Sunday, May 6, 2012

Short honeymoon for Hollande after French election win

A victorious Francois Hollande
faces a short honeymoon after his election as France's first left-wing president in 17 years, with financial markets eager for clear signals on his policies and how hard he plans to push back against German-led austerity. The moderate Socialist beat conservative Nicolas Sarkozy with 51.7 percent of Sunday's runoff vote after a bruising campaign dominated by the same anger over economic crisis that has felled 10 other European leaders since late 2009. While jubilant left-wing voters partied into the early hours of Monday in central Paris, Hollande admitted that for him, the festivities would have to be short-lived. "There is a lot of joy and pride but also apprehension at taking on this responsibility at a difficult time for the country and for Europe," he said.
After delivering a victory speech in his rural base of Tulle in central France, he flew to Paris and addressed tens of thousands of supporters in historic Bastille square. The new president is expected to be sworn in on May 15. As fears about the euro zone's debt crisis resurface following an inconclusive election in Greece, Hollande will travel to Berlin shortly thereafter to challenge Germany's focus on austerity policies and press new ideas for stimulating growth.
"In every capital, beyond the heads of state and government, there are people who have found hope thanks to us, who are looking to us and want to put an end to austerity," he declared. The left reclaimed Bastille square where revelers danced the night away in 1981 when Francois Mitterrand became the Socialist Party's first directly elected president. Three decades later, a new generation of left-wing voters waved red flags and some carried roses, the party emblem. Hollande is expected to include some trusted old hands in his government like Mitterrand's former prime minister Laurent Fabius but add many young politicians and women. His economic team, led by center-left former finance minister Michel Sapin, includes politicians, industry leaders and public officials seen as market-friendly. Hollande must quickly outline his domestic plans, likely to center around a major tax reform, and revise over-optimistic growth targets which threaten France's deficit-cutting goals. His plans to tweak a reform that raised the retirement age to 62 and increase the minimum wage are also rattling investors who fear France could drift away from the club of sound northern European borrowers and towards the debt-laden periphery. "Hollande's victory has already been priced in by markets, however his promises made during the campaign have not been priced in, so there is risk on the downside if he stands his ground when he announces a first set of measures," said fund manager Christian Jimenez at Diamant Bleu Gestion in Paris. "There's a clear need to boost economic growth across Europe, but the debate is on how to achieve that without spooking investors." LEFT WELL PLACED FOR PARLIAMENT Sarkozy, punished for his failure to rein in 10-percent unemployment and for his brash personal style, conceded defeat within 20 minutes of polls closing on Sunday, telling supporters he had wished Hollande good luck in such trying times. "I bear the full responsibility for this defeat," Sarkozy said, indicating he would withdraw from frontline politics. In Greece, mainstream parties were hammered in a parliamentary election that seemed set to leave supporters of an IMF/EU bailout without a majority, raising doubts about Athens' future in the euro zone. The euro fell in early trading in Asia on the Greek shock, with anti-austerity parties of the radical left and right winning almost half the votes. Hollande's clear win should give the self-styled "Mr Normal" the momentum to press German Chancellor Angela Merkel to accept a policy shift towards fostering growth in Europe to balance the austerity that has fueled anger across southern Europe. Merkel, who had openly favored fellow conservative Sarkozy, telephoned to congratulate Hollande and invited him to Berlin after his inauguration. The vote ended the "Merkozy" duo that led Europe through crisis and ushers in an untested partnership. German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said: "We will now work together on a growth pact for Europe, that delivers more growth through more competitiveness." Opinion polls taken on Sunday showed the left strongly placed to win a majority in parliamentary elections next month, especially since the anti-immigration National Front is set to split the right-wing vote and hurt Sarkozy's UMP party. If they win that two-round election on June 10 and 17, the Socialists would hold more levers of power than ever before, with the presidency, both houses of parliament, nearly all regions, and two-thirds of French towns in their hands. Hollande led the presidential race from start to finish, outlining a comprehensive program in January based on raising taxes, especially on high earners, to finance spending priorities and rein in the public deficit to zero by 2017. He benefited from public distaste for the incumbent's abrasive style as well as anger about economic gloom that has swept aside leaders from Dublin to Lisbon. Sarkozy launched his campaign late and swerved hard to the right between the two rounds of voting as he tried to win back low-income voters who ditched him for the radical left and the far right on the first ballot. He barely dented Hollande's lead, however, and also failed to land a knockout punch in their only television debate. In two further blows in the last days of the race, far-right leader Marine Le Pen, who won 17.9 percent in the first round, and centrist Francois Bayrou, who polled 9.1 percent, refused to endorse the conservative president. Sarkozy allies consoled themselves that the margin of defeat could have been worse, preserving their parliamentary election hopes. "People were talking about an anti-Sarkozy tsunami," Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said. "That's not what happened."

