7 April 2004

Chemical attack on London foiled

A sophisticated al-Qaeda plot to launch a deadly chemical attack on central London was revealed by United States intelligence agents yesterday, as a 17-year-old boy faced separate terror charges of conspiring to cause a major explosion on UK soil.

It is understood that the foiled attack, details of which are believed to have been leaked by the CIA and were revealed on the US news network ABC, would have involved the use of osmium tetroxide, a chemical agent that produces deadly fumes that 'drown' victims by choking them.

The plot to use chemical weapons in central London was discovered by surveillance experts based at GCHQ, the British intelligence service's electronic listening centre at Cheltenham, who are said to have alerted Scotland Yard after hearing the chemical mentioned during routine monitoring of UK-based suspects.

Gee, they managed to stop a terrorist attack by good intelligence and police work? Shouldn't they have invaded Mexico or somehting?

US village bans Aussie flag

Last year -- two years after Mrs Hogberg and her husband Clarence, 82, moved into their home north of Tampa -- the Windermere Garden Villas Home Owners Association board passed a community bylaw banning any flag apart from the US Stars and Stripes.

The Hogbergs applied to keep their Australian flag but were refused. A request from their neighbours, retired US Lieutenant Colonel Dick Jones and his wife, to fly the US Marine Corps flag, was granted immediately.

An announcement published in the Windermere community newsletter last month stated the Jones' request was authorised 'with great appreciation for their years of military service' and went on to add 'we are all honoured to have the Jones' as our neighbours'.

In a letter of appeal to be considered today by the Windermere board, Mrs Hogberg writes her husband served as a US Navy pilot in World War II and her first husband, Dr Donald Gibson, was a US Navy flight surgeon.

Seven of Mrs Hogberg's uncles fought alongside US troops in the Pacific during World War II.

'I believe I should point out, in case you are unaware of the facts, that Australia was a staunch ally of the USA in WWII, Korea, Vietnam, and the Gulf Wars,' her letter reads.

Mrs Hogberg, who also refers to Australia's military commitment in Iraq and Australia's losses in the Bali and September 11 terrorism attacks, writes: 'This is the first time in my life that I have felt discriminated against because of my Australian race/heritage/origin.

'Surely the Australian flag can not be offensive to anyone for any reason in the USA.'

Weird, weird, weird...

6 April 2004

US recognises Australian soldier

The United States has awarded a senior Australian Army officer a Legion of Merit for his work in Iraq.

Brigadier Steve Meekin received the honour for his role in the coalition's Iraq Survey Group, which involved collecting and making safe more than 3,000 tonnes of Iraqi military material.

Defence Minister Robert Hill has paid tribute to Brigadier Meekin, saying the Legion of Merit is a significant US award.

This is weird. Last October Hill said to the Senate:

Brigadier Meekin is the Commander of the Joint Captured Materiel Exploitation Centre, which has the mission of examining and locating Iraq's conventional weapons, and is only peripherally involved in the investigation of Iraq's WMD programs.

How do you go from 'peripherally involved' to the Legion of Merit for your 'role in the coalition's Iraq Survey Group'?

Counting Indonesia

According to the KPU (electoral commission):

  • PDIP 18.5%
  • PKB 15.25
  • Golkar 14.04
  • PD 13.4
  • PKS 11.57
  • PPP 7.03

This is not what the polls predicted. It may just be an outlier called by early voting. It appears to be on a count of about 0.5%. If this trend stands the party of Gus Dur is running second to the party of Megawati. The Muslim parties have done better than expected and Golkar has done significantly worse. You'd expect Golkar to look weak at this stage when the outer islands are still counting. The Muslim surge was not expected at any stage.

The count is now up to 813 000 votes and the percentages are:

  • PDIP 19.05%
  • PKB 18.43
  • Golkar 15.04
  • PD 10.71
  • PKS 9.59
  • PPP 7.45

The surge for the PKB (Gus Dur) seems to be holding. The polls that showed Yudhoyono leading Megawati are not supported by PDIP running around 10 points ahad of PD. These figures (as always if they hold) are very bad news for Amien Rais, MPR Speaker and PAN leader. On these figures PAN is no longer a major party. Tutut's paln to succeed her father has only 2.1% so she can be dropped from the list of presidenciables. So probably, can Rais.

