France goes to polls as far-right scents power

This morning's top world news, in a nutshell - Sunday, 30th June 2024.

Voting got underway in France’s overseas territories on Saturday in high-stakes snap parliamentary elections, which could change the country’s trajectory and see the far-right party of Marine Le Pen take power in a historic first.
Elections for the 577 seats in the lower house National Assembly are a two-round process. The shape of the new parliament will become clear after the second round a week later, on July 7.

With Russia’s war against Ukraine in its third year and energy and food prices soaring, support for the anti-immigration and eurosceptic National Rally party has surged. Most polls show that National Rally is on course to win the largest number of seats in the National Assembly, although it remains to be seen if the party will secure an outright majority.

Some 49 million French are eligible to vote and a high turnout is predicted. All opinion polls have given the RN between 35 and 37 per cent of the vote, against 27.5-29 per cent for the left-wing New Popular Front alliance and 20-21 per cent for President Emmanuel Macron’s centrist camp.

If the RN obtains an absolute majority, party chief Jordan Bardella, Le Pen’s 28-year-old protege with no governing experience, could become prime minister in a tense “cohabitation” with Macron.

On Monday, Macron plans to convene a government meeting to decide the further course of action, government sources told AFP. He has insisted he will serve out the remainder of his second term until 2027, no matter which party wins.

Macron’s decision to call snap elections after the RN’s victory in European Parliament elections this month stunned friends and foes and sparked uncertainty in Europe’s second-biggest economy. The Paris stock exchange suffered its biggest monthly decline in two years in June, dropping by 6.4 per cent, according to figures released on Friday.

In an editorial, the French daily Le Monde said it was time to mobilise against the far right. “Yielding any power to it means nothing less than taking the risk of seeing everything that has been built and conquered over more than two and a half centuries gradually being undone”, it said.

Wielding mops and buckets, several activists of the ‘Femen’ feminist collective, dressed as cleaners, on Saturday demonstrated bare-breasted at the Trocadero in Paris, chanting slogans against the extreme right.

Reformist to face ultraconservative in Iran presidency runoff

The sole reformist in Iran’s presidential election, Masoud Pezeshkian, will face the ultraconservative Saeed Jalili in a runoff, authorities said on Saturday, following a vote marred by historically low turnout.

Pezeshkian secured 42.4 per cent of the vote, while Jalili, a former nuclear negotiator, came second with 38.6 per cent, according to figures from Iran’s elections authority. Conservative parliament speaker Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf was next with 13.8 per cent, while the only other candidate, conservative cleric Mostafa Pourmohammadi, got less than one per cent.

In his first post-election remarks, Pezeshkian thanked his supporters and urged them to vote again next Friday “to save the country from poverty, lies, discrimination and injustice. I hope your presence will be the basis of a new voice for change in attitude, behaviour, conversation and in the distribution and allocation of resources,” he added in a video published on the website of the reformist newspaper Etemad.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei had called for a high turnout ahead of Friday’s vote. Only slightly more than 40 per cent of the 61 million electorate took part – a record low turnout for the Islamic Republic – and more than one million ballots were spoiled.

The poll had been scheduled to take place in 2025 but was brought forward by the death of ultraconservative president Ebrahim Raisi in a helicopter crash last month.

The Guardian Council, which vets candidates, had originally approved six contenders. But a day ahead of the election, two of them – the ultraconservative mayor of Tehran, Alireza Zakani, and Raisi’s vice president, Amir-Hossein Ghazizadeh-Hashemi – dropped out. After the final results were released, they both asked their supporters to vote for Jalili in the Jul 5 runoff. Ghalibaf followed suit, asking “all revolutionary forces and supporters” to get behind Jalili’s bid for the presidency.

In the 2021 election that brought Raisi to power, the Guardian Council disqualified many reformists and moderates, prompting many voters to shun the election. The turnout then was just under 49 per cent, which at the time was the lowest in any presidential election in Iran.

