Category Archives: Politics Today

Abe’s Resignation cause chaos among candidates in fight for successor. [Japan]

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The race to succeed Prime Minister Shinzo Abe kicked off informally on Saturday, with several contenders announcing their plans to stand; a day after Japan’s longest-serving leader announced his resignation.

Abe said he was suffering a recurrence of ulcerative colitis, the condition that forced him to cut short his first term in office, but that he would stay on until his successor is decided.

Exactly how the process will unfold was still unclear, with local media reporting on Saturday that several options were being considered.

Abe’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party could opt for a more traditional leadership election, involving lawmakers but also members of the party nationwide.

But the urgency of the situation, as well as the constraints imposed by the coronavirus outbreak, could see the party instead opt to poll only its lawmakers and regional representatives — a faster process.

A decision on how the election will be held, and when, is expected early next week, along with more clarity on who will stand for the post.

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A few would-be candidates have already thrown their hats into the ring, including party policy chief Fumio Kishida, a mild-mannered former foreign minister considered Abe’s personal choice for successor, and ex-defense minister Shigeru Ishiba, who is seen as more popular with voters but commands less party support than some other candidates.

Finance Minister Taro Aso, himself a former prime minister and long considered a likely successor to Abe, has announced he will not stand.

Other possible candidates include powerful chief cabinet secretary Yoshihide Suga, viewed by many as a frontrunner, and current defence minister Taro Kono, a social-media-savvy former foreign minister who is seen as something of a longshot.

File; Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe wears a face mask as he enters a venue for his news conference in Tokyo on May 25, 2020. – Japan lifted a nationwide state of emergency over the coronavirus on May 25, gradually reopening the world’s third-largest economy as government officials warned caution was still necessary to prevent another wave. (Photo by KIM KYUNG-HOON / POOL / AFP)

One woman is among those expected to stand so far: Seiko Noda, a former cabinet minister whose chances are thought to be slim.

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No Drastic Changes
Whoever comes out on top, analysts said, little major shift in policy is expected.

“Key policies –- diplomacy and economic measures — won’t be changed drastically,” Shinichi Nishikawa, a professor of political science at Meiji University in Tokyo, told AFP.

“His successor could be a caretaker,” effectively, Nishikawa added, given that the LDP will hold another leadership election in September 2021, with general elections likely the following month.

Yoshinobu Yamamoto, an honorary professor of international politics at the University of Tokyo, said Abe’s successor would not produce any surprises but would face “big challenges”.

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Most immediate will be the ongoing response to the coronavirus pandemic, with heavy criticism of Abe’s government so far for policies viewed as contradictory and slow.

But there are also diplomatic challenges on the horizon, including on relations with China.

Ties had been warming, but with rising tensions between Beijing and Washington and concerns domestically about issues including the coronavirus outbreak and the situation in Hong Kong, the next prime minister faces a balancing act.

Abe is also leaving office with the issue of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics still unresolved. The Games were postponed by a year over the pandemic and are now scheduled to open in July 2021, but questions remain about whether the event can be held safely.

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And the next prime minister will inherit an economy that had swung into recession even before the coronavirus crisis hit and may face further hits if additional waves of infection force business shutdowns again this winter.

Tokyo markets slumped on Friday on news of Abe’s resignation but recovered slightly before the end of trade, and economists said disruption would be minimal because the economic policy was not likely to change.

“We believe the current monetary easing policies and expansionary fiscal policies will continue for the duration of the Covid-19 pandemic,” wrote Naoya Oshikubo, senior economist at SuMi TRUST.

“Thus the impact on the market should be limited in the mid-to-long term.”


#Newsworthy…

Mali crisis: The Junta postpone first meeting.

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Mali military rulers said on Saturday they were postponing their first meeting over the transfer of powers due to “organisational reasons” nearly two weeks after ousting the president in a coup.

The junta had invited civic groups, political organisations and former rebels to consultations on Saturday, but said in a statement that the meeting was postponed to a later date.

A protest coalition that had campaigned against former president Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, the June 5 Movement, had not been invited to participate in the meeting.

The group has demanded that the military junta give it a role in the transition to a civilian rule which the military has promised, though without a timetable.

Malian Air Force deputy chief of staff and military junta spokesperson Ismael Wague (C) holds a press conference in Kati on August 19, 2020, a day after the military arrested Malian president Ibrahim Boubacar Keita and he officially resigned.
ANNIE RISEMBERG / AFP

After an escalating series of mass protests, young army officers mutinied on August 18, seizing Keita and other leaders and declaring they now governed the country.

