Connect with us

World

New centrist party wins Bulgarian election, could end months of deadlock

Published

on

November 15, 2021

By Tsvetelia Tsolova

SOFIA (Reuters) -A new centrist political party won Bulgaria’s parliamentary election, partial official results showed on Monday, boosting hopes for an end to months of political deadlock in the European Union’s poorest member state.

The anti-graft We Continue The Change party (PP), launched only two months ago by two Harvard-educated entrepreneurs who served as interim ministers, won 25.5% of the vote, based on 93% of ballots counted from Sunday’s election, Bulgaria’s third this year.

Advertisement

After two previous elections in April and July produced an inconclusive outcome, Bulgarian voters are keen to see a new government formed quickly to tackle a dire COVID-19 situation, surging energy prices and widespread graft.

“I voted for what we are fighting for and hoping to happen – a more serious change in everything, so that we can have a better life here, at least for our children,” Kostadin Manov, a 39-year-old father of two, said after casting his vote in Sofia.

“This corruption and all this theft should stop.”

But the partial results show the next parliament will be even more fragmented than in April and July, with seven parties represented.

TOUGH COALITION TALKS

Advertisement

Voter turnout in Sunday’s vote is estimated at about 40% – a historic low amid public disillusionment and apathy and also coronavirus infections that have left hospitals overwhelmed.

The centre-right GERB party of long-serving premier Boyko Borissov came in second with 22.2% of the vote. His decade-long rule ended with the April election amid public anger over his failure to crack down on corruption.

President Rumen Radev, a harsh critic of Borissov, won 49.4% of votes in a presidential election that also took place on Sunday and is tipped to win a second five-year term in the largely ceremonial post in a runoff set for Nov. 21.

Analysts said the new PP party looked better positioned to seal a coalition with the support of the Socialists, the anti-graft alliance Democratic Bulgaria and the ITN party of TV talk show host Slavi Trifonov.

However, tough coalition negotiations lie ahead before a workable government can be formed.

Advertisement

“Negotiations will likely be challenging… Nonetheless, the urgent need for a stable government will likely facilitate compromises on all sides, at least in the near term,” said Andrius Tursa of consulting firm Teneo in a note.

PP leader Kiril Petkov, 41, promised on Sunday to be open to dialogue and compromise in coalition talks but said his party would not renege on pledges to overhaul the judiciary and clamp down on corruption.

“Bulgaria is headed onto a new path,” said Petkov, who hopes to become prime minister and to have his PP co-founder, Assen Vassilev, as finance minister.

Final official results are expected on Tuesday.

(Reporting by Tsvetelia Tsolova; Writing by Krisztina Than, Editing by Gareth Jones)

Advertisement

Continue Reading
Advertisement

World

Blinken downbeat about nuclear talks as Iran floats proposals

Published

on

December 2, 2021

By Parisa Hafezi and Humeyra Pamuk

VIENNA/STOCKHOLM (Reuters) -The United States said on Thursday it had little cause for optimism about reviving the 2015 Iran nuclear deal and would know in a day or so if Iran would negotiate in good faith as Tehran put forward fresh proposals.

“I think, in the very near future, the next day or so, we’ll be in a position to judge whether Iran actually intends now to engage in good faith,” U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken told reporters in Stockholm.

Advertisement

“I have to tell you, recent moves, recent rhetoric, don’t give us a lot of cause for … optimism. But even though the hour is getting very late, it is not too late for Iran to reverse course and engage meaningfully,” he added.

Iran has provided European powers who are shuttling between U.S. and Iranian officials with drafts on sanctions removal and nuclear commitments, Iran’s top nuclear negotiator said on Thursday, as world powers and Tehran try to reinstate the pact.

The announcement came on the fourth day of indirect talks in Vienna between Iran and the United States on bringing both fully back into the deal, under which Iran limited its nuclear program in return for relief from U.S., European Union and U.N. economic sanctions.

The talks resumed on Monday after a five-month hiatus prompted by Iran’s election of an anti-Western hardliner as president.

The U.N. nuclear watchdog on Wednesday said Iran has started producing enriched uranium with advanced centrifuges at its Fordow plant dug into a mountain, further eroding the nuclear deal during talks with the West on saving it.

Advertisement

“What Iran can’t do is sustain the status quo of building their nuclear program while dragging their feet on talks. That will not happen,” Blinken told reporters in Stockholm in a possible reference to that development.

It was unclear whether Blinken had been briefed on the latest proposals by the Iranians when he made his comments.

“We have delivered two proposed drafts to them … Of course they need to check the texts that we have provided to them. If they are ready to continue the talks, we are in Vienna to continue the talks,” Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator Ali Bagheri Kani told reporters in the Austrian capital.

