Responding to pressure from within his own ranks, Yasser Arafat will submit to a new election within six months, a senior adviser said. Earlier Thursday, the Palestinian Authority leader was presented with what analysts said was the most serious challenge to his near-absolute rule a demand by its parliament that he hold a vote by early next year and name a new cabinet within 45 days. Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon had no immediate comment on the moves, aides said.
Discontent among Iranians "is on the brink of explosion," a leading Muslim cleric warned, becoming the second leading public figure to sound that alarm this month. Ayatollah Ebrahim Amini of the assembly that appoints Iran's supreme leader, added: "If this increases, as is the case, the regime will be threatened." No regime, he said, "can maintain itself in power by force." Descriptions of unhappiness at the lack of personal freedoms have appeared in conservative US publications for months. And President Mohamad Khatami told a May 5 meeting, "Our society is on the threshold of disorder."
Voters made the Netherlands the latest European country to veer right, toppling the eight-year rule of the Labor-Liberal coalition that brought the legalization of euthanasia, brothels, and homosexual marriage. Results of Wednesday's election gave the Christian Democrats, out of government since 1994, the largest bloc in parliament 43 seats. The two-month-old party of assassinated nationalist Pim Fortuyn finished second, with 26 seats, and the two were expected to open talks on forming a coalition. Above, Christian Democrat leader Jan Peter Balkenende (in glasses) celebrates with supporters. (Story, page 8; opinion, page 11.)
The first postwar general election in Sierra Leone won a passing grade for fairness from international monitors, despite organizational problems. Final results, due today, are expected to show that incumbent President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah easily won reelection. But in a surprise, the Army voted over- whelmingly for Johnny Paul Koroma, who led a junta that ruled briefly after Kabbah was ousted in a 1997 coup.
Reelection appeared all but certain for Prime Minister Bertie Ahern and his Fianna Fail party as voters in the Republic of Ireland prepared for today's election. Opinion polls showed Fianna Fail could win the first overall majority in parliament in a quarter-century. (Story, page 7.)