Friday’s vote took place amid heightened regional tensions over the Gaza war, a dispute with the West over Iran’s nuclear programme and domestic discontent over the state of Iran’s sanctions-hit economy.

On Saturday, the reformist newspaper Sazandegi ran the headline “Long live hope” on its front page, while the state-run Iran Daily hailed what it called a “strong” turnout.

Opposition groups, especially in the diaspora, meanwhile called for a boycott, questioning the credibility of elections.

Tories could challenge election after postal ballots not delivered

The General Election in the UK could be hit by a series of legal challenges after it emerged that thousands of postal ballots have not been delivered on time. At least 13 constituencies have been affected, eight of which are marginal seats.

The Daily Mail says the crisis has been caused by councils not printing enough ballot papers and Royal Mail not delivering on time. In most constituencies, Conservatives do better on the postal votes and one Tory source raised the prospect of wholesale legal challenges after polling day.

UK police arrest 27 activists over alleged plans to disrupt airports

British police have said they had arrested 27 climate activists accused of planning to disrupt airports over the upcoming summer holidays. The suspects, part of the ‘Just Stop Oil’ protest group which has staged numerous high-profile actions, were arrested in raids across the country under a law which makes it illegal to plot to disrupt national infrastructure.

“We know Just Stop Oil are planning to disrupt airports across the country this summer which is why we have taken swift and robust action now,” said Chief Superintendent Ian Howells who led the operation. “Our stance is very clear: anyone who compromises the safety and security of airports in London can expect a strong response from officers or security staff.”

Four were arrested at London’s Gatwick airport on Tuesday and six others at a community centre in east London as part of an event which was promoting airport disruption, police said. The rest were detained at their homes around Britain. Those arrested included several high-profile members of the organisation, police added.

Thousands rally in Tel Aviv to demand release of hostages

Tens of thousands of protesters have rallied in Tel Aviv to demand the Israeli government do more to secure the release of the hostages still being held by Hamas in Gaza. Protesters carried pictures of some of the Israelis taken captive during Hamas’ incursion into Israel last October when some 250 people were seized.

Protesters have also demanded an immediate ceasefire to bring about an end to more than eight months of fighting in Gaza, which has killed almost 38,000 Palestinians and at least 318 Israeli soldiers.

But there is also a strong anti-government element to the weekly demonstrations with many protesters demanding Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu call fresh elections and step down. Some accuse him of prioritising his political survival over the lives of the Israeli hostages.

“No progress in ceasefire talks with Israel’ – Hamas

A senior Hamas official has said that no progress has been made in ceasefire talks with Israel over ending the war in Gaza.

Speaking at a news conference in Beirut, Osama Hamdan said the group is prepared to “deal positively” with any ceasefire proposal that brings about an end to the fighting.

Efforts by Arab mediators, supported by the United States, have failed to strike a conclusive cessation of hostilities with Hamas and Israel blaming each other for the lack of progress.

Hamas says any deal must include the full withdrawal of the Israeli military from Gaza but Israel has only agreed in principle to temporary pauses in fighting until Hamas is completely eradicated.

Hamdan also laid some of the blame on Washington, accusing officials there of pressuring the group to accept Israel’s conditions.

“Once again, Hamas is ready to deal positively with any proposal that secures a permanent ceasefire, a comprehensive withdrawal from Gaza Strip and a serious swap deal,” he said.

Fighting for third day in north Gaza as thousands displaced

Explosions, air strikes and gunfire rattled northern Gaza on Saturday, the third day of an Israeli military operation that has uprooted tens of thousands of Palestinians and compounded what the UN called “unbearable” living conditions in the territory.

An AFP correspondent reported explosions from the Shujaiya area near Gaza City, and a resident said bodies were seen on the streets. The United Nations humanitarian agency OCHA estimated that “between 60,000 and 80,000 people were displaced” from the area this week.

The armed wings of both Hamas and the Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad said they were engaged in ongoing fighting with Israeli forces there.