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The coup shocked Mali’s West African neighbours and ally France, heightening worries over instability in a country already struggling with an Islamist insurgency, ethnic violence, and economic malaise.

Mali’s influential imam Mahmoud Dicko, a key player in the mass opposition protests that led to Keita’s ouster, said Friday that the new military rulers did not have “carte blanche”.

His comments came as a new document published on the Malian government’s Official Journal said the junta’s head had been effectively invested with the powers of a head of state.

West African leaders, meanwhile, on Friday demanded an immediate civilian transition and elections within 12 months as they considered sanctions.


#Newsworthy…

Donald Trump in his highest regard to Japan’s Shinzo Abe amid resignation.

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United States President Donald Trump on Friday paid his “highest respect” to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and voiced concern over his “great friend” resigning for health reasons.

“I want to pay my highest respect to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, a very great friend of mine,” Trump told reporters aboard Air Force One as he returned from a campaign rally in New Hampshire.

“We’ve had a great relationship and I just feel very badly about it, because it must be very severe for him to leave.”

“He loves his country so much and for him to leave, you know, I just can’t imagine what it is. He’s a great gentleman and so I’m just paying my highest respect,” Trump added.

Abe announced earlier he was ending his record-breaking tenure, kicking off a leadership race in the world’s third-largest economy.

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He said he was suffering a recurrence of the ulcerative colitis that forced him to cut short the first term in office, and that he no longer felt able to continue as prime minister.

The two leaders have met several times during the US president’s term, and staffers have hailed the “unprecedented” relationship between Trump and his “golf buddy.”

US President Donald Trump speaks with reporters aboard Air Force One as he flies from Manchester, New Hampshire to Joint Base Andrews in Maryland, August 28, 2020, following a campaign rally.
SAUL LOEB / AFP

A Japanese diplomat said last year the frequency of contact demonstrated the “unprecedented level of close personal relations” between the pair.

Trump announced in September last year that the two allies had taken a major step towards sealing a comprehensive new trade deal, after a year of negotiations between the global economic powers.

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Abe was forced to leave office just one year after becoming the country’s youngest-ever prime minister but has since become Japan’s longest-serving premier.

Speculation about his political future had intensified after two recent hospital visits for unspecified health checks, but the resignation was nonetheless a surprise.

He had been expected to stay in office until the end of his term as LDP leader in September 2021.

Even as recently as Friday morning, the government spokesman had appeared to dismiss concerns about Abe’s health and suggested he would stay on.


#Newsworthy…

Belarus elections: Don’t intervene – European Union urges Russia.

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The EU urged Russia on Friday not to intervene in Belarus after President Vladimir Putin vowed military support for the country’s embattled leader.

As EU foreign ministers meeting in Berlin discussed the crisis, President Alexander Lukashenko — facing unprecedented protests calling for him to quit — accused the West of trying to topple him in order to weaken Moscow.

Meanwhile neighbouring Ukraine, which saw its own pro-Russian leader toppled after bloody protests in 2014, has offered refuge to Belarusians fleeing a regime crackdown.

The EU has rejected the official results of an August 9 presidential poll in Belarus, which saw Lukashenko re-elected with 80 percent of votes, and is preparing sanctions against his regime for electoral fraud and a violent crackdown on opposition protesters.

Putin on Thursday said he stood ready to send in his military to stabilise Belarus after weeks of huge demonstrations calling for Lukashenko, often dubbed “Europe’s last dictator”, to quit and hold new elections.

“I have heard many times from Russia the mantra that this is a domestic internal affair for Belarus and they do not want external interference. I suppose it’s also valid for themselves,” EU foreign affairs high representative Josep Borrell said.

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“It is solely for the Belarusian people to determine their own future,” he added, urging Russia to “respect the wishes and democratic choices of the Belarusian people.”

French President Emmanuel Macron was blunter, telling reporters in Paris that the “worst thing would be Russian intervention” in Belarus.

There “could be no repeat of what happened in Ukraine”, Macron added.

After an uprising in 2014, Russia annexed the Ukrainian Black Sea peninsula of Crimea and pro-Moscow forces declared breakaway republics in Ukrainian regions in the east.

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‘Springboard to Russia’
Putin on Thursday also called on the Minsk authorities and the opposition to “find a way out” of the crisis peacefully, but the threat of military intervention by the Kremlin has raised the spectre of the crisis on the EU’s doorstep taking a darker turn.

Lukashenko, who has ruled the ex-Soviet state for 26 years, renewed his claims that the West wanted to see the back of him for its own ends.

