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Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Israel Goes to the Polls, Netanyahu Unsure of Victory

Israel went to the polls on Tuesday morning to elect its 19th parliament since 1949. More than 5 million Israelis were eligible to vote across 10,000 polling stations in the country, which would remain open until the late evening. Voter turnout was over 38.3% as of 2.30 PM local time, a figure much higher than the votes held in 2006 and 2009. Israeli Prime Minister told local newspaper Haaretz that voter turnout in traditional strongholds for his right-wing Likud party were low, highlighting fears that it could lose an election once considered a lock-in. An unnamed Likud source told the newspaper that the party would be “lucky if we get 31 seats” out of the 120 being disputed. Meanwhile, opposition Labor party members estimated that leader Shelly Yacimovich could be elected prime minister if turnout figures went over 70%, an unlikely scenario given recent election figures. An estimated 85% of all ballots will be counted overnight, with the final tally made public by Israeli authorities on Wednesday.

U.K. Considers Israeli-Palestinian Two-State Solution ‘Almost Dead’

British Foreign Secretary William Hague told the U.K. Parliament on Tuesday that prospects for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict were almost dead because of the Israeli government’s continual expansion of settlements into occupied territory. Speaking before the Israeli elections, Hague said that he hoped “that whatever Israeli government emerges, that it will recognise that we are approaching the last chance to bring about such a solution”. He added that “Israel’s settlement policy is losing it the support of the international community and will make a two-state solution impossible”. The foreign secretary added that the United States and the European Union could use “incentives and disincentives” to prompt renewed negotiations, adding that a failure to act could have “potentially disastrous consequences” for the peace process.

France and Germany Celebrate 50 Years of the Élysée Treaty

French President François Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel met in Berlin on Tuesday to mark the 50th anniversary of the Élysée Treaty, the 1963 terms of reconciliation between the the two countries. German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer and French President Charles de Gaulle signed the original document, calling for regular consultations between the two governments on important matters and establishing regular summits between government officials. French Foreign Minister told German public radio that he considered the two countries “at eye level” and that relations between two former bitter rivals to be “supported by a mutual respect and the insight that nobody is entitled to give the other any schoolmasterly lectures”.

Indonesia Sentences Drug-Trafficking Briton to Death

Indonesia has sentenced a 56-year-old British woman to death by firing squad for drug trafficking. Lindsay Sandiford arrived in Bali last May and a routine customs check found 4.8kg of cocaine in the lining of her suitcase. She alleges she was coerced into carrying the drugs. The prosecution had asked for a 15 year sentence, saying that her age should be taken into consideration, as well as no past convictions. The death penalty surprised those in the courtroom, but the judges said that there were no mitigating circumstances and that the victim did not appear to truly appreciate the consequences of her actions. U.K. Foreign Office minister Hugo Swire objected to the sentencing, saying that “repeated representations” had been made to the Indonesian government to try to influence the ruling, including “high-level political lobbying”. Her lawyer said they will definitely appeal the sentencing.

U.K. Suicide Numbers Rise Sharply

The U.K. Office for National Statistics (ONS) has reported significant rises in the overall suicide rate in the country, with a sharp increase in the number of men aged 45 to 59 killing themselves. A report from the Samaritans suggested men with low incomes living in rundown areas were 10 times more likely to die by suicide than those with high income living in affluent areas. Care Services Minister Normal Lamb said the figures caused real concern and should be met “head on”. Overall, 6,045 suicides were recorded among people aged 15 and over in 2011, according to the ONS. That is an increase of 8% on 2010 figures, with the rise being equal among men and women. This places the U.K. suicide rate at 11.8 deaths per 100,000 people, the highest rate recorded since 2004.

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