Obama tells Americans not to take chance on Romney

Nawaz Lohar: Now a long march

EDITORIAL:Now a long march
PML-N President Mian Nawaz Sharif upped the ante during his address at Taxila, at the first rally of his party’s campaign to oust the Gilani government, by calling on the populace to be ready for a long march. Mian Nawaz wants Mr Gilani toppled primarily because he has been convicted for contempt of the Supreme Court, but also because the government’s record in office is poor. Mian Nawaz’s demands may be right or wrong, but the strong language he used, went beyond the parliamentary. While it might be said that the flow of feelings was such that he could only express himself by saying that the rulers only understood the language of force, this is to denigrate democracy itself, in which it does not suit the leader of the main opposition to use such language. More germane to the issue is his asking what the President and Prime Minister had done during their tenure. This is the question that all will be asking themselves as the elections, due in less than a year’s time, come closer. It might seem that the opposition is holding this series of rallies with the elections in mind, but Mian Nawaz has his attention focused on the $60 million in the impugned Swiss account, about which the Prime Minister was so adamant in refusing to write a letter to the Swiss, that he preferred to be convicted by the Supreme Court. By promising to get this money back, Mian Nawaz focused on the issue at the heart of this campaign. If only elections were the motive, the Swiss accounts might not have figured so prominently. Mian Nawaz related this to the Constitution. However, there is a need to carry out some self-accountability. The opposition has also to ask itself if it has done anything to help solve the common man’s problems, which range from price inflation to loadshedding, the latter becoming a pressing problem now that summer has started. The problems facing the average citizen also include deteriorating law and order, as well as a foreign policy that involves constant violations of sovereignty, shown by how the USA felt free to launch another drone attack in North Waziristan, both after its previous attack which killed schoolgirls and destroyed their school, and the supposed reset of relations after the Salalah massacre as well as the parliamentary joint sitting which was supposed to review them. Without a solution to these problems, neither government nor opposition might find it easy to interest people in the debate on democracy and constitutionalism. The issue has got to be seen by people as relevant to their concerns before they will come off the fence and join any movement trying to force the Prime Minister to obey the courts. The people have to see the government solving their problems or the government-in-waiting as having those solutions, if they are to move.

Tortured Afghan Bride Defies The Odds, Embarks On New Life

by Frud Bezhan, Fareba Wahidi
Sahar Gul,
the young Afghan bride whose harrowing ordeal at the hands of her in-laws attracted international media attention, has received some solace after authorities handed down lengthy prison sentences against her tormentors. The Kabul Sessions Court on May 1 delivered 10-year sentences against Gul's father-in-law, mother-in-law, and sister-in-law, who had been accused of imprisoning and brutally abusing the 15-year-old newlywed. Police are still looking for Gul's husband and brother, both of whom are suspects in the case. When police in northern Baghlan Province followed a tip and rescued Gul in December, she was lying unconscious on the floor of a dark basement. Her fingers were broken, some of her nails had been torn out, patches of hair were missing, and her frail body was covered with bruises and scars. She was so feeble and traumatized that for weeks she could barely speak.
"I wanted them to be punished," Gul said after hearing the verdicts from the court. "I want them to have their nails ripped off and for them to receive burns like they gave me. I wanted to get my divorce." Doctors are still closely monitoring her fragile psychological condition as the teenager battles acute trauma and depression. But after enduring months of hell after being sold into marriage to a man twice her age, most of Gul's physical scars have healed and she now looks forward to achieving the big goals she has set for herself. Resumed Her Education Speaking from her new home in Kabul, at a shelter run by Women For Afghan Women, a nongovernmental organization that supports abused women, she is full of optimism. ​​​​She has been inspired by her newfound freedom and has resumed her education, which she was forced to abandon at the fourth grade after she was forced into marriage. "I study and pray. When I feel like it, I go outside and sit with my friends. Then when I'm tired, I go to sleep. I sometimes play with my doll," she says. "If I can, I sit down and write and read my schoolbooks. I go to school in the afternoons." Suriya Sobrang, head of women's affairs at Afghanistan's Independent Human Rights Commission, hopes Gul's case will set a precedent for violent crimes against women. Sobrang admits that many Afghan women who have endured violence do not receive justice. She says the majority of such cases result in the acquittal of the perpetrators, the dropping of charges to less serious crimes, convictions with shorter sentences, and female victims themselves being accused of "moral crimes" for making private matters public. "In relation to the case of Sahar Gul, I have to say that in the 21st century this is a crime against humanity. All the people included are criminals," Sobrang says. "Afghans should see the consequences and learn a lesson. I hope this will prevent the continuation of such violent crimes in Afghanistan." Chilling Account Her rescuers did not expect her to live, but against all odds she survived.
After receiving life-saving treatment at a local hospital in Baghlan, Gul was flown to Kabul, where after months of medical procedures and rehabilitation she can now move, eat, and speak freely. ​​​​Gul provides a chilling account of the six months she spent at her husband's home. ​​She explains how her older brother sold her into a marriage to a 35-year-old man already married with 10 children. With her father dead and mother remarried, Gul says she was powerless to stop her brother, who received several hundred dollars in exchange. She says her husband and in-laws forced her to become a servant and prostitute. When she resisted, Gul says, she was abused with pincers, lashed with cables, beaten with hot irons, and tortured with electric shock. "They wanted me to do bad things with men. They told me if I didn't, then they would kill me," Gul says. "They would bring men there [to their home] and tell me to sleep with them. I said I didn't want to do it and that I was only a child. I said all these men were like my brothers and fathers." Gul has big plans. She dreams of completing school and even becoming involved in the country's political affairs.
She says she is determined to stop the culture of violence against women in Afghanistan, a country where domestic abuse is routine, forced marriages are the norm, and female suicide rates are among the highest in the world. For now, though, Gul must go back to basics. For the past few weeks, she has been taking private school lessons and has been learning the Dari (Persian) alphabet. "In the future, I want to become a doctor and a female leader," she says. "Now I'm learning the alphabet. I've learned to write auntie, uncle, brother and these kinds of words."

