Guinea Bissau Names New PM In Pre-Election Crisis

 

Guinea Bissau’s president named a new prime minister Tuesday after sacking the previous government in a bid to tackle a deadly political crisis less than a month before an election.

President Jose Mario Vaz tried to put an end to months of confrontation between him and the government by firing the whole cabinet on Monday.

On Tuesday he appointed former premier Faustino Imbali, 63, as the new prime minister in a decree.

Imbali is tasked with forming a new government to steer the west African country towards elections scheduled on November 24.

Opposition supporters have been protesting over recent months for the election to be delayed, complaining of a risk of voting fraud.

A clash between police and opposition demonstrators on Monday left one protester dead.

Vaz, 61, has governed since 2014 in Guinea Bissau, a state stricken by poverty, corruption and drug trafficking.

Home to fewer than two million people, it has seen a series of coups and governments following independence from Portugal in 1974, as well as an 11-year civil war.

Vaz’s five-year mandate ended on June 23 but he is staying on temporarily under a mediation plan forged by the 15-nation Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).

He intends to stand again as an independent candidate.

AFP

Lebanese PM’s Resignation Makes Crisis ‘Even More Serious’ – France

Lebanese security forces keep watch following confrontations between demonstrators and counter-protesters in the centre of the capital Beirut during the 13th day of anti-government protests on October 29, 2019.  Anwar AMRO / AFP

 

The resignation of Lebanon’s government in response to nearly two weeks of countrywide protests has made the crisis there “even more serious,” France’s foreign minister said Tuesday.

“Prime Minister (Saad) Hariri has just resigned, which makes the crisis even more serious,” Jean-Yves Le Drian told parliament in Paris, and urged the authorities in Lebanon “to do everything they can to guarantee the stability of the institutions and the unity of Lebanon.”

Hariri earlier announced he was submitting the resignation of his government, bowing to rising public pressure. His televised statement was met with cheers from crowds of protesters demanding change.

Le Drian said a condition for stability in any country “is a willingness to listen to the voice and demands of the population”.

“Lebanon needs a commitment from all political leaders to look within themselves and make sure there is a strong response to the population,” said the minister, offering France’s help.

A nationwide protest movement has gripped Lebanon for almost two weeks, calling for an overhaul of a political class viewed as incompetent and corrupt.

AFP

Obama Asks Canadians To Back Trudeau For Another Term

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau delivers his opening statement for the 10th Lima Group in Ottawa, Ontario, on February 4, 2019. Lars Hagberg / AFP

 

Former US president Barack Obama on Wednesday urged Canadian voters to back Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for another term, calling him an “effective leader.”

“I was proud to work with Justin Trudeau as President. He’s a hard-working, effective leader who takes on big issues like climate change,” Obama said in a tweet.

“The world needs his progressive leadership now, and I hope our neighbors to the north support him for another term.”

Trudeau, who is running neck-and-neck with Conservative leader Andrew Scheer ahead of the October 21 ballot, tweeted back: “Thanks my friend, we’re working hard to keep our progress going.”

His Liberal Party also promoted the endorsement on social media.

The pair first met as leaders of their respective countries at an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in November 2015, one month after the Canadian won his first general election.

Four months later, Trudeau became the first Canadian leader in 20 years to make an official pomp-filled visit to the White House.

The warmth of the encounter triggered a flood of online jokes and tongue-in-cheek reports of a budding “bromance” between the two men.

Obama saluted Trudeau as his political and generational kin, even though the American is 10 years older. Both champion the importance of issues like health care, gay rights and climate change.

“He campaigned on a message of hope and of change,” Obama once said. “From my perspective, what’s not to like.”

They last met for a beer reportedly in May when Obama was in Ottawa to deliver a speech.

Their relationship stands in stark contrast to Trudeau’s troubled ties with current US President Donald Trump.

AFP

Britain Will Leave EU By Oct 31 ‘Come What May’- PM

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson

Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Wednesday urged the EU to compromise as he prepared to submit a new Brexit plan but warned Britain was ready to leave without a deal on October 31, “come what may”.

Johnson said an alternative to a “compromise for both sides” — which included no customs checks “at or near” the Northern Irish border — was for Britain to leave without a deal, “an outcome for which we are ready”.

Boris Johnson Caught Lying On Hospital Visit

Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson gestures as he speaks  inside 10 Downing Street in Central London on September 18, 2019. John NGUYEN / POOL / AFP

 

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said he was not embarrassed after being filmed lying to the father of a sick child angrily confronting him during a hospital visit on Wednesday.

