Connect with us

Latest

EXPLAINER: What to know ahead of Sweden’s election Sunday

Avatar photo

Published

on

EXPLAINER: What to know ahead of Sweden’s election Sunday

STOCKHOLM, Sweden (AP) — Sweden is holding an election Sunday to elect lawmakers to the 349-seat Riksdag as well as to local offices across the nation of 10 million people. Early voting began on Aug. 24, so many people will have already cast their ballots by election day. Here are some key things to know about the vote.

WHAT IS AT STAKE?

Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson is fighting to keep her center-left Social Democrats at the helm of a left-wing coalition but is facing a strong challenge from the right.

Sweden is known for being a cradle-to-grave welfare society and Andersson would like to preserve the social protections that have long defined Sweden, and reverse some of the market-oriented changes by an earlier government. Her party feels that some of the changes, like state subsidies going to private schools, are creating greater inequalities.

The once mighty Social Democrats have been in power since 2014. But as the party’s popularity sinks compared with its heyday in the 20th century, it has been forced it to preside over a weaker government relying more on other parties to pass laws, a situation which has produced political instability over the past eight years.

WHO IS LIKELY TO WIN?

There are two major blocs, with four parties on the left and four on the right. The polls leading up to the election showed the two blocs in a near dead heat, with the outcome impossible to predict.

Under Swedish law, it falls to the party that wins the most seats to form a government. Polls show that this is likely to be Andersson’s party, in which case it would be up to her first to try to form a coalition government with majority support in the legislature.

Advertisement
Submit your 2022 Austin Neighborhood Feedback

But if the left as a whole has a poor showing, she might not be able to form a coalition. In that case, the baton would be passed to the second-largest party to try to form a government.

WHICH PARTY IS IN THE NO. 2 SPOT?

In the last election, in 2018, the Moderates led by Ulf Kristersson, a center-right party, won the second highest number of seats. The conservative party promotes a market economy, lower taxes and a smaller role for government in a country with a generous welfare state supported by high taxes.

But like the Social Democrats, and many other mainstream parties across Europe for that matter, the Moderates have also seen their popularity with voters decline amid a populist challenge coming from further right.

WHO ARE THE POPULISTS?

The Sweden Democrats, a populist right-wing party which takes a hard line on immigration and crime, first entered parliament in 2010 and has been growing steadily ever since.

The party won 13% of the vote in 2018, becoming the third-largest force in parliament. Polls show that is likely to improve on that showing on Sunday.

Some Swedes describe the party as Trumpist and feel put off by the fact that it was founded by far-right extremists decades ago, not quite certain whether to trust it in its transformation to a more traditional conservative party.

The party is led by Jimmie Akesson, a 43-year-old former web designer who has been the driving force in trying to moderate the party’s image.

Advertisement
Submit your 2022 Austin Neighborhood Feedback

The party has clearly tapped into the social mood, however. Its success can be measured also by the fact that other parties have been moving closer to its positions as many Swedes believe that they can no longer bear the costs of the generous refugee policies of the past, and are seeking a crackdown on crime.

Once treated as a pariah, other conservative parties have grown increasingly willing to deal with the Sweden Democrats.

HOW SERIOUS IS CRIME IN SWEDEN?

Some of the immigrants who have been welcomed in Sweden in past years have had difficulties assimilating into Swedish society, leading to segregated neighborhoods with high crime rates.

Gang violence mostly takes place among criminal networks dealing drugs or involved in other illicit activity. But there have been recent cases of innocent bystanders being hurt. So far this year, 48 people have been killed by firearms in Sweden, three more than in all of 2021.

The fears triggered by constant news of shootings and explosions in disadvantaged neighborhoods have made crime one of the most pressing issues for voters.

“Shootings and explosions of bombs have increased in the last few years and (this violence) is now considered a great social problem. I wouldn’t say that it’s as bad as Mexico, but we are on the way,” said Anders Sannerstedt, a political scientist at Lund University in southern Sweden.

THE GENDER FACTOR

Andersson became Sweden’s first female prime minister less than a year ago — a milestone late in coming for a country that in many ways is an example of gender equality.

