Armin Laschet elected leader of Angela Merkel’s party


Berlin: Germany’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) elected Armin Laschet as chairman on Saturday, aiming to unify their divided party behind a new leader they hope can succeed Angela Merkel as chancellor when she steps down at federal elections in September.

Laschet, the governor of the western state of North Rhine-Westphalia – Germany’s most populous – won a runoff vote against Friedrich Merz, securing 521 votes against 466 for his arch-conservative rival, according to a ballot of 1001 party delegates. A third candidate, prominent lawmaker Norbert Roettgen, was eliminated in a first round of voting.

Armin Laschet will helm Germany's Christian Democratic Union and is well placed to either run to succeed Angela Merkel as chancellor or to be the kingmaker.

Armin Laschet will helm Germany’s Christian Democratic Union and is well placed to either run to succeed Angela Merkel as chancellor or to be the kingmaker.Credit:AP

Saturday’s vote isn’t the final word on who will run as the centre-right candidate for chancellor in Germany’s September 26 election, but Laschet will either run for chancellor or have a major say in who does.

By tradition, the CDU chairman is usually – though not always – the chancellor candidate for the CDU and its Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU), and the conservative bloc is on course to win September’s federal ballot.

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Steppe one – Sadyr Japarov is elected president of Kyrgyzstan in a landslide | Asia


Opponents have labelled him a dangerous demagogue


A CAMPAIGN ad for Sadyr Japarov, the newly elected president of Kyrgyzstan, shows him galloping across a snowy expanse on a white steed, coattails flying in the slipstream. The message is clear: Mr Japarov is a knight in shining armour (or at least in traditional Kyrgyz garb, which he wore on the campaign trail), racing to save the turbulent Central Asian nation, which has seen three popular uprisings in 15 years, including one this past autumn that put him on the path to power.

“I’m not going to repeat the mistakes of previous administrations,” vowed Mr Japarov in an interview in his campaign headquarters at midnight on election day, January 10th. Preliminary results showed him storming to victory with 79% of the vote, albeit on a turnout of 40%. It was venality and injustice that had caused past leaders to be overthrown, he said. “Why repeat those mistakes? I’m going to rule fairly.”

Yet Mr Japarov was an eager participant in one of those discredited governments, toppled in 2010. Moreover, his recent rise involved all manner of legal and constitutional contortions. He was serving a prison sentence for kidnapping—a conviction he says was politically motivated—when protests first broke out over a tainted election presided over by his predecessor, Sooronbay Jeyenbekov, in October. A mob freed him, and helped propel him first to the prime ministership and then to the job of acting president, when Mr Jeyenbekov resigned. (An ally briefly took over that role while Mr Japarov campaigned, to comply with the constitution.)

“Ordinary people, especially young people, believe in me. They trust their fates and the fate of the country to me,” said a visibly exhausted Mr Japarov, sipping a glass of tea as euphoric campaign staff bustled about. His fondness for invoking “the people”, his careful cultivation of a mass following through social media, and the thuggishness of some of his devotees have drawn comparisons with Donald Trump, which he rejects with a good-natured laugh. “I don’t consider myself a populist. I hate populists,” says Mr Japarov, one of whose slogans is “the people’s choice”.

“He’s good, honest and just. He’s suffered for the country and the people,” gushes Elzad Junusov, an enthusiastic supporter. “He really is a man of the people,” Mr Junusov added, whipping out his phone to show photos of himself visiting Mr Japarov in prison. Mr Junusov says he has been a fan since Mr Japarov led a rabble-rousing campaign for the nationalisation of a Canadian-run gold mine nine years ago. Although that movement brought Mr Japarov to national prominence, he has backtracked on the idea since coming to power.

To his critics, the new president is a dangerous demagogue, likely to roll back the hard-won political freedoms that make Kyrgyzstan stand out in a region of autocrats. The use of force in politics is “very alarming”, says Maksat Janibekov, a 30-year-old resident of Bishkek, the capital, referring to the mobs that have helped persuade many of Mr Japarov’s rivals to stand aside. Mr Janibekov was among protesters marching on election day against Mr Japarov’s plans to strengthen the authority of the president. In a referendum held alongside the election, 81% of voters approved his proposal to shift various powers back from parliament to the president, undoing changes adopted after the revolution in 2010 to prevent a return to the rule of strongmen. Mr Japarov also intends to scrap the clause in the constitution limiting the president to a single term, another safeguard against power-hungry leaders.

Mr Japarov shrugs off suggestions that he is a dictator-in-waiting: “I’m a democratic person.” In his victory speech he sounded a conciliatory note, saying he had “no malice or hatred in his heart” and urging rivals to unite behind him. More ominously, he also declared: “The minority should submit to the majority.”

