Experienced Truss Favourite To Be Next UK PM

British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss takes part in a Conservative Party Hustings event in Birmingham, on August 23, 2022. (Photo by Geoff Caddick / AFP)

 

Liz Truss has emerged as the clear favourite to succeed Boris Johnson as leader of the ruling Conservative party and UK prime minister, using her political experience to pull ahead of challenger Rishi Sunak.

Sunak helped to spark the contest after resigning in opposition to a series of government scandals, prompting others to follow and Johnson to step down.

But although considered a better public speaker, he has come under fire for clinging to fiscal orthodoxy to tackle the economic crisis and hamstrung by his image as a wealthy technocrat.

Sunak, who would become Britain’s first prime minister of colour, has also faced accusations of treachery for bringing down the Tories’ Brexit hero Johnson.

British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss (C) poses for a photograph at Artemis Technologies in Belfast Harbour, Belfast.  AFP

 

Truss meanwhile has doggedly hammered home a direct and consistent message, promising massive tax cuts, and has shied away from criticising Johnson.

“She’s a better politician,” said John Curtice, a political scientist at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow.

“If you ask me what Liz Truss’s campaign was about I will immediately say to you: ‘a tax cut not a handout’. Very clear,” he told AFP.

“There is no strapline for Sunak, nothing.”

For Curtice, Truss has effectively conveyed “traditional Conservative messages” to Tory members while Sunak has been more nuanced.

“It’s also a bit of a lecture,” he said, assessing that he has come across as “a wee bit brittle” under pressure.

“You can see that she’s been in the game for longer,” he added.

Political journey

Truss, 47, has described her ascent towards the top of British politics as a “journey” that has seen her criticised for being ambitiously opportunistic.

She comes from a left-wing family and initially joined the centrist Liberal Democrats before jumping ship to the right-wing Conservatives.

She became MP for the South West Norfolk constituency in eastern England in 2010, surviving revelations of an affair that almost cost her the nomination.

Since 2012 she has held a series of ministerial posts in the education, finance and departments as well as a difficult spell in justice.

In 2016, she campaigned for the UK to remain in the European Union but quickly became one of its strongest supporters when Britons voted for Brexit.

Britain’s Foreign Secretary Liz Truss (C) poses for a group photograph in Liverpool, northwest England.  AFP

 

When the UK left the EU, Johnson put her in charge of negotiating new free trade deals before appointing her as foreign secretary last year.

In the role, she took on the controversial task of trying to overhaul differences with Brussels about post-Brexit trade in Northern Ireland.

Like Johnson, she has talked tough on Russia and given unswerving backing for Ukraine.

Truss’s dress sense and photo opportunities — posing in a tank in Estonia and wearing a fur hat in Moscow — have earned her comparisons to Tory icon Margaret Thatcher.

Her sometimes stiff style has become visibly more relaxed and allies have sought to soften her image, revealing her love of karaoke and socialising.

 Establishment elite?

“For a party that’s gone in quite a populist direction in recent years, she’s been able to present herself as more authentic, more ordinary than Rishi Sunak, who is all too easily presented as part of the global elite,” said Tim Bale, from Queen Mary University of London.

“Like Boris Johnson, she is keen on the idea that there is some kind of elite that has to be countered and she sets herself up as being outside the establishment, despite having been in government for eight years.”

Sunak, 42, the grandson of Indian immigrants, grew up as the son of a doctor and a pharmacist in Southampton, on England’s south coast.

He attended the prestigious fee-paying Winchester College school, then Oxford University.

Truss, who went to a state school in Leeds, northern England, also studied at Oxford. Both studied politics, philosophy and economics.

Sunak met his wife, Akshata Murty, whose father founded the Indian tech giant Infosys, at US university Stanford before jobs at Goldman Sachs and investment funds.

He has represented the constituency of Richmond in northern England since 2015, where he was soon marked out as a potential future prime minister.

He became finance minister in early 2020, quickly winning plaudits for spearheading government support to people and businesses affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

But Sunak, a self-confessed geek with a love of Star Wars, saw opinion turn against him this year, after it emerged that his wife did not pay UK tax.

Critics have also used his private wealth, expensive clothes and houses to portray him as out of touch with the ordinary public.