French election not likely to bring change

The French presidential election runoff was held Sunday, with the media predicting that only a miracle can save Sarkozy. His fate will have been decided this morning. Looking back at what Sarkozy has done in the past five years, there seems to be little left except for gossip about him and his high-profile wife, plus his emotional speeches. In fact, politicians in Western countries seem to share this tendency toward celebrity-style performances. It is difficult to say whether this is good or bad. The Western world lacks a clear goal for moving their countries forward. It is stuck in a mixed feeling of superiority and anxiety before emerging nations. Few politicians are seriously pondering the solution to this puzzle, instead offering only sweet promises to woo voters. Elections have given rise to more bad practices, and their ability to solve the problems is declining. An administration change cannot generate the strong will needed to kick-start public debt reform in France. The change has to come from reflection of a wider scope. But protests against austerity measures from Greece to France have suggested that this much-needed reflection is far from coming. Statesmen are busy pleasing voters, not leading reflection. The idea of democracy is spreading wider. There are few countries today that can survive with authoritarian governments. Meanwhile, the democratic system is creating an increasing number of problems in Western countries. From neighboring Japan to faraway France, China has witnessed the power of democracy, and also the damage it can do if it goes to extremes. A late starter in democratic reform, China needs political wisdom to understand the complexity of this era, and its own different historical and social context. Clearing away the feudal influence left from thousands of years and clearly framing democratic boundaries are both important to China's political structure. What is worrying is that democratic rights enjoy much higher political acclaim in China's sphere of public opinion. In cyberspace, ideas such as necessary restriction of democratic rights have few takers. The real world cannot be ruled by a few simple slogans that are popular online. The French election saga, eye-catching as it is, looks like a waste of the French people's political passion. In countries with a weaker social governance base, political games can incur broad social disaster. Democracy and ability to lead are both crucial to any country, as has been proved by China's reform and the twisting roads of Western countries. China has plenty of room to make major political decisions. It should not drive itself into a blind alley.

Long march will be a grave error by Sharifs

Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Secretary General Jahangir Badar said on Sunday that some people were trying to politicise the court’s verdict and wanted to crush the “people’s mandate” by force. Speaking at Lahore Press Club, Badar said that Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) chief Nawaz Sharif was committing a great mistake by launching the long march. “Everyone is waiting for a detailed verdict by the court and the verdict will be accepted whatever it is,” Badar said, adding that the PPP had no quarrel with the judiciary and the party would in no way attack the apex court. He said the judiciary was facing dangers not from the PPP, but from those who were politicising its verdicts. The PPP leader said there would be no confrontation if the parliament and the judiciary would remain within their constitutionally mandated role. He said that Sharif brothers had been brought up by military dictator Ziaul Haq and they fled away after signing an agreement with another dictator. He said the PPP could not understand what the Sharif brothers wanted to achieve through their anti-government movement. He said their anti-federation politics would damage the federation. He said the need of the hour was to strengthen democracy and resolve people’s problems. Badr said that by conspiring against the government, the PML-N president was violating the “charter of democracy” signed with the PPP. Answering a question about the situation in Lyari, Badar said that the operation was being conducted in the area against drug peddlers and criminals. “The PPP has always won from Lyari and will be winning from there in future as well,” he said.

Prime Minister Gilani laughs off street agitation

The Express Tribune
Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani
delivered a scathing riposte to the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf on Sunday over their back-to-back public rallies in support of the superior judiciary. Even if Nawaz Sharif
and Imran Khan
join hands, the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) is “popular enough to defeat their alliance”, Gilani told office-bearers of the Lahore Press Club at his residence. The prime minister also accused the two parties of inciting street agitation through their actions and reminded the PML-N chief that his party was violating the Charter of Democracy. Nawaz had invited the PTI to join his movement to oust Premier Gilani following his conviction by the apex court. But Imran says his party would join hands with the PML-N only if its lawmakers resign en masse from parliament and the provincial legislatures – both unacceptable preconditions for the Sharif brothers. The two parties are now leading street protests separately. Premier Gilani said it was he and President Asif Ali Zardari who faced former military ruler Pervez Musharraf with courage while the Sharif brothers “fled the country after signing a deal with the dictator”. The PPP leadership would do the same, whenever needed, and the Sharif brothers would again escape from the country, he added. He called upon the Sharif brothers to apologise to the nation for “concealing their agreement with Musharraf and telling lies for ten years”. The premier laughed off Sunday’s public rally of the PML-N in Taxila, saying that “my son can stage bigger rallies for them”. Describing the PML-N’s street protests as realpolitik, Gilani challenged them to resign from the assemblies and he would announce snap polls. “If the PML-N leadership has courage, they should ask their lawmakers to resign from the assemblies en bloc and I will announce by-polls the same day,” he said. The prime minister said that if the opposition wanted to unseat him, they ought to table a no-confidence motion in parliament. He insisted that he could not be forced to relinquish his post. “Nobody can remove me from my office through any undemocratic or unconstitutional method as there is a constitutional procedure for the removal of a prime minister,” he added. He also reminded Nawaz of the Charter of Democracy he had signed with slain PPP chairperson Benazir Bhutto. The two leaders had agreed to uphold the cause of democracy in the country. “The PML-N is a signatory to the Charter of Democracy, so why is it staging a long march (against a democratic government?” he asked. He vowed not to relent to the opposition pressure and step down voluntarily. He said that only parliament could de-notify him. If the apex court disqualifies me in its detailed judgment, even then the National Assembly speaker will decide my fate, he added. Referring to the Pakistan Bar Council’s statement, the premier said that all bar councils of the country have endorsed the PPP’s stance on this matter.