Mr Japarov will need all the consensus he can muster if he is to make a success of the job. The pandemic has prompted a surge in unemployment. Foreign investors are spooked by mob attacks on businesses during the unrest in October. Russia and China, the dominant powers in the region, are also upset about the tumult. Organised crime and corruption are blights that he insists he will fight, but that others accuse him of complicity with—a claim he dismisses as a political smear. It will take a couple of years to fulfil his promise of better lives for his long-suffering people, Mr Japarov warns. With two of his predecessors in exile and another languishing in jail, the stakes are high.

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North Korea says leader Kim elected as general secretary of ruling party: KCNA


SEOUL: North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has been elected as general secretary of the ruling Workers’ Party, state media KCNA said on Monday (Jan 11), taking over the title from his late father in a largely symbolic move seen aimed at further cementing his power.

The election took place on Sunday during the party’s ongoing multi-year congress, designed for Kim to map out blueprints for his diplomatic, military and economic policy over the next five years and make key personnel decisions.

The congress “fully approved” a proposal for promoting Kim to general secretary of the party, KCNA said, calling the position “head of the revolution and centre of guidance and unity.”

READ: ‘Our biggest enemy’: North Korea’s Kim says US policy doesn’t change with presidents

READ: North Korea’s Kim says economic plan failed as rare party congress begins

Kim has wielded almost absolute power in dynastically ruled North Korea since taking over following the death of his father Kim Jong Il in 2011. In 2012, the party named Kim Jong Il “eternal general secretary” and Kim Jong Un “the first secretary” at a conference.

The party also held elections for its Central Committee, a key governing body that includes the powerful politburo, KCNA said.

Kim Yo Jong, the young leader’s sister and senior party official who had previously been a candidate member of the politburo, was not on the list, confounding widespread expectations from observers of the reclusive regime.

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Selected, Not Elected, Biden/Harris Time’s Dual Persons of the Year


Selected, Not Elected, Biden/Harris Time’s Dual Persons of the Year

If inaugurated on January 20, Biden/Harris will serve illegitimately as US president and vice president.

Undeterred, establishment publication Time magazine dubiously named them dual persons of the year.

Its dodgy award goes to a person, persons, group, or whatever it names as honoree(s) that “for better or for worse…(did) the most to influence the events of the year.”

The most notable accomplishment of this year’s honorees in the past 12 months was Grand Theft Election 2020.

Deteriorated mental and physical condition

As things now stand and won’t likely change, they’ll perhaps serve as co-heads of state given Biden’s deteriorated mental and physical condition.

As explained earlier, Biden appears physically and cognitively in decline with symptoms resembling early stage dementia and Parkinson’s disease.

He and what appears to be a double represents him at times publicly because he seems no longer able to handle the rigors of high office.


Will he only go through the motions as president post-inauguration?

For as long as he’s in the White House, will a look-alike double impersonate him in public appearances because mumbling, bumbling rhetoric by the real thing is unpresidential on the public stage?

Will others, including Kamala Harris, control the levers of power?

Who will control the levers of power?

He and his wannabe-president-select-in-waiting runningmate got more than a little help from US dark forces to accomplish what one day may be remembered as the grandest of US grand election theft.

They lost in November. Trump won. They’ll usurp power on January 20 as things now stand, DJT likely moving on to whatever he has in mind next.

Time’s choice for dual 2020 honorees required reinventing them, what journalism polar opposite what it’s supposed to be does “time” and again for its favorites.

“Biden had the vision (sic), set the tone (sic), and topped the (undemocratic Dem) ticket, said Time’s editors, adding:

The former vice president “recognized what he could not offer on his own, what a 78-year-old white man could never provide: generational change, a fresh perspective, and an embodiment of America’s diversity (sic).”

Consistently and repeatedly ignored by Time and other establishment media is that whenever US elections are held, dirty business as usual duopoly rule triumphs every time.

Americans have no say

Ordinary Americans have no say over how they’re governed or by whom.

Power brokers decide the nation’s domestic and geopolitical agenda.

If democracy the way it should be showed signs of emerging, US hardliners would ban it.

Governance of, by, and for the privileged few is how the US has been run from inception.

Running things equitably for everyone is considered unAmerican.

Biden “needed” Harris, said Time, reinventing both figures, ignoring their disturbing public record.

They’re pro-war, pro-business, anti-progressive, anti-labor, anti-governance serving everyone equitably.

Anti-what matters most to ordinary Americans makes them ideal candidates for the positions they’ll hold in the new year as things now stand.

Like others preceding them earlier, they’ll serve privileged interests exclusively at the expense of world peace, stability, equity, justice and the rule of law – notions they won’t touch as long as in office, while rhetorically pretending otherwise.

There’s nothing remotely democratic about undemocratic Dems and Republicans – both right wings of the one-party state that take turns running things.

Time fell flat reinventing them, saying the following:

“The (Dem) ticket was…forged in conflict and fused over Zoom, divided by generation, race and gender (sic).” 

“They come from different coasts, different ideologies, different Americas (sic).” 

