Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, seeking a third term in office in snap elections later this month, has repeatedly faced off against angry protesters on the campaign trail. And now, one has even thrown stones at him.
The incident happened on Monday as the Liberal Party leader was leaving an event at a microbrewery in London, a city southwest of Toronto in Ontario province. Someone in the crowd threw what appeared to be a handful of gravel at the prime minister, TV images showed.
Trudeau, members of his security detail and journalists were reportedly struck. No one was injured.
The incident drew condemnation from Trudeau’s main rival, Conservative leader Erin O’Toole, and New Democratic Party leader Jagmeet Singh.
Trudeau — who has slipped in the polls and is now in a statistical dead heat with O’Toole — has faced off on several recent occasions with what he described as “anti-vaxxer mobs” angry with his handling of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Protesters enraged over proposed mandatory coronavirus vaccines and other crisis measures have shouted racial and misogynist slurs at his entourage.
Last week, he was forced to cancel an event over security concerns.
“Yes, there is a small fringe element in this country that is angry, that doesn’t believe in science, that is lashing out with racist, misogynistic attacks,” Trudeau said at a campaign stop.
“But Canadians, the vast majority of Canadians, are not represented by them, and I know will not allow those voices, those special interest groups, those protesters — I don’t even want to call them protesters, those anti-vaxxer mobs — to dictate how this country gets through this pandemic.”
Guinea launched an Ebola vaccination campaign on Tuesday after a fresh outbreak of the deadly disease struck the country this month, with officials hoping to eradicate the virus in six weeks.
The country reported new Ebola cases on February 13 — the first in West Africa since a 2013-2016 epidemic that left more than 11,300 dead in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.
The latest outbreak emerged near the town of Gouecke, in the forested Nzerekore region in Guinea’s southeast, and has already killed five people.
No new cases have however been confirmed for a week.
Ebola causes severe fever and, in the worst cases, unstoppable bleeding.
It is transmitted through close contact with bodily fluids, and people who live with or care for patients are most at risk.
Health workers began to administer Ebola vaccines in Gouecke on Tuesday, after over 11,000 doses arrived in Guinea the previous day.
Guinea’s Health Minister Remy Lamah, as well as Georges Ki-Zerbo, the World Health Organization representative in the country, travelled to the town for the start of the rollout.
The WHO plans to send about another 8,000 doses to Guinea, the UN health agency said in a statement on Tuesday.
Health Minister Lamah told AFP: “I think that in six weeks, we can be done with this disease.”
During a ceremony outside a health centre in Gouecke, local government officials received jabs before a crowd of several dozen people. An imam and preacher also encouraged people to get immunised.
Lamah, who hails from the region, said he had spent the day trying to persuade local leaders to overcome their resistance to the vaccine.
– Contact tracing – Ki-Zerbo said the jabs would be administered mainly to those who had been in contact with people known to be infected, followed potentially by a second circle of people to break the chain of transmission.
The vaccination campaign also began in Dubreka on the outskirts of the capital Conakry, said Dr Halimatou Keita, who works in a hospital there.
On Wednesday, the rollout will continue in Nzerekore, located around 40 kilometres from Gouecke.
A total of 385 people have been identified as contacts linked to the initial case and that person’s relatives, said Bouna Yattassaye, deputy director of the National Agency for Health Security.
The vast majority of them are being monitored and will be among the first to be vaccinated.
Meanwhile in central Africa, the Democratic Republic of Congo has also seen a new Ebola outbreak.
Officials said Sunday that four people had died while warning that people were resisting measures to contain the highly contagious disease.
Twitter said Friday it will take down calls for violence starting after polls close on US election day and slap warnings on premature victory claims to fight efforts to undermine the election.
When it comes to a winner in any race, Twitter will require an announcement by an election official or a public projection from at least two authoritative, national news outlets making independent election calls.
The California tech giant will also invite people to add their thoughts to retweets instead of just mindlessly sharing, according to legal lead Vijaya Gadde and product lead Kayvon Beykpour.
The platform, a favorite method of communicating for President Donald Trump, will also broaden its application of warning labels for misleading tweets by candidates leading up to election day on November 3.