Shia passenger coach attacked in Kurram

Daily Times
Several passengers, including three women and some children, were injured on Sunday when unidentified terrorists ambushed their coach on Tal-Parachinar Road near Urwala Frontier Corps (FC) Fort in Lower Kurram. The van carrying Shia passengers was on its way from Parachinar to Peshawar when the terrorists attacked it with automatic weapons. The incident sparked panic among the locals, who said the unabated acts of terrorism had raised serious questions about the efficiency of the FC and other security agencies. Toori and Bangash tribes summoned an emergency meeting after the incident, declaring it an attempt of genocide against the tribes. The elders of the tribes declared that the attack was part of a series of such incidents being carried out in the presence of FC troops, who merely stood as silent spectators. People of Lower Kurram had been left unprotected, they said. They expressed disappointment that the checkposts the government had promised to establish at the Tal Road in Lower Kurram were instead being established in less-threatened areas of Upper Kurram. The elders urged the government to deploy troops in Lower Kurram, saying terrorists had been carrying out their criminal activities in the area because of government’s failure to ensure proper security arrangements. They said if the government faced a shortage of troops, it could re-locate those in Bahrain area.
Hazara man among 3 killed in Balochistan
A Hazara man was among three people killed in separate incidents of shooting in Quetta, Mastung and Hub areas of Balochistan on Sunday. In the first incident, unidentified armed men gunned down a man in Dasht area of Mastung. According to levies, the man identified as Muhammad Ali was sitting at his tyre shop when the armed men, riding a motorcycle, opened fire on him. Resultantly, he received multiple bullet wounds and died on the spot. Levies officials rushed to the spot and cordoned off the area. A levies official said the man belonged to the Hazara community and that it was a sectarian killing. The Hazara Democratic Party has strongly condemned the killing of Muhammad Ali, saying that the government had failed to provide security to Hazaras. Separately, a man was killed in Hub, an industrial township of Balochistan. According to sources, unidentified armed men shot dead Kuda Baksh in Goth Haji Murad area of Hub. Police rushed to the spot and body was taken to a nearby hospital. A man was also gunned down in the Sariab Road area of the provincial capital. Police said gunmen, riding a motorbike, opened fire on the man near Faizabad area while he was on his way home. He died on the spot. The body was moved to the civil hospital. The attackers managed to escape.

Zardari, Gilani faced dictatorship while Sharif brothers fled

Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani
said on Sunday that President Asif Zardari and himself faced dictatorship with courage while PML-N president Mian Nawaz Sharif flew away after signing an agreement with Pervez Musharraf. He said in a meeting with the office bearers of Lahore Press Club at his residence, while commenting on a statement of PML-N Chief Nawaz Sharif. The prime minister said the PPP leadership would face dictatorship whenever it is needed, whereas the Sharif brothers would again flee from the country. He said the PML-N leadership wanted to enjoy the benefits of being in opposition and in the Punjab government at the same time. “ If PML-N leadership has courage then they should resign from the assemblies and I will announce by-polls on the same day,” he challenged.

PPP workers hold pro-Gilani, Zardari rallies

The PPP workers on Sunday held pro-Gilani and pro-Zardari rallies in different cities.
Pakistan People’s Party (women wing) took out a rally in Peshawar in favour of Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani.The rally led by PPP leader and member Khyber-Pakhtunkhawa Assembly Dr Faiza Rasheed started from Hasht Nagri Chowk.The participants of the rally staged sit-in on GT Road and shouted slogans in favour of Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani and President Asif Ali Zardari. The workers said that they turned to the streets for the sake of justice.Meanwhile, the PPP workers also held a rally in Dera Ghazi Khan to express their solidarity with the resolution passed by the National Assembly for the formation of Saraiki province. The rally started from DG khan Press Club and concluded at traffic chowk.On this occasion, the speakers said that Pakistan People’s Party has kept its promise by passing a resolution to create new province in South Punjab while the PML-N leaders were proving themselves as public enemy by opposing the formation of new province.