“But they also have much in common, says Biden: working-class backgrounds, blended families, shared values (sic).”

Their aim for unchallenged US dominance what whatever it take to achieve its aims is unshared by ordinary Americans wanting a nation at peace that’s fit to live in – worlds apart from its deplorable state.

Ignoring brazen election theft, Time rattled off an array of superlatives unrelated to the true measure of both figures.

It maintains the fiction of their triumph in an election they lost.

It’s not the first and surely not the last time that losers were officially declared winners at the US federal, state and local levels.

Biden has a long history of supporting power over the general welfare.

His age and deteriorated condition makes it uncertain whether he’ll complete four years in office.

Earlier US presidents had health issues, some serious – during their tenure, in most cases not before seeking the nation’s highest office.

On January 20, Biden will be the oldest US incumbent to serve as president and commander-in-chief.

If he lasts four years in spite of his declining state, he’ll be age-82 in January 2024.

Was hardline anti-progressive Harris chosen to succeed him when no longer able to carry out duties of high office?

Her prosecutorial/political history is pockmarked with serving privileged interests and her own exclusively at the expense of due process and equal justice under law.

She’s polar opposite a judicial and political reformer, qualities that would automatically disqualify her for high office in the US and West.

As Alameda County CA assistant DA, San Francisco DA, and California state AG, she pursued injustice by blocking exculpatory evidence, defending unconstitutional practices, and preventing prosecution of wealthy individuals.

As US senator and vice president, Biden breached the public trust he’s always been indifferent toward.

His long disturbing history of serving privileged interests exclusively came at the expense of world peace and a nation safe and fit to live in.

His service to monied interests made him a corporate America favorite.

Supporting endless wars of aggression on invented enemies for wealth, power and privilege won him support from the US military, industrial, security, media complex.

Explaining why it chose Biden/Harris as dual persons of the year, Time reinvented them, creating worlds apart personas from the true measure of their disturbing records.

There’s nothing remotely progressive about what they pursued throughout their public lives.

All politicians lie, Biden/Harris like virtually all others, never to be trusted, sure to disappoint ordinary Americans in office.

Time’s ad nauseam reinvention of both figures required considerable heavy lifting lipstick on their disturbing record.

When repeated enough to the exclusion of truth and full disclosure, most people believe most anything – no matter how untrue.

Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels was right, saying:

“If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.” 

“The lie can be maintained only for such time as the state can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie.” 

“It thus becomes vitally important for the state to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the state.”

Before the age of television that made things much easier for politicians and bureaucrats to control the message, Goebbels and his boss exceeded their current US counterparts in manipulating the public mind in service to their interests.

They and their partners in high crimes were worlds apart from their carefully crafted public image before reality took hold near WW II’s end.

The same goes for Biden/Harris and most others preceding them in US high office.

Their true measure is polar opposite their PR-created persona.

Photo: Por Office of Senator Joe Biden (D – Delaware) – http://biden.senate.gov/press/gallery/photos/?id=9ab0db9e-a78b-4af9-9917-c450e5d7c30d, Domínio público, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5724361

 



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Young elected officials urge Joe Biden to take climate action


Current and former elected officials with a focus on saving our planet have urged Joe Biden to join their cause in prioritising climate action, writes Jessica Corbett.

ON THE EVE of the global Youth Climate Action Day 2020, more than 125 young elected officials from throughout the United States signed on to an open letter urging President-elect Joe Biden to take bold, necessary action to protect communities across the country and beyond from the human-caused climate emergency.

Organised by Elected Officials to Protect America (EOPA), the letter explains that the signatories:

‘…believe it is imperative we take action on the climate crisis because it is a threat multiplier for water security, deadly disease and environmental racism. It is time to enact a national Climate Emergency Plan that protects all our communities.’

The letter comes as Biden is assembling his administration following an election that occurred in the midst of the deadly coronavirus pandemic and related economic fallout as well as a national uprising demanding racial justice — in addition to the ongoing climate emergency illuminated by a summer of devastating wildfires across the West Coast and a record-breaking Atlantic hurricane season.

Although Biden won last month and Democrats held on to their majority in the House, party control of the Senate will be determined by a pair of runoff races in Georgia scheduled for 5 January. In a statement on Friday, EOPA president Alex Cornell du Houx said that “no matter how the Senate roll call turns out, President-elect Biden will need support for his clean energy economy agenda from elected officials across the country”.

The former Maine state representative added:

“That’s why our letter is so important. Young elected officials help shape the public discourse and the policy agenda. They don’t shy away from politically charged topics — they confront them with positive change like the young elected officials that are speaking today.”

Though some of Biden’s selections and possible future picks for his incoming administration have alarmed climate activists in recent weeks, the former Vice President won progressive support ahead of his election in November by embracing a bolder vision for climate policy, including with a green energy plan unveiled in July.

