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Council of Europe: Governments must counter rise of racist parties
by Staff Writers
Strasbourg, France (UPI) May 16, 2013

Malaysian PM unveils 'reconciliation' cabinet
Kuala Lumpur (AFP) May 15, 2013 - Malaysia's premier on Wednesday unveiled a cabinet line-up which he said would help national reconciliation after a racially divisive election, but which was noticeably light on Chinese faces.

Prime Minister Najib Razak's Barisan Nasional (National Front) coalition, which has ruled multiracial Malaysia for 56 years, fended off the strongest opposition challenge ever in an election marked by anger over racially divisive policies.

Najib was abandoned by voters from the economically powerful Chinese minority that makes up 25 percent of the country's 28 million people, tarnishing his claims to multi-ethnic rule and sparking bitter comments from the prime minister afterward.

Barisan is controlled by Najib's United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), which represents Muslim Malays, Malaysia's majority demographic.

"Over the past months and years, divisions have opened up in Malaysian society. Now it is time for all of us, in government and beyond, to put the bitterness behind us," Najib said in introducing his line-up.

"Together we will act to bring about national reconciliation, secure Malaysia's economic future and build a stronger, more harmonious society."

However, for the first time in decades, the cabinet had no representation from the Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA).

The Chinese party had long been a stalwart in the ruling coalition but is increasingly seen by Chinese voters as not willing to stand up for the community and has suffered declining support.

It was left with just seven seats in the 222-member parliament compared to 31 in 2004. Its president had vowed to accept no cabinet posts if its support further declined in the polls.

The MCA's decline has tracked growing resentment among the sizeable Chinese and Indian minorities over decades-old policies that favour Malays in business, education and other spheres.

After the election early this month, Najib ruefully blamed a "Chinese tsunami" of lost support for the government's worst ever ballot-box showing, triggering outrage from many who saw the comments as racially provocative.

The new cabinet has just one ethnic Chinese minister -- the president of the local office of anti-graft group Transparency International -- and one Chinese deputy minister.

The previous cabinet had four ethnic Chinese ministers and several deputies.

European countries need to strengthen their response to the rise of racist extremist political parties, the Council of Europe's human rights leader says.

Nils Muiznieks, the council's commissioner for human rights, said Monday that countries such as Greece and Hungary that have seen members of extremist political parties elected to their parliaments are obligated by treaty to pass and impose laws curbing their influence.

"It worries me deeply that the European community and national political leaders appear not to be fully aware of the serious threat that these organizations pose to the rule of law and human rights," he said.

Muiznieks, in charge of evaluating the human rights situations among the 47 members of the Council of Europe, said the increasing popularity of such parties as Golden Dawn in Greece and Jobbik in Hungary is abetting an upsurge of racist attacks and violence throughout the continent.

For instance, 220 racist attacks were reported in Greece from October 2011 and December 2012, "about one attack every other day," he noted.

The upsurge has reached the point of "an early form of far-right terror," he said.

"The phenomenon is all the more serious as it is paired with an increased influence of racist extremist political parties in national parliaments and governments, and endeavors by these parties to strengthen their position at European level through alliances," he said.

In Hungary, he noted, Jobbik -- a self-described as "radically patriotic" party -- emerged as a political force in 2010 and quickly became the country's third-largest party, while the "neo-Nazi" Golden Dawn and Sweden Democrats have also marked political gains.

Muiznieks reminded European countries they are obligated under the United Nations' 1966 International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination to eliminate racial discrimination as well as outlaw hate speech and criminalize membership in racist organizations.

He urged governments to update and strengthen their anti-racism laws and to engage in "systematic, continuous anti-racism training" of police, prosecutors and to counter what he called their "low awareness" of the threat posed by racist crimes.

The call came less than a month after Muiznieks issued a report on Greece, in which he said an outright ban on Golden Dawn would be "possible" as lawmakers consider a bill pending since 2011 that would introduce tougher sentences for racially motivated crime and prevent MPs who advocate neo-Nazism from running for office.

Police have alleged Golden Dawn MPs were involved in several cases of racist and violent attacks against immigrants last year.

The Greek anti-racism bill was to be put before Parliament by justice ministers last week but was delayed due to disagreements among governing coalition members, Kathimerini reported.

The newspaper, citing government sources, said the dispute appeared to center on whether it is the best way to counter Golden Dawn, with some contending it would only make the group more popular by casting it in the role of a victim of oppression.

The government, meanwhile, contends it is already battling racist extremism, establishing an anti-racism prosecutor in Athens as setting up 70 anti-racist police units, the EUobserver reported.

In a response to Muiznieks' report, it cautioned that taking measures against groups such as Golden Dawn that have legally been elected to Parliament is "complex" for "obvious reasons related to the function of democratic polity."


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Estrada comes back as Manila mayor
Manila, Philippines (UPI) May 15, 2013
Former Philippines President Joseph Estrada has been elected mayor of Manila, beating a former presidential rival for the post. Estrada won the presidential race in 1998, beating Alfredo Siojo Lim, a former police chief and who until this week's local and senatorial elections was serving his fourth term as mayor of Manila. After losing the 1998 presidential race, Lim, 83, ended u ... read more

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