France's 'Mr Normal' Hollande to move into Elysee

He dubbed himself "Mr Normal"
during France's presidential election campaign, a modest scooter-riding everyman in touch with the concerns of ordinary voters. But, after winning France's presidential vote, Socialist Francois Hollande faces some far-from-ordinary challenges as the leader of the eurozone's second-largest economy, a nuclear-armed UN Security Council member. Derided by critics as inexperienced and soft -- and nicknamed "Flanby" after a brand of wobbly pudding -- Hollande is set for a crash course in governing after his victory over incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy.
"I am what you see, there is no artifice. I don't need a disguise. I am who I am. Simple, direct, free," Hollande said in the campaign, during which he contrasted his humble style with that of the flashy and aggressive Sarkozy.
Even a year ago, few would have expected to see the 57-year-old Hollande packing his bags for a move into the Elysee Palace. The then IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn was seen as all but certain to be the Socialist candidate in Sunday's vote, until his stunning fall from grace in May after sexual assault charges in New York. At the time Hollande, a backroom deal-maker who led the Socialists for 11 years, was perhaps best known as the former partner of the party's telegenic 2007 candidate, Segolene Royal. But he surged ahead during a US-style primary to beat rival Martine Aubry, appealing to the centre-left with with vows to be a consensus-builder, despite his only experience being as a local official in his adopted Correze region. He has held an opinion poll lead over Sarkozy from the moment of his nomination and -- notwithstanding a few late surges in support for the incumbent -- never fell behind. A protege of modernising former European Commission chairman Jacques Delors, Hollande is of the generation groomed under the only previous Socialist president, Francois Mitterrand, who left office in 1995. Born in 1954 in the northern city of Rouen, Hollande
was the son of a doctor with far-right sympathies and of a social worker. His father later moved the family to Neuilly-sur-Seine, the posh Paris suburb where Sarkozy was also raised. He was educated at the elite Ecole National d'Administration (ENA), where in 1978 he met Royal and the couple started a three-decade relationship. In 1981, after Mitterrand swept to power, Hollande challenged Jacques Chirac -- who later became French president -- in his parliamentary fiefdom in the rural region of Correze, but lost. Chirac, who once mocked Hollande as "less well-known than Mitterrand's Labrador", retains affection for his old rival and even said he would vote for the Socialist, though he later passed off his remark as a joke. Hollande eventually won the seat in 1988 and was re-elected in 1997, 2002 and 2007. In 1997 he took over the Socialist Party leadership, a post he held until 2008 when he was replaced by former labour minister Aubry, also the daughter of his former mentor Delors. Some had pushed for Hollande to take on Sarkozy in the 2007 race but Royal had already emerged as the leading Socialist nominee. The couple, who by then had four children, split before the vote but news of the break-up did not emerge until after Royal's defeat. Hollande is now in a relationship with political journalist Valerie Trierweiler. She reportedly encouraged him to lose 10 kilogrammes (22 pounds) of unpresidential body fat and adopt thinner-framed glasses for the campaign. Concerns that Hollande was too mild-mannered and academic to take on Sarkozy disappeared as the race went on and he emerged as a tough campaigner, his speeches sprinkled with dry humour. His performance during the campaign's only face-to-face debate -- when he fended off an increasingly aggressive Sarkozy accusing him of "lies" and "slander" -- was particularly lauded. "He has changed. It's as if he started wearing this suit as the days went on," Trierweiler said. "He is completely ready to take office."

Sarkozy, the hyperactive president who disappointed France

Nicolas Sarkozy's defeat on Sunday marked the end of a five-year presidency during which he divided a France that had put its hopes in him to break with a history of timid government complacency. Never has a French president been so disliked, as much for his personal style as for his austere deficit-busting policies, and the right-wing leader vowed months ago to quit politics if defeated. "You'll see a big surprise," an optimistic Sarkozy declared on Friday at the end of a ferocious campaign that saw him repeatedly apologise for his perceived flashy presidential style. A one-on-one televised debate on Wednesday was seen by many as his last chance to catch up with Hollande, when the Socialist impressed by remaining calm while Sarkozy surprised no one by lashing out at his rival as a "liar". When he was first elected in 2007, after 12 years of president Jacques Chirac's dithering, many were ready to forgive Sarkozy's brutal side, in the hope his relentless energy would serve France well in an age of globalisation. Five years later, after promises of wealth and job creation proved a mirage, Sarkozy's aggression grated too much and his relationship with the electorate irreparably broke down. At 57, Nicolas Sarkozy de Nagy-Bosca retained the boundless ambition that drove the son of a Hungarian immigrant, with no ties to the Paris elite or the provincial bourgeoisie that dominate politics, to the presidency. An activist at 19, a town mayor at 28, lawmaker at 34 and minister at 38, Sarkozy won the presidency at 52, and his time in office remained as busy in his personal life as it was in politics. He divorced his second wife after a tumultuous struggle to woo her back from her lover, then married supermodel and singer Carla Bruni and had a daughter with her. At the height of his powers, he was the most popular president since General Charles de Gaulle. "I have no right to disappoint," he said. But disappoint he did. First with his overbearing manner and then through his actions. The first faux pas came on the very evening of his election, when he feted his victory in fine style in the glitzy Paris eatery Fouquet's with some of France's richest people, setting the seal on an image of tasteless excess. One of his worst decisions was to allow his son Jean, a 23-year-old local councillor who had not yet graduated college, to try to take charge of the powerful public development agency in the La Defense business district. He also struggled with the 2008 credit crunch and the subsequent financial crises. Sarkozy tried to rise to the occasion as a global statesman, staging crisis summit after crisis summit, but his high-rolling Rolex and Ray-Ban image sat ill with an age of austerity, and French voters turned their backs on him. "The most important factor is the way in which he vulgarised politics and lowered the status of the presidential office for his own ends," said political scientist Stephane Rozes of the Cap Institute. Chirac was never happier than when greeting farmers, tasting food and admiring prize cattle at the Paris agricultural show. Sarkozy was famously filmed there telling a grumpy bystander: "Get stuffed, you stupid bastard." His supporters point to the reforms that he managed to push past a dubious parliament and public -- an unpopular increase in the retirement age from 60 to 62 and a measure to ensure the independence of universities. He had an impact on the international stage, helping negotiate an end to Russia's drive into Georgia and leading the NATO intervention that helped Libyan rebels topple Moamer Kadhafi. Those most disappointed are those who believed in his slogan "work more to earn more" -- unemployment is approaching 10 percent and he did not live up to his promises to tackle tax loopholes and discrimination. He shocked some by pushing far-right themes, increasingly so between the April 22 first round presidential election and the run-off as he sought to claw back votes from the National Front. He linked crime to immigration, expelled EU citizens of Roma descent and launched a debate on the threat Islam supposedly poses to French national identity.

