PDP, NNPP, APC Knock Anap Poll Which Gave Obi Lead In Presidential Race 

The parties say the poll is flawed.

 

 

Major political parties have kicked against the NOI poll which gave the presidential candidate of the Labour Party (LP) Peter Obi the lead in next year’s election.

The NOI poll, commissioned by the Anap Foundation and released on Thursday, showed that the former Anambra governor is leading the race with 21 percent of the votes.

It described the presidential contest as a three-horse race and gave Obi an eight percent lead over the All Progressives Congress (APC)’s candidate Bola Tinubu and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)’s Atiku Abubakar who each got 13 percent of the votes to end up as joint second in the poll. The presidential candidate of the Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP) Rabiu Kwankwaso was fourth with three percent of the votes.

READ ALSO2023 Presidential Election A Three-Horse Race With Obi Leading — Anap Poll

Bots, Not Humans

The PDP emblem.

 

But the APC, PDP, and NNPP have in separate reactions to the poll, dismissed it, saying it does not reflect the realities on the ground.

During his appearance on Channels Television’s Politics Today on Thursday, the spokesperson of the Atiku Abubakar presidential campaign Daniel Bwala, questioned the techniques deployed for the exercise, claiming Obi is basking in the euphoria of hallucination.

Bwala argued that a “normal poll that will attract credibility will be a poll that will clearly release the sample size and the margin of error as the report is being released because the sample size and the margin of error will help in identifying whether the polling was actually carried out correctly or not.

“Then, you can further ask for the sampling. Was it done through a phone call? If it was done through a phone call, then the people who did not have phones were probably not part of the polling.

“You also go to the extent of demographics and the place where the polling was carried out. I know they said it was a random sampling. But then, because of the result, I’m tempted to believe that this polling was carried out online because Peter Obi has a number of people who are very active for him online much more than the other candidates.

“I will tell you why: There was an algorithm search and data analytics that was carried out that came up with the finding that 57.5 percent of people who follow Peter Obi and engage with him on social media do not live in Nigeria. In fact, majority of whom are bots on Twitter — they are not real human beings.”

He said: “If you take away 57.5 percent of people who are active for him, who probably live abroad and they don’t have voter cards and they are likely not to come to vote, what it means is that Peter Obi is basking in the euphoria of hallucination, and this polling is a true reflection.”

‘Biased Polling’ 

Senator Kashim Shettima was officially presented as the APC vice-presidential candidate in Abuja on July 20, 2022.

 

For the APC, the most recent Anap poll is not a reflection of the Nigerian reality as it accused the organisers of using “dubious” statistics to “package” Obi to voters.

The statement by the Director, Media, and Publicity of the APC Presidential Campaign Council Bayo Onanuga accused the NOI of turning its “political bias in an election period to fraudulent statistics”.

“The NOI has chosen the preferred candidate and has decided to use fake, dubious statistics to package him to the Nigerian voters,” Onanuga said in the statement.

“We know, as a matter of fact, the owners of NOI and where their political interest lies and wish to advise NOI to stop polluting the political system with irresponsible, unscientific, and biased polling so that we don’t expose the puppeteers pulling its strings.”

‘We are Not Hurt’

Buhari Will Win 2019 Presidential Election, Says Jibrin
Dr Abdulmumin Jibrin.

 

Aside from the APC, the NNPP also claimed that it is not disturbed by the poll, saying several similar exercises from the same organisation have failed in their projections.

“We are not hurt in any way. Absolutely, we are not hurt.  In fact, I was contemplating not coming to this programme because coming here means we have made the people who promoted the poll achieve what they want to achieve,” the spokesperson of the NNPP Abdulmumin Jibrin said on Politics Today.  “All they want to do is to create a public conversation so that we continue to talk about it; creating the image as if Obi is very much ahead.”

Jibrin accused Obi and the Labour Party of dividing the country, saying the former governor will only get votes in the southeast where he hails from.