With the count at 1,393,540, PKB is has fallen away. Yudhoyono's presidential candidacy looks a lot stronger. PDIP is doing better than expected and Golkar is doing much worse.

  • PDIP 18.7
  • Golkar 15.46
  • PD 13.61
  • PKS 13.4
  • PKB 10.98
  • PPP 6.67
  • PAN.6.44

This is on a count of 3 895 319 so the results are convrging on the poll predictions. The shift is not enough to rescue the presidential ambitions of Amien Rais or Tutut.

  • Golkar 23.97
  • PDIP 16.94%
  • PKB 9.87
  • PKS 9.73
  • PD 9.26
  • PPP 6.48
  • PAN 6.26

This morning's SMH reports:

Evidence of this discontent with the lack of reform has come loud and clear through the ballot box in the first elections since Ms Megawati's PDI-P party received a 34 per cent vote in 1999 by promising a future for the country's poor.

In this campaign the PDI-P outspent the other parties by a mile, festooning every town across the country with flags and paying the poor to attend rallies.

But, in the privacy of the polling booth, more than four out of every 10 voters walked away. They went to the Democrat Party, so new it was unheard of three months ago. And they went to the Prosperous Justice Party, not because it supports Islamic law, but because it is considered even by its critics to be clean. And most importantly, they did not return to the Golkar party they used to support out of of fear when Soeharto was running the place.

Many of them might be hungry and fondly remember the economic benefits Soeharto delivered, but they still resent the excesses of his corrupt regime.

Sure, Golkar might have outpolled PDI-P, but this result is a worst-ever, a big slap in the face, especially for its chairman and presidential hopeful Akbar Tandjung. Convicted on bribery charges for stealing money meant for the poor, he convinced the judges he was not guilty.

On the evidence of the Golkar vote, he did not manage to convince too many voters of the same thing. Most of them seem to spit out the word "korupsi" at the mere mention of his name.

This result has thrown the presidential election in July right open. The Democrat Party leader, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, must now be the favourite, not only because his party has come from nowhere, but also because so many people consider him the cleanest of the candidates.

Yudhoyono has a reasonable chance of drawing support from all 4 Islamic parties in the Big 6. That would leave a Golkar/PDIP candidate the impossible task of working from a base of around 40% of the electorate, especially if they run a korupsi candidate like Akbar Tanjung or Wiranto.

On a count of 4,999,330 the Big 6 numbers are:

  • Golkar 25.15
  • PDIP 16.83
  • PKS 9.37
  • PKB 9.25
  • PD 8.76
  • PPP 6.57
  • PAN 6.4

The vast majority of these votes are coming from Java, Bali and Southern Sumatra. Those regions tend to vote PDIP so this is looking very bad for Megawati. The outer islands votes will liey show a surge for Golkar.

U.S. doesn't want to give up power

Beneath these machinations lies a dilemma for the Bush administration. While desiring the appearance of democracy for domestic and international purposes, it is afraid to surrender authority.

Its problem is that a free Iraq is unlikely to implement the U.S. agenda: a secular state, permanent military bases, American direction of the oil industry, a privatized economy and a foreign policy consonant with Washington's.

In designing their mission for Iraq, top Bush officials were hoping to re-enact the successes of the early Cold War. A reconstructed West Germany had helped consolidate Western Europe into a bastion of democratic capitalism and American power.

They envisioned a reformed, malleable post-Saddam government that could spark a similar transformation of the Middle East. Yet unlike Iraq, Germany possessed a tradition of parliamentary governance, an established capitalist class and a strong national identity, which made the transfer of political power less worrisome.

Moreover, Germany had first declared war on the United States, not the other way around. And the American occupiers possessed the authority that came from fighting and defeating an enemy, which had actually surrendered and disarmed.

By contrast, the U.S. strategy of racing to Baghdad bypassed tens of thousands of enemy troops, who retained their weapons and remained dangerous.

The result has been a disastrous occupation in which security remains an agonizing problem. The administration's current inability to arrange a viable political transition is but the most recent illustration of its foolishness in launching an invasion in the first place.