“Belarus is just a springboard to Russia, as always,” he said, according to the state news agency Belta.

“Unlike Hitler, who sent his army to Moscow, they are trying to destroy the government in place here and replace it with a new one that will ask another country for military assistance and deploy troops.”

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EU foreign ministers meeting in Berlin gave their backing to a list of some 20 individuals to be hit with asset freezes and travel bans for their role in rigging the Belarus election or cracking down on demonstrators.

Borrell said the list would encompass “individuals at high political level”, but it looks unlikely to include Lukashenko himself, despite calls from some countries for him to be targeted.

EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Josep Borrell and German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas talk before a press statement on August 28, 2020 in Berlin, Germany.
Kay Nietfeld / POOL / AFP

‘Deeply alarming’
The EU is supporting offers by the OSCE to broker a negotiated end to the crisis and hitting Lukashenko in person is seen as counterproductive to these efforts.

The OSCE on Friday described the post-election violence in Belarus as “deeply alarming” and called on Minsk to accept its offer to support dialogue and avoid a “nightmare”.

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The current OSCE chair, Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama, said the sooner dialogue started “the better it is for everyone”.

Macron said Putin had told him Russia was open to OSCE mediation but Lukashenko was opposed.

“He (Putin) has to make efforts to help us in this direction,” the French president added.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said Belarusians seeking to enter “Ukraine in an attempt to flee the crisis” would receive entry permits from his country’s border guards.

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He said they will be given preferential treatment and be exempt from a month-long entry ban over spiking coronavirus cases.

The demonstrations that erupted in Belarus after the election and the violent police crackdown that followed have prompted comparisons with Ukraine’s pro-Western uprising in 2014.

Lukashenko’s notorious security services violently broke up peaceful protests after the vote, arresting nearly 7,000 people in a clampdown that sparked widespread allegations of torture and abuse in police custody.

Opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya fled to neighbouring EU country Lithuania after claiming she beat the 65-year-old leader and calling for the protests.


#Newsworthy…

Just in: High Court Reinstate 3 Suspended Ondo Assembly Members

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An Ondo State High Court sitting in Akure has reinstated the Deputy Speaker of the State House of Assembly, Iroju Ogundeji and two other lawmakers.

The affected lawmakers were recently suspended by the leadership of the House over alleged misconduct.

Apart from reinstating the lawmakers, the court also ordered the House to immediately pay all their entitlements with a sum of N5 million compensation to each of them.

In his ruling, the presiding judge, Justice Ademola Bola insisted that it was illegal to prevent an elected legislator from duly representing his or her constituency.

According to Justice Bola, the suspension of the lawmakers violated sections 90, 91, 106 and 117 of the 1999 constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria.

The Deputy Speaker and the other two suspended lawmakers were among nine members of the House who declined to sign the impeachment notice of the Deputy Governor, Agboola Ajayi two months ago, after the latter defected from the All Progressives Congress to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

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Following their suspension, the lawmakers through their lawyer, Banjo Ayelakin, approach the court to challenge what he described as their unlawful suspension by the parliament.

The suit has the House of Assembly, the Speaker, the Majority Leader, the Deputy Majority Leader, the Parliamentary Secretary, and the Clerk of the House as defendants.

Justice Bola in the verdict ruled that the suspension of the Lawmakers violates sections 90, 91, 106 and 117 of the 1999 constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria.

This comes a month after the lawmakers were suspended over an alleged unruly behaviour.


#Newsworthy…

Mali crisis: Buhari attends ECOWAS summit.

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President Muhammadu Buhari has attended the second extraordinary summit of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Heads of State and Government over the socio-political situation in Mali.

The summit had in attendance, all Presidents in the region alongside the ECOWAS President, Jean Claude Kassi Brou.

Noble Reporters Media gathered that the discussions centered on finding a lasting solution to the political instability in Mali.

The government of President Ibrahim Keita was recently toppled in a bloodless coup earning the country sanctions from ECOWAS.

The military junta in place, National Committee for the Salvation of the People (CNSP), requested a 3-year term in office after which they would return the country to civilian rule.

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Several talks between the new Junta and ECOWAS for a return to civilian rule ended in deadlocks after a high-level delegation led by former President Goodluck Jonathan to Bamako failed to secure its demand.

There hasn’t been a response to this request yet from ECOWAS, but it is expected that this will be discussed at this extraordinary summit.

Meanwhile, Mali’s military leader hinted on Thursday that former President Ibrahim Keita had been freed after he was detained in the August 18 coup.

