Hundreds Detained, Firearms Used In Third Night Of Belarus Unrest – Police

A police van drives out of a detention centre while allegedly transporting people who were jailed to different terms for participating in recent rallies of opposition supporters, who accuse strongman Alexander Lukashenko of falsifying the polls in the presidential election, in Minsk on August 12, 2020. (Photo by Sergei GAPON / AFP)

 

Police in Belarus said Wednesday they had detained hundreds more people and used firearms against protesters in a third night of violence over a disputed presidential election.

Western governments have condemned the crackdown and the European Union said the bloc’s foreign ministers would discuss Belarus at an extraordinary meeting on Friday.

Protesters rallied again on Tuesday night to contest strongman President Alexander Lukashenko’s claim of having won Sunday’s election, although they were in smaller numbers after police cordoned off city centres and limited transport.

In the capital Minsk, protesters and witnesses said riot police used indiscriminate force against those who did gather, firing stun grenades and rubber bullets in the suburbs.

In the southwestern city of Brest on the Polish border, police said they had used firearms against a group of demonstrators armed with metal bars who had ignored warning shots, wounding one.

“A group of aggressive citizens with metal rods in their hands attacked police employees in Brest” on Tuesday, interior ministry spokeswoman Olga Chemodanova said in statement.

“Firearms were used to protect the lives and health of the employees,” she said, adding that “one of the attackers” was wounded.

The ministry said protesters gathered in 25 cities and towns on Tuesday night and that more than 1,000 people had been detained.

The latest arrests have brought the number of detentions to more than 6,000 after three days of protests.

More than 50 people sought medical assistance, it said.

Chemodanova said there had been smaller gatherings on Tuesday than on the two previous nights.

“The number of protesters was smaller last night, as was the number of cities where protests took place,” she told AFP.

Dozens of people have been wounded in the crackdown and police said that one protester died when an explosive device went off in his hand on Monday night.

– Women form human chain –

The protests broke out after authorities said Lukashenko, who has been in power since 1994, won 80 percent of the vote in Sunday’s polls.

Election officials said Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, a 37-year-old political novice who ran after other potential opposition candidates including her husband were jailed, came second with 10 percent.

Tikhanovskaya said the vote was rigged and claimed victory, demanding that Lukashenko hand over power.

She left Belarus on Tuesday for neighbouring Lithuania, with supporters saying she came under pressure from authorities.

Protesters said Tuesday night’s crackdown in Minsk was especially violent, with videos released on social media showing police kicking protesters lying prone on the ground, smashing cars with truncheons and assaulting passers-by.

Yan, a 28-year-old paramedic from Minsk who has protested every night since the election, said police had become more aggressive.

“Things were scary last night, it was complete lawlessness,” he told AFP. “All of this is aimed at intimidating people so that they keep quiet.”

Oleg Gulak, the head of the Belarusian Helsinki Committee rights group, said he was “stunned by the unprecedented level of cruelty and violence” used against protesters.

“Last night was the scariest night in Belarus’s modern history,” he said.

On Wednesday, several hundred women, many wearing white and holding flowers, joined hands to form a human chain in central Minsk urging an end to police violence.

Hundreds of people also gathered outside a pre-trial detention centre in Minsk in an effort to learn about the fate of missing family members.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said Belarus would be discussed at Friday’s extraordinary meeting.

The bloc on Tuesday condemned the election as “neither free nor fair” and Borrell threatened sanctions against “those responsible for the observed violence, unjustified arrests, and falsification of election results.”

AFP

Kanye West’s Presidential Run: Real Or For Show?

In this file photo US rapper Kanye West attends the WSJ Magazine 2019 Innovator Awards at MOMA on November 6, 2019 in New York City. Angela Weiss / AFP
In this file photo US rapper Kanye West attends the WSJ Magazine 2019 Innovator Awards at MOMA on November 6, 2019 in New York City. Angela Weiss / AFP

 

 

US rapper Kanye West’s chaotic launch of his unlikely campaign to oust Donald Trump in November’s presidential election has sparked anger, concern for his mental health and questions about whether he is seriously running.