Nawaz wants to do politics on judiciary

dunya tv
Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira said Nawaz Sharif has insulted the Charter of Democracy.In a statement in Islamabad on Sunday‚ he said the democratic government is only answerable to the people. The information minister said Nawaz Sharif wants to do politics on judiciary. Kaira said Seraiki province is eye sour for Nawaz Sharif. He said Nawaz Sharif should seek apology for his attitude towards judiciary in the past. He said gimmicks in politics will not work in 2012. He said wrong interpretation of constitution by the followers of dictators is not acceptable.

Socialist Hollande triumphs in French presidential poll

Left-wing candidate François Hollande
has defeated incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy
in Sunday's runoff, exit polls say, becoming the first Socialist to win a presidential election since François Mitterrand in 1988.
François Hollande has won France’s presidential election, giving the country its first Socialist president in almost two decades, exit polls showed Sunday. According to Ipsos polling institute, the left-wing candidate took 51.9% of the vote to incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy’s 48.1%. Celebrations are underway at the iconic Place de la Bastille in central Paris, the same spot where the last Socialist to win a presidential election, François Mitterrand, celebrated his victory back in 1981. Hollande, who voted on Sunday in the central Corrèze region, which he represents in the French parliament, was considered the frontrunner throughout the campaign, at times leading his rival by as much as 10% in opinion polls. He finished ahead in the first round on April 22, claiming 28.63% of votes cast against Sarkozy's 27.18%. In a twin blow to Sarkozy between the two rounds, far-right candidate Marine Le Pen and centrist François Bayrou, who gathered around 18% and 9% respectively, both denied the incumbent an endorsement. Bayrou told supporters his personal vote would go to Hollande, while Le Pen said she would cast a blank vote. At 79.9%, according to Ipsos, voter turnout was strong, though slightly lower than the figure reached in 2007. Hollande will be sworn in as France’s president on May 14 or 15. Winning platform Sunday's election capped a stunning comeback for Hollande, whose career appeared to be all but over after he left the leadership of the Socialist Party in 2008. It also marked the end of a year-long campaign for the veteran politician, who won his party’s internal primaries in October of last year, establishing himself from the start as a moderate left-winger with the best chances of appealing to centrists and beating Sarkozy. Hollande has promised to boost France’s public education system by 60,000 employees and reduce the retirement age from 62 to 60 for people who have completed a minimum 41 years of work. He also campaigned on a pledge to give all foreigners the right to vote in local elections in line with laws already in place for EU citizens living in France. The Socialist has said he will balance the country’s budget by 2017. Socialists return to power Sarkozy became the only the second French president to fail to claim a second mandate since Valéry Giscard d'Estaing was swept out of office in 1981. It was also the first time the Socialist Party triumphed in a presidential election since Mitterrand's re-election in 1988. France's Socialists will be hoping to use the vote’s momentum to win back a majority in parliament in elections this June. Europe’s ongoing debt crisis was likely to take priority in the first weeks of Hollande’s mandate, and his camp showed it would not loose much time celebrating. Hollande was planning to call German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Sunday evening, Socialist MP Jean-Marc Ayrault told the media earlier in the day. Ayrault, who is also a close advisor and aspiring prime minister to the presumed president-elect added that Hollande would quickly organize a trip to Berlin. Merkel, who has championed strict austerity in Europe, backed Sarkozy in the elections. “He will talk with the German chancellor because in that exchange lies the key to Europe’s recovery, redirecting Europe towards growth, competitiveness and protection,” Ayrault said. A meeting of the so-called Group of Eight leading world economies on May 18 in the United States, could be the first opportunity to shake hands with President Barack Obama and other heads of state.

Socialist Hollande beats Sarkozy to win French presidency

Socialist Party challenger François Hollande has beaten incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy in a tight run-off election to win the French presidency with 51.9% of the vote to Sarkozy’s 48.1%, Ipsos exit polls show.

Leaders fall in Europe crisis: Sarkozy next?