Physically present at the statehouse in Abuja to attend the meeting were the Chief of Staff to the President, Ibrahim Gambari; alongside the National Security Adviser, Babagana Monguno; Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama; the Minister of Defence ‎Bashir Magashi and the Director-general of the National Intelligence Agency, Ahmed Rufai Abubakar.


#Newsworthy…

Corruption: Brazil Governor, Wilson Witzel Sacked.

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Brazil’s High Court of Justice removed Rio de Janeiro Governor Wilson Witzel from office Friday, as police raided his official residence in a probe into accusations he stole emergency funds to fight the coronavirus pandemic.

The raids also targeted the far-right governor’s wife and inner circle. Among those arrested was Pastor Everaldo, an evangelical preacher and leader of Witzel’s Christian Social Party (PSC).

Helicopters circled over the stately governor’s residence, Laranjeiras Palace, starting at dawn as federal police executed a sweeping series of search and seizure orders and arrest warrants.

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The court ruling suspends Witzel, 52, from office for at least 180 days as authorities investigate claims he took a reported 274.2 million reals ($50 million) in kickbacks.

“This criminal organization acted and continues acting to embezzle and launder funds in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic, sacrificing the health and even lives of millions of people,” Justice Benedito Goncalves wrote in his ruling.

Prosecutors say Witzel, an erstwhile ally of President Jair Bolsonaro, set up a slush fund for bribes as soon as he took office in January 2019.

The investigation is mainly focused on allegations his administration stole emergency funds for field hospitals, ventilators and medicine to fight the new coronavirus.

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“I’m being politically massacred because there are powerful interests who don’t want me governing this state,” Witzel said in a televised address from his official residence.

File photo: Rio Governor Wilson Witzel addresses the media at his official residence in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on August 28, 2020. CARL DE SOUZA / AFP

“The president has made extremely serious but frivolous accusations against me because he thinks I’m going to be a presidential candidate” in Brazil’s 2022 elections.

Rio is second only to Sao Paulo in infections and deaths from the virus in Brazil, which is in turn the country hit second-hardest in the world, after the United States, with nearly 3.8 million cases and 120,000 people dead.

Allegations of massive corruption in Rio have swirled since the start of the pandemic.

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Of the seven field hospitals the state contracted to respond to the health crisis, only two actually opened.

In this file photo taken on September 23, 2019, Rio de Janeiro’s Governor Wilson Witzel (C) arrives for a press conference in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, after eight-year-old Agatha Sales Felix died during a police operation at the Alemao complex slum. MAURO PIMENTEL / AFP

Witzel was already facing impeachment in the state legislature over the accusations.

Witzel helped Bolsonaro win an election in 2018, but has since clashed with him repeatedly, including over the governor’s insistence on imposing coronavirus lockdown measures against the president’s wishes.

Including Witzel, five of Rio de Janeiro’s past six governors have now been jailed or implicated in crimes.


#Newsworthy…

Angela Merkel devastated amid Shinzo Abe resignation.

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German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Friday she “regrets” the resignation of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on health grounds, hailing his “fight for multilateralism”.

Merkel said she and her fellow veteran leader in the Group of Seven industrialised nations had a “shared foundation of values”.

“I, of course, regret his resignation and wish him all the best for his health,” she told reporters. “We always worked very, very well together… He was always someone who committed himself to the fight for multilateralism.”


#Newsworthy…

US Election: Trump accept Republican nomination; tag Biden threat to ‘American Dream’

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President Donald Trump tore into his election challenger Joe Biden as a threat to the “American Dream” in a bruising speech Thursday accepting the Republican nomination for a second term against a backdrop of racial tensions and the deadly coronavirus pandemic.

The former celebrity real estate developer spoke at a grandiose event staged at the White House — the first time a president has ever held a party convention at the executive mansion — and followed up with a vast fireworks display on the National Mall.

In his 70-minute address, Trump went after Biden as hard as he could, attacking him by name dozens of times in an attempt to define the veteran centrist former vice president, who leads in polls ahead of the November 3 election, as a radical leftist.

“No one will be safe in Biden’s America,” he said.

“This election will decide whether we save the American Dream,” Trump said, rejecting Biden’s main campaign slogan about saving America’s soul.

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“He’s the destroyer of America’s jobs and given the chance, he’ll be the destroyer of American greatness.”

The relentless verbal assault contrasted with Biden’s own acceptance speech at the Democratic nomination last week, which lasted only 25 minutes and, while delivering caustic critiques of the Trump presidency, avoided mentioning his name.