Wearing a bullet-proof jacket marked “security,” West broke down in tears during a rambling speech in Charleston, South Carolina on Sunday that was supposed to kickstart his White House bid.

 

Wearing a bullet-proof jacket marked “security,” Kanye West broke down in tears during a rambling speech in Charleston.

 

Instead, controversial comments about renowned American abolitionist Harriet Tubman enraged attendees, provoked scorn online and left political analysts scratching their heads about the mercurial musician’s true intentions.

For Jeffrey McCune, who teaches a course on West at Washington University in St. Louis, the topsy-turvy nature of the event was typical of the hip-hop star.

“All things Kanye are impulsive. I have never been a fan of ‘throw-your-towel-in’ political entries. However, this is Kanye’s brand completely,” he told AFP.

 

US rapper Kanye West’s chaotic launch of his unlikely campaign to oust Donald Trump in November’s presidential election has sparked anger, concern for his mental health and questions about whether he is seriously running. (Photo by SAUL LOEB / AFP)

 

With “2020” shaved onto his head, West veered between several subjects during the hour-long rant, including claiming that he had wanted his wife, Kim Kardashian, to get an abortion.

But it was his comment that “Harriet Tubman never actually freed the slaves, she just had the slaves go work for other white people,” that grabbed most headlines.

West “has lost his mind,” tweeted historian Kate Clifford Larson, author of “Bound for the Promised Land: Harriet Tubman, Portrait of an American Hero.”

 

Kanye West took to the stage during a campaign rally at North Charleston’s Exquis Event Center in South Carolina on Sunday to reveal that he and his wife Kim Kardashian had considered aborting their daughter.

 

“HARRIET TUBMAN FREED enslaved people. You, Mr West are a jerk and not worthy of uttering Tubman’s name. You have not freed anyone,” Larson wrote.

Tubman is known for helping free dozens of black people from slavery by using a network of activists and safe houses known as the Underground Railroad. She fought for the Union in the Civil War, as well.

West also told the event that he had wanted his wife to get an abortion when she was pregnant with North, their oldest daughter. He then revealed his father also had wanted to abort him.

“My dad wanted to abort me. My mom saved my life. There would’ve been no Kanye West because my dad was too busy,” West said, bursting into tears.

He later shouted, “I almost killed my daughter! I almost killed my daughter!”

 

– ‘Provocateur’ –
West’s speech, clips of which went viral on social media, provoked bewilderment, as well as concern for the musician, who has talked about his struggles with bipolar disorder.

The event also offered little insight into what policies he might put forward, although he did propose that “everybody that has a baby gets a million dollars.”

West has also talked about prison reform in the past.

The 43-year-old caused further confusion Monday night by posting a series of cryptic tweets, including one accusing his wife of trying to have him committed to a hospital.

“Kim was trying to fly to Wyoming with a doctor to lock me up like on the movie Get Out because I cried about saving my daughter’s life yesterday,” he wrote, referring to the 2017 thriller.

The tweets were later deleted.

West raised eyebrows on July 4 when he announced on Twitter he would challenge Trump.

He has offered virtually no details about his campaign, but the hip-hop star — who famously wore a “Make America Great Again” cap to a 2018 Oval Office meeting with Trump — said he no longer supports the president.

Reports began circulating in US media last week that West had dropped out of the race.

He missed the deadline in several states to be listed on the presidential ballot, but he is listed on the ballot in Oklahoma.

West needed to collect 10,000 signatures by midday Monday to appear on South Carolina’s ballot.

“Kanye West did not submit a petition,” a spokesperson for the state’s election commission told AFP.

Analysts are reluctant to write off West completely, aware that Trump’s run in 2016 wasn’t considered particularly serious until he won the Republican nomination.