EOPA executive director Dominic Frongillo, a former Caroline, New York council member, said:

“With President-elect Biden, we have the chance to attack the climate crisis, invest in green 21st-Century jobs and embrace the clean energy revolution our country, our young people, are crying out for.”

Democratic Maine representative Chloe Maxmin last month won her challenge to state Senate Republican leader Dana Dow after running a campaign that promised residents of a conservative, rural district a Green New Deal and “politics as public service”.

A Biden Presidency could be the final push for Australian energy policy

As Maxmin told Common Dreams after her victory:

“When I talk to folks, I mostly listen, I don’t show up and talk about myself… I really try and listen and make sure that the voices that I hear are reflected in our campaign.”

Maxmin, who signed EOPA’s letter, reiterated on Friday that her approach to politics involves engaging with and working for the people who elected her, explaining:

“I fight for my rural community and values, regardless of party or background. Our work is built on listening and mutual respect.”

“We’re at a moment where we can either let our divisions tear us apart or bring us together,” noted the state Senator-elect, who is currently the youngest woman serving in the Maine House. “With the climate spiralling out of control, we have to work together for all our futures.”

The EOPA letter urges both Biden and the next Congress ‘to develop a federal Climate Emergency Plan that includes, but is not limited to, the following objectives:’

  • transition to 100 per cent clean energy;
  • ensure everyone has access to clean and safe water;
  • investment in communities on the frontlines of environmental injustice, including Indigenous, communities of colour and economically vulnerable;
  • investment in clean, accessible and affordable transportation systems;
  • investment in a smart renewable energy grid;
  • transition to regenerative agriculture;
  • phase-out of plastics and toxins that threaten our global oxygen supply;
  • prevent foreign entities from unsustainably extracting U.S. water;
  • improve building energy efficiency; and
  • divest, phase out fossil fuels and invest in new technologies.

Biden's victory in the U.S. gives the world hope on climate

‘America must lead the world in protecting everyone from the climate emergency,’ the letter says, echoing a message from United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres earlier this week.

In an interview that preceded the release of two alarming U.N. climate reports, Guterres warned that “the way we are moving is a suicide” and humanity’s survival hinges on the United States returning to the Paris Agreement and achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. Though President Donald Trump officially ditched the global climate deal the day after this year’s election, Biden has vowed to rejoin it — though experts and advocates have advised that’s merely a starting point.

Wisconsin state Democrat representative Greta Neubauer said:

Young climate activists continue to push and support us to take steps towards a clean energy economy at the state level, but states can only do so much on our own. Having a president who understands the existential threat of climate change is critical, but he’ll need the support of young climate activists and elected officials from every state in order to make the changes we need.

Neubauer joined fellow EOPA letter signatories Maxmin, Wake County Soil and Water Conservation District Board of Supervisors Vice-Chair Jenna Wadsworth and Ithaca, New York Mayor Svante Myrick for a Friday event to discuss the joint message to Biden.

Myrick, who in 2011 was elected mayor at age 24, said:

Young elected officials from all over the country are proposing legislation, passing laws, and standing up to fight [for] environmental justice so we can create an inclusive clean energy economy.


 


I’m also encouraged by the wave of young activists demanding climate action. There is no doubt that their momentum helped New York pass the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, putting us on a path to the future.

This article by Jessica Corbett was originally published on Common Dreams, under the title, ‘Ahead of Youth-Led Day of Action, Young Elected Officials Push Biden to Enact National Emergency Climate Plan’. It has been republished under a Creative Commons licence.

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Garth Hamilton elected new Member for Groom for the LNP at by-election


The southern Queensland seat of Groom will stay as Liberal National Party territory, after mining engineer Garth Hamilton won a by-election with a clear lead.

Mr Hamilton replaces John McVeigh, who resigned in September to spend more time caring for his ill wife.

He said he was committed to growing the local economy and building new infrastructure.

“I’ll be fighting hard to get inland rail delivered,” Mr Hamilton said.

“Water security’s a big issue for me and for the local council — we want to make sure we put a good plan together there.

“Then I’ll be fighting for local jobs, making sure we rebuild our economy.”

Mr Hamilton is a former campaign manager for the Member for Toowoomba North, Trevor Watts, and writes for right-wing publication Spectator.

His pre-selection was controversial, as the Prime Minister and mining lobby group had wanted one of two female candidates.

Growing up in south-east Queensland, Mr Hamilton now lives in Toowoomba with his wife Louise and three children.

“This is my home,” he said.

Garth Hamilton with his family after declaring victory in the by-election.(ABC Southern Queensland: Lucy Robinson)

With all 56 polling booths counted on Saturday night, Mr Hamilton had 58.56 per cent of the first preference vote and 66.3 per cent of the two-candidate-preferred vote.

There was a swing of 6.33 per cent towards the LNP on the first preference vote, but 3.06 per cent against the party on the two candidate preferred.

Postal votes are yet to be counted.