“The only place Obi will demystify structure is in the southeastern part of the country. That is where whether he has a structure or no structure, he will make an impression because their party and its candidate are divisive elements. All they do is to divide Nigerians,” he maintained.

‘A New Order’

A file photo of Peter Obi’s supporters during a rally in Enugu on September 10th, 2022. [email protected]

 

However, the LP says the poll shows Nigerians are ready for a new order of governance.

“It shows that Nigerians have come to terms with our reality that there has to be a change and a new order from the old because it is very obvious they are languishing in abject poverty,” the party’s spokesman Abayomi Arabambi said.

“There are no jobs for Nigerians. Schools are under lock and key due to executive rascality and malfeasance of the present administration.”

Kenyans Vote In Droves In Close-Fought Election Race

A group of voters argue about their position in the queue at a polling station during Kenya’s general election at St. Stephen School in the informal settlement of Mathare in Nairobi, Kenya, on August 9, 2022. (Photo by Luis Tato / AFP)

Kenyans lined up before dawn to vote in a high-stakes election Tuesday, with the East African powerhouse on edge as two political heavyweights battle it out in a tight race for the presidency.

The country is hoping for a peaceful transition of power after almost a decade under President Uhuru Kenyatta, but concerns about vote-rigging linger after past election disputes spiralled into bloodshed.

More than 22 million people, about 40 per cent of them under 35, are registered to vote in an election held against a backdrop of soaring inflation, a punishing drought and disenchantment with the political elite.

Deputy president and erstwhile heir-apparent William Ruto, 55, is running against Raila Odinga, the 77-year-old veteran opposition leader now backed by longtime rival Kenyatta after a stunning shift in allegiances.

After a vitriolic campaign, voting was generally smooth.

But some incidents of delays in opening polling stations and problems with electronic voter registration equipment were reported.

And in one area in Nakuru county in western Kenya, police fired tear gas after youths blocked a road with burning tyres.

 ‘Hope my life will change’

Ruto was among the first to vote in his Rift Valley stronghold on what he described as “D-day”.

Odinga, who is known as “baba” or father and is making his fifth stab at the presidency, later cast his ballot in the Nairobi slum of Kibera.

In his bastion in the lakeside city of Kisumu, the atmosphere was festive, with motorcyclists honking and blowing whistles.

Clara Otieno Opiyo, a 35-year-old vegetable seller who travelled before dawn to vote with her five-year-old boy strapped to her back, said she hoped her vote would ease economic pain for working-class Kenyans like herself.

“I came here at 4 am to vote, having a lot of hope and faith, but if my presidential candidate succeeds, my children’s schooling will be free, I will find work, and my life will change.”

Analysts have in recent days suggested that Odinga, a onetime political prisoner and former prime minister could edge past his younger rival.

If neither wins more than 50 per cent, Kenya would have to hold a run-off for the first time in its history.

 Tight security

Pressure is on the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission to ensure a free and fair vote in all six polls — for the presidency as well as for senators, governors, lawmakers, woman representatives and some 1,500 county officials.

On Monday, six IEBC officials were arrested and the commission suspended several local polls because of erroneous ballot papers.

Kenya’s international partners are closely watching the vote in a country deemed a beacon of regional stability. Diplomats say they are cautiously optimistic.

Both Odinga and Ruto have urged a peaceful election, but fears remain that if the loser challenges the outcome — as widely expected — there could be unrest.

Security is tight, with more than 150,000 officers deployed across the country of about 50 million.

The trauma of the 2007 poll, which was followed by politically motivated ethnic clashes that killed more than 1,100 people, runs deep.

Odinga’s challenge to the 2017 election result that saw then foe Kenyatta re-elected was met with a heavy-handed police response that left dozens dead.

In a historic first, the Supreme Court annulled the 2017 vote, citing widespread irregularities.

No presidential election outcome has gone uncontested since 2002, and there will be an anxious wait for this year’s results which are not expected for several days.

