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Hospitalised Czech president expects to name opposition head as PM

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Hospitalised Czech President Milos Zeman expects to appoint opposition leader Petr Fiala as prime minister, he said in his first public remarks since the central European country’s parliamentary election last month.

Zeman, who was rushed to hospital on Oct. 10 with an undisclosed condition, said in a telephone interview from hospital on Frekvence 1 radio taped on Friday that he felt well and was ready to complete his mandate until 2023, although his doctors said he required further time in hospital.

Under the constitution, Zeman has the right to appoint a prime minister of his choice.

The 77-year-old had previously said he would let the strongest individual party, which is outgoing Prime Minister Andrej Babis’s ANO, the first chance to form a government, although ANO does not have a majority or partners willing to form one with it.

That and the president’s condition had led to uncertainty over what would happen next.

But Zeman said he was ready to appoint the centre-right Together coalition’s Fiala, whom he was due to speak to on Saturday, after the new parliament meets next week and Babis resigns as he has said he will do.

“At the moment the topic is mainly appointing Petr Fiala as prime minister. Several steps must take place toward that,” Zeman said.

“I believe there will be no problem there, you know why? Because Andrej Babis, whom I spoke to a little while ago on the telephone, is not interested in being prime minister as nobody is willing to negotiate with him,” he said.

Friday’s assessment by Zeman’s medical team was that the president’s condition has improved but the outlook for his recovery was uncertain and he could not work fully at the moment.

This was an improvement from last month when the hospital said he could not work at all, sparking debate over whether parliament should strip him of his powers, including the right to appoint the government.

Top surgeon Pavel Pafko, a member of Zeman’s medical team who had also treated former Czech President Vaclav Havel, told Czech Radio that Zeman was suffering from chronic liver disease, for the first time confirming unsourced reports in Czech media.

He said Zeman was being treated to improve his nutrition, and would likely require another three or four weeks in hospital.

There was no immediate comment from Zeman’s spokesman.

The Together coalition and a centrist grouping of the Pirate Party and the Mayors movement combined won 108 seats in the 200-seat lower house in the election.

They reached a coalition agreement this week, pledging to cut the budget deficit to 3% of gross domestic product from over 7% this year, make small steps towards eventually adopting the euro and reaffirm the country’s pro-NATO and pro-EU stance.

The government faces a new wave of coronavirus infections, a spike in inflation including energy prices, sharp interest rate hikes and challenges for the industrialised and coal-dependent country stemming from the European Union’s climate goals.

(Reporting by Robert Muller and Jan Lopatka; Editing by Toby Chopra, William Maclean, Hugh Lawson and Nick Macfie)

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Russia criticises U.S. over threat of escalation with Iran at IAEA

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Russia on Friday chided the United States for threatening a diplomatic escalation with Iran at the U.N. nuclear watchdog next month unless it improves cooperation with the agency, saying it risked harming wider talks on the Iran nuclear deal.

The United States threatened on Thursday to confront Iran at the International Atomic Energy Agency if it does not give way on at least one of several conflicts with the IAEA, especially its refusal to let the IAEA re-install cameras at a workshop after an apparent attack in June.

“I believe that demonstrates that our American counterparts lose patience but I believe all of us need to control our emotions,” Russia’s ambassador to the IAEA Mikhail Ulyanov told a news conference with his Chinese counterpart.

“I don’t welcome this particular statement of the U.S. delegation (at the IAEA). It’s not helpful.”

Indirect talks between the United States and Iran aimed at reviving the battered 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and major powers are due to resume on Monday after a five-month break that started after the election that brought Iranian hardline President Ebrahim Raisi to power.

The 2015 deal lifted sanctions against Iran in exchange for restrictions on its nuclear activities. Then-President Donald Trump pulled Washington out of the agreement in 2018 and re-imposed sanctions against Tehran.

Iran responded by breaching many of the restrictions, reducing the time it would need to obtain enough fissile material for a nuclear bomb if it wanted to. Tehran denies that it would ever seek atomic weapons.

“The U.S. did not negotiate with the Iranians for a very long time and forgot that Iranians don’t do anything under pressure. If they are under pressure, they resist,” Ulyanov said, apparently referring to the fact that U.S. and Iranian envoys are not meeting directly.