Israel’s military, meanwhile, said its operations were continuing in Shujaiya where fighting “above and below the ground” left a “large number” of militants dead. It said “dozens of terrorists” were killed and weapons, drones and observation posts were found, as well as a long-range rocket launcher and tunnel shafts.

28 accused in Panama Papers case acquitted

A judge has acquitted 28 people accused of money laundering in the Panama Papers, including the co-founder of a law firm that authorities say was at the centre of a conspiracy to hide money linked to illegal activities.

Jürgen Mossack founded Mossack & Fonseca with then associate Ramón Fonseca, who died in May. Mossack was acquitted along with others after a Panamanian judge found that the evidence against Mossack didn’t comply with the chain of custody after authorities raided the office of the now-defunct firm.

Prosecutors had accused Mossack, Fonseca and others of creating offshore companies and using complex transactions to hide money from illegal activities related to the so-called car wash corruption scandal involving Brazilian construction company Odebrecht, which pleaded guilty in U.S. federal court to a charge related to using shell companies to hide millions of dollars in bribes paid worldwide to win public contracts.

The judge noted that other evidence in the Panama Papers case “was not sufficient and conclusive to determine the criminal responsibility of the accused.”

In addition, the judge lifted personal and property precautionary measures against all the defendants, according to a judicial statement.

At least 18 dead in Nigeria suicide attacks

At least 18 people were killed and 19 others were injured in several suicide attacks that occurred yesterday in the city of Gwoza, in the state of Borno, in north-eastern Nigeria, the local emergency services announced. In one of the attacks, at a wedding, police said, at least six people died. The attacks, which have not yet been claimed, are reminiscent of the modus operandi of the Boko Haram movement, which is deeply rooted in this region of Nigeria on the border with Cameroon.

UEFA EURO2024: Fans roast Italy after elimination

The defending champions are out of Euro 2024 and to say Italy exited with a whimper would be being kind.
Comfortably beaten 2-0 by Switzerland, Luciano Spalletti’s side failed to even put up the late fight that at least characterised the comeback draw against Croatia in their final group game. Italy’s captain Gianluigi Donnarumma, the best one of his side defined Itay’s display as “unacceptable”. “It hurts, it really hurts,” he said. “We can only say sorry to everyone, we were disappointing today and they deserved to win. We struggled all game long.” Azzurri fans said this game had been the “worst” in decades. “I don’t think I’ve witnessed, in my lifetime, a worse Italian team than this,” said former England striker Gary Lineker on BBC One.

Ansa wrote Spalletti’s team, without spirit, play and desire, conceded a goal in the first half from Freuler and the second at the start of the second half from Vargas. The Azzurri hit two posts, but overall they built almost nothing, while goalkeeper Donnarumma also had to make a couple of decisive saves. The elimination seemed inevitable, after a disappointing group, while the Swiss deserved access to the quarter-finals, where they will face the winner between England and Slovakia, to be played today at 6pm.

Germany beat Denmark, thunder to make last eight

Germany scored two second-half goals as they defeated Denmark to reach the quarterfinals of Euro 2024. The hosts’ Round of 16 match proved chaotic as the first half was delayed by 25 minutes due to a thunderstorm and torrential rain. However, Kai Havertz’s 53rd-minute penalty was followed by a brilliant strike from Jamal Musiala 15 minutes later as Germany reached the last eight of a major tournament for the first time since 2016.

Thunderstorms had been predicted in the lead up to Germany’s first knockout game of the tournament, but it did not stop more than 40,000 spectators from showing up at Dortmund’s fan zone.

DW says it was a well-deserved win for Germany who will face either Spain or Georgia (playing today at 9pm).

America Cup: Group A: Argentina v. Peru 1-0; Canada v. Chile 0-0. Standings: Argentina 9 pts, Canada 4, Chile 2, Peru 1. Playing Monday: Group B at 2 am: Jaimaica v Venezuela; Mexico v Ecuador.

0 0 votes
Article Rating
Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments