Biden warned to focus on policing or lose Black voters

More than 50 politically left-of-centre groups in the United States have signed a letter to Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, warning he could lose Black voters’ support unless he commits to more transformative policing reforms.

Biden’s criminal justice agenda has drawn renewed attention following weeks of nationwide protests since George Floyd, an unarmed Black man, died after a white police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes even after he appeared to pass out.

The letter, spearheaded by Black organisations like Black Voters Matter, expressed disappointment in Biden’s proposal to provide $300m to a federal community policing programme, arguing that doing so would only exacerbate the problem of over-policing.

“We are here to tell you, unequivocally, that that is NOT the answer,” the letter reads.

Floyd’s death galvanised demonstrations throughout the country, and triggered some around the world, over police mistreatment of minorities, a decades-old issue that has given rise in recent years to movements like Black Lives Matter.

Biden has proposed banning chokeholds by police officers, ending the militarisation of police forces and making it easier to hold officers accountable for misconduct, among other reforms. Congressional Democrats have introduced comprehensive legislation containing many of the same proposals.

But Biden has declined to support “defunding the police”, a phrase embraced by liberal activists in the wake of Floyd’s death that refers to redirecting police funds to other community needs such as affordable housing and education.

His opponent in November’s election, Republican President Donald Trump, was expected to sign an executive order on Tuesday calling for modest changes in policing policy, including better police training.

The letter urged Biden to do more than simply “make amends” for policies he favoured in the past that they said have led to the mass incarceration of Black Americans, including the 1994 crime bill he helped author.

Protests continue in Congo after Felix Tshisekedi’s surprise win

 

Felix Tshisekedi.jpg

Congo’s electoral commission on Thursday declared opposition leader Felix Tshisekedi the surprise winner of last month’s presidential election, a result that sets the stage for the country’s first democratic transfer of power.

The outcome of the disorganized and contentious Dec. 30 poll is being contested by another opposition leader, Martin Fayulu. Vote tallies by Congo’s Catholic Church showed Fayulu as victor, according to two diplomats briefed on the findings.

Tshisekedi won with 38.57 percent of the more than 18 million ballots cast, Corneille Nangaa, the president of the election commission, known as CENI, told a news conference at about 3 a.m., which appeared timed to avoid any immediate reaction in the streets.

“Felix Tshisekedi Tshilombo is declared the provisionally elected president of Democratic Republic of Congo,” Nangaa said, to a mixture of cheers and gasps inside CENI headquarters.

In the Kinshasa neighborhood of Limete where Tshisekedi lives, thousands of people danced in the streets in celebration and cars slowed down and honked their horns.

Some chanted that Congo had “turned the page” on the Kabila era, which began in 1997 when Joseph Kabila’s father, Laurent, led a rebellion that overthrew longtime leader Mobutu Sese Seko. Joseph took over in 2001 when Laurent was assassinated.

Fayulu dismissed the official results as “a true electoral coup.”

“The results have nothing to do with the truth of the ballot box,” he said in an interview with Radio France Internationale, and called on observers of the Dec. 30 vote to publish the real results.

If Tshisekedi’s victory is confirmed in the next 10 days by the constitutional court, he will become the first leader to take power at the ballot box since Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba, who was toppled in a coup less than three months after independence in 1960 and killed four months later.

Opposition fears that authorities would rig the vote in favor of Kabila’s hand-picked candidate, Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, did not materialize as Shadary finished a distant third to Tshisekedi and Fayulu, with about 4.4 million votes.

However, the result, which observers said was marred by a spate of irregularities, is certain to fuel further suspicion among Fayulu’s supporters that Tshisekedi, shown by the last opinion polls before the election to be running well behind Fayulu, struck a power-sharing pact with Kabila.

Fayulu was backed by two prominent foes of Kabila, both of whom were barred from standing in the election. Kabila referred to one of them, ex-provincial Gov. Moise Katumbi, as “Judas” in a recent interview with local media.

Tshisekedi’s camp has acknowledged contacts since the vote with Kabila’s representatives but said they were aimed at ensuring a peaceful transition and denied there had been any kind of deal.

Losing candidates can contest Tshisekedi’s victory before Congo’s constitutional court, which has 10 days to hear and rule on any challenges.

Any widespread perception the election has been stolen could set off a destabilizing cycle of unrest, particularly in the volatile eastern borderlands where Fayulu enjoyed some of his strongest support.

The Catholic Church’s bishops conference said last week that it knew the identity of the winner and demanded that CENI publish accurate results. The Church did not say who it thought the winner was, but briefed diplomats on its conclusions.

Authorities canceled voting on election day for more than 1 million people, saying the vote could not go ahead because of an Ebola outbreak and militia violence.

Observers said many polling stations opened late and closed early, and in some places voting machines malfunctioned.

Tshisekedi is the son of the legendary Etienne Tshisekedi, who led the opposition to three successive presidents over 35 years. Felix’s profile rose after his father died in 2017, soon after negotiating the terms of a transition period when Kabila refused to step down at the official end of his mandate the previous year.