AFP

Sri Lanka PM Quits As Violence Kills 3, Injures 150

Demonstrators and government supporters clash outside the official residence of Sri Lanka’s Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, in Colombo on May 9, 2022. Sri Lankan police imposed a curfew on May 9 after clashes between rival political camps, as anger builds over the island’s worst economic crisis since independence.
ISHARA S. KODIKARA / AFP

 

Sri Lankan Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa quit on Monday after a day of violence that saw three people including an MP killed and over 150 wounded as government supporters armed with sticks and clubs attacked protestors.

Lawmaker Amarakeerthi Athukorala from the ruling party shot two people — killing a 27-year-old man — and then himself after being surrounded by a mob of anti-government protestors outside the city, police said.

Sri Lanka has suffered months of blackouts and dire shortages of food, fuel and medicines in its worst economic crisis since independence, sparking weeks of overwhelmingly peaceful anti-government demonstrations.

On Monday scores of Rajapaksa loyalists attacked unarmed protesters camping outside the president’s office at the sea-front Galle Face promenade in downtown Colombo since April 9, AFP reporters said.

The violence began after several thousand supporters of the prime minister, brought in buses from rural areas, poured out of his nearby official residence.

Rajapaksa had addressed some 3,000 supporters at his house and pledged he would “protect the interests of the nation.”

The supporters then initially pulled down tents of protesters in front of the prime minister’s Temple Trees residence and torched anti-government banners and placards.

They then marched to the nearby promenade and began destroying other tents set up by the “Gota go home” campaign that demands the president step down.

“We were hit, the media were hit, women and children were hit,” one witness told AFP, asking not to be named.

Police fired tear gas and water cannon and declared an immediate curfew in Colombo which was later widened to include the entire South Asian island nation of 22 million people.

Over 150 injured people were hospitalised, Colombo National Hospital spokesman Pushpa Soysa told AFP.

Officials said the army riot squad was called in to reinforce police. Soldiers have been deployed throughout the crisis to protect deliveries of fuel and other essentials but until now not to prevent clashes.

“Strongly condemn the violent acts taking place by those inciting & participating, irrespective of political allegiances. Violence won’t solve the current problems,” President Rajapaksa tweeted.

– US condemnation –
The US ambassador to Sri Lanka said Washington condemned “the violence against peaceful protestors today, and call(s) on the government to conduct a full investigation, including the arrest & prosecution of anyone who incited violence”.

“Our sympathies are with those injured today and we urge calm and restraint across the island,” Julie Chung tweeted.

MP Athukorala’s car was surrounded in the town of Nittambuwa outside Colombo as he returned home from the capital after the clashes.

“The MP fled the scene and took refuge at a nearby building,” a police official told AFP by telephone. “Thousands surrounded the building and he then took his own life with his revolver.”

Athukorala’s bodyguard was also found dead at the scene, police said.

Opposition MP Sajith Premadasa tried to move into the area after the Colombo clashes, but he came under attack from a mob and his security staff bundled him into a car and drove off.

– ‘Unity government’ –
Mahinda Rajapaksa meanwhile tendered his resignation as prime minister to the president, his brother Gotabaya.

“I am resigning with immediate effect so that you will be able to appoint an all-party government to guide the country out of the current economic crisis,” the prime minister said in the letter, seen by AFP.

The country’s largest opposition party had said before the clashes that it would not join any government helmed by a member of the Rajapaksa clan.

The resignation of the prime minister automatically means the cabinet stands dissolved.

– ‘Restraint’ –
The violence was the worst since police shot dead one protestor and wounded 24 others blockading a railway line and a highway between Colombo and the central city of Kandy on April 19.

On Friday, the government imposed a state of emergency granting the military sweeping powers to arrest and detain people after trade unions brought the country to a virtual standstill.

The defence ministry said in a statement on Sunday that anti-government demonstrators were behaving in a “provocative and threatening manner” and disrupting essential services.

President Rajapaksa has not been seen in public since tens of thousands attempted to storm his private residence in Colombo on March 31.

Sri Lanka’s crisis began after the coronavirus pandemic hammered vital income from tourism and remittances, starving the country of foreign currency needed to pay off its debt and forcing the government to ban the imports of many goods.

This in turn has led to severe shortages, runaway inflation and lengthy power blackouts.

In April, the country announced it was defaulting on its $51 billion foreign debt.

