mafioso Charles Pasqua, ordered two sets of electronic voting machines from the U.S. producer Election Systems and Software.
It turns out that the set of more modern machines which was supposed to be used for the voting in the Presidential elections this time, and on which the municipal employees had trained, will not be used because it had not received the approval of the Interior Ministry. Those machines have a system by which an outside controller can clear the machine for the next voter, from the outside, and this system was never approved of. The municipalities which had trained on this system therefore will have to use the older set of machines which have been approved, but which are equally problematic. They are of the type used in the U.S. in Georgia some years ago, where voting results came out opposite to polling results during the week prior to the election, and to exit polls.
In light of the pending Presidential run-off between would-be Napoleon Nicolas Sarkozy, and Socialist candidate Ségolène Royal, scheduled for May 5, the issue may continue to heat up.
Germany-Iran Maglev Discussions Are Low Key
A spokesman of a firm in southern Germany confirmed April 19 that talks, involving his firm, about a memorandum of understanding with the Iranians on a project for a 900-km route for a maglev between Tehran and Mashhad, Iran, are indeed going on, adding that the issue "is too hot at the moment to disclose any details." The firm wants to go public with details within the week, but first wants to consult with their Iranian partners. The issue is hot, naturally, because of the Iranian nuclear conflict, although railway projects are not threatening anyone.
The railway consulting firm has been active also in the past two years in talks with Arab Gulf Emirates on a maglev route along the coastline, but the source said that the Emirates take an immense amount of time to discuss without deciding anything, which resembles the slowness in project decisions in Germany.
Brits Investigate Legality of Berezovsky Moves
The uproar over Boris Berezovsky's claim, in an interview published on April 13 in the London Guardian, that he is fomenting violent revolution in Russia (See Eastern Europe Digest), is such that even the British government is investigating whether he violated the terms of his refugee status. The Guardian also reported on April 14, that Scotland Yard is examining the recordings of Berezovksy's interview, and the Foreign Office issued a statement saying: "We deplore any call for the violent overthrow of a sovereign state. We expect anyone living or working or visiting the U.K., whatever their status, to obey our laws. We will look carefully at these and any future statements by Mr. Berezovsky in that light."
Russia's Prosecutor General Yury Chaika said a new attempt to extradite Berezovsky would be made. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that Russia has been asking British authorities "to put an end to the situation in which Berezovsky enjoys the status of a political refugee, yet blatantly abuses this status and takes actions that require extradition according to British law."
German Initiative for Hedge Fund Control Endorsed by China
Discussion about German initiatives for regulating the hedge funds is gaining wider support: the Finance Ministry of China endorsed the German initiative for hedge fund transparency, as an important step to maintain financial stability on a global scale. The Chinese also urged supervision of transactions, and of the scope and operational plans of the funds. Beyond that, the April 13 Washington meetings of G-7 finance ministers and central bank governors, as well as a separate meeting with 20 hedge fund representatives on April 15, resulted in no concrete action.
Huge Turkish Rally To Preserve Secular State
Just as the electoral season opens, and candidates prepare to present their bids, huge crowds, estimated at up to 300,000, marched through Ankara, the Turkish capital, to protest the possibility that the moderate Islamist AKP (Justice and Development Party) would select Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan as its Presidential candidate, because of his Islamist roots. "Turkey is secular and will remain secular," protesters shouted, waving national flags and banners of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, who founded of the republic with a clear separation between religion and state. "This is the biggest political rally ever in Ankara," said Deniz Baykal, leader of the main opposition Republican People's Party.
The AKP has a big enough majority in Parliament to elect Erdogan to the seven-year post as head of state. The party's executive will meet to decide on the candidate on April 18, but a final decision may come only by April 23. The mass demonstration came on the heels of warnings issued by current President Ahmet Necdet Sezer, that the secular state was being undermined. The army is traditionally the protector of the secular state and has intervened at times when the "threat" of Islamism was perceived, as in 1997, against then-Prime Minister Necmettin Erbakan.
New Questions Raised About Old 'RAF Killings'
There are new hints that Baader Meinhof terrorists were not the ones that shot, in at least some "RAF killings." Remarks by Michael Buback, the son of General Prosecutor Siegfried Buback, who was shot dead by terrorists on April 7, 1977, have provoked a debate in the German public and media, about the authorship of the Baader-Meinhof gang (RAF) in the killings of the big terrorist wave of the 1970s and 1980s.
Buback said in an interview with Sueddeutsche Zeitung, April 17, that he received a hint from an informant "in the RAF environment" that (still imprisoned) former RAF terrorist Christian Klar was not the one to deliver the lethal shots on Buback. Nor were, as the same informant told, the other two RAF terrorists, Guenter Sonnenberg and Knut Folkerts, who have been charged, together with Klar, with the assassination of Buback, the ones who fired the shots. Which prompts the media to pose the question: who did it, then? Another terrorist, whose identity is not yet known?
The Frankfurter Allgemeine daily mentions, in this context, the fact that the assassins of Alfred Herrhausen and of Detlev Rohwedder are not known either. In the case of Rohwedder, not even a letter of authorship exists. The German Ministry of Justice announced its intent to interrogate the informant of Buback's son.
Netherlands To Deny Visa to Palestinian Premier
The Dutch government declined to allow the Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh to enter the Netherlands, according to Uzbekistan News.net April 16. Citing the European Union's labelling of the Hamas as a "terrorist group," a Dutch government spokesman made clear that Haniyeh would not get a visa if he chooses to apply.
Haniyeh was planning to attend the conference on Palestinians and Europe to be held in Rotterdam on May 5. Dutch media had reported earlier that Haniyeh was invited as the main speaker at the conference by the Dutch-based Palestine Platform for Human Rights and Solidarity, the organizer of the conference.
According to a Dutch spokesman, "Hamas is considered a terrorist organization by the European Union. It is consistent not only to avoid contact with the Hamas ministers, but not to let them come to Netherlands, or anywhere else in Europe, to spread the message of Hamas."