His father founded the country’s oldest and largest opposition party, the Union for Democracy and Social Progress and went on to spend decades as the country’s main opposition leader but died in February last year — with Tshisekedi junior taking over.

Known to his friends as “Fatshi,” the portly 55-year-old is set to replace President Joseph Kabila, who has ruled the volatile, poverty-stricken nation with an iron fist since 2001.

A father of five, Tshisekedi goes to the same Pentecostal church as Fayulu in Kinshasa, the capital.

Although Tshisekedi does not enjoy the same degree of popularity as his father, he has risen steadily through the party ranks.

“Etienne was stubborn and proud,” said one keen observer of the country’s opposition. “Felix is more diplomatic, more conciliatory, more ready to listen to others.”

In 2008 he became national secretary for external relations and was elected to the national assembly in 2011 as representative for Mbuji-Mayi, the country’s third city.

However, he never took up his seat as he did not formally recognize his father’s 2011 election defeat to Kabila.

A month after his father’s death, Tshisekedi was elected party chief.

Although he holds a Belgian diploma in marketing and communication, his opponents point out that he has never held high office or had managerial experience. And some detractors have even suggested his diploma is not valid.

After announcing his bid to run for the presidency, Tshisekedi promised a return to the rule of law, to fight the “gangrene” of corruption and to bring peace to the east of the country.

Is MKO Abiola’s posthumous award another political strategy for APC?

The Peoples Democratic Party says the national honor proposed to be conferred on the acclaimed winner of June 12, 1993, Chief MKO Abiola, by President Muhammadu Buhari, smacks of hypocrisy and political desperation ahead of 2019 presidential election.

Abiola.png

PDP said that President Buhari’s action merely sought to use the name and person of Abiola to gain a political capital and not out of genuine reverence and recognition for him.

In a statement issued in Abuja on Wednesday and signed by its National Publicity Secretary, Mr Kola Ologbondiyan, the party recalled that President Buhari, who was serving in the military administration of General Sani Abacha during the travails of Abiola, did not associate either by words or actions with the late winner of June 12 election.

Ologbondiyan further stated that history did not record President Buhari as sympathetic to the Abiola’s family when his wife, Kudirat, was gruesomely murdered by the agents of a government which President Buhari served.

He said, “It is, therefore, a sign of political desperation for President Buhari to seek to use Chief Abiola’s name as a tool to sway Nigerians in less than twelve months to an election where he, (President Buhari) is seeking a second term.
 
“It is also shocking that the respectable grave of Abiola can be dishonored by granting a posthumous award on him along with someone who denounced the June 12 mandate and preferred the company of his (Abiola’s) traducers.”

Muhammadu Buhari.jpg

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan drops in public confidence rating ahead of June 2018 polls

The leader of Turkey’s main opposition party predicted Saturday that voters who backed President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the past would “side with democracy” instead of a “dictatorship” during the next elections in June.

Turkey 2018 presidential elections

Republican People’s Party leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu said he is confident of ousting Erdogan from office by winning the snap parliamentary and presidential elections “with at least 60 percent of votes” even though the party lagged in past votes, according to an AP report.

But the 69-year-old politician’s optimism has weak spots. Though Kilicdaroglu says the pro-secular party, known as CHP, wasn’t “surprised” by this week’s announcement of early elections and ready to compete, it has yet to put forward a presidential candidate, a campaign plan or potential alliances.

Erdogan, meanwhile, has worked to consolidate his base for months with speeches and events, bolstered by rising nationalism amid Turkey’s military operation in Syria against a Kurdish stronghold. During a live interview on NTV Saturday, Erdogan challenged Kilicdaroglu to run as the CHP’s candidate for president.

“He should enter this race,” the president said. “Let’s see how much the nation votes for you.” Erdogan scoffed at the opposition leader’s “self-confident statements,” noting that Kilicdaroglu greatly overestimated how many votes CHP would get in the 2015 general elections.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Kilicdaroglu said Erdogan and his ruling party moved up the next elections from November 2019 to June 24 this year “to obtain more power, to completely suspend democracy.”

A year ago, Erdogan narrowly won a referendum to change Turkey’s form of government to an executive presidency, abolishing the office of the prime minister and giving the president more powers. The change takes effect after a presidential election is held.

Kilicdaroglu said if Erdogan is victorious, the new system would establish Turkey as “the one-man regime.” Though the CHP garnered only a quarter of national votes in the 2015 general elections, it has been emboldened by the 48.6 percent of “no” votes in the referendum and the wide support for the party’s protest march last June.

The march, following the jailing of a CHP lawmaker, was a response to the state of emergency declared after a failed coup attempt in July 2016 that is still in place and which the opposition leader calls “a civilian coup.”

In its aftermath, he said, pressures on media increased, parliamentarians were arrested, journalists were jailed, non-governmental organizations were silenced or their managers imprisoned. “I hope that on June 24 we go to the polls with joy and wake up on June 25 with hope,” Kilicdaroglu said.