As neither Ruto nor Odinga belongs to the dominant Kikuyu tribe, which has produced three of the country’s four presidents, the election will open a new chapter in Kenya’s history.

 ‘New generation’

Ruto has painted the election as a battle between ordinary “hustlers” and “dynasties” — the Kenyatta and Odinga families that have dominated Kenyan politics since independence from Britain in 1963.

Some observers say economic pressure could vie with tribal allegiance as the big motivator for voters in a country where a third of the population lives in poverty.

Lawyers David Mwaure and George Wajackoyah — an eccentric former spy who wants to legalise marijuana — are also standing for president but are likely to trail far behind the frontrunners.

If Odinga wins, his running mate Martha Karua would become deputy president, the first woman to hold the post.

The new president will face challenges to tackle the cost-of-living crisis, youth unemployment, a $70-billion debt mountain and entrenched corruption.

Already battered by the Covid pandemic which threw hundreds of thousands out of work, Kenyans are now suffering from the Ukraine war, which has sent prices of basic goods spiralling.

“Our country is now full of corruption, we want someone to deal with the issue permanently,” said first-time voter Ibrahim Ahmed Hussein, a 23-year-old student, in Kibera.

“I am voting so as to choose a leader who will change this country totally. Now we want to see a new change for the new generation.”

AFP

Senegalese Government Recognises Poll Defeat In Key Cities

Voters queue at a voting station in Dakar, on January 23, 2022, during the 2022 municipal elections in Senegal. (Photo by SEYLLOU / AFP)

 

Senegal’s ruling coalition on Monday acknowledged defeat in two local polls seen as a key test of support ahead of an eagerly-awaited general election.

President Macky Sall’s alliance said it had lost the capital Dakar and the country’s largest southern city, Ziguinchor, in Sunday’s mayoral and local ballots.

The vote, seen as a litmus test for Sall, were the first in his West African country since deadly riots last year over the arrest of opposition leader Ousmane Sonko.

“Overall, the national trend shows our coalition winning easily in several regional capitals,” the ruling Bennoo Bokk Yaakaar alliance said in a statement on Sunday evening.

“But our bid to take Dakar and Ziguinchor has not been conclusive.”

Final results have not yet been declared but the mayoral vote in Ziguinchor, capital of Casamance, appears to have been won by Sonko.

Sonko is seen as one of the main contenders to replace 60-year-old Sall in the forthcoming 2024 presidential election.

READ ALSO: Istanbul Airport Shuts Down Due To Snow

Sall was first elected in 2012 on promises to help the poor in the nation of 17 million people. He won a second term in 2019, beating Sonko, but has come under increasing criticism since then.

The president is accused of arranging court cases against his rivals. These include Sonko, who was summoned in March last year to answer charges of rape he said were politically motivated.

The move sparked several days of violence in which at least 12 people died, shocking a country considered to be a beacon of stability in a volatile region.

The opposition fears that Sall will seek to exploit constitutional changes approved in 2016 to argue that a two-term limit for presidents does not apply, and run for a third term in 2024.

The president is well respected on the international scene, particularly over jihadist violence in the Sahel region, but his critics view him as serving the business interests of Senegal’s former colonial power France.

Libya Elders Call For Boycott Of Presidential Poll Over Kadhafi’s Bid

In this file photo taken on August 23, 2011, Seif al-Islam Kadhafi, son of Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi, appears in front of supporters and journalists at his father’s residential complex in the Libyan capital Tripoli. (Photo by IMED LAMLOUM / AFP)

 

Elders from several cities called for a boycott of presidential elections and protesters shut voting stations in western Libya on Monday after former dictator Moamer Kadhafi’s son registered to run.

Seif al-Islam Kadhafi, whose whereabouts have been secret for years, on Sunday became the first heavyweight candidate to sign up for the December 24 poll.

But an influential council of elders from Misrata, a city which played a key role in the 2011 uprising that toppled his father, called for an election boycott.