A European diplomat in Vienna confirmed draft documents had been handed over.

Under the pact, Tehran limited its uranium enrichment programme, a potential pathway to nuclear weapons though Iran says it seeks only civilian atomic energy, in exchange for relief from the economic sanctions.

Advertisement

But in 2018, then-U.S. President Donald Trump abandoned the deal, calling it too soft on Iran, and reimposed harsh U.S. sanctions, spurring Tehran to breach nuclear limits in the pact.

“We want all sanctions to be lifted at once,” Bagheri told reporters. He said an Iranian proposal regarding how to verify the removal of sanctions – Tehran’s overriding priority in the talks – would be handed over to the European parties later.

A senior European diplomat estimated on Tuesday that 70-80% of a draft deal on salvaging the 2015 accord was completed when Iran and world powers last met in June, though it remained unclear if Tehran would resume talks where they left off.

(Reporting by Parisa Hafezi in Vienna and Humeyra Pamuk in Stockholm; Additional reporting by Doina Chiacu and Simon Lewis in Washington; Writing by Parisa Hafezi and Arshad Mohammed;Editing by Peter Graff, Mark Heinrich and Marguerita Choy)

Advertisement
Continue Reading

World

Jailed former paralympic athlete Pistorius moved closer to victim’s family

Published

on

December 2, 2021

CAPE TOWN (Reuters) – Former South Africa paralympic superstar, Oscar Pistorius, jailed in 2016 for killing his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, has been moved closer to her family ahead of reconciliation talks that could help pave the way for his early release from prison.

Pistorius, known as “Blade Runner” for his carbon-fibre prosthetic legs, went from public hero to convicted murderer in a trial that drew worldwide interest. He becomes eligible for parole after serving half of his 13-year sentence.

Pistorius is set to speak to Steenkamp’s parents, June and Barry Steenkamp, in a process known as victim-offender dialogue – an integral part of South Africa’s restorative justice programme in its prison system that brings parties affected by a particular crime together in a bid to achieve closure.

Advertisement

“They are participating in the process because they have committed themselves to being part of the victim-offender dialogue. They feel they have to do this for Reeva,” Tania Koen, lawyer for the Steenkamps, said of the family.

Pistorius’ lawyer did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

‘SENSITIVE PROCESS’

Gold medalist Pistorius, once the darling of the Paralympic movement for pushing for greater recognition and acceptance of disabled athletes, shot dead Steenkamp, a model and law student, in his bathroom in 2013.

Pistorius said he had believed she was an intruder but was jailed in 2016, initially for a six-year term. After an appeal by prosecutors who said this was too lenient the term was increased to 13 years.

Advertisement

He has now been moved from a prison near Johannesburg to one on South Africa’s east coast, near where Steenkamp’s parents live.

Neither their lawyer Koen nor Singabakho Nxumalo, a spokesman for the department of correctional services, could provide Reuters with a timeline for the discussions.

“It is very sensitive process, highly emotional… and we do not force people to participate in it,” Nxumalo said.

“But we are saying at least it does lay a foundation where people can, if possible, forgive each other, find one another and then try to move forward in harmony,” he said.

(Reporting by Wendell Roelf and Siyabonga Sishi; editing by Gareth Jones)

Advertisement

Continue Reading

World

Omicron may soon cause over half of COVID infections in Europe -EU

Published

on

December 2, 2021

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The European Union’s public health agency said on Thursday that the Omicron variant could be responsible for more than half of all COVID-19 infections in Europe within a few months.

The estimate could lend weight to preliminary information about the very high transmissibility of the Omicron variant, above that of the Delta variant, which before Omicron was considered the most contagious of the main coronavirus strains.

“Based on mathematical modelling conducted by ECDC, there are indications that Omicron could cause over half of all SARS-CoV-2 infections in the EU/EEA within the next few months,” the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control said in a statement.

Advertisement

There is no conclusive evidence about Omicron’s transmissibility so far but the World Health Organization’s lead person on COVID-19, Maria van Kerkhove, said on Wednesday the agency expected to have data on this within days.

Europe has so far recorded a few dozens of infections with the Omicron variant, which was first detected in southern Africa last month.

The European Union and European Economic Area (EEA) include the 27 EU member states plus Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway.

Earlier on Thursday, the French government’s top scientific adviser Jean-Francois Delfraissy said that Omicron could take Delta’s place already by the end of January.

(Reporting by Francesco Guarascio; editing by Mark Heinrich)

Advertisement

Continue Reading
Advertisement

Trending