They say West doesn’t have to win the race to influence it.

“Kanye’s personal resources and visibility and track record of generating media attention for himself, he could be the wild card in enough places to have an impact on the race, even if he only gets on the ballot in a few key states,” said Robert Yoon, an elections specialist at the University of Michigan.

McCune says that although he believes West has “many brilliant ideas,” he “will be a minor player in the field, if one at all.”

He describes West, who is due to release a new album this week, as “a performance artist” who may be viewing his run as another show.

“After all, Kanye being a provocateur in many ways has made him more profitable.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

-AFP

Serbian President Claims ‘Historic’ Victory For His Ruling Party

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic addresses the media outside a polling station in Belgrade on June 21, 2020 during an election for a new parliament in Europe’s first national election since the coronavirus pandemic, though few expect major surprises with the ruling party poised to dominate a scattered opposition, some of whom are boycotting the ballot.
ANDREJ ISAKOVIC / AFP

 

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic claimed a landslide victory for his ruling Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) Sunday, taking home more than 63 per cent of the vote in a parliamentary election marred by a boycott from parts of the opposition.

“I am grateful to the people for this historic support,” Vucic, who leads the SNS party, said in a victory speech.

Six Candidates To Run Against Togo President In February Vote

Ivory Coast’s President Alassane Ouattara (R) Togo’s President Faure Gnassingbe. Photo: ISSOUF SANOGO / AFP

 

Six candidates will run against Togo’s President Faure Gnassingbe in a presidential election next month, the Constitutional Court said Friday.

The West African country was plunged into political crisis in 2017 and 2018 as protesters demanded term limits for Gnassingbe, who took power in 2015 after his authoritarian father had ruled for 38 years.

However, last year parliament voted for a constitutional change that allowed Gnassingbe, who first became head of state in 2005, to run for a fourth term in the February 22 vote.

He will need to beat six candidates, including Jean-Pierre Fabre, veteran opposition leader and president of the National Alliance for Change (ANC), and Kodjo Agbeyome, head of the Patriotic Movement for Democracy and Development (MPDD).

Fabre alleged massive fraud after he was defeated by Gnassingbe in the last election in 2015, rejecting the official result.

The Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI) said last week that 10 candidates had submitted applications to run.

But the Constitutional Court said on Friday that two of the candidates had an insufficient number of voter signatures, while a third withdrew from the race.

Tens of thousands of people took to the streets in 2017 and 2018 in demonstrations that were violently repressed by security forces, with 15 killed and hundreds arrested, according to unofficial figures.

Around 10,000 police officers and security members of the Presidential Election Security Force (FOSEP) will be deployed across the country to ensure the safety of the February vote.

Guinea-Bissau Electoral Authority Denies Ballot-Stuffing Claims

Voting officials start counting votes at a polling station in the popular Bairro Militar area of the capital Bissau, in Guinea-Bissau on November 24, 2019. Guinea-Bissau voted in a presidential election on November 24 which is hoped to solve a long-running leadership crisis in the coup-prone and impoverished West African country. JOHN WESSELS / AFP

 

Guinea-Bissau’s electoral authority on Monday rejected accusations of ballot fraud in the country’s presidential elections and promised that the vote count would be transparent.

Incumbent Jose Mario Vaz’s campaign team accused rivals of buying votes and stuffing ballot boxes in Sunday’s elections.

Vaz has repeatedly clashed with parliament over who should lead the government, causing severe political deadlock.

The impoverished and coup-ridden West African nation went to the polls in the hope of ending the impasse.

Felisberta Vaz Moura, a spokeswoman for the National Electoral Commission, denied that there had been irregularities on Sunday.

“There was no ballot stuffing” she said, adding that the election “went well” across most of the country.

“We are determined to do everything transparently,” the spokeswoman said.

Fraud was impossible because the count would take place in the presence of candidates’ representatives, she argued.