Boldface mine. Now that it's clear the Iraqi transitional government will not even control its own treasury we know the 'sovereign' Iraqi transitional government is going to lack sovereignty, security forces, and money. Other than a brief flag-raising ceremony at ITG headquarters what are they going to do?

5 April 2004

The 2004 Indonesian Elections: How the System Works andWhat the Parties Stand For

The first and most obvious feature of the new electoral system created by the Members of the current DPR in the four political laws of 20032 is that the system is clearly designed to favour the existing major political parties. All candidates in the DPR election must be part of an eligible party ticket, with independent or individual candidates not being allowed. Parties must be registered with the General Elections Commission (KPU) and the KPU must be satisfied that the party conforms to a number of criteria set out in the legislation. To be eligible to contest the 2004 election a party must hold at least 2% of the seats in the current DPR. Only 6 parties were large enough to meet this criterion.

Parties that do not meet this criterion must convince the KPU that they have offices or a �full leadership� in at least two-thirds of Indonesia�s provinces and two-thirds of the districts[/regencies] (kabupaten) in those provinces. Eighteen parties have met these latter criteria, giving a total of 24 parties eligible to contest the election. Many of those parties are ones that were ruled ineligible on the first criteria (holding less than 2% of DPR seats) and have simply renamed themselves. For example, Partai Keadilan (Justice Party), whose 7 seats in the existing DPR was not enough to pass the threshold 2%, will compete as Partai Keadilan Sejahtera (Justice & Welfare Party).

Sherlock groups the Big 5 - PDIP, Golkar, PKB, PPP and PAN - according to 3 great aliran (currents) in Indonesian society, broadly secular nationalism - PDIP and Golkar, traditionalist Islam - PKB, modernist Islam - PPP and PAN. The Big 5 all have roughly similar platforms which bear little resemblance to their performance in power. The cabinet includes members of all the Big 5 (and several other parties as well) and there is not really a governing party in any familiar sense. In regional terms, PDIP dominates Java. Golkar is stronger in the outer islands. PKB does well in East Java. Non-Muslims tend to support PDIP or Golkar.

Incidentally the 1999 results took 2 months to count. This election is more complex because it includes voting for the DPR, DPD, provincial DPRDs and regency DPRDs. It will not take 2 months but it could take a while.

Sherlock's entire report is available (pdf).

Escalation of fighting in Iraq

Foreign Affairs Editor Peter Cave reports from Baghdad.

PETER CAVE: Until the closure last week of his newspaper for allegedly urging violent resistance against the US led occupation, Moqtada al-Sadr and his black shirted private army were a minor irritation to the US civilian administrator Paul Bremer.

Now the young cleric has become a focus of national attention and day and day after day he's turned tens out thousands of supporters out in Baghdad, Basra and around the holy city of Najaf where he has his base and where the protest turned to bloodshed.

PAUL BREMER: This morning a group of people in Najaf have crossed the line and they have moved to violence. This will not be tolerated, this will not be tolerated by the coalition, this will not be tolerated by the Iraqi people and this will not be tolerated by the Iraqi security forces.

PETER CAVE: In Baghdad thousands of Sadr supporters gridlocked the city centre as they laid siege to Paul Bremer's headquarters throughout the day. Shiites were repressed under Saddam Hussein and I asked Imam Hazin al Aaraji, who was leading the protest, if he now saw the American administration as the enemy?

Bremer is a fool. The coalition has maintained order with some difficulty with its current troop levels. The occupation's tactics in the Sunni triangle have not been a spectacular success in garnering popular support. If the Shia governorates are treated the same way they will react the same way.

If the Shia go into active rebellion that will multiply the population of potential rebels by around 5. Is Bremer going to increase the CPA's troops in Iraq by the same multiplier? al-Sadr is certainly the least attractive of the Shia leaders. That is not going to effect his ability to raise hell in Baghdad and the South. Nor are breathless Bremer blustering.

This is a high price to pay for Bremer's desire to close a newspaper despite the freedon of press guaranteed by the interim constitution.

Aceh voters urged to show joyful face

There are rumors however that the Democratic Party, which was co-founded by Gen. (ret) Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has more room to maneuver in the province compared to other parties. The party has denied the allegation.