“Twitter plays a critical role around the globe by empowering democratic conversation, driving civic participation, facilitating meaningful political debate, and enabling people to hold those in power accountable,” Gadde and Beykpour said in a blog post.
“But we know that this cannot be achieved unless the integrity of this critical dialogue on Twitter is protected from attempts — both foreign and domestic — to undermine it.”
Social media platforms including Facebook and Twitter have been in the spotlight since massive disinformation campaigns directed by Russian intelligence and other malign actors overshadowed the 2016 election.
Applying existing protocol, Twitter will label tweets that falsely claim a win and will remove “tweets that encourage violence or call for people to interfere with election results or the smooth operation of polling places.”
Twitter forbids posts that manipulate or interfere with elections, and the platform already adds labels to tweets that violate rules against doctored media or misleading information concerning voting or Covid-19.
Beginning next week, people who try to retweet posts deserving warning labels because of misleading information will be shown a prompt directing them to credible facts about the topic first, according to the blog post.
“These new prompts will give individuals more context on labeled tweets so they can make more informed decisions on whether or not they want to amplify them to their followers,” Gadde and Beykpour said.
Twitter will also start adding warnings and restrictions on tweets labeled as containing misleading information when they are from US political figures including candidates and campaign accounts.
The same will be done with misleading tweets from US-based accounts with more than 100,000 followers, or that spark significant engagement.
“We have already increased the size and capacity of our teams focused on the US election and will have the necessary staffing to respond rapidly to issues that may arise on Twitter on Election night and in the days that follow,” Gadde and Beykpour said.
Myanmar’s election campaign began Tuesday with Aung San Suu Kyi, who remains widely admired and respected at home despite her tarnished image abroad, hoping for a landslide win to further cement her status as the country’s civilian leader.
The Nobel laureate’s National League for Democracy (NLD) swept to power in 2015 — the first national polls since the Southeast Asian nation emerged from decades of junta rule.
Despite the coronavirus threat, campaigns are, for now, under way — albeit with accessories.
Wearing a red face mask, plastic visor and rubber gloves, Suu Kyi Tuesday morning raised the NLD flag — with its fighting peacock symbol — at the party’s office in the capital, Naypyidaw.
“We want our victory to be the country’s victory,” she said, thanking supporters for flying the NLD colours across the nation.
A tide of red NLD paraphernalia has swept across Yangon with printing shops in recent weeks in overdrive to produce stickers, T-shirts and masks.
“I don’t think about policies or candidates. I love Mother Suu and I like what she does for our country,” 61-year-old street vendor Myint Myint Htay told AFP.
But the military is still hugely powerful in a country governed under a constitution written by the former junta.
The armed forces control three key ministries and 25 percent of parliamentary seats — effectively giving them a veto on legislation.
In August, Suu Kyi reminded the country on Facebook why her party needed every vote: “We can’t just get more than 50 percent of elected seats like in a normal democracy.”
– Credibility in question? –
Suu Kyi — once hailed as a democracy icon — has seen her international standing plummet in recent years over allegations that Myanmar committed genocide against its Rohingya Muslim community.
Her decision to travel to the UN’s top court to defend military operations against the minority was widely condemned in the West but stoked nationalistic pride at home.
NLD fervour still rages across much of the majority-Bamar heartlands, but a flagging peace process in a nation wrought with conflict — as well as a perception the NLD acts only for the dominant Bamar group — means a likely boon for ethnic minority parties.
The ruling party’s principal foe, the military-aligned Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), sees this as an opening.
“I’m trying to build understanding with ethnic parties,” USDP leader Than Htay told AFP.
Also out in force in Yangon Tuesday were the blue-clad People’s Pioneer Party (PPP), led by businesswoman Thet Thet Khine, ousted from the NLD last year and proclaiming a “middle way” between Suu Kyi’s party and the military.
But the coronavirus pandemic could still upend the vote with case numbers quadrupling in the last three weeks — even if they remain relatively low at just 1,610 with eight deaths so far.
Campaign events are limited to a maximum of 50 people.
Many are even calling for the election to be postponed, but Suu Kyi would be loath to delay, said Yangon-based analyst Richard Horsey.
She has led the nation’s fight against the pandemic and delaying would be a “sign she’s not winning the battle”.