The council rejects “the candidacy of those who used excessive force against the Libyan people’s uprising and who are the target of arrest warrants from Libyan courts and the International Criminal Court”, it said in a statement.

It urged “free patriots” to protest against the election taking place before a constitutional basis was agreed.

A member of the electoral commission, the HNEC, told AFP that “residents protesting at the candidacy of Seif al-Islam Kadhafi in presidential elections closed down several polling stations” in the west.

The official, who asked not to be named, said there had been no violence and voting stations had not been damaged.

Libya first ever direct presidential poll comes as the United Nations seeks to end a decade of violence since a revolt that toppled his father in 2011.

Seif al-Islam is wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for crimes against humanity allegedly committed during the NATO-backed uprising.

But the HNEC said he had “completed all the required legal conditions” to run.

On Sunday, prominent figures in the western city of Zawiya “categorically rejected” presidential runs by both Kadhafi and eastern military strongman Khalifa Haftar, who is also widely expected to announce a bid.

A key part of a United Nations-led political process building on a ceasefire in October last year, the elections are opposed by some who argue there has been no agreement on their legal basis and the powers the winner would take.

Khaled al-Meshri, head of an interim High Council of State, has called for them to be delayed, saying they are “flawed” and “illegal”.

The HNEC says around 2.83 million voters have signed up to take part in the presidential and legislative polls due to start on December 24.

AFP

South Africa To Deploy 10,000 Troops For Council Polls

South Africa flag.

 

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has authorised the deployment of 10,000 soldiers to secure next week’s local government elections, parliament announced Wednesday.

The military will help the police to ensure “a safe and secure environment” for Monday’s polling to elect municipal councillors and mayors, National Assembly said in a statement.

The polls follow deadly riots and looting in July sparked by the jailing of former president Jacob Zuma.

The unprecedented unrest overwhelmed the police, prompting the deployment of some 25,000 troops.

READ ALSO: Bird Flu Strikes Endangered S.African Cormorants

The latest deployment will start Saturday and last five days.

Police have reported eight deaths, mostly councillor candidates, since campaigning started, while the voting day itself is expected to be peaceful.

But the July protests, started by diehard Zuma supporters before snowballing into violent unrest and the ransacking of businesses, exposed underlying social and economic conditions of ordinary South Africans.

The African National Congress-led government, which has ruled South Africa since the end of apartheid in 1994, is fighting to regain its popularity since suffering its worst electoral setback during the last local polls in 2016.

AFP

Kaduna LG Poll: Aggrieved APC Members Protest Against Inconclusive Election

A file photo of a ballot box.

 

Aggrieved members of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Jema’a Local Government Area of Kaduna State have taken to the streets to protest against the declaration of election in the council by the state independent electoral commission as inconclusive.

The APC members took their protest to the office of the electoral commission in the Kaduna state capital on Saturday.

They vowed to resist any attempt by the electoral umpire to declare the election inconclusive or conduct a re-run election, insisting that the entire process was duly completed and winners returned by the returning officer.

While addressing journalists on Saturday, APC Leader in Jema’a LGA, Sanusi Maikudi, faulted the electoral body’s decision, claiming that his party won the poll.

He alleged that there were some calculated attempts to rob the ruling APC of victory in the chairmanship poll.

READ ALSO: PDP’s Evivie Wins Delta Assembly By-Election

“We are collectively shocked, disappointed and dismayed by the calculated mischief, partisan afterthought and shameless attempt to commit a daylight robbery of the hard-earned victory of our great party, the All Progressives Congress of Jema’a Local Government,” he said.

On getting to the headquarters of the electoral commission, APC supporters accused the body of trying to truncate the people’s mandate.

According to an APC loyalist, Bege Katuka, the provision of Section 23 of the nation’s Constitution stipulates that after the Returning Officer has declared a winner in an election, there wouldn’t be room for another order.

Speaking in Katuka’s favour, another APC member, Cecilia Musa, said the APC is insisting that its demands be sustained in the local government.