Johnson was stopped by the dad, whose daughter was being treated at the London facility, to hear complaints about cuts to health funding and criticism that he was using the visit as a “press opportunity”.

The British leader could then be heard telling the father that “there’s no press here” — despite media standing nearby filming the incident.

“What do you mean there’s no press here — who are these people?” the man responded irately, gesturing towards the cameras, as the befuddled British leader struggled to respond.

Clips of the footage posted to social media immediately provoked a storm, with many commentators pointing out Johnson had clearly lied during the interaction.

Backers of the prime minister noted the father, who was revealed as Omar Salem, was an activist for the main opposition Labour Party.

Johnson took to Twitter late on Wednesday to address the incident — without commenting on the falsehood he had told.

“I’m glad this gentleman told me his problems,” he stated. “This isn’t an embarrassment this is part of my job.

“It doesn’t matter if they agree with me.”

The uncomfortable confrontation for Johnson came on the same day Britain’s Supreme Court heard accusations he is the “father of lies” over his decision to suspend the parliament.

Aidan O’Neill, a lawyer representing around 75 parliamentarians challenging the move, argued Johnson’s advice to Queen Elizabeth II to shut down the legislature in the run-up to Brexit was unlawful.

“The mother of parliaments is being shut down by the father of lies,” he told the court on the second of three days of hearings on the case.

AFP

Thai PM Under Fire For Omitting Oath During Inauguration

Thailand’s Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O-Cha speaks during a meeting in Bangkok on September 9, 2019. Lillian SUWANRUMPHA / AFP

 

Thai opposition MPs demanded Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O-Cha resign following weeks of uproar over the ex-junta head’s omission of a vow to uphold the constitution during his inauguration, raising questions of his legitimacy.

The mastermind of a 2014 coup, Prayut headed the junta regime for five years before a disputed March election tilted to the military formally ushered him in as a civilian premier.

But the new government has struggled to maintain a foothold as it is dogged by scandals — from a cabinet member being accused of serving time in jail for drug-dealing in Australia to Thais angered by a slow response to floods in the rice bowl northeast.

Questions over his administration’s legitimacy have also been raised after it was revealed Prayut and his cabinet had pledged loyalty to the king but failed to recite allegiance to the constitution when he was sworn in as civilian premier in July.

The Constitutional Court last week had declined to deliberate on his omission.

But in parliament Wednesday, opposition lawmakers called for his resignation, saying the incomplete oath showed his “ignorance of the constitution”, and questioned whether he can be trusted to uphold the rule of law.

It has “destroyed public confidence as well as his credibility”, Piyabutr Saengkanokkul, secretary general of the youth-driven Future Forward Party, said.

“Prayut’s incomplete oath-taking makes the public doubt whether he will uphold and comply with the constitution,” he said.

The omission could also mean that the ex-junta chief “may have thought of staging another coup”, said Thai Liberal Party leader Sereepisuth Temeeyaves.

Prayut was present for part of the parliament session, held only for one day without a vote before MPs go for recess on Thursday.

Speaking briefly after listening to MPs hammer him for several hours, Prayut proclaimed “respect for all the principles in the constitution”.

Coups and street protests have plagued Thailand’s politics for almost two decades, with the putsch-happy army pressing the reset button on previous administrations.

But political divisions remain deep as Thais in the latest March election have shown a weariness towards a conservative arch-royalist elite, choosing instead to vote in MPs vowing to remove the military from politics.

AFP

Scottish Court Rules PM’s Suspension Of Parliament ‘Unlawful’

 

Scotland’s appeal court on Wednesday declared British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s decision to suspend parliament “unlawful”, in a case brought by lawmakers and set to be appealed by the government.

The decision overturns a previous Scottish ruling which had paved the way for Johnson to prorogue parliament on Tuesday until October 14 — just a few weeks before Britain is due to leave the European Union.

However, the government immediately said it would appeal the decision to the supreme court in London.

A lawyer involved in bringing the case in Scotland suggested it may be heard as soon as next Tuesday.

READ ALSO: UK Govt To Appeal Court Ruling On ‘Unlawful’ Parliament Suspension

Judges in the Inner House, the supreme civil court in Scotland, ruled that Johnson’s advice to the queen to prorogue parliament “was unlawful because it had the purpose of stymying parliament”, according to a summary.

The case had been brought by 78 British lawmakers, who accuse Johnson of trying to silence critics of his plan to leave the EU next month without a deal with Brussels.

A government spokesman: “We are disappointed by today’s decision, and will appeal to the UK Supreme Court.

