- - Sunday, October 2, 2011


Conservatives bridge gap in pre-vote poll

WARSAW — Poland’s conservative opposition almost closed the gap on the governing liberals in an opinion poll released Sunday, with a week to go to the Oct. 9 general election.

The latest survey saw 30.1 percent of those polled throwing their support behind Prime Minister Donald Tusk’s Civic Platform, a sharp drop from the 47 percent he mustered a month ago.

Meanwhile, the conservative Law and Justice (PiS) party’s stock was stable, with 29.1 percent of voter intention, leaving a 1-percentage-point gap small enough for the pollster’s margin of error to change the order.

The conservatives are led by Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the identical twin of late President Lech Kaczynski, who died in an April 2010 air crash in Russia.

The latest poll was carried out by the Homo Homini group on a sample of 1,500 people. A further survey taking undecided voters’ preferences into account put PiS ahead of the liberals by 0.2 percent.

A poll conducted by the OBOP institute, however, maintained the liberals as clear front-runners, with 31 percent to the conservatives’ 22.


Ruling party makes employment key plank

MADRID — The Spanish ruling party’s candidate for prime minister in polls next month, Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba, pledged Sunday to cut record unemployment and shield education and health care from spending cuts.

Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero announced last year he would not seek a third term, and Mr. Rubalcaba, who served as interior minister and deputy prime minister, is the Socialists’ candidate for the Nov. 20 poll.

“Employment is a big national problem. It is the best of causes that we can defend,” he told the closing session of a three-day party congress held to outline his election program.

Spain has the highest unemployment rate among developed nations, with joblessness pegged at a record 20.89 percent, following the collapse of a labor-intensive property boom in 2008.

Mr. Zapatero’s government also has had to adopt unpopular austerity measures, such as cuts to civil servant wages, to rein in Spain’s public deficit and calm market fears that the country will need a financial bailout.

Pollsters predict the election will be won by the conservative opposition Popular Party.


Opposition candidate freed from prison

MINSK — One of the seven Belarusian opposition presidential candidates arrested after last year’s election has been released from jail after a pardon from authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko.

Dmitry Uss, who had been sentenced to five years in prison for organizing a protest that started just after the polls closed Dec. 19, was freed after the Saturday pardon order.

More than 700 people in all were arrested after police broke up the gathering of thousands of demonstrators protesting alleged vote fraud.

Mr. Lukashenko, who has ruled Belarus since 1994, was declared the winner.

Two other candidates remain in prison, serving sentences of five to six years. Two others were given suspended sentences and freed nearly five months after their arrest, while another has fled the country and been given asylum in the Czech Republic.

The seventh was released several days after his arrest.


Cameron warns eurozone could blight world economy

MANCHESTER — British Prime Minister David Cameron said Sunday that the eurozone had to get on with fixing its financial problems or risk pulling down the entire world economy.

Speaking in Manchester, England, before the start of his governing Conservative Party’s annual conference, Mr. Cameron said eurozone leaders must “roll up their sleeves” as they only have weeks to get it right.

“Frankly, right now the eurozone is a threat not just to itself, but also a threat to the British economy, but a threat to the worldwide economy and so we have to deal with this,” he told BBC television.

Mr. Cameron, who is staunchly against joining the euro currency, said it would be “very bad” for Britain if the eurozone breaks up, given that 40 percent of British exports go to those 17 countries.

However, “action needs to be taken in the coming weeks to strengthen Europe’s banks, to build the defenses that the eurozone has, to deal with the problem of debt decisively,” he said.

“They’ve got to do that now, they’ve got to get ahead of the markets now.”


Judge frees five terror-financing suspects

MADRID — Five Algerians suspected of financing al Qaeda’s North African branch have been freed by a judge who said there was no significant evidence against them.

The judge ordered the men to stay in Spain, report to judicial authorities twice a month and declare any change of address.

The men are being investigated on suspicion of providing logistical and financial support to al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). The arrests took place Tuesday in the northern Basque and Navarra regions.

Mohamed Talbi, Hakim Anniche, Mounir Aoudache, Abdelghaffour Bensaoula and Ahmed Benchohra have not been charged.

National Court Judge Fernando Grande-Marlaska said Saturday that there was no evidence the men had sent “significant sums to Algeria” or that the recipients were “persons related to terrorist activity.”

The five men had also been under investigation on suspicion of maintaining contacts with radical Islamists in France, Italy and Switzerland. Police seized a large amount of documents and computer material as part of their probe.

AQIM operates in Algeria and emerged in the 1990s from armed groups fighting the Algerian government after the army stepped in to cancel the 1991 elections in a bid to stave off a victory by an Islamist political party.

The group declared allegiance to al Qaeda in 2006.

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