If her hand is forced, a postponement of more than two months would theoretically cause a constitutional crisis and even the invocation of a state of emergency.
But Horsey predicted the government and military would reach a consensus to head off any political fallout.
Many observers expect the vote to be cancelled in the worst conflict areas, including northern Rakhine state — likely fuelling further discontent.
Rakhine was also where the military drove out hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims in 2017 — operations that now see Myanmar facing genocide charges.
The disenfranchisement of refugees and most of the 600,000 Rohingya still in Myanmar — stripped of citizenship and rights — raises “fundamental doubts” about the election’s credibility, warned Phil Robertson from Human Rights Watch.
The governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the forthcoming election and incumbent Edo State Governor, Godwin Obaseki, has promised to deliver more developmental projects if re-elected into office.
He disclosed this on Monday during the party’s campaign in Etsako-Central Local Government Area of the state.
Addressing supporters from wards 9 and 10, Obaseki called on the people of the state to vote the PDP into office in order to continue with infrastructural development, including the construction of Anegbette- Uromi road among others.
“This election, all of you must come out. If you don’t come out to vote, if you don’t protect your vote, God forbid we don’t want to go back.
“This election is an election for progress. It is an election for us to go forward, for us to build more schools, for us to get more teachers, for us to do more roads in Wards 9 and 10,” Obaseki said in Pidgin.
President Donald Trump relaunched his election campaign Sunday with a live television event inside the iconic Lincoln Memorial, promising an early coronavirus vaccine and urging Americans to put the pandemic behind them to embrace an “incredible” future.
With the two-hour long Fox News “town hall,” Trump sought to wrap himself in the mantle of America’s arguably greatest president — and to persuade a nation battered by death and mass unemployment to look ahead.
“We can’t stay closed as a country, we’re not going to have a country left,” he said on the show, where two moderators, as well as ordinary citizens via video, put questions to him in front of the monument.
“We’re going to have an incredible following year,” he said.
To a woman who called in expressing fear of financial ruin and eviction, Trump said her job would come back.
“You get a job where you make more money,” he said.
Saying Americans should start going back to beaches this summer and recommending that shuttered schools need to reopen in September, Trump forecast good news on the hunt for a vaccine.
“We are very confident that we’re going to have a vaccine… by the end of the year,” he said, admitting he was getting ahead of his own advisors with the prediction. “I’ll say what I think,” he said.
– Saving his reelection –
The businessman Republican is doing poorly in most polls ahead of the November presidential contest against Democratic challenger Joe Biden, who remains shuttered in his Delaware home.
Trump faces criticism for his bruising, divisive style during a time of national calamity. He is also accused by some of botching the early response to the COVID-19 virus.
Worse, the previously booming US economy, which was seen as a golden ticket to his second term, is now in dire straits due to the nationwide lockdown.
With officials saying the viral spread has begun to taper, Trump is itching to return to the campaign trail.
However, he faces new criticism that he is trying to declare premature victory, even as the illness continues to kill thousands of Americans every week.
Having repeatedly minimized the death toll, claiming it will end at around 60,000, Trump conceded that now “we’re going to lose anywhere from 75, 80 to 100,000 people.”
His emphasis, however, was not on the dead, but on resurrecting his image as a can-do leader who can end the skyrocketing unemployment caused by the lockdown.
That audacious shift began Sunday at possibly the most hallowed monument in the country — the statue of Abraham Lincoln, who led the country through civil war, urged reconciliation, and was assassinated in his moment of triumph.
Trump, who calls himself a “wartime president” denied that the election will turn into a referendum on his handling of the crisis.
But he added: “I hope it does because we’ve done a great job.”
In the next few days, Trump will follow up by breaking months of self-quarantine with long-distance trips to the key electoral states of Arizona and Ohio.
It’s a play that will emphasize Trump’s massive visibility advantage over Biden and, the White House hopes, rewrite the public relations script after gaffes including the president’s suggestion that coronavirus patients ingest disinfectant.
– Greater than Lincoln? –
Lincoln gambled in 1861 that only war could preserve the United States by ending slavery and restoring the nation’s ideals of freedom. He won, becoming a national hero.