LNP retains tight hold

The Toowoomba-based seat, gazetted in 1984, has only ever been held by the Liberals, Nationals or LNP.

Lawyer and environmental campaigner Chris Meibusch ran for Labor in the by-election, pushing aged care reform and infrastructure funding as key issues.

He held 27.87 of the first preference vote, achieving a swing of 8.43 per cent towards the ALP.

Veterinarian and farmer Sandra Jephcott, for Sustainable Australia Party, recorded about 8 per cent of the first preference vote, while Craig Farquharson, for the Liberal Democrats, had about 5 per cent.

ABC election analyst Antony Green said Groom’s large rural and conservative religious voter base made it one of the safest seats in the country.

“A seat like Groom is never going to be won by the Labor party.”



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Media Censorship Succeeded in Getting Joe Biden Elected



A poll conducted by the Media Research Center of voters who cast their ballot for Joe Biden in swing states shows that the media’s refusal to cover significant stories about the candidates, including Tara Reade’s sexual assault charges against Joe Biden and Hunter Biden’s shady business deals in the Ukraine played a major role in the election results.

The MRC reviewed 113 hours of news coverage from media outlets and found that only a combined 22 minutes were spent reporting on Hunter Biden. In its poll, 45.1 percent of Joe Biden voters said they had not heard the story about Hunter Biden. As for sexual assault, 35.4 percent of those same voters said they never heard the story about Tara Reade.

Brent Bozell, founder and president of MRC, told conservatives and reporters on a zoom call Tuesday that the media “deliberately” mislead the public — and voters — with “omission bias.”

“Media censorship succeeded in getting Joe Biden elected,” Bozell said.

Voters were polled in Nevada, Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania.

Many Biden voters in the poll also didn’t know that under Trump 11 million jobs were created (39 percent) and that he succeeded in making the United States energy independent by deregulating the domestic energy sector (50.5 percent).

The poll revealed that if people knew the truth about Trump’s successes and Biden’s scandals, the election could have reached a very different conclusion.

Some 17 percent of Biden voters said they would not have voted for him had they been aware of at least one of these stories. An informed public would have resulted in these states moving to the President Donald Trump column, potentially giving him — based on the math — 311 electoral votes and a second term.

Bozell said that the media and polls can no longer be counted on to actually report the news, a fact that he said is an “assault on Democracy.”

Bozell also said that the MRC found that Trump, the Trump campaign, and Trump family were suspended on social media 262 times while Biden, his campaign, and family were not suspended once during this election cycle.

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New Zealand has just elected one of the most diverse parliaments in the world. Here’s how it stacks up


But in New Zealand, that was just the start.

Almost half of New Zealand’s newly sworn-in Parliament are women and 11% are openly LGBTQ. Both New Zealand’s Indigenous Māori and people with Pacific Island heritage are represented at a slightly higher rate than in the general population.

Politicians from diverse backgrounds aren’t just making up numbers in Parliament — they’re in key positions of power.

Eight of Ardern’s 20-strong cabinet — the highest-ranked lawmakers — are also women, and a quarter are Māori. Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson will be the first openly gay politician to hold that role in New Zealand. And foreign minister Nanaia Mahuta, who wears a moko kauae or traditional Māori face tattoo, is the first Indigenous woman in New Zealand’s history to represent the country in that position.

“It looks like New Zealand looks,” said Jennifer Curtin, a professor of politics and director of the Public Policy Institute at the University of Auckland, of the country’s government. “We’re not male, pale and stale anymore.”

Here’s what New Zealand’s new Parliament looks like

New Zealand already had a relatively diverse Parliament. Following the 2017 election, 38% of New Zealand’s MPs were women — a record in the country. Now it’s 48%.

The proportion of openly LGBTQ lawmakers has also increased from 7% to 11%.

Māori representation has slipped, however, from 23% at the last election to 21%. That’s the lowest level of Māori representation since 2014, but it is still higher than the total proportion of people who identify as Māori in the general population — around 17%.

Diversity in the New Zealand Parliament

Almost half are women, a record in New Zealand. Last election, 38% of MPs were women.

More than one out of 10 parliamentarians are
LGBTQ
, the highest proportion in New Zealand’s history.

One fifth are Māori, New Zealand’s Indigenous people. That’s higher than the general population, but the lowest proportion in Parliament since 2014.

New Zealand’s Parliament has had Māori seats since 1867, soon after the country was founded, but these have sometimes been seen as tokenism. Until 1967, Māori candidates were only allowed to contest a limited number of Māori seats, and it was only in 1975 that Māori were able to choose whether they wanted to be on the Māori electoral roll.
Kelvin Davis, who is Māori and the deputy leader of Ardern’s center-left Labour Party, said he was happy with the level of Indigenous representation in New Zealand’s Cabinet. “I think (the level of representation in Cabinet) is a first ever and we’re proud to be a part of that,” he said, according to public broadcaster Radio New Zealand (RNZ).
Labour MP Louisa Wall, who is Māori and lesbian, says that the increase in LGBTQ representation will create an even more progressive society. New Zealand introduced same-sex civil unions in 2004, and in 2013, Wall spearheaded a bill to make same-sex marriage legal.
“We have come a long way and for me it is about representative democracy. We reflect our larger New Zealand population,” Wall said, according to RNZ.