Despite Trump’s warnings of chaos, his bid for reelection is already taking place amid levels of turmoil the country hasn’t seen for decades.

Covid-19 has killed more than 180,000 Americans so far, while the nation’s painful reckoning over racial justice was playing out outside the White House where a Black Lives Matter protest, complete with shouting and vuvuzela trumpets, was audible inside the fences.

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– Trampling over etiquette –

Trump spoke from the White House’s South Lawn, which he had transformed into a flashy event centre for the final night of the Republican convention.

Trampling over long-running presidential custom to separate the so-called “people’s house” from political campaigning, Trump had some 1,500 white chairs laid out in front of the stage bedecked with rows of US flags and two giant video screens.

The immense fireworks displayed featured Trump’s name written in fiery letters in the sky.

Before Trump appeared from the White House in a made-for-Hollywood moment alongside his wife Melania, warm-up speakers including his powerful daughter Ivanka prepped the message of Democratic mayhem.

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And when Trump finally came to deliver the main speech, he did not hold back.

“If the left gains power, they will demolish the suburbs, confiscate your guns,” he said, branding Biden as a man with a history of “betrayals” and “blunders.”

Republican strategist Matt Mackowiak said the party had hit the right buttons at its four-day convention. “Trump significantly broadened his coalition this week. He will get a considerable polling bump,” he tweeted.

But Biden mocked Trump’s apocalyptic warnings.

“When Donald Trump says tonight you won’t be safe in Joe Biden’s America, look around and ask yourself: How safe do you feel in Donald Trump’s America?” Biden tweeted.

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– Law and order? –

The hardline message comes as the country reels in shock at the videotaped shooting by a police officer of an African American man during an attempted arrest in front of his children — and at the sometimes violent protests erupting afterwards.

Days of demonstrations and rioting in Kenosha, Wisconsin, have transformed the small town into a national arena for America’s tensions over racial justice, police violence, and gun rights. When a teenaged vigilante — reportedly a Trump fan — allegedly killed two people and seriously wounded a third at a protest Tuesday night, the perfect storm was complete.

Struggling in opinion polls after what almost two-thirds of Americans say is his unsatisfactory handling of the Covid-19 crisis, Trump is latching on to what he calls the “law and order” strategy.

Democrats assert that police forces across the country are plagued by institutional racism. Trump is leading Republican pushback, banking on the idea that Americans will be angrier at scenes of rioting than at police abuses.

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“If Biden is elected, along with the Democrats who are unwilling to speak out against this anarchy, then the crime wave will intensify and spread from cities and towns to suburbs and beyond,” Rudy Giuliani, the former New York mayor and current personal lawyer to Trump, said in his warm-up speech.

“When President Trump is re-elected the damage will stop,” he said.

– Milking the violence? –

In addition to soaring racial tensions, the United States is still struggling to master the coronavirus outbreak or get schools and businesses back fully open.

But Trump emphasized what he said had been his administration’s constant success, predicting a vaccine would be available “this year.”

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“Together we will crush the virus,” he said.

At the Republicans’ South Lawn party, there was no effort to enforce social distancing and many people did not wear masks.

Biden’s team accuses Trump of being derelict on the coronavirus. On the race front, Biden goes further.

“He views this as a political benefit to him,” Biden told Media (known to Noble Reporters Media) on Thursday. “He is rooting for more violence, not less. He is pouring gasoline on the fire.”


#Newsworthy…

Just in: Japan PM, Shinzo Abe Resigns Over Health Issues

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Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced Friday he will resign over health problems, in a development that kicks off a leadership contest in the world’s third-largest economy.

“I have decided to step down from the post of the prime minister,” he told a press conference, saying he was suffering from a recurrence of the ulcerative colitis that ended his first term in office.

Abe said he was receiving a new treatment for the condition, which needed to be administered on a regular basis which would not leave him with sufficient time to discharge his duties.

“Now that I am not able to fulfil the mandate from the people with confidence, I have decided that I should no longer occupy the position of the prime minister.”

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Abe is expected to stay in office until his ruling Liberal Democratic Party can choose a successor, in an election likely to take place among the party’s lawmakers and members.

File photo: Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe speaks during a press conference at the prime minister’s official residence in Tokyo on April 17, 2020, ./AFP

There is no clear consensus on who will succeed him, with likely candidates including Finance Minister Taro Aso and chief cabinet secretary Yoshihide Suga.