Imran Khan Ousted As Pakistan PM

Pakistani cricketer-turned-politician and then-head of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI), Imran Khan, gestures as he delivers a speech during an election campaign rally in Islamabad.  AAMIR QURESHI / AFP

 

Imran Khan was dismissed Sunday as Pakistan’s prime minister after losing a no-confidence vote in parliament following weeks of political turmoil.

A new premier will be chosen Monday, with Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N) chief Shehbaz Sharif almost certain to be picked to lead the nuclear-armed nation of 220 million people.

No prime minister has ever served a full term in Pakistan, but Khan is the first to lose office this way.

Opposition supporters took to the streets early Sunday, waving national and party flags from car windows as they raced through the streets.

There had been a massive security presence in the capital, but no incidents were reported.

Acting speaker Sardar Ayaz Sadiq said 174 lawmakers had voted in favour of the motion, “consequently the vote of no confidence has passed”.

Khan, 69, who was not present, lost his majority in the 342-seat assembly through defections by coalition partners and even members of his own party, and the opposition had needed just 172 votes to dismiss him.

He tried everything to stay in power — including dissolving parliament and calling a fresh election — but the Supreme Court deemed all his actions illegal last week and ordered the assembly to reconvene and vote.

There was drama right until the midnight deadline ordered by the Supreme Court, with the speaker of the assembly — a Khan loyalist — resigning at the last minute.

In the end, the session continued through to Sunday with a replacement.

“We will put a balm on the wounds of this nation,” Sharif said immediately after the result was announced.

 Militancy on the rise

Whoever takes over will still have to deal with the issues that bedevilled Khan: soaring inflation, a feeble rupee and crippling debt.

Militancy is also on the rise, with Pakistan’s Taliban emboldened by the return to power last year of the hardline Islamist group in neighbouring Afghanistan.

Tempers rose in the assembly when Sharif insisted a vote be held immediately — as ordered by the Supreme Court on Thursday — but Khan loyalists demanded discussion first on their leader’s claims there had been foreign interference in the process.

Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi accused the opposition of leading the country down a dangerous path.

“History will expose all those, who set the stage for this move to topple the government,” he said, to chants of “vote, vote” from the opposition.

Khan insists he has been the victim of a “regime change” conspiracy involving the United States.

He said the PML-N and the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) — two normally feuding dynastic groups who joined forces to oust him — had conspired with Washington to bring the no-confidence vote because of his opposition to US foreign policy, particularly in Muslim nations such as Iraq and Afghanistan.

He also accused the opposition of buying support in the assembly with “open horse-trading… selling of lawmakers like goats and sheep”.

How long the next government lasts is also a matter of speculation.

The opposition said previously they wanted an early election — which must be called by October next year — but taking power gives them the opportunity to set their own agenda and end a string of probes they said Khan launched vindictively against them.

Local media quoted an election commission official as saying it would take them at least seven months to prepare for a national vote.

Publicly, the military appears to be keeping out of the current fray, but there have been four coups since independence in 1947, and the country has spent more than three decades under army rule.

AFP

Libya Parliament Names Rival PM In Challenge To Unity Govt

In this file photo taken on October 6, 2021, Libya’s former interior minister Fathi Bashagha speaks during an interview with AFP in the capital Tripoli. Mahmud TURKIA / AFP

 

Libya found itself with two prime ministers Thursday after its parliament named a rival to replace the existing unity government’s chief Abdulhamid Dbeibah, threatening a new power struggle in the war-torn nation.

The House of Representatives, based in Libya’s east, “unanimously approved Fathi Bashagha to head the government,” the parliament’s spokesman Abdullah Bliheg said in a tweet.

The move threatened to deepen the struggle for control between the assembly and the Tripoli-based administration of Dbeibah, while experts warned of potential violence in the capital in western Libya.

It came hours after Libyan media carried unconfirmed reports that Dbeibah’s car was targeted by gunfire overnight, without specifying whether he was inside the vehicle at the time.

The construction tycoon, appointed a year ago as part of United Nations-led peace efforts, has vowed only to hand power to a government that emerges from a democratic vote.

His administration had a mandate to lead the country to elections last December 24, but the polls were cancelled amid bitter divisions over their legal basis and the candidacies of several controversial figures.