“The election was declared free and fair by the Returning Officer of the LGA, Dr Sunday Ibrahim in front of the Peoples Democratic Party and everyone accepted it. We all shook hands,” she said.

But the Kaduna State Independent Electoral Commission (KADSIECOM) is yet to respond to the issues and concerns raised by the aggrieved APC members who have threatened to take legal action should the commission not reverse itself on the matter.

Support for Sweden’s COVID-19 Response Falls – Poll

Karin Hildebrand, a doctor in an intensive care unit (ICU) in Stockholm’s Sodersjukhuset hospital walks in a corridor before treating patients with COVID-19 on June 11, 2020, during the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo by Jonathan NACKSTRAND / AFP)

 

Confidence in the Swedish authorities’ ability to manage the coronavirus pandemic has fallen, a poll published on Tuesday showed, as the death toll has soared amid a highly-publicised light approach.

Unlike most European nations, Sweden never closed society down, opting instead to keep schools for under-16s open, as well as cafes, bars and restaurants and most businesses.

The Public Health Agency argued that lockdowns only work temporarily, insisting that drastic short-term measures are too ineffective to justify their impact on people.

The country of 10.3 million has reported 5,122 COVID-19 deaths, far exceeding the combined total of its Nordic neighbours which all adopted much stricter measures.

As a result, many countries now opening up to tourism have barred Swedes from entry, including closest neighbours Denmark, Finland and Norway.

Stockholm has also been slow to roll out mass testing.

An Ipsos poll of 1,191 Swedes published in daily Dagens Nyheter showed that in June, 45 percent had “strong confidence” in authorities’ ability to handle the crisis.

READ ALSO: South Africa To Start Africa’s First COVID-19 Vaccine Pilot

That compared with 56 percent in April, while those who had “little confidence” rose from 21 to 29 percent.

And 57 percent now have “strong confidence” in the Public Health Agency, down from 69 percent in April.

Support for the agency’s state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell, who has become the face of Sweden’s strategy, remains relatively strong although it has declined from 69 to 60 percent.

Those who believed the centre-left government was coping well with the crisis meanwhile dropped from 50 percent in May to 38 percent in June.

Prime Minister Stefan Lofven’s support also dropped from 49 percent to 39 percent.

“The differences are big enough that we can say with certainty that there has been a real change. The view of authorities’ capabilities has taken a clear negative turn,” Ipsos analyst Nicklas Kallebring told Dagens Nyheter.

AFP

Burundi To Vote In Tense Poll Amid COVID-19 Pandemic

A supporter holds a picture of Agathon Rwasa, presidential candidate of the main opposition party the National Congress for Liberty (CNL), during the last day of the campaign in Gitega, central Burundi, on May 17, 2020. AFP

 

Burundians will vote Wednesday in a tense general election, despite a largely-ignored outbreak of coronavirus which is set to be the first major challenge for the new president.

President Pierre Nkurunziza, who has been in power since 2005, shocked observers by deciding to step aside, five years after a controversial third-term run plunged his country into political and economic crisis.

While Ethiopia decided to delay its election this year due to the pandemic, Burundi has pushed forward with the vote at all costs, with heaving crowds of thousands attending political rallies, with only buckets of water and soap available as a nod to the virus.

Burundi has so far officially recorded only 42 cases and one death from the virus, but doctors and the opposition accuse the government of hiding the true extent of the outbreak.

The government has expelled the four top World Health Organization (WHO) officials steering the response to the epidemic, with no explanation. They left the country on Saturday.

Officials in Burundi have cited divine protection for the country’s ostensibly low infection rate and urged citizens to go about their daily lives without fear.

Burundi has not taken any measures to confine or limit the movement of the population, unlike most other countries in the region with the exception of Tanzania — where many fear the virus is also spreading out of control.

“Do not be afraid. God loves Burundi and if there are people who have tested positive, it is so that God may manifest his power in Burundi,” said General Evariste Ndayishimiye, the presidential candidate for the ruling CNDD-FDD party.