But Lincoln is remembered as much for reaching out to former foes — something Trump did not seek to emulate as he spoke at the foot of the iconic statue.
Previous presidents, he said, were “stupid” to allow reliance on foreign manufacturers for US medicines.
The Democrats, he said, are “radical,” claiming they would prefer to see people get sick than see him succeed.
Trump pronounced that he had “done more than any president in the history of our country in the first three years.”
His self-declared greatness is questioned by many Americans.
FiveThirtyEight’s latest tracking poll showing only 43.4 percent approving Trump’s performance and 50.7 percent disapproving.
Trump even got in an online tussle with former president George W. Bush earlier Sunday, after the fellow Republican posted a video filled with the kind of empathy and solidarity that many accuse the current White House occupant of failing to show.
Trump responded by complaining that Bush was “nowhere to be found” when he was battling off an impeachment attempt in Congress last year.
Burundi on Monday launched a campaign for next month’s presidential, legislative and municipal elections, ignoring allegations of downplaying the risk of coronavirus and reports of violence against the opposition.
Seven candidates are running in the May 20 polls in the small East African nation, where life has proceeded largely as normal with authorities claiming God will protect citizens from COVID-19.
The ruling party and the main opposition party were expected to hold rallies Monday that could draw tens of thousands of supporters — the kind of large gatherings that have been banned in many other parts of Africa and around the world.
Burundi has recorded 15 cases of COVID-19 and one death, though testing has been extremely limited in this country of 12 million.
Few precautions have so far been taken for the campaign period which ends on May 17.
One politician, a high-ranking member of the ruling CNDD-FDD party, said the electoral commission had issued buckets of soap and water for use during campaign activities but acknowledged this would likely be ineffective.
“We realise that this will be useless. Everybody is obsessed with the electoral stakes… We’ll think about the pandemic later,” said the politician, speaking to AFP on condition of anonymity.
The opposition has accused the ruling party of recklessly proceeding with the election.
Amnesty International, in a statement Monday, said private institutions taking their own preventive measures against coronavirus “had been threatened with sanctions”.
General Evariste Ndayishimiye, the CNDD-FDD’s presidential candidate, is presented on campaign posters as the heir to President Pierre Nkurunziza, who is not contesting again after a tumultuous rule that began in 2005.
Ndayishimiye’s main opponent is Agathon Rwasa, the candidate for the National Council for Liberty (CNL) party.
The CNDD-FDD will launch its campaign in Bugendana, in the central Gitega province. The CNL has meanwhile chosen Ngozi, President Nkurunziza’s stronghold, and will bus in supporters from across the country.
Rights groups have accused the government of attacking and intimidating the opposition, journalists and civil society groups ahead of the poll.
“Violence and repression have been the hallmark of politics in Burundi since 2015, and as elections approach and the COVID-19 pandemic unfolds, tensions are rising,” said Lewis Mudge of Human Rights Watch in a statement Monday.
Deadly violence marred the start of Afghanistan’s election season on the weekend, after President Ashraf Ghani insisted “peace is coming” to the war-torn nation.
At least 20 people were killed and 50 others wounded on Sunday in an attack targeting the Kabul office of Ghani’s running mate, Amrullah Saleh.
The violence came on the first day of campaigning for the upcoming presidential elections, serving as a grim reminder of Afghanistan’s woeful security situation and the sort of mayhem and murder that have beset previous polls.
The attack began around 4:40 pm (1210 GMT), when a huge blast struck near the office of Green Trend, a youth and reform-focused civil society organisation Saleh heads. He escaped without serious injury, his office said.
The interior ministry said the assault began when a suicide bomber detonated an explosives-packed car at the entrance to the building, then three attackers ran inside.
After about six hours the siege ended with all attackers killed and the rescue of about 150 people who had been trapped in the building, according to the interior ministry, which also provided the toll of 20 dead and 50 wounded.
No group immediately claimed responsibility.
Earlier on Sunday, a buoyant Ghani kicked off his campaign by insisting “peace is coming,” after nearly 18 years of conflict, and that pivotal talks with the Islamist extremist Taliban would take place.
He is hoping to fend off challenges from 17 other candidates to score a second term at twice-postponed presidential elections now slated for September 28.