Advertisement
Submit your 2022 Austin Neighborhood Feedback

“I was really proud,” said Ulrika Hoonk, a 39-year-old who voted early in Stockholm on Friday evening, saying it took “far too long” for that to happen.

Polls show that Andersson’s party is especially popular with women, with men tending to vote more conservative.

Even though Andersson is the first prime minister, there are still many women represented in positions of authority. Four party leaders are women and one party has a woman and a man sharing the leadership. In parliament, the gender balance has long been split roughly 50-50.

Several women interviewed this week said that finally having a woman in the top leadership job was very important for them, and one factor they considered when choosing which party to support.

___

Jan M. Olsen in Copenhagen, Denmark, contributed.

Read More

Advertisement
Submit your 2022 Austin Neighborhood Feedback
Continue Reading
Advertisement
Click to comment

Latest

Muhammad Yunus: Nobel Peace Prize winner sentenced to 6 months in jail

Avatar photo

Published

on

Muhammad Yunus: Nobel Peace Prize winner sentenced to 6 months in jail

DHAKA, Bangladesh (AP) — A labor court in Bangladesh’s capital Monday sentenced Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus to six months in jail for violating the country’s labor laws.

Yunus, who pioneered the use of microcredit to help impoverished people, was present in court and was granted bail. The court gave Yunus 30 days to appeal the verdict and sentence.

Grameen Telecom, which Yunus founded as a non-profit organization, is at the center of the case.

Sheikh Merina Sultana, head of the Third Labor Court of Dhaka, said in her verdict that Yunus’ company violated Bangladeshi labor laws. She said at least 67 Grameen Telecom workers were supposed to be made permanent employees but were not, and a “welfare fund” to support the staff in cases of emergency or special needs was never formed. She also said that, following company policy, 5% of Grameen’s dividends were supposed to be distributed to staff but was not.

Sultana found Yunus, as chairman of the company, and three other company directors guilty, sentencing each to six months in jail. Yunus was also fined 30,000 takas, or $260.

Yunus said he would appeal.

“We are being punished for a crime we did not commit. It was my fate, the nation’s fate. We have accepted this verdict, but will appeal this verdict and continue fighting against this sentence,” the 83-year-old economist told reporters after the verdict was announced.

A defense lawyer criticized the ruling, saying it was unfair and against the law. “We have been deprived of justice,” said attorney Abdullah Al Mamun.

Advertisement
Submit your 2022 Austin Neighborhood Feedback

But the prosecution was happy with what they said was an expected verdict.

“We think business owners will now be more cautious about violating labor laws. No one is above the law,” prosecutor Khurshid Alam Khan told The Associated Press.

Grameen Telecom owns 34.2% of the country’s largest mobile phone company, Grameenphone, a subsidiary of Norway’s telecom giant Telenor.

As Yunus is known to have close connections with political elites in the West, especially in the United States, many think the verdict could negatively impact Bangladesh’s relationship with the U.S.

But Foreign Secretary Masud Bin Momen on Monday said relations between Bangladesh and the U.S. would likely not be affected by an issue involving a single individual.

“It is normal not to have an impact on the state-to-state relations for an individual,” the United News of Bangladesh agency quoted Momen as saying.

The Nobel laureate faces an array of other charges involving alleged corruption and embezzlement.

Yunus’ supporters believe he’s being harassed because of frosty relations with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. Bangladesh’s government has denied the allegation.

Monday’s verdict came as Bangladesh prepares for its general election on Jan. 7, amid a boycott by the country’s main opposition party, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party, led by former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia, Hasina’s arch-enemy. The party said it didn’t have any confidence the premier’s administration would hold a free and fair election.

Advertisement
Submit your 2022 Austin Neighborhood Feedback

In August, more than 170 global leaders and Nobel laureates in an open letter urged Hasina to suspend all legal proceedings against Yunus.

The leaders, including former U.S. President Barack Obama, former U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and more than 100 Nobel laureates, said in the letter that they were deeply concerned by recent threats to democracy and human rights in Bangladesh.

Hasina responded sharply and said she would welcome international experts and lawyers to come to Bangladesh to assess the legal proceedings and examine documents involving the charges against Yunus.