Vladimir Putin wins fourth term as Russia’s president

Early results and an exit poll showed that Vladimir Putin handily won a fourth term as Russia’s president Sunday, adding six years in the Kremlin for the man who has led the world’s largest country for all of the 21st century.

Putin

Image: Vladimir Putin

The vote was tainted by widespread reports of ballot-box stuffing and forced voting, but the complaints will likely do little to undermine Putin.

The Russian leader’s popularity remains high despite his suppression of dissent and reproach from the West over Russia’s increasingly aggressive stance in world affairs and alleged interference in the 2016 U.S. election.

Putin’s main challenge in the vote was to obtain a huge margin of victory in order to claim an indisputable mandate. The Central Elections Commission said Putin had won about 73 percent of the vote, based on a count of 30 percent of the country’s precincts.

Russian authorities had sought to ensure a large turnout to bolster the image that Putin’s so-called “managed democracy” is robust and offers Russians true choices. By 5 p.m. Moscow time, authorities said turnout had hit nearly 52 percent.

Put had faced seven minor candidates on the ballot. His most vehement foe, anti-corruption campaigner Alexei Navalny, was rejected as a presidential candidate because he was convicted of fraud in a case widely regarded as politically motivated. Navalny and his supporters had called for an election boycott but the extent of its success could not immediately be gauged.

The election came amid escalating tensions between Russia and the West, with reports that Moscow was behind the nerve-agent poisoning this month of a former Russian double agent in Britain and that its internet trolls had mounted an extensive campaign to undermine the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

Britain and Russia last week announced tit-for-tat diplomat expulsions over the spy case and the United States issued new sanctions.

Russian officials denounced both cases as efforts to interfere in the Russian election. But the disputes likely worked in Putin’s favor, reinforcing the official stance that the West is infected with “Russophobia” and determined to undermine both Putin and traditional Russian values.

The election took place on the fourth anniversary of Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea from Ukraine, one of the most dramatic manifestations of Putin’s drive to reassert Russia’s power.

Crimea and Russia’s subsequent support of separatists in eastern Ukraine led to an array of U.S. and European sanctions that, along with falling oil prices, damaged the Russian economy and slashed the ruble’s value by half. But Putin’s popularity remained strong, apparently buttressed by nationalist pride.

In his next six years in office, Putin is likely to assert Russia’s power abroad even more strongly. Just weeks before the election, he announced that Russia has developed advanced nuclear weapons capable of evading missile defenses. The Russian military campaign that bolsters the Syrian government is clearly aimed at strengthening Russia’s foothold in the Middle East and Russia eagerly eyes possible reconciliation on the Korean Peninsula as a lucrative economic opportunity.

Arsene Wenger congratulates George Weah

Arsene Wenger has sent congratulatory messages to George Oppong Weah, who once dreamt of leading Liberia as its president despite setbacks from stronger oppositions during the 2005 presidential elections which he lost to Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.

Image: George Oppon Weah

Weah, 51, has been a senator since 14 January, 2015 serving with Geraldine Doe-Sherif for Montserrado County. He has joined a list of ex-footballers who became successful politicians; Pele of Brazil and Zico both served as Sports Minsters.

‘We are one and together we must succeed in writing a new chapter in our country’s glorious history,’ Weah told his supporters during the last round of campaigns, Daily Mail reported.

‘The Liberia I dream of is one in which every one of its children, no matter the social status or ethnic background, can have an opportunity to succeed and a decent shot at a better life.’

Speaking to Arsenal.com at a press conference on Thursday, Wenger said, “I would like to congratulate one of my former players, who became president of Liberia, George Weah.

“It is not often that you have a former player who becomes a president of a country and so well done Georgie and I would say just for him to keep his enthusiasm and his desire to learn and to win.”

In the early 2000s, Liberia was synonymous with rapes, child soldiers and ethnic conflicts. The chaos was a follow-up to American-educated warlord Charles Taylor who started a rebellion in 1989, and notwithstanding the peace ushered in by a democratic government, the country has suffered from endemic corruption.

In a landmark success at the 2005 polls, Ellen took over the made of leadership and made bold attempts to steer her country back to greatness. Her efforts to restore stability in Liberia – one which was sadly suppressed by the Ebola pandemic – earned her a Noble Peace Prize.

And after 12 years in power, having made a lasting impact in Liberia’s once-fragile polity, the first female president is set to bow to Weah, who won FIFA’s Best Player of the Year and Ballon d’Or in 1995 as the world watched in applause.

Vice-President Joseph Boakai was next in line for the presidency in a wildly contested election but his dreams, after 11 long years in the shadows, was squashed by the retired footballer.

“The people in Liberia know who Joe Boakai is; how long he has served this country with integrity, with honesty…and they want that leadership that is trusted, corruption-free and [which] they are counting on,” Boakai, 72, told Newsweek in April during the campaigns.

The National Elections Commission (NEC) announced first official results in favor of George Weah on Thursday 12, October. He has three children: George Weah Jr, Tita and Timothy.