Rev. Ian Paisley’s hard-line Protestant unionist party and its bitter rival, Sinn Fein, the Catholic nationalist party headed by Gerry Adams, were the big winners in the Northern Ireland assembly elections, with both parties picking up seats at the expense of more moderate rivals, according to official results announced Friday.
The outcome sets the stage for a groundbreaking power-sharing agreement that will force the two longtime antagonists to either form a government with each other or forfeit self-rule to London.
Paisley’s Democratic Unionist Party will control 36 seats in the 108-seat Stormont Assembly, a gain of 6 seats over its 2003 total. Sinn Fein finished second with 28 seats, a pick-up of 4.
That means Paisley, who turns 81 next month, is in line to become first minister of the Stormont executive. Sinn Fein’s Martin McGuinness, a onetime Irish Republican Army commander, is set to become deputy first minister.
Paisley, who is often referred to as “Dr. No” for his adamant refusals to agree to any accommodation with Northern Ireland’s Catholics, is widely expected to finally say yes.
Chavez, OAS increasingly at odds
The human rights arm of the Organization of American States on Friday protested Venezuela’s refusal to allow one of its investigative missions to visit for nearly five years, further straining relations between President Hugo Chavez and the hemispheric body.
A statement by the 34-member Inter-American Commission on Human Rights said its inability to travel to Venezuela is making it harder to verify allegations that the leftist Chavez government is systematically undermining democratic rights and bullying the opposition into submission.
Chavez’s critics in Venezuela say he’s become an elected autocrat who has padded the judiciary with his allies, got a pliant legislature to give him the right to rule by decree for 18 months and stripped an opposition TV station of its broadcast license.
Turk convicted for denying genocide
A prominent Turkish politician was convicted Friday of breaching Swiss anti-racism laws by saying that the early 20th-century killing of Armenians could not be described as genocide.
The Turkish foreign ministry reacted swiftly to the decision, saying in a statement that it was saddened by the Swiss court’s ruling to punish Dogu Perincek, leader of the Turkish Workers’ Party, and to ignore “his freedom of expression.”
Perincek was ordered to pay a fine of $2,450 and was given a suspended penalty of $7,360.
Perincek was charged with breaking Swiss law by denying during a visit to Switzerland in 2005 that the World War I-era killings of up to 1.5 million Armenians amounted to genocide.
In Turkey it is a crime to use the word genocide to describe the World War I-era killings.
Parliament eases abortion laws
Portugal’s parliament voted overwhelmingly to legalize abortion up until the 10th week of pregnancy, a major step in bringing this small Roman Catholic nation in line with most of its European neighbors.
The Thursday night vote came less than a month after a popular referendum failed due to low turnout, but nonetheless showed that most voters were in favor of legalizing abortion – in line with the trend across Europe.
By European standards, the new law is still on the restrictive side. Women can seek abortions up to the 24th week of pregnancy in Britain and up to the 12th week in Germany, France and Italy.