READ ALSO: Mali Stands Firm Against Economic Sanctions

Parliament speaker Aguila Saleh, who like Dbeibah and Bashagha had been a presidential candidate, has since spearheaded efforts to replace the unity government.

The assembly had considered seven candidates to lead the administration. But shortly before Thursday’s confirmation vote, Saleh had announced that Bashagha’s only remaining challenger, former interior ministry official Khaled al-Bibass, had withdrawn from the race.

The live television feed cut just before the vote took place.

‘Groundhog Day’ 

Experts warned that Thursday’s vote threatens a repeat of a 2014 schism which saw two parallel governments emerge.

“Libya has two prime ministers. Again. Groundhog Day,” Anas El Gomati of Libyan think tank the Sadeq Institute wrote in a tweet.

In a televised address on Tuesday, Dbeibah had vowed he would “accept no new transitional phase or parallel authority” and declared he would only hand over power to an elected government.

Bashagha and Dbeibah, both from the powerful port city of Misrata, have the support of rival armed groups in the Libyan capital and the surroundings.

“Dbeibah is refusing to step down, so there is potential for some kind of conflict in Tripoli and beyond, and it could get ugly really fast,” Amanda Kadlec, a former member of the UN Panel of Experts on Libya, told AFP.

“Bashagha and Dbeibah both have deep connections across western Libya, and the militias will move with whomever they see as having power.

“The Tripoli militias might also take a wait-and-see approach,” she added. “Alliance-hopping is part of the playbook in Libya.”

The UN, western powers and even some members of parliament have called for Dbeibah to stay in his role until elections, for which a new date has not yet been set.

Peter Millett, a former UK ambassador to Libya, said the main division now was “between the Libyan people — who want elections — and the political elite, who don’t.”

“The motivation of many MPs is to hang on to jobs and privileges rather than allow for a smooth process leading to elections,” he told AFP.

“This seems like a decision taken to deprive the people of the right to vote by delaying elections even further and causing potential instability in Tripoli.”

AFP

Sudan’s PM Resigns Amid Crackdown On Protesters 

This file photo taken on December 4, 2019, shows Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok smiling during a meeting at the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC during an official visit to the United States.  JIM WATSON / AFP

 

Sudan’s civilian Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok resigned Sunday, more than two months after a coup and following another deadly crackdown on protesters, with the military now firmly in control.

Sudan had been undergoing a fragile journey toward civilian rule since the 2019 ouster of autocrat Omar al-Bashir but was plunged into turmoil when military leader General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan launched his coup on October 25 and detained Hamdok.

Hamdok was reinstated on November 21 under a deal promising elections for mid-2023, but local media had recently reported he had been absent from his office for days, with rumours swirling over his possible resignation.

“I have tried my best to stop the country from sliding towards disaster,” Hamdok said Sunday evening, addressing the nation on state television.

Sudan “is crossing a dangerous turning point that threatens its whole survival,” he said.

Hamdok was the civilian face of the country’s fragile transition, while Burhan has been the country’s de facto leader following Bashir’s ouster.

Hamdok cited “the fragmentation of the political forces and conflicts between the (military and civilian) components of the transition” and said that “despite everything that has been done to reach a consensus… it has not happened”.

Mass protests against the coup have continued even after Hamdok was reinstated, as demonstrators have distrusted veteran general Burhan and his promise to guide the country toward full democracy.

Protesters have also charged that the deal to reinstate Hamdok simply aimed to give a cloak of legitimacy to the generals, whom they accuse of trying to continue the regime built by Bashir.

‘No To Military Rule’ 

Thousands of demonstrators on Sunday braved tear gas, a heavy troop deployment, and a telecommunications blackout to demand a civilian government.

They lambasted the coup, shouting “power to the people” and demanding the military return to the barracks, at protests near the presidential palace in the capital Khartoum and in its twin city Omdurman.

The pro-democracy Doctors’ Committee said security forces killed three protesters, including one who was shot in the chest and another who suffered a “severe head wound”.

As with previous demonstrations, which have become regular since the coup, the authorities had erected roadblocks, with shipping containers blocking Nile River bridges between the capital and outlying areas.

But thousands still came out to demonstrate “in memory of the martyrs”, with at least 57 protesters now killed since the coup, according to pro-democracy medics.