“The UK government needs to bring forward a strong domestic legislative agenda. Proroguing parliament is the legal and necessary way of delivering this.”

It noted that a separate case brought at the high court in London last week against prorogation had failed.

A lawyer involved in the Scottish case against the government, Jolyon Maugham, tweeted that it would be considered in Britain’s Supreme Court starting on Tuesday.

The court could not be reached for immediate comment.

Suspending parliament to start a new legislative session is normally a routine event that takes place most years.

But Johnson’s decision is controversial because it would leave parliament without a voice for five weeks in the run-up to Brexit, with the divorce terms still in doubt

Despite New Law, UK Will Not Ask For Brexit Delay – PM

Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson
Ben STANSALL / AFP

 

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson insisted Monday he would not request a delay to Brexit beyond October 31 despite MPs approving a new law that could force him to do so.

“I will not ask for another delay,” he told parliament, adding that if MPs voted on Monday against holding an early general election then he would prepare for Britain’s departure from the EU “hopefully with a deal but without one if necessary”.

Italy PM Conte Launches New Government

Italy’s Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio (L) shaking hand with Italy’s President Sergio Mattarella as Italy’s Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte (R) looks on after signing an oath of office during a swearing-in ceremony of Italy’s new Cabinet at the Quirinale presidential palace in Rome. AFP

 

President Sergio Mattarella on Thursday swore in Italy’s new pro-European government, heralding a fresh start for the eurozone’s third largest economy as the far-right falls from power.

Brussels warmly welcomed the coalition between the anti-establishment Five Star Movement (M5S) and centre-left Democratic Party (PD), which is expected to markedly improve rocky relations between Europe and Rome.

“We’re ready to give our utmost for the country,” M5S head Luigi Di Maio, the new foreign minister, said.

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte’s government still faces votes in parliament on Monday and Tuesday.

First on the cabinet’s to-do list is the 2020 budget, which has to be submitted to parliament by the end of September, and then to Brussels by October 15.

READ ALSO: I Will Rather Die Than Delay Brexit, Says Boris Johnson

The pick of the PD’s Brussels-savvy Roberto Gualtieri as finance minister was hailed as “extremely positive, especially for the relationship with the EU” by Lorenzo Codogno, former chief economist at the Italian Treasury Department.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker congratulated Conte and said Italy’s new political era came at “an important moment for our Union”, adding that he was sure Rome would play a “front-line” role on key issues.

Italy has put forward former centre-left premier Paolo Gentiloni as its candidate for the incoming European Commission.

PD chief Nicola Zingaretti said it was an “excellent choice for Italy, which returns to playing a leading role in Europe”.

The previous coalition between the M5S and far-right Matteo Salvini’s anti-immigrant League had fought bitterly with Brussels over its big-spend budget and critics had bemoaned Rome’s sidelining in the EU halls of power.

The markets welcomed the new cabinet, with Milan’s FTSE Mib stock market up 0.5 percent after the swearing-in ceremony.

US ratings agency Fitch warned however that Italy would quickly need to provide “clarity on important choices of fiscal and economic policy”.

‘Anti-Salvini’ 

The new cabinet is the youngest ever in Italy’s post-war history — the average age being 47 — and has more ministers from the country’s disadvantaged south than the wealthy north.

Of the 21 ministers, nine hail from the PD, 10 from the M5S, one from the small left-wing Free and Equals party, and one has no affiliation with any political party — the new interior minister.

Political watchers have warned the tie-up between the Movement and PD — bitter foes until just weeks ago — is fragile.

“We are very aware that the forces that make up this government have harshly opposed each other over the years,” PD heavyweight and new culture minister Dario Franceschini said.

“The path ahead is difficult, but… we’ve agreed with Di Maio that this will not be a government of strife”.

New interior minister Luciana Lamorgese, a former Milan security chief, takes over from firebrand Salvini — the social media populist who pulled the League from the previous coalition last month, collapsing the government.

Salvini had hoped to send Italy straight to the polls to take advantage of his soaring popularity figures.

On Thursday he predicted the new government “won’t last long”.

“We’ll oppose it in parliament, in the town halls, in the town squares, and then finally we’ll vote, and we’ll win,” he said.

Posting a picture of a crucifix, he insisted he was the man to protect Italy’s “values, culture, identity, freedom”.

Arcigay, Italy’s biggest LGBT association, hailed the return of the equal opportunities minister post in the cabinet — absent in the last government — saying it was urgent to “combat hatred” fomented by the right during its 14-months in power.

Salvini was reported to have refused to be in place at the interior ministry to hand over the keys to his successor.