French President Nicolas Sarkozy is widely expected to be kicked out of office in elections Sunday. If he goes, he'll be in good company: Almost every crisis-hit European country that has held an election since disaster struck in 2009 has thrown out its leader. Here's a look at countries where political cadavers litter the landscape. — SPAIN: A burst real estate bubble also deflates faith in a Socialist government, which is nonetheless reluctant to admit Spain has problems. Blips of good economic news are seized upon as "green shoots" pointing to recovery. Wrong. Stimulus measures are enacted, then crushing austerity. Unemployment soars. The Socialists of Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero are wiped off the map in November 2011 elections; Mariano Rajoy's conservatives take over. — ITALY: Silvio Berlusconi, the long-serving leader accused of everything from bedding escorts to serial corruption, finally bites the dust in November 2011. He resigns to cheers and jeers as investors lose confidence in his ability to spur economic growth and rein in debt. It's the end of a political era. Mario Monti, a former European Commissioner, is named to replace him and lead a technical government until elections in 2013. — BRITAIN: Gordon Brown leads the Labour Party to defeat in the May 2010 election; Conservative Party leader David Cameron becomes leader of a coalition government. Brown had been finance chief for a decade before succeeding Tony Blair in 2007. Brown had boasted endlessly of ending the cycle of boom and bust — but as prime minister he presided mostly over bust. — IRELAND: Brian Cowen, promoted to prime minister in 2008 after being finance minister, doesn't even get to run. He resigns as leader of the Fianna Fail Party weeks before the February, 2011 election. It doesn't help his party, which suffers its worst ever defeat. Cowen was finance minister during Ireland's banking crisis and the collapse of its housing bubble. — GREECE: Greek Socialist leader George Papandreou swept to power in October 2009 over conservative opponents, pledging to spend his way out of a deteriorating economic situation. Two years later, at the height of Greece's worst financial crisis since World War II, Papandreou's own deputies force him out after he endangers a hard-won bailout by announcing he would put it to a referendum. He's replaced by caretaker Prime Minister Lucas Papademos. — PORTUGAL: A month after Portugal requests a 78 billion-euro bailout, the center-left Socialist government of Jose Socrates is voted out of power in June, 2011. Portugal's woes stemmed from a decade of feeble growth as it failed to modernize amid increasing global competition and dug itself deeper into debt. — DENMARK: A center-right government in Denmark loses power in September in part due to discontent over austerity measures introduced amid the debt crisis. It is replaced by a center-left coalition. — FINLAND: Finland's government is reconfigured after June elections following a sharp surge in support for nationalists who oppose bailouts for debt-stricken eurozone countries. A conservative-led coalition spanning left and right is formed to keep the nationalist True Finns out of power. Bucking the Trend: — ROMANIA: Romanian President Traian Basescu wins re-election in 2009, the year Romania's economy shrinks by 7 percent and Romania takes a 20 billion-euro bailout loan from the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the European Union. Basescu, a former ship captain, prevails because he is seen as a strong leader in a time of crisis. — POLAND: This has been a rare European success story: It's the only European Union country that did not to slip into recession during the global crisis of 2008-2009. Last fall the center-right party of Prime Minister Donald Tusk wins a second straight term in parliamentary elections, making history by becoming the first government since the fall of communism in Poland in 1989 to be re-elected. — ALSO: Sweden's prime minister is re-elected in 2010 and the prime ministers of Latvia and Estonia are re-elected in 2011.

French voter participation at 71.96% at 5pm

France's interior ministry says voter participation reached 71.96% at 5pm Paris time on Sunday as Socialist favourite François Hollande challenges President Nicolas Sarkozy in a tight run-off vote.

PM Gilani dares PML-N to resign from assemblies

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said Sunday that Imran Khan and Nawaz Sharif should read the constitution before chanting slogans in support of the judiciary. The prime minister met with officials from the Lahore Press Club and said that it was clearly stated in the constitution how decisions would be implemented. “There is no need of opposition or support from the provincial governments to implement Supreme Court orders.” Gilani also called on the PML-N to resign from the assemblies and if Imran Khan supported them then by-elections would be held immediately. Prime Minister Gilani further said that Nawaz Sharif fled the country after striking a deal with a dictator. “Nawaz Sharif was in Jeddah when Zardari and Gilani were facing a dictator.” Gilani added that they would continue to face dictators while the PML-N would be on the sidelines.

Voter turnout high in France as Sarkozy faces likely defeat

Deutsche Welle
Voter turnout by midday in the second round of presidential elections in France has been high. Latest opinion polls show President Nicolas Sarkozy headed for defeat against Socialist Francois Hollande. Interim figures announced on Sunday by the French interior ministry show that voter turnout at the second round of French presidential elections has been high, but not at record levels. The ministry said just over 30 percent of France's 46 million voters had cast their ballot by the midday stage, down from 34.11 percent in the run-off five years ago, but slightly up on last month's first round. The vote pits incumbent President Nicolas Sarkozy against Socialist challenger Francois Hollande for a final time. Opinion polls suggest that despite making up some ground, Sarkozy is headed for an election defeat. According to the Ifop-Fiducial poll, Sarkozy has clawed back six percentage points of voter intentions since the end of last week when he went all out to win over those who voted for far-right candidate Marine Le Pen in the first round. Nevertheless, the last indicator published ahead of a Friday night deadline on campaigning forecast a 52-48 percent win for Hollande, which would make him France's first Socialist president in 17 years. But with the gap the narrowest since campaigning began, the president has vowed a surprise victory. If he loses, Sarkozy will become the first French president since Valery Giscard d'Estaing in 1981 not to be re-elected. Economic crisis dominates campaign Sarkozy's popularity has waned during his five-year term over handling of the economic crisis and failure to rein in France's double-digit jobless rate. He has also attracted criticism for his apparent "flashy style." By contrast Hollande has vowed to be a "normal president."Since January, Hollande has led his campaign with promises to raise taxes, especially on high earners, and increase government spending. He has also said he wants to re-negotiate a European treaty on trimming budgets to avoid a debt crisis similar to that which Greece is now facing. In the first round of voting on April 22 the Socialist candidate secured 28.63 percent of the votes to Sarkozy's 27.18 percent. The far-right Front National's Marine Le Pen came in third place with almost 18 percent of the vote. In a setback to Sarkozy this week, Le Pen said she will cast a blank ballot in Sunday's vote. She has urged her supporters to do the same. Meanwhile centrist candidate Francois Bayrou, who came fifth in the first round, has pledged to back Hollande. Polling stations in France will be open on Sunday until 6 p.m. (1600 GMT), and two hours later in big cities.