The mood was tense on voting day, which was marked by sporadic scuffles among supporters of rival political camps

Twelve candidates in total, including Vaz, are running.

Provisional election results are due by Wednesday.

A second round of voting — planned for December 29 — is considered highly likely given the number of candidates.

Guinea-Bissau has a long history of military coups and political assassinations since winning independence from Portugal in 1974. Vaz is the first president in 25 years to finish his term without being ousted or killed.

Supreme Court Verdict: It’s Time To Close Rank, Support Buhari – Oshiomhole

APC National Chairman, Mr Adams Oshiomhole, addressing a press conference in Abuja on September 5, 2019.

 

The National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC) has called on Nigerians to close ranks and support President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration following the Supreme Court’s affirmation of his election victory.

Oshiomhole who was a guest on Channnels Television’s Politics Today on Wednesday asked the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to rethink.

“I think Nigerians have voted, the Supreme Court has upheld the outcome, it’s time to support and close ranks and queue behind President Muhammdu Buhari.

“Give him all the support he needs. I expect PDP to offer constructive criticism as a loyal opposition and offer policy solutions,” he said.

READ ALSO: We Are Waiting To Know How Supreme Court Arrived At Decision, Says Galadima

When asked to react to a claim made by PDP National Chairman, Prince Uche Secondus that the nation is bleeding under this administration, Oshiomhole replied saying: “Nigeria’s future isn’t tied to the PDP.”

Speaking further, he said: “If anything, Buhari came on a rescue mission. Nigeria was on the sliding scale when Buhari came in 2015. So I think it’s twisting the facts upside down.”

While admitting the fact that the nation’s challenges have not been fully addressed, the APC chief blamed the PDP past governments for them.

Recalling that there was excess crude boom, he wondered why the previous administrations would secure loan without justifying the revenue accrued.

His remarks come hours after the Supreme Court dismissed the appeal filed by the PDP and its presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, challenging President Buhari’s victory in the presidential election.

A 7-man panel led by the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Tanko Muhammad, dismissed Atiku’s appeal for lacking in merit.

Bolivia’s Morales Seeks Fourth Term, Wins First Round In Presidential Election

Bolivian President and presidential candidate for the Movimiento al Socialismo (MAS) Evo Morales speaks next to his Vice-President Alvaro Garcia Linera during a press conference after knowing the partial results of the general elections at Quemado presidential palace in La Paz on October 20, 2019. PHOTO: JORGE BERNAL / AFP

 

Evo Morales, seeking a controversial fourth term, led Bolivia’s presidential election race Sunday but faces a historic second-round run-off against opposition rival Carlos Mesa, partial results showed.

Morales had 45 percent of the vote to Mesa’s 38 percent, the Supreme Electoral Tribunal announced, with most of the votes counted.

Elected Bolivia’s first indigenous president in 2005, Morales has won his previous elections in the first round, never having to contest a run-off.

The former coca farmer and leftist union leader has led the poor but resource-rich Latin American country for the past 13 years, though his popularity has waned amid allegations of corruption and authoritarianism.

He will face a stiff challenge from Mesa, a 66-year-old former president who led Bolivia from 2001-2005.

Mesa celebrated “an unquestionable triumph” in getting to the second round, amid cheers from his supporters at his La Paz headquarters.

Morales welcomed his first-round win, telling cheering crowds “we have won again, really, it is something historical, unforgettable”.

South Korean-born evangelical pastor, Chi Hyun Chung, was the surprise package of the election, polling strongly to finish in third place with 8.7 percent.

His support is likely to be influential during campaigning for the second round on December 15.

Controversial fourth term

Morales obtained Constitutional Court permission in 2017 to run again for president even though the constitution allows only two consecutive terms.

A new mandate would keep him in power until 2025.

“Any party, no matter how good it is, if it stays in place for too long, it is corrupt, that’s what we’re going through,” said 22-year-old student Tania Villaroel Lopez as she joined a line of voters near the presidential palace in La Paz.