– The heir –

With a possible major health crisis looming, the nation with a population estimated at roughly 11 million people is preparing to turn the page on Nkurunziza’s long rule, marked by widespread human rights violations.

At least 1,200 people were killed and more than 400,000 displaced in violence between April 2015 and May 2017 that the UN says was mostly carried out by state security forces. Less than a quarter of those displaced have returned to their homes.

READ ALSO: UN Says COVID-19 Is ‘Wake-up Call’ For The World

No official death toll has been released since, but UN investigators have said crimes against humanity in the country were ongoing, citing summary executions, enforced disappearances, arbitrary detention, torture and sexual violence.

The UN and rights organisations attribute much of the violence to the Imbonerakure, members of the ruling party’s youth wing which the UN describes as a militia, as well as the feared national intelligence agency which answers directly to the president, the police, and to a lesser extent the army.

Nkurunziza had been widely expected to run for office again, after a constitutional change would have allowed the move. However internal party sources say he came under pressure from an influential group of generals to step aside.

At the end of January, the party unveiled Ndayishimiye as his successor — a veteran party operator nevertheless seen as softer than Nkurunziza.

While Ndayishimiye is seen as the frontrunner, his main rival among six other candidates, Agathon Rwasa, has mobilised large crowds at his rallies.

– A legitimate rival –

Rwasa comes from the country’s oldest ethnic Hutu rebel movement Palipehutu-FNL which he led in the early 2000s. It was one of the two main rebel groups during Burundi’s 1993-2006 civil war, which pitted Hutu rebels against the minority Tutsi-dominated army. The war left more than 300,000 dead.

In the eyes of the Hutu, who make up 85 percent of the population, Rwasa has as much legitimacy as a presidential candidate as the leaders of the other rebel group, now the ruling party.

“The people won’t let their victory be stolen,” warned Rwasa, after the ruling party made clear it expects no other outcome than a resounding win.

The campaign was marked by violence such as clashes between the members of rival parties and the arrests of opposition members.

The election will take place far from the eyes of the world — the government has refused any observers from the UN or the African Union, accusing the latter of being too close to the opposition.

The East African Community was meant to send a team of observers, but Burundi announced they would have to spend 14 days in quarantine due to the coronavirus, meaning they would be unable to do their job on the day of the election.

The victor of the election has a tough job ahead to stabilise the economy, already battered by the years of turmoil, and flagging further under the impact of the coronavirus.

The World Bank lists Burundi as among the three poorest countries in the world, with 75 percent of the country living in extreme poverty and six out of 10 children suffering growth stunting due to malnutrition.

Burundi’s 5.1 million registered voters will vote from 0400 GMT to 1400 GMT, for a new president as well as members of parliament and local officials.

AFP

Benin Votes In Controversial Poll Despite COVID-19

Benin President Patrice Talon casts his ballot at the Charles Guiyot Zongo public school on May 17, 2020, as voting operation are underway for the local election. Yanick Folly / AFP.

 

Benin staged local elections minus key opposition parties on Sunday with authorities pushing ahead despite the coronavirus threat and calls for a delay.

The West African nation of 11 million this week lifted a raft of restrictions aimed at halting the spread of the virus. COVID-19 has caused 339 confirmed infections and two deaths in the country.

The autonomous national election commission (CENA) made face masks mandatory for voters and enforced social distancing measures at polling stations.

“We have received a lot of hydro-alcohol gels and masks for all voters,” returning officer Mathieu Daki told AFP at N’dali in the north of the country.

In the economic capital Cotonou where most coronavirus deaths have occurred, election officials ensured voters were more than a metre apart.

However, not everyone appeared to have been reassured.

In the city’s 5th district election agent Dimitri Assani admitted voters were “few and far between”.

Donatien Sagbo Hounga wore a mask to enter the polling station, but said he was waiting “till there were no other voters in front of the election agents” to move forward to cast his vote.

“It may seem excessive but it’s necessary,” Hounga said.