Lamorgese “is the anti-Salvini,” said the Repubblica daily.

“She has no social networks. She won’t ever be seen doing live Facebook videos from the rooftop of the interior ministry.”

Lamorgese will however be tasked with handling Italy’s divisive immigration issue, a subject that won Salvini votes as he cracked down on charity ships rescuing people attempting the perilous Mediterranean crossing from Africa to Europe.

AFP

Italy’s PM Conte Resigns, Heads Caretaker Govt

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte (C), flanked by Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister Matteo Salvini (L) and by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economic Development, Labour and Social Policies, Luigi Di Maio (R), delivers a speech at the Italian Senate, in Rome, on August 20, 2019, as the country faces a political crisis. Andreas SOLARO / AFP

 

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte on Tuesday tendered his resignation as promised to President Sergio Mattarella, who asked him to stay on at the head of a caretaker government pending consultations, officials said.

Conte earlier announced that he would resign as premier, after launching a scathing attack on far-right Interior Minister Matteo Salvini for “irresponsibly” trying to bring the government down.

AFP

 

Italy’s PM Conte To Resign Amid Coalition Row

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte delivers a speech at the Italian Senate, in Rome, on August 20, 2019, as the country faces a political crisis.  Andreas SOLARO / AFP

 

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said Tuesday he will tender his resignation at the end of a Senate debate on his government prompted by far-right leader Matteo Salvini.

“I’m ending this government experience here… I will go to the president of the republic (Sergio Mattarella) to inform him of my resignation”, after a Senate debate, Conte said after an almost hour-long speech to the chamber.

“It is irresponsible to initiate a government crisis,” Conte said after Salvini began his efforts to bring down the government in the hope of snap elections he hoped would make him premier.

“It shows personal and party interests,” Conte said of the end of the alliance between the anti-migrant League and the anti-establishment Five Star Movement.

Conte was speaking following a week of the fallout from Salvini’s decision to back out of the alliance on August 8, plunging the eurozone’s third-largest economy into political turmoil.

Afer Conte announced his intention to resign, Salvini hit back saying: “Thank you, finally, I would do it all again.”

Salvini “violated the solemn promise he took when the government began that if there were differences they should be discussed in good faith and with loyal collaboration,” Conte said as League senators booed and hissed.

“Making citizens vote is the essence of democracy, asking them to vote every year is irresponsible,” Conte added.

“I heard you calling for ‘full powers’ and invoke (demonstrations in) the piazzas to support you, which worries me,” Conte said.

Italian dictator Benito Mussolini in 1922 assumed so-called full powers to govern the country at his whim.

“We don’t need full powers but leaders who have a sense of institutions,” Conte said.

A small group of protesters heckled League senators as they arrived at the Senate.

“Get out, buffoons, get out mafia,” the protesters shouted, prompting a League senator to wave his middle finger at them.

Other protesters held banners reading “I’m with Salvini”.

The likely end of the 14-month-old government would open the way for Mattarella to begin consultations with political parties, with a range of options available.

A snap election, the forming of a new coalition without holding a new vote and, although unlikely, the continuation of the current government, would all be considered.

Ahead of the premier’s speech, protesters unfurled a banner near parliament that read: “Conte, Italy loves you”.

But Salvini told Radio 24 that the other parties feared new elections: “What is the point of a government with everyone ‘against Salvini’? A government must be strong to be able to act.”

 Debt-laden economy 

The political crisis has raised concerns about the Italian economy, whose debt ratio at 132 per cent of gross domestic product is the second-biggest in the eurozone after Greece.

Since the unwieldy government was formed in June 2018, uncertainty under the coalition has cost the country an extra five billion euros ($5.54 billion) in interest on its debt, the Il Sole 24 Ore financial newspaper reported.

Salvini’s plan for a snap election — more than three years early — had envisioned a vote in October followed by him being crowned as prime minister.

According to opinion polls, the League could form a coalition with the anti-immigration, anti-LGBT Brothers of Italy, and possibly Silvio Berlusconi’s centre-right Forza Italia.

But a bid by his rivals to put aside their differences and forge an alliance could derail Salvini’s plan, with a coalition between M5S and the opposition centre-left Democratic Party (PD) being discussed.

While there is bad blood between the two parties, M5S is languishing in the polls and wants to avoid an early election.

A PD-M5S coalition could lead to the opposite of what Salvini intended — with him out of government altogether instead of being its sole leader.

 ‘Untrustworthy traitor’ 

According to some analysts, Conte could also stay on as premier while trying to form an alliance with PD.