In the meantime, human rights activists alleged on Sunday that the Indonesian Military (TNI) had asked voters in the areas in which the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) influence remains strong, to arrive at designated polling stations at least by Sunday, or one day before the election. Several subdistricts in Bireun, Tiro area in Pidie, Nissam and Sawang in North Aceh and several undisclosed villages in West Aceh and South Aceh, are declared to be the strongholds of GAM.

'Dozens of people were arrested for their refusal to leave their villages to vote,' said an activist, who asked not to be named.

The Aceh Military Administration however denied the allegations.

The electoral law forbids regional and local parties. This excludes Gerakan Aceh Merdeka (Free Aceh Movement) and Organisasi Papua Merdeka (Free Papua Organisation) campaigning or winning seats. It also ensures that all parties remain firmly under the control of members of the Jakarta elite. Aceh has been under martial law for over a year and the international press has been forbidden to report there. Papua is not under martial law but the human rights situation is grim.

What a tangled war we weave...

Downer denies Kabul pleaded for troops
Mr Rudd said Mr Powell's admission suggested that Australia went to war based on a lie and Mr Howard should explain why Australian troops were sent to Iraq.

"If Labor win the next election, they're going to have to work with Colin Powell," Mr Downer said. "My advice to them is that I don't think Colin Powell is going to think Kevin Rudd is a great guy if Kevin Rudd is running around suggesting he's a liar. I don't think Colin Powell will warm to that.

Powell doubts evidence for war
COLIN Powell has conceded that evidence he presented to the United Nations to justify the US-led invasion of Iraq might have been wrong.

The US Secretary of State admitted that the dramatic case he made to the UN Security Council in February 2003 was based on flawed intelligence about Iraq's weapons programs.

'At the time I was preparing that presentation it was presented to me as being solid,' he said at the weekend.

'Now it appears not to be the case, that it was that solid.'

Mr Powell made the admission when talking to reporters on a flight home from a trip to Europe.

It's never been easy to take Foreign Minister Alexander Downer seriously. His recent habit of screeching anti-American at the drop of a hat (any hat, anywhere) is making it even harder.

Bush and Blair made secret pact for Iraq war

President George Bush first asked Tony Blair to support the removal of Saddam Hussein from power at a private White House dinner nine days after the terror attacks of 11 September, 2001.

According to Sir Christopher Meyer, the former British Ambassador to Washington, who was at the dinner when Blair became the first foreign leader to visit America after 11 September, Blair told Bush he should not get distracted from the war on terror's initial goal - dealing with the Taliban and al-Qaeda in Afghanistan.

Bush, claims Meyer, replied by saying: 'I agree with you, Tony. We must deal with this first. But when we have dealt with Afghanistan, we must come back to Iraq.' Regime change was already US policy.

Really this only confirms what has long been thought. Blair himself said Bush would have invaded much earlier without Blair's constraining influence.

Big question for the Man of Steel - was he privy to this arrangement? He was in Washington on 11 September and saw Bush and other heavies the next day. Arguably Howard committed himself to the War on Terror while still in Washington and without consulting the cabinet or parliament.

Wikipedia | Single non-transferable vote

The potential for tactical voting is large. Receiving only one vote, the rational voter must only vote for a candidate that has a chance of winning, but will not win by too great a margin. This also creates a gigantic opportunity for tactical nominations, with parties nominating candidates similar to their opponents' candidates in order to split the vote.

SNTV also results in complicated intra-party dynamics because in a SNTV system, a candidate must not only run against candidates from the other party, he or she must also run against candidates from their own party.

Because running on issues may lead to a situation in which a candidate becomes too popular and therefore steals votes away from other allied candidates, it has been argued that SNTV encourages legislators to join factions which consist of patron-client relationships in which a powerful legislator can apportion votes to his or her supporters. It has been argued that many of the characteristics of the Kuomintang in Taiwan and the Liberal Democratic Party of Japan arise because of this.

In addition, parties must ensure that their supporters evenly distribute their votes among the party's candidates. In Taiwan, the Kuomintang does this by sending members a letter telling them which candidate to vote for. With the Democratic Progressive Party, vote sharing is done informally, as members of a family or small group will coordinate their votes. The New Party had a surprisingly effective system by asking party supporters to vote for the candidate that corresponded to their birthdate.