In 1983, Yunus founded Grameen Bank, which gives small loans to entrepreneurs who would not normally qualify for bank loans. The bank’s success in lifting people out of poverty led to similar microfinancing efforts in other countries.

Hasina’s administration began a series of investigations of Yunus after coming to power in 2008. She became enraged when Yunus announced he would form a political party in 2007 when a military-backed government ran the country and she was in prison, although he did not follow through on the plan.

Yunus had earlier criticized politicians in the country, saying they are only interested in money. Hasina called him a “bloodsucker” and accused him of using force and other means to recover loans from poor rural women as head of Grameen Bank.

In 2011, Hasina’s administration began a review of the bank’s activities. Yunus was fired as managing director for allegedly violating government retirement regulations. He was put on trial in 2013 on charges of receiving money without government permission, including his Nobel Prize award and royalties from a book.

Read More

Advertisement
Submit your 2022 Austin Neighborhood Feedback
Continue Reading

Latest

Kim Jung Un says military should ‘annihilate’ US and SKorea if provoked…

Avatar photo

Published

on

Kim Jung Un says military should ‘annihilate’ US and SKorea if provoked…

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said his military should “thoroughly annihilate” the United States and South Korea if provoked, state media reported Monday, after he vowed to boost national defense to cope with what he called an unprecedented U.S.-led confrontation.

North Korea has increased its warlike rhetoric in recent months in response to an expansion of U.S.-South Korean military drills. Experts expect Kim will continue to escalate his rhetoric and weapons tests because he likely believes he can use heightened tensions to wrest U.S. concessions if former President Donald Trump wins the U.S. presidential election in November.

In a five-day major ruling party meeting last week, Kim said he will launch three more military spy satellites, produce more nuclear materials and develop attack drones this year in what observers say is an attempt to increase his leverage in future diplomacy with the U.S.

In a meeting Sunday with commanding army officers, Kim said it is urgent to sharpen “the treasured sword” to safeguard national security, an apparent reference to his country’s nuclear weapons program. He cited “the U.S. and other hostile forces’ military confrontation moves,” according to the official Korean Central News Agency.

Kim stressed that “our army should deal a deadly blow to thoroughly annihilate them by mobilizing all the toughest means and potentialities without moment’s hesitation” if they opt for military confrontation and provocations against North Korea, KCNA said.

In his New Year’s Day address Monday, South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol said he will strengthen his military’s preemptive strike, missile defense and retaliatory capabilities in response to the North Korean nuclear threat.

“The Republic of Korea is building genuine, lasting peace through strength, not a submissive peace that is dependent on the goodwill of the adversary,” Yoon said, using South Korea’s official name.

At the party meeting, Kim called South Korea “a hemiplegic malformation and colonial subordinate state” whose society is “tainted by Yankee culture.” He said his military must use all available means including nuclear weapons to “suppress the whole territory of South Korea” in the event of a conflict.

Advertisement
Submit your 2022 Austin Neighborhood Feedback

South Korea’s Defense Ministry warned in response Sunday that if North Korea attempts to use nuclear weapons, South Korean and U.S. forces will punish it overwhelmingly, resulting in the end of the Kim government.

KCNA said North Korean officials held talks on Monday to implement an order by Kim to disband or reform organizations handling relations with South Korea to fundamentally change the principle and direction of the North’s struggle against the South. There was no immediate explanation of how that might alter inter-Korean relations, which have been stalled for an extended period.

Experts say small-scale military clashes between North and South Korea could happen this year along their heavily armed border. They say North Korea is also expected to test-launch intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of reaching the mainland U.S. and other major new weapons.

In 2018-19, Kim met Trump in three rounds of talks on North Korea’s expanding nuclear arsenal. The diplomacy fell apart after the U.S. rejected Kim’s offer to dismantle his main nuclear complex, a limited step, in exchange for extensive reductions in U.S.-led sanctions.

Since 2022, North Korea has conducted more than 100 missile tests, prompting the U.S. and South Korea to expand their joint military exercises. North Korea has also tried to strengthen its relationships with China and Russia, which blocked efforts by the U.S. and its partners in the U.N. Security Council to toughen U.N. sanctions on North Korea over its weapons tests.

