Trump Relaunches Campaign With Vaccine Promise, Vision Of ‘Incredible’ Future

WASHINGTON, DC – MAY 03: President Donald Trump speaks with news anchor Bret Baier during a Virtual Town Hall inside of the Lincoln Memorial on May 3, 2020 in Washington, DC. Oliver Contreras-Pool/Getty Images/AFP.

 

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.

READ ALSO: COVID-19 Cases In Russia Soar Past 145,000

“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.

AFP

Burundi Launches Election Campaign Despite COVID-19 Fears

 

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.

READ ALSO: COVID-19 Pandemic Could Create ‘Human Rights Disaster’ – UN

“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.

AFP

20 Dead As Violence Mars Afghan Election Season Start

 

 

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.

AFP

Algeria’s President Bouteflika Sacks Campaign Manager

Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika/ AFP

 

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.

READ ALSO: DR Congo President Pledges Amnesty For Political Prisoners

Bouteflika, rarely seen in public since a 2013 stroke, has been in Switzerland for nearly a week for “routine medical checks” according to his office.

There is no legal requirement for election contenders to be in the country on Sunday to meet the midnight (2300 GMT) deadline to submit their candidacy for the April 18 vote.

AFP

Army Vows To Remain Apolitical As Photo Of Soldiers Allegedly Endorsing Party Goes Viral

 

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 army, however, says it is against the force’s code of conduct and it dissociates itself from the picture.

It also noted that it has commenced an investigation into the matter to ascertain the source and authenticity of the pictures as well as the soldiers involved.

“If the outcome of the investigation is confirmed to be true, appropriate sanctions will be provided” the statement read in part.

“NA of today under the command of Lieutenant General Tukur Yusuf Buratai do not condone or encourage indiscipline and any form of professional misconduct.

“On many occasions, the Chief of Army Staff has made it strongly clear that army personnel will remain neutral, totally apolitical and will not compromise its constitutional roles under any guise”.

Election Shift: PVC Collection, Campaigns ‘Remain Closed’ – INEC Chairman

Election Shift: PVC Collection, Campaigns 'Remain Closed' – INEC Chairman
Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Mahmoud Yakubu, with other officials at a briefing in the early hours of Saturday, just before the Commission announced the postponement of the general elections. Photo: ChannelsTV/ Sodiq Adelakun

 

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.

READ ALSO: Oshiomhole Queries Timing Of INEC’s Decision On Election Postponement

He explained that in addition to the issues of campaigns, there is no plan to resume the collection of Permanent Voter Cards (PVC) for the electorate.

According to the INEC boss, all the other processes as provided for in the main timetable and schedule of activities will remain in force.

 

He further responded to a question from a party chairman who asked why the commission refused to apologise to Nigerians who had waited patiently for the elections.

Professor Yabuku noted that he had done this “in the last paragraph of my statement”, although he did not use “exactly the same adjective”.

He said the staff of the electoral body under his leadership were public officers accountable to the Nigerian people.

The INEC boss said their first responsibility was to protect the interest of the public and vowed that they would take the responsibility seriously.

On my behalf as chairman and on behalf of the commissioners, we regret what happened yesterday, or early this morning,” he pleaded.

On why they waited until the early hours of Saturday before announcing the shift, Professor Mahmood explained that INEC was confident that the polls would go on as scheduled.

“For three days, since Wednesday, many of the commissioners, including myself have virtually been sleeping in Abuja Airport,” he lamented.

We mobilised all national assets to ensure that we deliver what remains of electoral logistics to locations and to conduct the elections,” he said.

Buhari Continues Re-Election Campaign In Zamfara, Vows To Continue Anti-Graft War

 

President Muhammadu Buhari has continued his re-election campaign in Zamfara State where once again explained his reason for suspending the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen.

According to the President, the move was down to the discovery of huge sums of money found in Justice Onnoghen’s account.

At a campaign rally, in Gusau, the Zamfara State capital, the President assured the people of the state that he will continue the fight against corruption.

He also promised that the problem involving APC in the state would be resolved before the elections.

President Muhammadu Buhari and the National Chairman of the APC, Mr Adams Oshiomhole, at the rally in Gusau, the Zamfara State capital

The Independent National Electoral Commission had said the party did not hold primaries in the state and would not field candidates in the governorship, National Assembly and state assembly elections.

Governor Abdelaziz Yari and the party, however, insist that they duly held primaries and have called on INEC to reverse its position.