Campaigning has been limited to posters and media appearances as candidates were forced to call off rallies due to a ban on gatherings of over 50 people.

– Voters ‘few and far between’ –

Critics warned the health risks were too high for a vote that opponents of President Patrice Talon insist should not be happening in the first place.

Talon sported a mask when he voted early in Cotonou’s Zongo-Ehuzu area.

In the city’s first district Arnold Migan voted early in the morning. “With the threat from COVID-19 it’s best to vote quickly and go home before a lot of people arrive,” he said.

Benin, seen as one of the region’s most stable democracies, has been in political crisis since a disputed parliamentary poll last April sparked protests.

READ ALSO: Madagascar Records First COVID-19 Death

Talon, a former business magnate who came to power in 2016, has been accused of a crackdown that drove key rivals into exile.

Parties allied to the president won all the seats at the polls last year after opposition groups were effectively banned from standing but turnout was only 25 percent.

Now leading opposition parties again find themselves barred from the vote for control of 77 councils across the country.

The exclusion drew a legal challenge from Talon opponent Sebastien Ajavon, a businessman living in exile after he was sentenced to prison on drug charges in Benin.

The regional African Court of Human and Peoples’ Rights ruled the vote should be suspended as it was not inclusive.

But Benin disregarded the ruling and severed some ties with the court in protest at the decision.

Opponents called on voters to boycott the poll over the political situation and the risks from coronavirus.

Many among the electorate appeared set to heed the call to stay home given the result looks certain to go in favour of those backing Talon.

In Cotonou’s Cadjehoun area only about 30 people had voted by midday out of 400 registered there.

Final results from the election are expected within a week.

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

Warren Overtakes Biden In New 2020 US Election Poll

Democratic presidential candidate Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren speaks at an LGBTQ presidential forum at Coe Colleges Sinclair Auditorium on September 20, 2019 in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.  Scott Olson/Getty Images/AFP

 

Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren has surged past former vice president Joe Biden in the race for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, according to a poll published on Wednesday.

Warren was the choice of 27 percent of the Democratic and Democratic-leaning independent voters surveyed nationwide in the Quinnipiac University poll, while 25 percent opted for Biden.

Biden has been the frontrunner in the crowded Democratic field seeking the right to face Donald Trump in November 2020, but Warren has been surging lately and drawing large crowds to her campaign rallies.

Quinnipiac said that although the findings were within the margin of error, it was the first time since March that Warren had topped Biden in one of its polls.

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders was in third place with 16 percent followed by Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, with seven percent and California Senator Kamala Harris with three percent.

In an August national poll by Quinnipiac, Biden was at 32 percent, Warren at 19 percent and Sanders at 15 percent.

“After trailing Biden by double digits since March in the race for the Democratic nomination, Warren catches Biden,” said Quinnipiac University polling analyst Tim Malloy.

“We now have a race with two candidates at the top of the field, and they’re leaving the rest of the pack behind.”

Two recent polls had Warren overtaking Biden in Iowa and New Hampshire, the states which vote first to choose a Democratic nominee.

A Des Moines Register/CNN poll had Warren with 22 percent of the vote among likely participants in the Iowa caucuses, compared to 20 percent for Biden and 11 percent for Sanders.

A Monmouth University poll in New Hampshire had Warren leading Biden by two points in the state — 27 percent to 25 percent — and Sanders coming in third at 12 percent.

Warren leads in California poll 

Warren has also leapfrogged Biden in California, which sends the most delegates to the Democratic National Convention, according to a poll conducted for the Los Angeles Times by the UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies.

Warren is the first choice of 29 percent of likely Democratic voters in California, followed by Biden with 20 percent and Sanders with 19 percent, according to the poll.

The Massachusetts senator has vied with Sanders for the progressive vote with bold ideas on health care and education, while Biden has campaigned as an experienced moderate who has the best chance of defeating Trump.

The Warren campaign announced on Tuesday that it was spending at least $10 million on digital and television advertising in the early voting states of Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina, and hiring new state directors and organizers.