Curtin said that having a representative legislature meant there was a range of perspectives at the decision table. “Diversity in itself is good,” she said. “Anything that disrupts the homogeneity and the dominance of the White majority, or the colonizers, of this place.”

Here’s how that stacks up globally

Out of thousands of active lawmakers across the globe, just 194 are openly gay in 42 countries, according to data collated by Andrew Reynolds, from the School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University.

Of those countries, New Zealand now has the highest proportion of openly LGBTQ lawmakers, at 11%, according to his data. (Previously it was the United Kingdom, at 8%.)

In New Zealand, 3.5% of adults identified as gay, lesbian, bisexual or another sexual identity other than straight, according to a 2018 Statistics New Zealand survey of approximately 12,000 households. The surveyors, however, said the result “may underestimate” the true proportion as the data was collected via face-to-face interviews.
When it comes to gender New Zealand doesn’t have the highest proportion of women lawmakers in the world — that title goes to Rwanda, where 61% of seats in the country’s lower house are occupied by women. The country lost so many men during the 1994 genocide that women stepped in to fill key leadership roles.
But New Zealand’s 48% female legislature is the highest of all OECD countries, alongside Mexico (where a 2014 law dictates gender parity in politics), and well above the global average of 25%.

New Zealand’s closest neighbor, Australia, only has 31% female representation in its lower house, while Pacific Island countries have an average of 6%.

When it comes to the overall population, there are slightly more women than men in New Zealand — globally there are slightly more men than women, according to the CIA World Factbook.

As for ethnic diversity, the country is still lacking when it comes to representation of Asian New Zealanders, for example, who make up 15% of the country’s general population, but only hold 7% of seats in Parliament.

But demographer Paul Spoonley, a professor at Massey University in Auckland, said a parliament didn’t need to perfectly match the overall makeup of the general population to be representative — although warned if it was too different the public might lose trust in their lawmakers.

“I think it’s really important that a political system represents the diversity including the ethnic diversity of a population, and that’s because they bring that voice and experience,” he said.

But there’s still room for improvement

The significance of all this is that New Zealand’s Parliament looks more like the general population — which in turn makes it more representative.

But that doesn’t mean it’s perfect.

While one in four New Zealanders have a disability — defined by Statistics New Zealand as a long-term limitation in a person’s ability to carry out daily activities — Curtin said she was not aware of any MPs with disabilities. That’s something disability advocate Jonny Wilkinson has also criticized, saying that the country’s “largest minority group” still isn’t represented.

And Spoonley, the demographer, pointed out that diversity includes making sure a range of ages and socioeconomic backgrounds are represented.

“It’s not a finished project,” Curtin said.

Not everyone in New Zealand is happy about Ardern’s diverse Parliament. Right-wing blogger Olivia Pierson said Mahuta’s moko kauae wasn’t fitting for a foreign diplomat and that her appointment showed Ardern had “gone full wokelette on stilts.”

While New Zealand may have a diverse Parliament now, there’s no guarantee for the future.

The country’s right-leaning parties have less diverse representation than its left-leaning parties, so a switch in government in 2023 could mean a less inclusive Parliament. New Zealand’s main opposition party, National, has only two Māori MPs and only 30% of its lawmakers are women. No current National MPs are openly LGBTQ.

National leader Judith Collins — who famously asked “is there something wrong with being White?” — has dismissed concerns about diversity, arguing that her party has a “diversity of thought.”

Curtin says she hopes that there’s a “contagion effect” where parties on the right decide to become more diverse so they can attract voters.

“We have seen ebbs and flows on the representation of women before,” she said. “It’s not a given that this degree of diversity will hold beyond the next three years.”



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Record number of women elected in Victorian local council elections


Surgical nurse Ashleigh Vandenberg has made history in more ways than one by becoming the first Indigenous person elected to her local Melton Council.

The Wiradjuri woman is one of at least six people who identify as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander to gain seats in the recent Victorian local council elections.

She’s also one of 272 women to be elected, bringing women’s representation in local government up to a record 43.8 per cent — the highest in Australia.

“I feel proud and honoured to be one of the women elected to local government, and I urge more women to do what they can to be a voice for their community,” she said.

“It’s important that women are equally represented in the political arena. It helps ensure the diverse needs of the community are well understood.”

Ashleigh Vandenberg, the first Indigenous person elected to Melton Council, with her family.(Supplied by Ashleigh Vandenberg)

It’s a sentiment that resonates with Anjalee De Silva, who immigrated from Sri Lanka to Australia as a small child and was elected to the City of Monash Council in Melbourne’s south-east.