M5S leader Luigi Di Maio sent an open letter on Tuesday calling for Conte to take this option, describing him as a “rare pearl, a servant of the nation that Italy cannot lose”.

Caught on the back foot, Salvini has sought to re-establish some coalition ties and said he would be willing to back an M5S proposal to cut the number of lawmakers from 950 to 605, but only if new elections were then swiftly held.

Salvini has been furious at the idea of being squeezed out by an M5S-PD alliance, saying he would get his supporters to “peacefully take to the streets” if it came about.

Salvini has also softened his tone regarding the premier, saying: “Conte remains my prime minister and my phone is always on.”

But M5S founder, the comedian Beppe Grillo, has rejected talk of reconciliation with Salvini, whom he reportedly described as an “untrustworthy traitor”.

 

AFP

New British PM Johnson Promises Brexit On October 31

New Conservative Party leader and prime minister Boris Johnson gives a speech at an event to announce the winner of the Conservative Party leadership contest in central London on July 23, 2019. /AFP

 

Boris Johnson took over as Britain’s prime minister Wednesday, promising to pull his country out of the European Union on October 31 by any means necessary.

A day after winning the leadership of his Conservative party, the former London mayor and figurehead of the 2016 Brexit campaign formally replaced Theresa May.

His ascent is the culmination of a lifelong ambition for the blond-haired politician, who delights in playing the clown but now faces an immense challenge ahead.

Johnson has promised to deliver Brexit in three months’ time but faces opposition in Brussels and has only a wafer-thin majority in the British parliament.

READ ALSO: Theresa May Resigns As British PM

Beloved by many for his refusal to take life too seriously, he is accused by others of divisive rhetoric, a flexible approach to the truth and incompetence.

Before he even took office, several pro-European ministers quit in protest at his threat to leave the EU without a divorce agreement to ease the split.

Opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn challenged Johnson to call a snap general election, saying he has no mandate from the public to govern.

Although he won a landslide of Conservative party members, a YouGov survey Wednesday found Johnson’s approval rating was just 31 percent among the public.

Even his appointment was disrupted by climate protesters, who briefly stopped his convoy heading to Buckingham Palace to be nominated by Queen Elizabeth II.

 Brexit challenge 

Johnson is expected to swiftly announce his new cabinet, and his first appointment proved predictably contentious.

He named as a top adviser Dominic Cummings, a combative character who helped lead the victorious “Vote Leave” campaign during the 2016 EU referendum.

May resigned after failing to get her plan for leaving the EU through parliament, forcing her to twice delay Britain’s departure date.

Johnson has vowed to renegotiate her deal or take Britain out of the bloc at the next deadline, October 31, without any agreement with Brussels.

But the EU refuses to reopen the text, while some of his own MPs have said they might even bring down the government rather than accept a damaging “no-deal” exit.

May took over three years ago promising to deal with the “burning injustices” in society but leaves behind a divided party, country and Brexit in doubt.

In a short speech in Downing Street, before tendering her resignation to the queen at the palace, she wished Johnson “every good fortune”.

A heckler shouted “Stop Brexit” as she stood with her husband Philip by her side, to which she retorted: “I think not.”

But she emphasised that Brexit should be done “in a way that works for the whole United Kingdom”, amid fears a disorderly divorce could cause irreparable damage to ties between England, Northern Ireland and Scotland.

During his victory speech on Tuesday, Johnson urged Britain to “ping off the guy-ropes of self-doubt and negativity” and vowed to unite the country.

A source in his campaign team said he would build a diverse cabinet with more women and a record number of ethnic minority politicians.

Sajid Javid, the son of a Pakistani immigrant and currently May’s interior minister, has been widely tipped to take over as finance minister.

 ‘Britain Trump’ 

Brexit aside, the most immediate problem facing Johnson is a stand-off with Iran after Tehran seized a UK-flagged tanker in the Gulf last week.

The current foreign secretary, Jeremy Hunt, was Johnson’s rival for the leadership and is not expected to keep his job, although he may stay in cabinet.

May’s government also provoked the ire of US President Donald Trump this month with the leak of diplomatic cables criticising the White House.

Johnson has emphasised the importance of Britain’s relations with the United States.

And Trump was one of the first to congratulate Johnson on his victory saying he would be “great” and describing him as “Britain Trump”.

Trump suggested Johnson would work together well with anti-EU figurehead Nigel Farage, whose Brexit Party has taken a big chunk of eurosceptic votes from the Conservatives.

Johnson has ruled out any electoral pact.

AFP