 

(Reporting by Francois Murphy, Editing by William Maclean)

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Extremist Politics Threatens Chile's Economic Miracle – Bloomberg

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Chile has for decades been Latin America’s most stable nation and one of its most prosperous. Its pro-business outlook has drawn foreign direct investment and fueled economic growth, and its record in reducing poverty has been impressive. Much of that is now thrown into question. After the recent first round of elections, the two front-runners for the presidency are extremists — an ultraconservative who seems nostalgic for the dictatorial rule of Augusto Pinochet, and a leftist who promises not merely to reform but to dismantle Chile’s economic model. It’s hard to say which of these agendas might prove more toxic.

The candidate of the far right, José Antonio Kast, emerged with a narrow lead heading into the runoff vote on Dec. 19. His platform is thin on economics and heavy on social conservatism and authoritarian messaging. His counterpart on the left, Gabriel Boric, promises radical change to combat inequality, rein in capitalism and dethrone market forces. “If Chile was the birthplace of neoliberalism,” he explains, “it will also be its grave.”

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Now, more than ever, the N.W.T. government needs party politics – CBC.ca

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This column is an opinion by former Yellowknife MLA Kieron Testart. For more information about CBC’s Opinion section, please see the FAQ.

In 2019 near the end of my term as an MLA, I proposed implementing a caucus system that, among other things, would allow for political discipline of MLAs. At the time MLAs rejected any changes that would limit their jealously-guarded independence. What they failed to recognize was that this proposal was not about imposing discipline, rather it was about enabling politicians to effectively discipline MLAs when required. 

The Norn affair and the pronounced lack of any real accountability in the legislature over the government’s failings are the consequences of being governed by a gang of loosely aligned political independents who lack common vision and leadership.

This point was made by MLA Rylund Johnson who said, “In party systems, the party whip would probably make sure this never happens. Party caucuses would kick members out and make them irrelevant …Those aren’t tools that we have in consensus government.”

The consensus system is based on little more than good intentions and is powerless to address its own failings, with MLAs routinely using their constituents as a convenient smoke screen for their own bad behaviour. 

Sound familiar? It should, it happens all the time with the recent example of Steve Norn being the most spectacular failure of political will to date in the 19th Assembly.

Norn’s sustained attacks on his colleagues and the legislature were left virtually unchecked by MLAs, who stood by silently. Public confidence in elected officials has been shaken to the point that two former premiers have taken the extraordinary step of publicly criticizing sitting MLAs. Scandal and policy failures have become the chief commodity of the Legislative Assembly and Caroline Cochrane’s government.

While other provinces acted swiftly with new spending and policies to bolster their economies and attract new health-care workers, the Cochrane government has wrung its hands, paralyzed by bureaucratic inertia. We have watched in real time as our health-care system has buckled and broken under the strain of the pandemic, with no plan yet released for economic recovery after months and months of delay. And despite the outcry from Northerners for their government to act, the “unofficial opposition” of regular MLAs is absent, or at least silent, unable to muster the courage and unify to demand better government from the cabinet. 

In the Northwest Territories the people have a choice in who gets to take power but not in how that power is used, nor can they hold the powerful accountable during elections. MLAs appoint the premier and cabinet, who are solely accountable to each other. This means that voters have no say over who forms government or what that government does for its four-year term and cannot hold that government accountable for its decisions. This leaves accountability in the hands of an undisciplined committee of regular MLAs who lack resources, staff, and experience to provide alternatives to cabinet policies. Public policy development and implementation are the sole domain of unelected bureaucrats in the government’s senior management.

Despite the constant mythologizing of consensus government as a superior form of government, founded in the traditions of Indigenous Peoples, the fact is none of the N.W.T.’s self-governing Indigenous nations use consensus systems, nor did Indigenous people design the system when it was first implemented decades ago. That honour falls to federal bureaucrats when they devolved responsible government to our young territory. Despite their frustration, Northerners continue to consent to an undemocratic democracy where their electoral choices have been reduced to little more than an overblown hiring competition. 

A culture of silence has taken root in the N.W.T.’s democratic discourse. The fear of reprisal from those in power forces many to whisper in the back of coffee shops and speak anonymously to reporters, when they ought to be able to freely express their own views and see those views transformed into political action.

There was a time that the consensus system served Northerners well. But that time has passed, made clear by persistent scandal and public policy implosions that have not stopped since the last election. We’ve seen devolution create a modern N.W.T. granted nearly full responsibility over its land and resources. It is now time for evolution to transform our political system into a modern multi-party democracy that can provide unity and real action on the most pressing issues.

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