RUSSIA: Russia's parliamentary election campaign started on November 7. Russia's Central Election Commission has registered 18 parties and five blocks. The majority are unlikely to clear the five percent threshold required to enter the Duma Lower House of parliament. The main pro-Putin party, United Russia, has gained strength in recent opinion polls, pushing ahead of the Communist Party, which retains strong support. The most recent nation-wide poll, which was conducted in late October, found that 30 per cent of voters supported United Russia, compared to 23 per cent for the Communist Party. The elections are due on December 7.
* * *IRAQ: The American occupiers have employed Israeli-style tactics in demolishing the houses of suspected guerrilla fighters. Families are given about five minutes before their homes and belongings are demolished. With winter approaching, no work and no prospects to earn a living in the near future, the loss of a home will be the last straw for many families. * * *UKRAINE: The Ukrainian parliament elected Adam Martynyuk, one of the country 's Communist leaders, as first deputy speaker in the house. As many as 291 lawmakers backed Martynyuk, who needed to get 226 votes for approval. * * *USA: The European Union, Japan, South Korea, China and other steel exporters are threatening to hit the United States with the largest trade sanctions in the history of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) following a ruling that US tariffs on steel imports are illegal. Pascal Lamy, the EU's trade commissioner, said that the grouping would impose tariffs of up to 100 percent on some US exports from December 15 unless America dropped its steel charges. Under WTO rules the retaliation need not be on steel but other exports. Japan, China and South Korea also threaten heavy tariffs if the US does not back down. This creates a political dilemma for Bush the US President on the eve of an election year, having promised US steel companies at least three years of protection against imports. * * *LESOTHO: On November 10, thousands of workers marched to the headquarters of the Employers' Association of Lesotho carrying a petition protesting against an offer of a 5.5 percent wage increase by textile factories. Alleging that the protest turned violent, police fired tear gas and rubber bullets at the crowd. In the ensuing confusion, a woman was trampled to death, and a man reportedly died later in a hospital. Police then arrested the union two leaders of Lesotho's Factory Workers Union (FAWU) — Billy Macaefa and Willie Matheo. The union said police allegations of property damage and public disorder were baseless and that police failed to warn the protestors before opening fire. The union also said it would sue the police for their unjustified attack.