On Saturday Ghani’s peace minister, Abdul Salam Rahimi, said direct talks would take place with the Taliban within two weeks as part of a larger, US-led push for peace.
Such a development could be crucial, as the Taliban — who now control or influence about half of Afghanistan — have so far refused to speak to Ghani’s government. They consider the Kabul administration illegitimate.
– Despondent voters – War aside, the country faces a host of major issues ahead of the election, including rocketing crime, a lacklustre economy, soaring unemployment, and crumbling infrastructure.
Voters are despondent about the prospects of a fair election. Many worry about a repeat of violent attacks on previous polling stations by the Taliban and other insurgent groups trying to undermine Afghanistan’s fragile democracy.
Ghani insisted this year’s vote would be “clean”, but distrust is rife.
Sayed Jan, a 27-year-old student, said he won’t be voting as he has lost faith since the 2014 election that was mired in allegations of fraud and ballot stuffing.
“We have been betrayed by the candidates in the past. We cannot trust them this time,” he told AFP.
“We need peace in Afghanistan instead of elections. Even if I vote, the election will be fraudulent.”
‘Opportunities for peace’
In Kabul, security forces fanned out across the city as leading candidates held rallies.
Ghani’s top rival is Abdullah Abdullah, who currently serves as the president’s chief executive under an awkward power-sharing arrangement brokered by the US after the 2014 election.
“It is our national and religious duty to take advantage of any opportunities for peace,” Abdullah told a campaign rally.
One crucial issue is that the elections happen at all: they were postponed twice this year and further delays could lead to more distrust.
Despite Ghani’s claim that a summit between his government and the Taliban would take place shortly, the insurgents said they would only talk to Kabul after the US had announced a timeline for a withdrawal of foreign forces — a major part of any deal.
“The Kabul administration will be considered a political side, just like others, and not a government,” Taliban political spokesman Suhail Shaheen wrote in Pashto on Twitter.
Diplomatic sources have told AFP the Afghan-Taliban talks are scheduled to begin in Oslo on August 7.
US peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad said Saturday that new “intra-Afghan” negotiations would only take place after the US and Taliban had concluded their own agreements.
Washington is hoping for a political agreement with the insurgents ahead of the September presidential election.
Other presidential candidates include Ghani’s former national security advisor Hanif Atmar and former warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, nicknamed the “Butcher of Kabul” for his alleged role in the killing of thousands of people in the capital in the 1990s.
Algeria’s President Abdelaziz Bouteflika sacked his campaign manager Saturday, state media reported, following mass protests against the ailing leader’s decision to stand for a fifth term in office.
Former premier Abdelmalek Sellal — who oversaw Bouteflika’s past three successful re-election bids — was removed just hours ahead of a deadline for election hopefuls to formally submit their candidacy.
Sellal was replaced as campaign manager by Abdelghani Zaalene, the transport minister, APS news agency said, citing Bouteflika’s campaign team.
While no reason was given for the decision, it comes after tens of thousands of Algerians protested Friday against the 82-year-old president standing for re-election.
The Army has vowed to remain neutral and apolitical in the discharge of its duties during before and during the general elections.
The AG Director, Army Public Relations, Colonel Sagir Musa, gave the assurance on Wednesday, after a photo showing four soldiers allegedly endorsing a party, went viral.
In the photo, the soldiers were seen gesturing the “4 x 4 fingers” sign which represents the campaign symbol of the All Progressives Congress.
The attention of the NA has been drawn to a picture of four armed men dressed in what looks like military camouflage in a 4 x 4 finger sign supposedly connoting a campaign symbol of a political party which is against the rules and regulations of the NA.https://t.co/K6Cf2VVUlwpic.twitter.com/K2oJ5Ew30Z
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) says there is no going back on its decision on electioneering campaigns in the country.
This is according to the INEC Chairman, Professor Mahmood Yakubu, who spoke at a stakeholders’ meeting on the general elections in Abuja.
The electoral umpire called the meeting to address political parties and others following the postponement of the polls initially scheduled to commence on Saturday.
“Will campaign resume? Campaigns closed at midnight of Thursday last week and for the period that remains, campaigns will remain closed,” Professor Yabuku said in response to a question about whether campaigns would resume or not.