Young men on motorcycles were seen ferrying wounded protesters to hospitals as security forces blocked ambulances from reaching them.

Web monitoring group NetBlocks said mobile internet services were cut from mid-morning ahead of the protests, the first of the year. They were restored in the evening.

Activists use the internet for organising demonstrations and broadcasting live footage of the rallies.

Protests since the army’s takeover have been repeatedly broken up by security forces firing rounds of tear gas, as well as charges by police wielding batons.

 ‘Year of Resistance’ 

Sudan has a long history of military takeovers, but Burhan has insisted the armed forces’ move “was not a coup” but a push to “rectify the course of the transition”.

On Friday an official advisor warned that the demonstrations are “a waste of energy and time” which will not produce “any political solution”.

Activists have said on social media that 2022 will be “the year of the continuation of the resistance”.

They demand justice for those killed since the coup as well as the more than 250 who died during the months of mass protests that paved the way for the toppling of Bashir.

Activists have also condemned sexual attacks during December 19 protests, in which the UN said at least 13 women and girls were victims of rape or gang-rape.

The European Union and the United States issued a joint statement condemning the use of sexual violence “as a weapon to drive women away from demonstrations and silence their voices”.

On Saturday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned that Washington was “prepared to respond to those who seek to block the aspirations of the Sudanese people for a civilian-led, democratic government and who would stand in the way of accountability, justice, and peace”.

Over 14 million people, one in three Sudanese, will need humanitarian aid during the coming year, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs — the highest level for a decade.

AFP

Somalia’s President Suspends PM As Elections Spat Deepens

File photo: Mohamed Hussein Roble

 

Somalia’s President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed announced Monday that he was suspending Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble, a day after the two men sparred over long-delayed elections in the troubled Horn of Africa nation.

“The president decided to suspend Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble and stop his powers since he was linked with corruption,” the office of the president said in a statement, accusing the premier of interfering with an investigation into a land grabbing case.

Relations between the president, better known as Farmajo, and Roble have long been frosty, with the latest development raising fresh fears for Somalia’s stability as it struggles to hold elections.

On Sunday, Roble accused the president of sabotaging the electoral process, after Farmajo withdrew the prime minister’s mandate to organise the elections and called for the creation of a new committee to “correct” the shortcomings.

Roble, who has not responded to Monday’s suspension announcement, said Farmajo did not want to hold “a credible election in this country”.

In April, pro-government and opposition fighters opened fire in the streets of Mogadishu after Farmajo extended his term without holding fresh elections.

The constitutional crisis was only defused when Farmajo reversed the term extension and Roble brokered a timetable to a vote.

But in the months since, a bitter rivalry between the men derailed the election again, straining ties with Western allies long impatient for the process to finish peacefully.

Farmajo and Roble only agreed to bury the hatchet in October and issued a unified call for the glacial election process to accelerate.

Elections for the upper house have concluded in all states and voting for the lower house began in early November.

Analysts say the election impasse has distracted from Somalia’s larger problems, most notably the violent Al-Shabaab insurgency.

The Al-Qaeda allies were driven out of Mogadishu a decade ago but retain control of swathes of countryside and continue to stage deadly attacks in the capital and elsewhere.

AFP

Burkina Faso PM, Govt Resign Over Security Crisis

Burkina Faso is a landlocked country in West Africa that covers an area of around 274,200 square kilometres and is bordered by Mali to the northwest, Niger to the northeast, Benin to the southeast, Togo and Ghana to the south, and the Ivory Coast to the southwest.
Burkina Faso is a landlocked country in West Africa that covers an area of around 274,200 square kilometres and is bordered by Mali to the northwest, Niger to the northeast, Benin to the southeast, Togo and Ghana to the south, and the Ivory Coast to the southwest.

 

 

Burkina Faso’s premier and government resigned Wednesday as protests mounted against officials’ inability to combat a wave of jihadist attacks that have killed thousands.

President Roch Marc Christian Kabore, who had already changed his military leadership over the security crisis, accepted Prime Minister Christophe Joseph Marie Dabire’s resignation, according to a presidential decree.

The resignation of a prime minister requires the resignation of the entire government, according to Burkina Faso law.

After his resignation, Dabire called on citizens to “support the president… and the new executive that will be put in place” in a post on his Facebook page.