Campaign Billboards Damaged In Taraba Ahead Of President Buhari’s Campaign

 

Unknown thugs destroyed campaign billboards in Taraba on Thursday ahead of President Muhammadu Buhari visit to the state.

The president’s visit was for the continuation of the presidential campaign of the All Progressives Congress (APC).

Residents of Jalingo, the Taraba State capital, reportedly woke up today to find many of the campaign billboards belonging to both the APC and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), damaged by yet-to-be-identified persons.

READ ALSO: We Have Done Quite Well In Security, Buhari says in Ekiti

The residents who confided to Channels Television expressed fears over the development, especially following sounds of gunshots heard in the early hours of the day.

Neither the police nor party representatives have made any comments regarding the destruction of the party banners.

President Buhari who is seeking re-election for another term in office wooed the electorates in the state ahead of the February 16 presidential elections.

After his visit to Taraba, the President’s campaign train headed down to neighbouring Adamawa state.

We Have Done Quite Well In Security, Buhari says in Ekiti

 

President Muhammadu Buhari says his administration has done well in securing the lives and property of Nigerians, especially people living in the Northeastern part of the country.

He stated this on Tuesday during the presidential campaign of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Ekiti State.

“I assure you that we are very conscious of the promises made when we were coming into office in 2015. We have done quite well in security. The people of the Northeast are the best changers because of what they were in and what we did when we came to secure that region.

President Muhammadu Buhari addressing APC supporters during the party’s presidential campaign in Ekiti on January 5, 2019.

“About the economy, we are doing very well in agriculture. We have stopped the importation of rice and the money we saved, we are putting it in infrastructure. We are doing the roads, we are doing the rails and we are trying to develop power,” he stated.

READ ALSO: General Elections: Atiku Campaigns In Taraba, Promises To End Insecurity

Speaking also, APC National Leader, Bola Tinubu, faulted the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, over promises made to create jobs for Nigerians.

Tinubu recalled that while Abubakar was Vice President of the country with former President Olusegun Obasanjo at the helm of affairs, he couldn’t do much in job creation.

“They have come from all the corners again to lie to you. Atiku said PDP will create two million jobs in a year and nobody has asked him how? When you were there with Obasanjo, how many jobs did you create?” he asked.

Also, APC National Chairman, Adams Oshiomhole, criticised the PDP candidate on his plans to privatise the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).

“Somebody says to us that he is going to create jobs. While he says he is going to create jobs, he also went on to say he is going to sell off 80 per cent of the size of Nigeria’s foreign revenue from the oil sector.

“Atiku Abubakar has warned us that should we mistakenly elect him, he will put Nigeria for sale. When I said 80 per cent of your assets, what will now remain?” he questioned.

General Elections: Atiku Campaigns In Taraba, Promises To End Insecurity


Atiku Abubakar, the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has promised to end insecurity in the Northeast and other parts of the country if elected President of the country.

Atiku made this pledge on Tuesday during the PDP campaign in Taraba ahead of the February 16 presidential election.

The former vice president arrived at the Danbaba Suntai Airport in Jalingo, alongside some other bigwigs of the PDP and was received by leaders and supporters of the party in the state.

“We will address the issue of insecurity in Taraba, in the Northeast and in Nigeria in general. This is a commitment I have made to the people of Taraba and the whole of this country. I want to promise you that the much awaited Mambilla hydro-electric power, we will complete it,” he stated.

READ ALSO: ‘Work Together To Ensure Your Votes Count’, US Ambassador Tells Nigerians

Speaking also, Governor Darius Ishaku of Taraba explained that Nigerians yearn for a better life, jobs, security among several others.

Ishaku who is seeking re-election for a second term in office expressed confidence that the PDP candidate would fix the nation’s challenges for the well-being of the masses.

“All the people that are here are people you have known. Our people are crying for security. They are crying for development, they are crying for jobs. I know that by the grace of God, you have the solution,” he stated.

PDP Suspends Presidential Campaign Over Onnoghen’s Suspension

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has suspended its presidential campaign in Benue State in protest of the suspension of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Walter Onnoghen.

The Party’s Chairman, Uche Secondus, confirmed this in a statement issued by him on Friday.

According to him, the action of the president represents a constitutional breach and a direct attack on the democracy of the nation.