Cr de Silva, who ran for the Greens, said it was one of the most culturally diverse parts of the state, with 45 per cent of the population born overseas and more than a third from non-English speaking backgrounds.

“Yet only one out of 11 councillors in the last term was a person of colour,” she said.

With her election, that number has now doubled, as has women’s representation on her council, from two to four.

“I am very much looking forward to working with my fellow female councillors to achieve outcomes that support and advance the interests of the women and girls of Monash.”

Chinese immigrant Li Zhang was elected to the City of Glen Eira and said she was “pleased and excited” after hearing a record number of women were sitting in local government.

“This is definitely a good trend. Because the elected councillors should reflect the diversity of the entire population in order to represent the people,” she said.

Obstacles still exist for women in politics

It’s been exactly 100 years since Mary Rogers, the daughter of Irish immigrants, was elected as the first female councillor in Victoria, and the second in Australia.

Black and white drawing of Mary Rogers, Victoria's first councillor with the City of Yarra in 1920.
Mary Rogers became Victoria’s first councillor, with the City of Yarra, in 1920.(Supplied: City of Yarra)

But the new councillors point out there are still barriers to women’s involvement in local politics.

“It’s hard to believe that only a century ago Mary Rogers’s election to local government was the first of its kind and the perception of women in leadership roles was frowned upon,” said Cr Vandenberg, who ran as an independent but is a member of the Labor Party.

Ms Zhang, who also ran as an independent but is a Labor Party member, said women’s responsibilities in family life could affect their chances of participating in politics.

“Some may not be man-made [barriers], but rather deep-rooted historic issues. For example, women mainly take care of children and undertake house chores in their families. This pattern still exists in most families,” Cr Zhang said.

Zhang Li
Li Zhang says she knows other women who wanted to run for council, but were overwhelmed with domestic responsibilities during the pandemic.(Supplied: Li Zhang)

“Especially this year, because of the pandemic, the children are studying at home. I also heard about women who were initially planning to run for the election.

The election campaign also took an emotional toll on Cr Zhang, who said unsubstantiated allegations of links to the Chinese Communist Party — claims she denies and against which she has launched a lawsuit — led to her being cyberbullied and disheartened.

Cr de Silva, a lawyer who recently completed a PhD thesis on hate speech against women and girls, said there was still a long way to go to reach gender equality.

“It is very much the case that women in public life are often subjected to scrutiny, criticism, and attacks in ways that men in public life simply do not experience,” she said.

“Women often have to work twice as hard to receive half the praise, and they have to do so while deflecting misogyny at every turn.

“The lack of female representation at all levels of government is something that feeds off itself, and I strongly believe that women are discouraged from seeking to enter politics simply because they do not see many others like themselves who are doing it.”

Anjalee de Silva wears a mask and holds her postal vote at the letter box.
Councillor de Silva said women in politics often have to work twice as hard to receive half the praise.(Supplied)

Attitudes towards female leaders slowly evolving

More than 300 people were elected to council for the first time, and the State Government said in general the councillors were younger and more diverse, with at least 28 of the new councillors identifying as LGBTIQ+.

Katrina Lee-Koo, an associate professor of politics and international relations at Monash University, said such diversity was welcome.

“For too long, political leadership roles have been predominantly held by one gender, and one ethnic background,” she said.

katrina lee koo
Professor Lee-Koo said there should not be structural barriers that make women’s political involvement more difficult.(Supplied)

Professor Lee-Koo said when different communities were represented, governments were more likely to deliver policies and programs that addressed their needs.

“If you grow up in a migrant or Indigenous family, for example, you have a firsthand understanding of what your community’s needs might be around everything from access to education, to participating in community activities, to employment and accessing healthcare,” she said.

“You can then bring these experiences to policy discussions and the development of programs in ways that will strengthen the council or parliament’s overall decision making.”

She said attitudes towards women’s leadership were evolving.

“I think there is still a belief among voters that men make better political leaders because they are more likely to be strong, confident, assertive, and competitive. Women, on the other hand, are seen as being ‘too emotional’ or ‘too weak’ to be leaders,” Professor Lee-Koo said.

“We are beginning to recognise that both men and women can be strong, but also our understanding of what good leadership means is slowly changing. Many people now recognise that the qualities usually associated with women — like compassion, collaboration and consultation — are important elements of leadership.”

But she said the bigger obstacle to women’s participation in politics was structural, and that communities needed to make sure it was not more difficult for women to contest elections than for men.

She said more needed to be done to support women’s political ambitions, like men doing more work at home, making political work more “family friendly”, and putting women up higher on ballots.

“Women still do more of the care labour in our society, they are also less likely to have the financial resources to spend on a political campaign, and may not have access to the same networks to support their campaigns that men do,” she said.