KCNA said Kim and Chinese President Xi Jinping exchanged New Year’s Day messages on Monday on bolstering bilateral ties. North Korea faces suspicions that it has supplied conventional arms for Russia’s war in Ukraine in return for sophisticated Russian technologies to enhance the North’s military programs.

Estimates of the size of North Korea’s nuclear arsenal vary, ranging from about 20-30 bombs to more than 100. Many foreign experts say North Korea still has some technological hurdles to overcome to produce functioning nuclear-armed ICBMs, though its shorter-range nuclear-capable missiles can reach South Korea and Japan.

Read More

Advertisement
Submit your 2022 Austin Neighborhood Feedback
Continue Reading

Latest

Sen. Fetterman says he thought news about his depression treatment would end his political career

Avatar photo

Published

on

Sen. Fetterman says he thought news about his depression treatment would end his political career

WASHINGTON (AP) — Sen. John Fetterman acknowledges having “dark conversations” about harming himself before he hit “the emergency brake” and sought treatment for depression.

He remembers thinking about his three school-age kids. “I can’t be a blueprint for my children. I can’t let them be left alone or not to understand why he would have done that,” the first-term Pennsylvania Democrat told NBC’s “Meet the Press” in a deeply personal and introspective interview taped before the broadcast that aired Sunday.

So he checked himself into Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, last Feb. 15. “There was nowhere else to go,” he said, describing how he often felt during his stay that “there wasn’t any hope sometimes and like, ‘What do I have left?’”

He also wondered whether he would survive politically.

“When it got released where I was and where it was going, it was a big story. And so, I had assumed that that would be the end of my career,” he said

When he sought treatment for clinical depression, Fetterman was still coping with the effects of the stroke he had in May 2022, during his campaign for one of the Senate’s most contested seats. “My heart technically stopped, and it was a very touch-and-go situation,” said Fetterman, 54. A pacemaker was implanted with a defibrillator to manage two heart conditions, atrial fibrillation and cardiomyopathy.

His victory over Republican Mehmet Oz had helped Democrats keep control of the Senate and made him a national figure. It was the height of his political career. But he couldn’t make it out of bed at his home in Braddock, in western Pennsylvania.

“I really scared my kids, and they thought, ’You won, Dad. Why aren’t we enough? Why are you still so sad? Why are you even more sad?’ And it was hard for — to explain why I was. And, of course, a 9-year-old child wouldn’t understand that. And it was awful,” Fetterman said.

Advertisement
Submit your 2022 Austin Neighborhood Feedback

So much so that he said he “pleaded not to go down to D.C.” later that November for orientation sessions in Washington for newly elected lawmakers.

His favorite holiday was nearing, yet he was unable to think about getting Christmas presents for his children and “dreading” his swearing in on Capitol Hill early in the new year.

Within two months, he was at Walter Reed. Aides had described the new senator as being withdrawn and uninterested in eating, discussing work or the usual banter with staff.

“This is a conversation that I’ve had with myself and anybody that knows they’re unable to address their depression, is they start to have dark conversations with themself about self-harm,” Fetterman said. “And things continued to kind of tick off the list. And then I kind of hit the emergency brake.”

He added, “I knew I needed help.”

Before checking into Walter Reed, Fetterman had never publicly discussed his battle with depression. He has since said that he has experienced it on and off throughout his life.

He left Walter Reed at the end of March after six weeks of inpatient treatment with his depression “in remission,” according to a statement from his office.

Doctors describe “remission” as when a patient responds to treatment so that they have returned to normal social function and they are indistinguishable from someone who has never had depression.

Fetterman has since become a visible presence in the Capitol, bantering with reporters, joking with Senate colleagues and speaking up at Senate hearings.

Advertisement
Submit your 2022 Austin Neighborhood Feedback

To others who are now “facing a really dark holiday time,” Fetterman offered this guidance: “I know that last year’s was desolate. And this year’s might be desolate. Next year’s can be the best ever. And that’s what happened for me.”

Read More

Continue Reading