“I remain convinced that it is through unity of action that we will be able to meet the challenges our country and our people are facing,” he said.

However the outgoing administration will be required to remain in a caretaker capacity until a new one is formed, government secretary-general Stephane Wenceslas Sanou said, reading out the decree on public television.

Kabore first appointed Dabire in early 2019 as part of a reshuffle coinciding with a rising wave of jihadist attacks in the impoverished country.

He was reappointed in January 2021, after the president was re-elected for his second and last term.

Dabire was previously Burkina Faso’s representative at the eight-nation West African Economic and Monetary Union (UEMOA) and in the 1990s served as minister to former president Blaise Compaore, partly at a time when Kabore himself was premier.

Dabire’s portfolios were for health, followed by secondary and higher education, and then scientific research.

READ ALSO: Ethiopia Government Claims Recapture Of Key Towns

Spiral of Violence 

Jihadist attacks have grown increasingly regular and deadly in Burkina Faso since 2015, killing 2,000 people and displacing 1.4 million from their homes.

Groups linked to Al-Qaeda and the so-called Islamic State group have plagued the landlocked Sahel nation since 2015.

Burkina Faso is one of the world’s poorest countries and its armed forces are ill-equipped to tackle highly mobile jihadists.

Attacks targeting civilians and soldiers are increasingly frequent, and the vast majority take place in the north and east, spilling in from neighbouring Mali.

In mid-November, at least 57 people, 53 of them gendarmes, were killed in an attack on a police post in the country’s north.

Anger at the mounting toll has spilt out into the political arena.

The premier’s resignation comes after the president last month stressed the need for a “stronger” cabinet on the eve of anti-government protests over the jihadist violence.

A week later, he pledged to root out corruption from the country.

In late November, around 10 people were hurt when the security forces using teargas dispersed a rally in the capital Ouagadougou protesting at Kabore’s security policies.

Kabore was elected in November 2015, a year after Compaore, in power since 1987, was ousted from power for wanting to modify the constitution to extend his rule.

But the new president was confronted as soon as he took office with a gradual deterioration of the security situation, which he has so far been unable to control.

AFP

Andersson Elected Swedish PM For Second Time After Her Resignation

In this file photo taken on November 04, 2021, Sweden’s Minister of Finance Magdalena Andersson delivers a speech after being elected to party chairman of the Social Democratic Party at the Social Democratic Party Congress in Gothenburg. Adam IHSE / TT News Agency / AFP

 

Sweden’s parliament on Monday elected Magdalena Andersson as the country’s prime minister, the first woman to hold the post, five days after her first bid lasted only hours.

Despite being a nation that has long championed gender equality, Sweden has never before had a woman as prime minister.

Last week Andersson was elected by parliament but she had to resign just hours later — before she even had a chance to formally take office — after the Green Party quit her coalition government.

The 54-year-old, who is the outgoing finance minister, will now head a minority government made up solely of the Social Democrats, with 10 months to go before the September general elections.

She is due to formally take over the post on Tuesday, succeeding outgoing Prime Minister Stefan Lofven after his seven years in power.

A total of 101 members of parliament voted for Andersson, while 75 abstained and 173 voted against.

Under Sweden’s system, a prime ministerial candidate does not need the support of a majority in parliament, they just need to avoid a majority voting against them.

Andersson now faces a challenging period in the run-up to the election.

Her weak minority means she will have to seek support for her policies on both the left and the right.

She will also have to govern with a budget presented by the opposition conservative Moderates, Christian Democrats and far-right Sweden Democrats after her budget failed to pass through parliament last week.

The four opposition parties on the centre and right are united on most issues and control 174 seats in parliament, while the four parties on the left and centre, which hold 175 seats, are more splintered.

Observers predict the election will be a close race, with crime and immigration topping voters’ concerns.

AFP

Sweden Gets First Woman Prime Minister 

In this file photo taken on November 04, 2021, Sweden’s Minister of Finance Magdalena Andersson delivers a speech after being elected to party chairman of the Social Democratic Party at the Social Democratic Party Congress in Gothenburg.  Adam IHSE / TT News Agency / AFP

 

Sweden’s parliament on Wednesday elected Social Democratic party leader and current Finance Minister Magdalena Andersson as the country’s first woman prime minister after she clinched a last-minute deal securing key support.