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As US COVID-19 cases surge, elected officials resist restrictions


“I think that there are some minimum things that governors and mayors could and should be doing right now. But the trouble is, without support from the federal government, it becomes very difficult to do these things,” Ranney said, citing the need for a stimulus package from Washington to help businesses pull through.

Increasingly alarmed public health officials and medical experts say time is running out as hospitals buckle under the crush of cases and Americans approach Thanksgiving, a period of heavy travel and family gatherings that are all but certain to fuel the spread of the virus.

The coronavirus is blamed for 10.6 million confirmed infections and almost a quarter of a million deaths in the US, with the closely watched University of Washington model projecting nearly 439,000 dead by March 1. Deaths have climbed to about 1000 a day on average.

New cases per day are soaring, shattering records over and over and reaching an all-time high on Thursday of more than 153,000.

The third wave of coronavirus in the US is much more widespread that previous waves.Credit:Source: Johns Hopkins University/Graphic: Phil Holm and Nicky Forster

With cases rising rapidly in Mississippi, Republican Governor Tate Reeves said he will not consider a state-wide shutdown of businesses.

Earlier in the year, Reeves set a county-by-county mask mandate that was based on case numbers. He issued an executive order that affected just 15 of the state’s 82 counties, and eventually imposed a state-wide mask mandate that was in effect from August 4 to September 30.

“The people of Mississippi can’t just go home, shut down their small businesses, shut down their restaurants, shut down their gyms, shut down other small businesses for six weeks and just think that you can come back six weeks from now, flip a switch and everything is going to be fine,” he said. “That’s not the way the economy works.”

In Montana, where cases are up more than 16 per cent in the past week, the state’s chief medical officer, Greg Holzman, said that returning to a full lockdown of businesses “would definitely help” curb its spread but would put families living pay cheque-to-pay cheque “in dire straits”.

Montana’s Governor Steve Bullock, a Democrat, said he is wary of imposing tougher state-wide restrictions without additional federal aid to unemployed individuals and small businesses.

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“I never wanted to punish the businesses that are doing right in this pandemic to keep their employees and customers safe. Shutting down those businesses would do just that,” he said.

The political perils of state-wide mandates have played out in Wisconsin.

That state’s Democratic governor, Tony Evers, issued a “safer at home” order in March that was challenged by Republican lawmakers and struck down by the conservative-controlled state Supreme Court in May.

Evers’ other attempts at curbing the virus – a mask mandate and limits on occupancy indoors – also faced legal challenges. The powerful Tavern League of Wisconsin challenged Evers’ order limiting capacity at bars and restaurants, and a state appeals court earlier this month blocked it.

Evers this week gave an unusual prime-time address to the state, urging people to stay at home as much as possible and wear masks when out. But his instructions fell short of an order.

“They’re not in favour of mandating anything,” Evers said of Republicans who control the Legislature. “That makes it more difficult.”

The result has been a hodgepodge of local limits across the state, with some of the most strict in the state’s two most populated counties, Milwaukee and Dane. The city of Milwaukee is moving forward with imposing steep fines between $US500 and $US5000 ($690 and $6900) for violations of local health orders.

Other governors have likewise relied on local and county officials to tackle the crisis, creating a patchwork quilt of restrictions around the country. But that strategy has its limits.

In Tennessee, Nashville Mayor John Cooper said he doesn’t plan on reinstating restrictions on the city’s honky tonks and other businesses. He said shutting down just one county would probably be ineffective against the virus because the surrounding areas wouldn’t be following the same guidelines.

“We are also subject to what goes on in our state and we can’t keep just our county safe,” Cooper said.

Some economists say the crisis has been falsely portrayed as a choice between the economy and public health. Instead, they argue that the economy cannot recover until the virus is brought under control and people are confident enough to go shopping, eat at restaurants and do other things again.

Some experts have argued, too, that strict but relatively short lockdowns could ultimately result in less economic pain than the half-measures employed now, which have only succeeded in dragging out the crisis.

Also, lockdowns ordered by the government may not hurt the economy as much as critics charge.

The economy collapsed after the virus hit the US hard in mid-March. Assessing the damage for a June paper, however, economists Austan Goolsbee and Chad Syverson of the University Chicago found that government orders accounted “for only a modest share” of the damage.

Consumers chose to stay home – or avoid the most crowded stores – on their own, the researchers found.

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Dr Jonathan Quick of the Duke Global Health Institute said governors need to act together because the nation’s current fragmented approach isn’t working.

Ideally, “the way you fight a pandemic is a whole-of-society, a whole-country approach,” Quick said. “One strategy, one plan, one voice. That would help tremendously.” But in the meantime, he said, governors are “our best hope to prevent catastrophe”.

But Brown University’s Ranney warned: “The thing that worries me, though, is that we may have already passed the point where those can be effective. The time to do those strategic closures was two weeks ago.”

AP

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