Iraq's interim constitution, Article 32(B) mandates SNTV for the election of the president of the National Assembly. The three highest candidates are elected respectively president, first and second deputy president of the assembly.

A system that so drastically favours horse-trading and gives rise to unexpected results does not obviously recommend itself to a nation with limited experience of parliamentary wheeling and dealing and a pronounced tendency to blame adverse results on conspiracy.

4 April 2004

Indonesian elections

The parliamentary numbers are drawn from Elections around the world. The interpretation is mine.

Megawati Soekarnaputri (2001) PDIP
The president is elected for a five year term by popular vote. The government is dominated by the PDIP. Gus Dur (also named Abdulrahman Wahid) was elected by the Majelis Permusyawaratan Rakyat (People's Consultative Assembly) in 1999 and later removed from office and replaced by Megawati, his vice-president. The MPR was changed in 2003 to comprise the elected members of the DPR and DPD. Its powers have been reduced greatly. The first presidential election by popular vote is in June.


The Dewan Perwakilan Rakyat (Council of People's Representatives) has 550 deputies elected for a five year term by proportional representation in multi-member constituencies.

There also a new senate, the Dewan Perwakilan Daerah (Council of Regional Representatives), with 4 members from each province elected on a non-partisan basis.

The parties in the current DPR are:

  • Partai Demokrasi Indonesia - Perjuangan (Indonesian Democratic Party - Struggle) PDIP 37.4% 154 deputies

  • Partai Golongan Karya (Party of Functional Groups). This was the ruling party of the Suharto dictatorship's New Order Golkar 20.9% 120 deputies

  • Partai Kebangkitan Bangsa (National Awakening Party). Former president Gus Dur heads this moderate Muslim party. He was elected by the MPR in 1999 on a deal brokered by Amien Rais and the Muslim parties. PKB 17.4% 51 deputies.

  • Partai Persatuan Pembangunan (United Development Party, moderate Muslim) .The PPP was one of the two licit opposition parties under the New Order. PPP 10.7% 58 deputies.

  • Partai Amanat Nasional (National Mandate Party, moderate Mulsim) MPR Speaker Amien Rais leads the PAN. PAN 7.3% 35 deputies.

  • Partai Bulan Bintang (Crescent Star Party) PBB 1.8% 14 deputies

  • Partai Keadilan (Justice Party) PK 1.3% 6 deputies

  • Partai Keadilan dan Persatuan (Justice and Unity Party) PKP 0.9% 6 deputies

  • Partai Nahdlatul Umat (Nahdlatul Ummat Party) PNU 0.6% 3 deputies

  • Partai Persatuan (United Party) PP 0.5% 1 deputy

  • Partai Demokrasi Indonesia (Democratic Party of Indonesia) PDI 0.4% 3 deputies. The PDI was one of the two licit opposition parties under the New Order. The Suharto regime intervened to sack Megawati as party president. She then formed the PDI-P as an independent party that went on to win the 1999 election.

  • Nasional Indonesia Front Marhaenis (Indonesian National Party Front Marhaenis) PNIFM 0.4% 1 deputy

  • Partai Nasional Indonesia (Indonesian National Party)
    PNI 0.4% 1 deputy

  • Partai Nasional Indonesia Massa Marhaen (Indonesian National Party Massa Marhaen) PNIMM 0.4% 1 deputy

  • Partai Syarikat Islam Indonesia (Indonesian United Islam Party)
    PSII 0.3% 1 deputy

The declared presidential candidates are:

  • President Megawato Sukarnoputri PDI-P
  • DPR Speaker Tanjong Akbar Golkar
  • Ex Chief of the armed forces Wiranto Golkar
  • Siti 'Tutut' Hardijanti Rukmana (Suharto's daughter and last social welfare minister)
  • MPR Speaker Amien Rais PAN
  • Expresident Gus Dur PKB
  • Ex security minister Bambang Yudhoyono

The legislative election will show the party's current standings and give some sign of who can form a winning coalition. Megawati hopes to run with Akbar Tanjung as her vice-presidential candidate and combine the PDI-P/Golkar vote.