Andersson will succeed outgoing Prime Minister Stefan Lofven after a total of 117 members of parliament voted for her, while 57 abstained, 174 voted against and one was absent.

Under Sweden’s system, a prime ministerial candidate does not need the support of a majority in parliament, they just need to not have a majority — or 175 votes — against them.

The 54-year-old, who took over as leader of the Social Democrats earlier this month, reached a deal with the Left Party late on Tuesday to raise pensions in exchange for its backing in Wednesday’s vote.

She had previously received the support of the Social Democrats’ coalition partner the Greens, as well as the Centre Party.

However, Andersson faced her first setback even before her election on Wednesday.

The Centre Party announced that while it would not oppose Andersson in the vote for prime minister, it would withdraw its support for the government’s budget to be voted on later Wednesday, due to the concessions made to the Left.

That means Andersson will in all likelihood have to govern with a budget presented by the opposition conservative Moderates, Christian Democrats and far-right Sweden Democrats.

Andersson will formally take over her functions and present her government on Friday.

Stefan Lofven resigned on November 10 after seven years as prime minister in a widely expected move aimed at giving his successor time to prepare for the country’s September 2022 general election.

Despite being a nation that has long championed gender equality, Sweden has never had a woman as prime minister.

All other Nordic countries — Norway, Denmark, Finland, and Iceland — have seen women lead their governments.

AFP

Biden Condemns ‘Terrorist Attack’ On Iraqi PM

File photo of US President Joe Biden. Credit: AFP

 

US President Joe Biden on Sunday condemned the attack that targeted Iraq’s Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhemi and said his administration would help Iraqi security forces identify those responsible.

“I strongly condemn the terrorist attack targeting the residence of Iraqi Prime Minister al-Kadhemi,” Biden said in a statement.

“I am relieved the Prime Minister was not injured and commend the leadership he has shown in calling for calm, restraint, and dialogue to protect the institutions of the state and strengthen the democracy Iraqis so richly deserve.”

READ ALSO: Brazil Bids Shocked Goodbye To Country Star Mendonca

Kadhemi escaped unhurt when an explosives-packed drone struck his Baghdad residence early Sunday. But the attack marked a substantial escalation in the country’s post-election turmoil.

The prime minister’s office described the attack as a “failed assassination attempt,” while Iraqi President Barham Salih called the strike, which was not immediately claimed by any group, an attempted “coup against the constitutional system.”

Biden said that “the perpetrators of this terrorist attack on the Iraqi state must be held accountable,” as he condemned “in the strongest terms those using violence to undermine Iraq’s democratic process.”

The US leader said he instructed his national security team “to offer all appropriate assistance to Iraq’s security forces as they investigate this attack and identify those responsible.”

Poland Boosts Belarus Border Force To 10,000 Soldiers

(FILES) In this file photo taken on October 19, 2021 Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki delivers a speech during a debate on The Rule of law crisis in Poland and the primacy of EU law at the European Parliament in Strasbourg. (Photo by RONALD WITTEK / POOL / AFP)

 

Poland will increase to 10,000 the number of soldiers deployed to help border guards stop migrant crossings from Belarus, Defence Minister Mariusz Blaszczak said on Monday.

The announcement follows a series of incidents along the border in which large groups of migrants have tried to tear down a razor wire fence recently put up by Polish forces.

“We are increasing the number of soldiers to help the border guard service by 2,500. Soon, about 10,000 soldiers will be guarding the security of the border,” he said on Twitter.

Thousands of migrants — mostly from the Middle East — have crossed or tried to cross from Belarus since the summer.

The EU believes the Belarusian regime is deliberately sending the migrants over in retaliation against EU sanctions.

Several migrants have died trying to cross and border guards have reported several incidents, including two over the weekend.

Two soldiers had to be treated in hospital on Sunday after a group of around 60 migrants tried to force their way into Poland, throwing sticks and stones at security forces.

A similar incident involving 70 migrants occurred on Saturday.

Poland has also imposed a state of emergency along the border since September which means that journalists and charity workers are banned from the immediate border area.

Armed Forces Detain PM, Other Leaders In Sudan ‘Coup’

In this file photo taken on October 18, 2021 Sudan’s Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok chairs an emergency cabinet session in the capital Khartoum. AFP

 

Armed forces detained Sudan’s prime minister over his refusal to support their “coup” on Monday, the information ministry said, after weeks of tensions between military and civilian figures who shared power since the ouster of autocrat Omar al-Bashir.