Abe, who stepped down as prime minister just one year into his first term, in 2007, offered his apologies for the second resignation.

“I would like to sincerely apologise to the people of Japan for leaving my post with one year left in my term of office, and amid the coronavirus woes, while various policies are still in the process of being implemented,” Abe said, bowing deeply.


#Newsworthy…

Mali crisis: Buhari hails ECOWAS 12-months ultimatum for transition to civilian rule

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President Muhammadu Buhari has given his backing to the declaration by the Economic Community of West African States demanding a 12-month transition process to civilian rule in Mali.

President Buhari who attended the ECOWAS Heads of State and Governments virtual meeting on Friday, charged the military junta to set an acceptable timetable for a return to democratic government.

In his remarks quoted in a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, President Buhari maintained that Mali is in a fragile state which poses an imminent danger to the citizens and the ECOWAS sub-region.

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He added that the military leadership should be flexible in negotiations by putting the interest of all Malians and the harmony of the sub-region into consideration.

“For the people of Mali, specifically the leadership, embracing Democracy and Good Governance is crucial to the country’s political stability. Mali cannot, therefore, afford to stand alone, hence the need to come to terms with the realities of an acceptable and workable transition compact that inspires the confidence of all Malians.

“With regards to other areas being negotiated, Nigeria believes that the people of Mali and the military leaders need to appreciate the fragility of their country and the imminent danger which it poses to the citizens of Mali as well as the ECOWAS sub-region, “the President said.

He urged the military leadership to focus on securing the country, faced with severe security threats from its northern part, instead of an incursion into governance.

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President Buhari celebrated the news that former President of Mali, Ibrahim Keita, has been released from detention and is in good condition. He however called on the military leaders to free the remaining senior officials still in detention.

“I urge the military leadership to consider: the immediate release of all the remaining senior Government officials in detention, without pre-conditions; a transition process, to be completed in not more than 12 months, and which shall include the representatives of Malian stakeholders.

“This is a critical consideration for the new government to enjoy the cooperation and collaboration of regional and international community, and to allow the easing of sanctions imposed on Mali.”

The Nigerian President added that it is critical for the new government to enjoy the necessary cooperation.

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“In this connection Nigeria will, alongside ECOWAS, provide necessary logistics support to facilitate the conduct of elections to re-establish democratic governance in Mali.”

President Buhari thanked Dr Goodluck Jonathan for mediating in the crisis, and commended Chair of the ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Government, President Mahamadou Issoufou of Niger Republic for convening the Extraordinary Summit.

The government of President Ibrahim Keita was recently toppled in a bloodless coup earning the country sanctions from ECOWAS.

The military junta in place requested a 3-year term in office after which they would return the country to civilian rule


#Newsworthy…

Belarus elections: Russian Putin pledges military support for Lukashenko.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin vowed military support for embattled Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko on Thursday, while urging a peaceful resolution to unrest and demonstrations that erupted after a disputed election.

EU ambassadors in the capital Minsk on Thursday denounced a crackdown on the opposition in the wake of the presidential poll, in which 65-year-old Lukashenko claimed a landslide reelection with some 80 percent of the vote.

The Belarusian strongman’s relationship with Putin had soured ahead of the August 9 ballot because Minsk refused closer integration with Russia — and even claimed Moscow had sent mercenaries across the border to organise riots.

Yet Putin on Thursday promised military backing for Belarus and said Russia had set up a reserve group of law enforcement officers to deploy if the post-vote situation deteriorated.

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“It won’t be used unless the situation starts to get out of control,” Putin said, unless “extremist elements … begin setting fire to cars, houses and banks, begin seizing administrative buildings”.

But Putin also called on the authorities in Minsk and the opposition to “find a way out” of the crisis peacefully.

He conceded there were problems in Belarus, saying, “otherwise people wouldn’t take to the streets”.

The Russian leader’s calls for calm came after the European Union and ambassadors of member states in Minsk condemned a crackdown on government critics seeking new elections and Lukashenko’s resignation.

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– ‘Unacceptable’ prosecution –

The opposition created a Coordination Council to oversee the peaceful transition of power after their leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya fled to neighbouring Lithuania fearing reprisals.

Lukashenko ordered a criminal probe into the opposition’s attempts to “seize power” and several of the presidium’s members have been detained or summoned for questioning.

