The Guardian 28 September, 2005

Global briefs

NORWAY: A "Red-Green" coalition has roared into office in Norway after national elections were held on September 17. The Labour Party and its Socialist Left ally promised to end privatisation of public utilities, increase social security payments to the disabled and unemployed, strengthen public control over the hospital system, reduce out-of-pocket medical expenses, strengthen the public schooling system and maintaining the prohibition on religious-based private schools and pursue a more independent foreign policy. The Communist Party of Norway has now called for an alliance of trade unions and progressive organisations to "ensure these promises are turned into reality".

JAPAN: The Communist Party of Japan has issued a statement expressing its "heartfelt gratitude" to its members and supporters for "putting up a good fight" in the recent general elections. The JCP won 4.92 million votes in the elections, an improvement on its 2003 result. The JCP retained its nine seats and is the second biggest opposition party. The JCP said Junichiro Koizumi’s Liberal Democrat Party waged a "one-issue" campaign on postal privatisation to obscure its real aims of increasing the consumption tax and revising Japan’s pacifist constitution. The JCP said it will continue the campaign to sell itself as "the only reliable opposition party" and to "defend people’s livelihoods and peace" as it looks forward to the Senate and Local Council elections in 2007.

CHINA: Fudan University in Shanghai is launching China’s first undergraduate gay studies course this month. The class, "Introduction to Gay and Lesbian Studies", will examine gay social, legal and health issues, said sociology professor Sun Zhongxin, who will oversee the class. The initial 100 places for the course filled quickly and more will be added to accommodate several hundred interested students, Sun said. A course on homosexual life had earlier been initiated in the university’s medical school. "For such a university to have a specific course like this, with so many participants and experts involved, will have a very positive impact on the social situation of gay people, and on the fight against AIDS", said Zhou Shenjian, director of a gay advocacy group in Chongqing.

NIGERIA: Thousands of demonstrators marched through the capital city, Lagos, last week to protest against a 30 percent rise in fuel costs after the government cut subsidies last month. At one point, the demonstration — the start of two weeks of peaceful protest — stretched for over three kilometres through the city’s streets. Catholic Archbishop Cardinal Olubunmi Okogie and Nobel Prize winner Wole Soyinka joined the march. The Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) said that after the two-week protest, it will decide if further action is needed. Last year the NLC called three general strikes against fuel price increases. Though Nigeria is Africa’s largest oil exporter, it must import fuel because it does not have enough refining capacity to meet its own needs. Two-thirds of Nigerians live on less than US$1 a day and the unions say fuel price hikes will be hard on all Nigerian workers.

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