Civilian members of Sudan’s ruling council and ministers in Hamdok’s transitional government were also detained by the joint military forces, the ministry said in a statement on Facebook.

Internet services were cut across the country and the main roads and bridges connecting with the capital Khartoum shuttered, it added.

Dozens of demonstrators set car tyres on fire as they gathered on the streets of the capital to protest against the detentions, an AFP correspondent said.

“Civilian members of the transitional sovereign council and a number of ministers from the transitional government have been detained by joint military forces,” the information ministry said.

“They have been led to an unidentified location,” it said.

It added later that “after refusing to support the coup, an army force detained Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok and took him to an unidentified location”.

US Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa Jeffrey Feltman said “the US is deeply alarmed at reports of a military takeover of the transitional government”.

“This would contravene the Constitutional Declaration (which outlines the transition) and the democratic aspirations of the Sudanese people,” Feltman said in a statement on Twitter.

“Any changes to the transitional government by force puts at risk US assistance.”

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 ‘Military Coup’ 

In this file photo taken on June 22, 2019, Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, known as Himediti, deputy head of Sudan’s ruling Transitional Military Council (TMC) and commander of the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) paramilitaries, attends a rally in the village of Abraq, about 60 kilometers northwest of Khartoum.  Yasuyoshi CHIBA / AFP

 

State television began broadcasting patriotic songs.

The Sudanese Professionals Association, an umbrella group of trade unions which were key in leading the 2019 anti-Bashir protests, denounced what it called a “military coup” and urged demonstrators “to fiercely resist” it.

The developments come just two days after a Sudanese faction calling for a transfer of power to civilian rule warned of a “creeping coup”, at a news conference that an unidentified mob attacked had sought to prevent.

Sudan has been undergoing a precarious transition marred by political divisions and power struggles since the April 2019 ouster of Bashir.

Since August 2019, the country has been led by a civilian-military administration tasked with overseeing the transition to full civilian rule.

But the main civilian bloc — the Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC) — which led the anti-Bashir protests in 2019, has splintered into two opposing factions.

“The crisis at hand is engineered — and is in the shape of a creeping coup,” mainstream FFC leader Yasser Arman told Saturday’s press conference in Khartoum.

“We renew our confidence in the government, Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, and reforming transitional institutions — but without dictations or imposition,” Arman added.

Sudan’s doctors’ union has declared “civil disobedience” and “their withdrawal” from all hospitals, including military ones.

Protesters took to the streets in several parts of Khartoum carrying the Sudanese flags.

“Civilian rule is the people’s choice,” and “No to military rule”, some of them chanted.

“We will not accept military rule and we are ready to give our lives for the democratic transition in Sudan,” said demonstrator Haitham Mohamed.

“We will not leave the streets until the civilian government is back and the transition is back,” said Sawsan Bashir, another protester.

Rival Protests 

In this file photo taken on October 21, 2021 a Sudanese demonstrator raises a picture bearing a crossed out face of Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, during a rally in front the presidential palace in the capital Khartoum, demanding a return to military rule. AFP

 

Tensions between the two sides have long simmered, but divisions ratcheted up after a failed coup on September 21 this year.

Last week tens of thousands of Sudanese marched in several cities to back the full transfer of power to civilians, and to counter a rival days-long sit-in outside the presidential palace in Khartoum demanding a return to “military rule”.

Hamdok has previously described the splits in the transitional government as the “worst and most dangerous crisis” facing the transition.

On Saturday, Hamdok denied rumours he had agreed to a cabinet reshuffle, calling them “not accurate”.

The premier also “emphasised that he does not monopolise the right to decide the fate of transitional institutions.”

Also on Saturday, Feltman met jointly with Hamdok, the chairman of Sudan’s ruling body General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, and paramilitary commander Mohamed Hamdan Daglo.

“Feltman emphasised US support for a civilian democratic transition in accordance with the expressed wishes of Sudan’s people,” the US embassy in Khartoum said at the time.

Analysts have said the recent mass protests showed strong support for a civilian-led democracy, but warned street demonstrations may have little impact on the powerful factions pushing a return to military rule.

AFP