007’s birthday to be marked

Movie bosses are to mark the 50th birthday of the James Bond franchise this year by staging the biggest ever exhibition of iconic props from the spy films. Eon Productions chiefs have released a dazzling array of costumes, gadgets and cars from the 007 movies to go on display in London in the summer. The famous exhibits include Goldfinger henchman Oddjob’s bowler hat, the metal teeth sported by Jaws in two 1970s Bond films, Scaramanga’s pistol from The Man With The Golden Gun, 007’s spacesuit from Moonraker, and a deck of tarot cards seen in Live and Let Die. The flick-knife shoes worn by SPECTRE agent Rosa Klebb in From Russia with Love, a waterproof camera from Thunderball, Halle Berry’s orange bikini from Die Another Day, Bond’s underwater Lotus car from The Spy Who Loved Me, and Daniel Craig’s famous blue swimming trunks will also be on display. The exhibition will even feature some of Bond’s personal effects, including his black American Express card and his passport - which reveals he travels under the false name Arlington Beech.

Afghanistan attacks kill 2 NATO members

A NATO servicemember was shot to death by a gunman in an Afghan army uniform Sunday in southern Afghanistan, the allied command in Kabul reported. The attacker was killed by coalition forces who returned fire, NATO's International Security Assistance Force reported. An investigation was under way, ISAF said, and no further details were immediately released. In a separate attack, a roadside bomb struck a vehicle carrying U.S. troops in eastern Afghanistan, killing one American and wounding two, a Western official said. The bombing happened about 10 km (6 miles) south of an outpost in Paktia province, near the Pakistani border, the official said. NATO's International Security Assistance Force initially reported three deaths from from an improvised explosive device Sunday, but later revised the toll to one. It did not identify the victim or nationality. More than 1,900 Americans and another 1,000-plus allied troops have died in the 10-year-old conflict to date. The current year has seen a number of attacks on coalition forces by Afghan forces or by insurgents who have disguised themselves as Afghan troops, fueling distrust at a critical period of the conflict.

Russia: new president, new prime minister, new government

As soon as Vladimir Putin, who is currently Russia’s prime minister, will be inaugurated as president on May 7, the government headed by him will retire.
It is already known who will be Russia’s next prime Minister. Back on September 24, Mr. Putin said that if he becomes president, he will appoint Dmitry Medvedev the prime minister. On May 7, Mr. Medvedev will start consultations with the Russian parties’ parliamentary fractions. Then, the parliament’s lower house will make a decision on whether to accept his candidature.

Nawaz, Imran should read constitution

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said Sunday that Imran Khan and Nawaz Sharif should read the constitution before chanting slogans in support of the judiciary. The prime minister met with officials from the Lahore Press Club and said that it was clearly stated in the constitution how decisions would be implemented. “There is no need of opposition or support from the provincial governments to implement Supreme Court orders.” Gilani also called on the PML-N to resign from the assemblies and if Imran Khan supported them then by-elections would be held immediately. Prime Minister Gilani further said that Nawaz Sharif fled the country after striking a deal with a dictator. “Nawaz Sharif was in Jeddah when Zardari and Gilani were facing a dictator.” Gilani added that they would continue to face dictators while the PML-N would be on the sidelines.

Pakistan: PPP to adopt strategy after detailed SC verdict

Federal Defence Minister Chaudhry Ahmad Mukhtar has said the PPP will adopt a strategy after a detailed decision of the Supreme Court. Talking to the media on Sunday, he said the PML-N had old relations with the judiciary, adding that everybody had relations but they should not be misused. He said that nothing could be said until the detailed decision of Supreme Court. "We will file an appeal after the Supreme Court announces its detailed decision," he added. He said the party stood by Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani, adding that after the detailed verdict of the Supreme Court and on his return from abroad, the prime minister would decide about his future plan according to his will. He said it would a difficult decision to pull out of Siachen. "It is an ego issue. If we pull out, families of the martyrs will raise questions," he added. "Elections will be held within six to eight months and would show the worth of every party. If we do not give right of way to Nato, we can face international restrictions," he added. He said Chaudhry Nisar should address the issue of the Election Commission. When asked about Pak-US defence deals, he said Pakistan had asked the US for joint and coordinated drone attacks but Washington refused. He said the future of Babar Awan was like an ordinary lawyer, adding that he had taken some things for granted. To a question, he said the defence budget would not be reduced and "we will try to balance it." Federal Minister for National Heritage and Integration Samina Khalid Ghurki, Adviser to PM Aslam Gill and Shaukat Basra were also present.

France votes in presidential runoff