“The basis for this election is the democracy itself. When democracy comes under this kind of virulent attack, then the election itself becomes superfluous,” he said.

Secondus, therefore, stated that the suspension of the party’s campaign activities will for now, last for the next 72 hours, in hopes that the President reverses his decision concerning the CJN.

“In the first instance, we are suspending our campaign for 72 hours. It is our hope that President Buhari will listen to the voice of all lovers of democracy the world over, and restore democracy in Nigeria immediately and without qualifications.

“At the moment, the President has effectively suspended the constitution under whose basis the elections are being contested,” the statement read in part.

Read Also: President Buhari Suspends Onnoghen, Swears In Mohammed As Acting CJN

President Muhammadu Buhari on Friday suspended Justice Walter Onnoghen as the Chief Justice of Nigeria and immediately appointed Justice Ibrahim Tanko Mohammed as acting CJN.

According to the president, the suspension was based on the request of the Code of Conduct Tribunal, pending the completion of Onnoghen’s trial.

Onnoghen is being tried over allegations of failing to declare his assets.

Read the PDP’s full statement below.

Theresa May Begins Campaign To Sell Brexit Deal At Home

 

Prime Minister Theresa May will on Monday convene her cabinet and update parliament on her newly-agreed Brexit deal, as the embattled British leader tries to sell the maligned plan to a sceptical country.

May returns to a mutinous Westminster after sealing the agreement with European Union leaders at a summit on Sunday in Brussels, where both sides insisted this was the best and only option available.

But she faces a big battle to win MPs’ approval ahead of a vote next month, with lawmakers from all parties — including her own Conservatives and governing allies the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) — opposed.

“We can back this deal, deliver on the vote of the referendum and move on to building a brighter future,” May will tell the House of Commons, according to excerpts of her planned remarks released by Downing Street.

“Or this house can choose to reject this deal and go back to square one.

“It would open the door to more division and more uncertainty, with all the risks that will entail,” she will warn lawmakers.

 ‘National interest’ 

The agreement sealed Sunday prepares for Britain’s smooth exit from the European Union on March 29, 2019, and sets out a vision for “as close as possible a partnership” afterwards.

It covers financial matters, citizens’ rights, provisions to keep open Britain’s border with Ireland and arrangements for a 21-month post-Brexit transition phase.

The lengthy, legally enforceable divorce deal is accompanied by a short political declaration setting out hopes for future ties, including security, trade and migration.

Until it is approved by parliaments in Britain and Strasbourg, all sides are still planning for the potentially disastrous possibility of Britain quitting the EU with no new arrangements in place.

A European source told AFP that May herself acknowledged in Brussels Sunday that she did not currently have a majority in parliament to pass her plan.

The prime minister vowed to warn her rebellious MPs that at least half could lose their seats at the next election if they fail to deliver her Brexit deal, the source said.

She will now embark on an intensive nationwide campaign promoting the plan — and the dangers of no-deal — ahead of the vote by lawmakers on or around December 12, according to reports.

“I believe our national interest is clear,” she will tell MPs Monday.

“The British people want us to get on with a deal that honours the referendum and allows us to come together again as a country whichever way we voted.”

Challenging arithmetic 

But arch-Brexiters despise the agreement, arguing it keeps Britain too closely aligned with the bloc.

Alongside the DUP, they also dislike the so-called “backstop” plan for Northern Ireland after a 21-month post-Brexit transition period.

If used, it would keep the British-ruled province more closely aligned with the EU in certain areas so as to avoid a hard border with remaining EU member Ireland.

The Northern Irish DUP party, whose 10 MPs prop up May’s government, has pledged to “review” its support if her plan gets approved by parliament.

Meanwhile, more than 80 Tory MPs have declared publicly that they intend to vote against it.

“I don’t believe that, so far, this deal delivers on what the British people really voted for,” former Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith told Sky News on Sunday.

Cabinet colleagues have conceded it was an uphill struggle but remain resolute.

“The arithmetic at the moment is looking challenging but a lot can change over the next two weeks,” Foreign Minister Jeremy Hunt told the BBC on Sunday.

“We’re going to get through this and give people the Brexit they voted for,” he added optimistically.

However, opponents were also readying for the fight.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said his party will oppose the package in parliament and work with MPs from other parties to block a no-deal Brexit.

“This is a bad deal for the country,” he said in a statement.

“It is the result of a miserable failure of negotiation that leaves us with the worst of all worlds.”

AFP