Abbas Ascends

Abbas Ascends

Abbas Ascends

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
Jan. 10 2005 5:41 AM

Abbas Ascends

Everybody leads with the apparent victory of Mahmoud Abbas in the Palestinian Authority presidential election. Though actual results will not be released until at least Monday, Abbas, the frontrunner and the chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization, appeared to receive 65 percent of the vote in an election that seemed relatively problem-free. "We offer this victory to the soul of the brother martyr Yasir Arafat and to our people, to our martyrs and to 11,000 prisoners" in Israeli jails, he told supporters.

Voter turnout was low—with only 65 percent to 70 percent of Palestinians casting ballots, according to various estimates—and the election wasn't entirely trouble-free. Though the Israeli military largely followed through on promises to relax travel restrictions at West Bank checkpoints, election monitors reported confusion at East Jerusalem polling places, where Israeli officials prevented many Palestinians from voting. In East Jerusalem, former President Jimmy Carter told reporters he saw no voter intimidation (subscription required) but did witness over voter-registration rolls and insufficient access to voting machines. USA Today  runs anAssociated Press report on the frustration of Palestinian refugees unable to vote in the election.

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Mustafa Barghouti, a doctor and human rights activist running as an independent candidate who received about 20 percent of the votes, alleged at a press conference that Palestinian security forces and others cast multiple ballots.

The papers bury Sunday's signing of a peace treaty between the Sudanese government and rebel forces that calls for an end to Africa's longest-running conflict. The deal gives the southern region religious and political freedom in addition to a portion of Sudan's oil riches. Islamic law will not apply in the largely Christian southern region of the country, unlike in the north. The south will have a six-year period of self-rule and then vote on whether to secede from Sudan. The treaty does not tackle the Darfur genocide crisis, where fighting continues. Tens of thousands of people have died in the past year and the government and rebels it supports have wreaked havoc trying to stop another rebel uprising. The papers note there are many hurdles in the way of implementing the new treaty, including the continued warring in Darfur.

In a follow-up to yesterday's Page One story, the New York Times fronts—and others stuff—the release of a briefing report Sunday from an independent commission concluding the United Nations oil-for-food program had loose oversight by internal auditors. The commission also released internal U.N. audits which shine more light on the poor supervision of the program. The commission said the program's internal auditors failed to closely watch the headquarters of the office administering the program, examine letters of credit, and examine contracts for oil sales, among other things. In addition, there were too few auditors to adequately monitor the large aid program, the commission said.

The NYT reports on criticisms of the White House's campaign to privatize Social Security. Among the complaints: The administration is exaggerating and using scare tactics. In an op-ed, the paper goes further, calling out the White House for manipulating information in an effort to win approval for privatization. The Times takes Bush to task for ignoring Medicare in the meantime and for pretending the program will fix itself: "That thinking is wishful to the point of being magical."

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The Washington Post fronts a look at the muddled state of absentee voting for Iraqis in the U.S.  Officials are predicting that 240,000 voters in the U.S. could show up to cast ballots (this number includes Iraqi-Americans who have never set foot in Iraq but are eligible voters because their fathers were born there), but information on how and where to vote is still scarce, and would-be voters are frustrated. The story takes a hard look at the issue compared to the mostly rosy account in the Los Angeles Timeswhich bears the cheery headline (online, at least): "Expatriates Eager to Rock the Iraqi Vote."

There was more discouraging news Sunday about the upcoming Iraqi election, with an Iraqi paper reporting that every member of the electoral board in the province of Anbar resigned after threats by insurgents. According to the WP, the head of the commission deemed holding elections "impossible."

According to early-morning reports, the Baghdad police chief and his son were shot to death by machine gun fire minutes after a suicide bomber killed three people at a police station in the city.

The Post—in a story attributed to anonymous sources—reports that CIA Director Porter Goss has cut back the daily meeting coordinating tactical counterterrorism operations involving senior CIA, FBI, Pentagon and Homeland Security Department officials to three meetings a week. An administration official assures the WP that Goss will remain informed of important matters: "They are still very much focused on terrorist issues. ... If something exploded, [Goss] would get briefed right away."