Russian President Vladimir Putin addresses the nation via teleconference at the Novo-Ogaryovo state residence outside Moscow on May 11, 2020. – President Vladimir Putin on May 11, 2020 said Russia’s non-working period imposed to contain the spread of the coronavirus will be lifted from May 12. (Photo by Alexey NIKOLSKY / SPUTNIK / AFP)

Maria Kolesnikova, an aide of Tikhanovskaya and member of the council, was summoned by investigators for questioning on Thursday. She said she invoked her right not to testify against herself.

The group’s most prominent member, Nobel Prize-winning author and outspoken government critic Svetlana Alexievich, was questioned by investigators on Wednesday and also refused to answer questions.

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Two of the presidium’s members this week were sentenced to 10 days each in police detention for organising unsanctioned rallies and disobeying law enforcement orders.

“The European diplomats emphasised that prosecution of Coordination Council members on grounds presented by the authorities is unacceptable,” a joint statement said.

EU nations have also vowed to sanction individuals they say were involved in vote-rigging and the violent crackdown on protesters.

The EU ambassadors in Minsk on Thursday said that: “Belarusians are asking for an open dialogue with their own authorities about the future of their country,” urging “a peaceful and democratic process, underpinned by independent and free media and a strong civil society”.

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– ‘Diplomatic war’ –

Lukashenko has dismissed calls to resign or host new elections, instead accusing Western countries and Russia of stirring political unrest.

The authoritarian leader on Thursday said the ex-Soviet country’s European neighbours had declared a “diplomatic war” and were meddling in Belarus’s internal affairs.

Last week he described demonstrators as “rats” in a video that showed him carrying an assault rifle, after more than 100,000 people took to the streets to demand he stand down.

His notorious security services rounded up nearly 7,000 participants in peaceful rallies that erupted in the days after the vote, and hundreds of detainees claimed they were abused by police in custody.

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Local and international rights groups have urged the UN to investigate allegations of systematic torture at the hands of security services.

Tikhanovskaya, a 37-year-old political newcomer who ran in place of her jailed husband, called for historic demonstrations and mass strikes following the election.

Workers at state-owned factories initially downed tools and joined the walk-outs in large numbers, but fewer employees have kept up participation due to pressure from the authorities, activists have said.

Industry Minister Pyotr Parkhomchik said Thursday that there were no ongoing strikes and that “all assembly lines have been restarted.”


#Newsworthy…

Buhari felicitate with Nigerian, Kaycee Madu on his appointment as Minister of Justice in Canada.

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President Muhammadu Buhari on Thursday congratulated Kaycee Madu, the first Nigerian-born individual to be appointed Minister of Justice in a Canadian government.

Madu made history on Tuesday after he was appointed Minister of Justice and Solicitor General for the Government of Alberta, in Canada, becoming the first African to be so honoured.

He is also the Provincial Secretary and Keeper of the Great Seal of the Province of Alberta.

In a statement signed by Presidential spokesman, Femi Adesina, President Buhari described the honour as “landmark and historic,” saying it once again pedestals people of Nigerian descent as go-getters, who distinguish themselves in different walks of life.

The President added that, as the first Black Justice Minister and Solicitor-General in Canada, Madu has written himself into history books, and urges Nigerians, both at home and abroad, to remain good ambassadors of their country.


#Newsworthy…

By-election: We will accept only credible candidates – APC

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The All Progressives Congress (APC) has said it will only accept credible candidates for the October 31 concurrent legislative by-elections scheduled to be conducted across eight states of the Federation.

APC Caretaker/Extra-Ordinary National Convention Planning Committee Chairman, Governor Mai Mala Buni, gave the warning while inaugurating the Party’s Screening and Appeal Committees for the by-elections at the APC National Secretariat, Abuja, according to a statement released on Thursday by spokesman Yekini Nabena.

The Committees are saddled with the responsibility of screening APC Candidates for the by-elections.

Buni, who was represented at the inauguration on Wednesday by the APC Caretaker Committee secretary, Senator John Udoedeghe, further stated that the party was moving in a new direction and would ensure that things were done properly.

FILE: APC Caretaker Committee Chairman and Yobe State Governor, Mai Mala Buni, at the APC National Secretariat in Abuja on June 29, 2020. (Noble Reporters Media //)

He charged the members of the Committees to be fair to all the aspirants and ensure that only those with impeccable records in their careers were chosen as APC candidates.

Responding on behalf of the other members, Prof. Stephen Ocheni assured that the members of the Screening and Appeal Committees would discharge their assignment with fairness and a sense of responsibility. Ocheni who was a former Minister expressed gratitude to the national leadership of the Party for the confidence reposed in them and for giving them the task to perform on behalf of the Party.