The Quinnipiac survey, which was conducted before the Democratic-led House of Representatives opened an impeachment inquiry into Trump on Tuesday, also looked at the Republican president’s job approval.

Forty percent of those polled said they approve of Trump’s handling of the presidency while 55 percent said they disapprove.

Thirty-seven percent of the registered voters surveyed said Trump should be impeached while 57 percent said he should not.

The poll of 1,337 registered voters was conducted September 19-23 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.2 percentage points.

The survey of 561 Democratic or Democratic-leaning independent voters has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.9 percentage points.

AFP

‘Someone Must Be Responsible,’ Cote D’Ivoire President Condemns Poll Deaths

Cote D’Ivoire President, Alassane Ouattara

 

Cote D’ Ivoire’s President Alassane Ouattara has refused to comment on the acquittal on crimes against humanity of his predecessor Laurent Gbagbo at the International Criminal Court while insisting investigations would continue.

“No reaction from me, it’s an ongoing trial…,” Ouattara said in an interview with Radio France International in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa where he was attending an African Union summit.

But he added: “Someone must be responsible for the 3,000 deaths. I hope that justice will shine a light on that, it is what the victims are asking for.”

ICC judges acquitted Gbagbo and his aide Charles Ble Goude on charges stemming from a wave of violence after disputed elections in the west African nation in 2010.

READ ALSO: Cote D’Ivore’s Gbagbo Seeks Immediate Release From ICC

More than 3,000 people died on both sides of the Ivory Coast conflict after Gbagbo refused to concede defeat to Ouattara, his internationally backed rival.

Gbagbo, the first former head of state to stand trial at the ICC, is currently living in Belgium under conditions pending a possible prosecution appeal following the acquittal on January 15.

He had been held in the Netherlands since 2011.

The ICC’s unwillingness to let Gbagbo return to Ivory Coast is thought to have been linked to the country’s refusal to surrender Gbagbo’s first wife, Simone, despite an outstanding ICC warrant for her arrest for her role in the post-election violence.

She was convicted and jailed by the courts there in 2015, but Ouattara granted her an amnesty last year along with 800 others.

“We are continuing our investigations in order to establish who is responsible (for the deaths),” Ouattara said in the interview to be broadcast Monday.

And he denied that any pressure had been brought to bear on the ICC to prolong the detention or trial of Gbago.

“Interfering with international or national justice, this is not how I manage my country… let justice take its course,” he said, refusing to discuss any possible return of Gbagbo. “Let’s wait and see.”

 ‘No problem’ with Soro’ 

Ouattara also returned to the subject of the resignation of the speaker of the National Assembly, Guillaume Soro, who headed rebel forces during the Ivorian war and then joined the government under Gbagbo.

Soro is a member of Ouattara’s Rally of Republicans (RDR) and is rumoured to have fallen out with Ouattara and possibly to have his own presidential ambitions.

Ouattara said he believed there were ideological differences between the two but  “no problem” between them.

“I’m not a man to force anyone (to resign)… Soro believed that we did not share the same ideology. We are a social liberal party and he considers himself a Marxist. I understand that this is not compatible with his beliefs,” he said, adding: “He is a young man that I consider as one on my sons. I do not rule out that he will return.”

Nor did Ouattara rule out Soro standing for the presidency in 2020.

“It’s his choice, he can do as he wishes. The Constitution authorises him to do so and it is not a question of me standing in the way of his candidature….”

Gbagbo’s release has come at a particularly tense time in Ivory Coast.

With presidential elections due next year, Ouattara has not said whether he will seek another term, and the coalition he formed with Henri Konan Bedie, his former ally against Gbagbo, has collapsed.

“It’s very clear, I can run if I want. There’s a new constitution (since 2016),” he said.

“All the legal opinions that I have consulted have confirmed it. I will announce my decision in 2020. I can take a decision up until July 28, 2020,” he said.

AFP