In elections, there are winners and there are losers. But what happens when the winner cannot actually claim victory? How can the loser manage to hold all the cards?
Both Italy and Israel are famous for getting stuck in just these sorts of Byzantine deadlocks, and coincidentally both Mediterranean democracies are swimming in it right now.
There are some signs that a government may be formed the week in Jerusalem. In Rome, not so much. Anyway, it's hard work for those involved, and not much easier for the rest of us to understand just what's going on...
Once you win, you’d think forming government is easy enough,
In both countries, voters must choose from party lists. Benjamin Netanyahu’s party, Likud came out on top in the elections in late January, but still hasn’t managed to join forces with either of the other main parties in order to rule the country.
In Italy, Pierluigi Bersani’s center-left party came out on top, but just barely, which means he must team up with either Beppe Grillo’s Five Star Movement (M5S) or, well, you know who...
In Israel, a coalition of a majority of the 120 seats is needed to form a government: Likud only pulled in 23.3% of the votes.
Bersani has a worse time of it because he needs a majority in both houses: the senate plus the lower chamber of Parliament. Grillo's M5S said before the election even began that they will not form a coalition and two weeks after the results, they still show no signs of budging. Grillo has made himself clear...
Netanyahu not so much
Opposition leaders, Naftali Bennett and Yair Iapid have said that they will form a coalition in the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, but only if they’re both involved. Netanyahu failed to form a coalition in the required four weeks, so sought an extension of an extra two weeks from President Peres. This extension expires on Sunday March 17. If they can’t do so, another election will be held.
The same could happen in Italy, though Italian President Giorgio Napolitano could potentially appoint another non-political technocrat government. We thought it was Game Over, Super Mario...?
At least there is another election in the neighborhood that should produce clearer results. And though there will be just one winner at this week's conclave, we'll now have two popes!
The United Nations, UNICEF, Red Cross and other international humanitarian organizations seems to be trying to reach the Polish-Belarusian border, where Belarus leader Alexander Lukashenko is creating a refugee crisis on purpose.
WARSAW — There is no doubt that the refugees crossing the Belarusian border with Poland — and by extension reaching the European Union — were shepherded through by the regime of Alexander Lukashenko. There is more than enough evidence that this is an organized action of the dictator using a network of intermediaries stretching from Africa and the Middle East. But that is not all.
It can be seen in films made available to the media by... Belarusian border guards and Lukashenko's official information agencies.
Tactics of a strongman
Refugees are not led to the border by "pretend soldiers" in uniforms from a military collectibles store. These are regular formations commanded by state authorities. Their actions violate all rules of peaceful coexistence and humanitarianism to which Belarus has committed itself as a state.
Belarus is dismissed by the "rest of the world" as a hopeless case of a bizarre (although, in the last year, increasingly brutal) dictatorship. But it still formally belongs to a whole range of organizations whose principles it violates every day on the border with Poland.
Indeed, Belarus is a part of the United Nations (it is even listed as a founding state in its declaration), it belongs to the UNICEF, to the International Committee of the Red Cross, and even to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).
Polish soldiers set up a barbed wire fence in the Border Zone near Krynki, Belarus
Lukashenko would never challenge the Red Cross
Each of these entities has specialized bureaus whose task is to intervene wherever conventions and human rights are violated. Each of these organizations should have sent their observers and representatives to the conflict area long ago — and without asking Belarus for permission. They should be operating on both sides of the border, as their presence would certainly make it more difficult to break the law.
An incomprehensible absence
Neither the leader of Poland's ruling party Jaroslaw Kaczyński nor even Lukashenko would dare to keep the UN, UNICEF, OSCE or the Red Cross out of their countries.
In recent weeks, the services of one UN state (Belarus) have been regularly violating the border of another UN state (Poland). In the nearby forests, children are being pushed around and people are dying. Despite all of this, none of the international organizations seems to be trying to reach the border nor taking any kind of action required by their responsibilities.
Their absence in such a critical time and place is completely incomprehensible, and their lack of action raises questions about the use of international treaties and organizations created to protect them.
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