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Below is the party’s schedule of activities for the legislative by-elections:

– Screening of Aspirants: Wednesday August 26th, 2020 – Thursday August 27th, 2020.

– Publication of Claims and Objections: Friday 28th August, 2020

– Screening Appeal: Tuesday 1st, September, 2020

– Primary Election: Thursday 3rd, September, 2020

– Election Appeal: Saturday 5th, September, 2020


#Newsworthy

Mali crisis: Junta says Boubacar Keita has been released.

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Mali’s new military rulers said Thursday that former president Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, who was detained during the country’s coup on August 18, had been freed.

The junta, which calls itself the National Committee for the Salvation of the People (CNSP), said on Facebook it was “informing public and international opinion that former president Ibrahim Boubacar Keita has been released and is currently in his residence”.

Keita’s release had been a key demand of Mali’s neighbours and international organisations, including the African Union and European Union.

“President IBK is free in his movements, he’s at home,” a spokesman for the junta, Djibrila Maiga, told AFP, referring to Keita by his initials, as many Malians do.

Outsed president of Mali, Ibrahim Boubacar Keita

A Keita relative, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the 75-year-old former leader had returned overnight to his house in the Sebenikoro district of the capital Bamako.

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Keita, prime minister Boubou Cisse and other senior officials were seized by rebel troops led by young officers who staged a mutiny at a base near Bamako.

In the early hours of August 19, Keita appeared on national TV to announce his resignation, saying he had had no other choice, and wanted to avoid “bloodshed”.

The release of Keita and other leaders has been demanded by Mali’s neighbours and allies and international organisations.

Former Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan, heading a team from the regional bloc ECOWAS, was given access to Keita last Saturday, and said he seemed “very fine.”


#Newsworthy…

Mali crisis: Boubacar no longer interested in Power – Jonathan tells Buhari.

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The ousted Malian President, Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, says he is no longer interested in returning to his former office.

This was according to Nigeria’s former President, Dr Goodluck Jonathan, who visited the Presidential Villa in Abuja on Wednesday.

Dr Jonathan, who is ECOWAS Special Envoy to Mali, was at the Villa to meet with President Muhammadu Buhari on the crisis in the West African country.

The meeting comes ahead of an extraordinary virtual summit by ECOWAS Heads of State and Leaders scheduled to take place on Friday.

Briefing the President on his recent visit to Mali, Dr Jonathan disclosed that his team was allowed to meet with the ousted President who confirmed that he resigned from office voluntarily.

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The former president also brought President Buhari up to speed on dialogue with the military coup leaders seeking to stay in power for three years, before holding elections in the country.

“They call themselves National Committee for the Salvation of the People,” Dr Jonathan was quoted as saying in a statement by President Buhari’s Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina.

He added, “We asked them to allow ousted President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita to return to his personal residence where he would be given tight security, but they said he could travel abroad and not return to answer questions they may have for him.

A photo taken on August 26, 2020, shows former President Goodluck Jonathan with President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa in Abuja.

“We also told them that what would be acceptable to ECOWAS was an interim government headed by a civilian or retired military officer, to last for six or nine months and a maximum of 12 calendar months.

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“The Interim Government would then organise elections to restore full constitutional order.”

According to the former president, the military leaders in Mali want ECOWAS to lift sanctions put in place as it is already affecting the country.

In response, he said, “But we told them that the authority to do such was only in the hands of ECOWAS Heads of State.”

President Buhari, in his remarks, stressed that the priority in Mali now should be securing the country which he said was largely occupied by terrorists.

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“About two-thirds of Mali is occupied by terrorists, and it makes common sense to secure the country, rather than pursuing individual interests,” he stated.

The President was, however, hopeful that the sub-region would take a common position on the issue when the leaders meet on Friday.

A photo taken on August 26, 2020, shows former President Goodluck Jonathan walking with President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa in Abuja.

He also believes the ECOWAS leaders will arrive at an amicable and generally acceptable position to all interested parties.

Recently, a series of protests erupted in the streets of Bamako, Mali’s capital despite rainfall and pleas from mediators to stay home, demanding the resignation of ousted President Keita.

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The Malian leader was later overthrown by mutinying troops on August 18, amid the lingering unrest in the country.

He was arrested and taken into custody along with the country’s Prime Minister, Boubou Cisse, as well as other senior government officials.

The coup has sent shockwaves around the West African sub-region, sparking fears that one of its most volatile states could collapse.

A day after he was forced out of office, President Keita bowed to pressure and announced that he had stepped down to avoid “bloodshed”.


#Newsworthy…