Pope, Palestine, Prayers – the pacifist P….
Panoramic watching the events was a Sunday hectic and full of surprises. Pope Francis stopped his motorcade between scheduled events in Bethlehem on Sunday to pray before the massive concrete separation barrier that divides the Palestinian city from Israel, which erected the controversial wall a decade ago.
The surprise stop was the latest signal that the Pope backed what the Vatican had indicated in 2012 with its support for a United Nations vote to make Palestine a non-member state: That it regards it as a sovereign state. In a speech earlier on Sunday the Pope called Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas a “man of peace” after paying him a courtesy visit, and referred to the Vatican’s good relations with the “state of Palestine”.
According Time Magazine, Francis was scheduled to arrive in Jerusalem later on Sunday, and — in part because of official concerns about religious extremists, security preparations were extraordinary even by Israeli standards, outstripping even precautions taken for President Obama’s visit last year, according to organizers.
Pope’s Agenda for Monday includes deep bows to the Israeli narrative, including a visit to Yad Vashem, the museum of the Holocaust, and to the Wailing Wall, the last remaining piece of the Temple in place at the time of Christ. In a gesture that unsettles Palestinians, Francis will also be the first pontiff to lay a wreath on the grave of Theodore Herzl, the founder of the Zionist movement that envisioned a future state on the land hundreds of thousands of Arabs called home.
European Election, the sad E: Extremism & Euroscepticism, ‘Earthquake’ win
Marine Le Pen‘s far right National Front scored a stunning first victory in European Parliament elections in France on Sunday as critics of the European Union registered a continent-wide protest vote against austerity and mass unemployment. Cf. Reuters, without waiting for the final result, a somber French Prime Minister Manuel Valls went on television to call the breakthrough by the anti-immigration, anti-euro party in one of the EU’s founding nations “an earthquake” for France and Europe.
Denmark‘s anti-immigration far right People’s Party was set to top the poll with an estimated 23 percent and the extreme-right Jobbik, widely accused of racism and anti-Semitism, was running second in Hungary with 15 percent.
The UK Independence Party (UKIP), which campaigns for Britain to leave the EU, was set for a strong score after making big gains in local elections held at the same time on Thursday, raising pressure on Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron ahead of a general election next year.
The anti-euro Alternative for Germany (AfD) won parliamentary representation for the first time with an estimated 6.5 percent, the best result so far for a conservative party created only last year. In Greece, epicenter of the euro zone’s debt crisis, the radical left anti-austerity Syriza movement of Alexis Tsipras was set to win with 26.7 percent, pushing governing New Democracy into second place on 22.8 percent. That reflected popular anger at harsh spending cuts the government has adopted in recent years to meet the terms of its EU/IMF bailout program. It means that far right and hard left parties, their scores magnified by a low turnout of 43.1 percent, gained ground in many countries although in Germany, the EU’s biggest member state with the largest number of seats, the pro-European center ground held firm, according to exit polls.
Ukraine: again P, winner P… Petro Poroshenko wins presidency
Because we speak about election… Exit polls suggested candy tycoon Petro Poroshenko won Ukraine’s presidential election in the first round Sunday, a ballot that took place amid weeks of fighting in eastern regions where pro-Russia separatists have seized government buildings and battled government troops.
Exit polls gave Poroshenko more than 55 percent of the vote, well ahead of former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko in second place with just over 12 percent. “I would like to congratulate Ukraine with the fact that despite the current aggression by the Kremlin and the desire to break this voting, the election happened and was democratic and fair” Tymoshenko said after the polls closed. If Poroshenko majority is confirmed by results on Monday, there will be no need for a runoff vote on June 15.
Cf. Reuters, Russian president Vladimir Putin said on Saturday that he will respect the voters’ will. He has announced the pullback of tens of thousands of Russian troops massed on the border. But the absence of more than 15 percent of the potential electorate from the election could give Moscow an excuse to raise doubts about the victor’s legitimacy and continue applying pressure on the new president in Kiev.
The White House – two similar surprise work – visits
Leaders of the two White House from Washington and Moscow (government headquarters) have spent Sunday making surprise visits. One – President Barack Obama in Afghanistan. Second – Prim-minister Dmitry Medvedev in Crimea.
President Barack Obama made a surprise trip to Afghanistan on Sunday, his first visit to Afghanistan in two years and his fourth trip as president overall, and pledged a “responsible end” to the war there by the end of 2014. During the visit, Obama spoke to troops, visited a base hospital and met with military officials to discuss troop presence in Afghanistan as the country’s longest war comes to a close. Also Obama said on Sunday that his administration would likely announce soon how many troops the United States will keep in the country, as it winds down its presence after nearly 13 years of war.
Speaking at a briefing by military commanders at Bagram Air Base, Obama said one reason for his trip was to discuss the U.S. footprint for the rest of this year – when the bulk of troops are scheduled to be withdrawn – and afterward. “We’ll probably be announcing some decisions fairly shortly” said US president.
Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has arrived Sunday in Crimea for a two-day working trip. It will be Medvedev’s second trip to Crimea since Russia annexed the Ukrainian peninsula in March in a move that has not been recognized internationally.
Medvedev was expected to visit immigration offices in the city of Sevastopol, where Russian passports are being issued to local residents. Medvedev’s office said he will also visit the Artek children’s center on the Black Sea on May 26.
Medvedev will then chair a meeting to discuss a plan for organizing children’s vacations. Russian prime minister will hold a traditional meeting with his deputies on Monday, visit the Olympic sport center “Spartak” and meet with Crimea’s acting Governor Sergei Aksyonov.