Roberto Fernandez, 32, came with his wife Denise and their two-year-old daughter to vote at the same place. They said they feared the result of the elections would be manipulated.

“We hope the end result will be respected,” Fernandez said.

Milton Quispe, a student, said he would vote for “Evo, because he has taken care of the poor. He has known how to give us dignity.”

Bolivia’s seven million eligible voters also cast ballots to choose members of the 166-seat congress — 36 senators and 130 deputies.

After voting in his coca-growing district of Chapare, Morales, a member of the Aymara indigenous community, said he was optimistic about his chances and confident in Bolivia’s democracy.

 Opposition distrust

Mesa said he feared a rigged election after he voted in La Paz.

“I don’t trust in the transparency of the process, the Supreme Electoral Tribunal has demonstrated that it’s an operative arm of the government. We have a very high level of distrust,” he told reporters.

Mesa lambasted what he said was Morales’ powerful grip on key organs of state in a meeting with observers from the Organization of American States last week.

As leader of his Movement for Socialism Party (MAS), Morales points to a decade of economic stability and considerable industrialization as his achievements, while insisting he has brought “dignity” to Bolivia’s indigenous population, the largest in Latin America.

But he stands accused of corruption, and many voters are enraged at his refusal to step aside even though the South American country’s constitution bars him from running again.

“Power has replaced policies aimed at the whole population by others that only serve the interests of certain sectors,” political commentator Maria Teresa Zegada told AFP.

“Opposition leaders have been persecuted, all of which has caused citizens unease and given the impression that democracy was in danger.”

Bolivia’s 2009 constitution, promulgated by Morales himself, limits a president to two consecutive terms of office.

In a 2016 referendum, voters defeated Morales’ bid to secure public support to remove term limits, but his government rejected the result.

The constitutional court, stacked with Morales loyalists, ruled it was his right to seek re-election.

He has come under severe criticism this year as wildfires in August and September ravaged Bolivia’s forests and grasslands, with activists saying his policies encouraged the use of blazes to clear farmland.

AFP

CUPP Alleges Plot To ‘Handpick’ Presidential Election Appeal Panel Members

(File) CUPP spokesperson, Mr Ikenga Ugochinyere, addressing a press conference in Abuja.

 

 

The Coalition of United Political Parties (CUPP) has raised a fresh alarm over what it described as a plot to tinker with the list of most senior justices of the Supreme Court to sit on the appeal in the presidential election petition of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its candidate, Atiku Abubakar.

Spokesman for the coalition and National Chairman of the Action Peoples Party, Mr Ikenga Ugochinyere, made the allegation at a news conference on Thursday in Abuja.

“We have it on good authority that the All Progressives Congress (APC) led government has been mounting undue pressure on the Chief Justice of the Federation and, indeed, the entire court to accept an appeal panel and jettison the age-long tradition of the court of selecting the most senior justices of the Supreme Court to sit on the panel,” he told reporters.

He alleged that the CUPP was in possession of a list of handpicked justices of the Supreme Court who would sit on the appeal.

According to the coalition’s spokesman, this is in clear violation of the tradition of selecting seven most senior justices based on seniority.

He also claimed that from 1979 to 2011, the tradition of the apex court was to appoint the seven most senior justices as members of a presidential election appeal.

Ugochinyere insisted that the tradition must be maintained in the interest of justice and fair play.

He said, “The disquiet caused by the APC in the Supreme Court now is a clear desecration of the highest temple of justice in the land. The opposition and most Nigerians will not accept a handpicked panel.

“The opposition wants this age-long tradition of compositing presidential election dispute panel in order of seniority maintained because we do not trust the altering of the seniority list.”

Tunisia Fixes October 13 For Presidential Election Runoff

 

Tunisia’s electoral commission said Wednesday the country’s presidential election runoff would take place on October 13 despite calls to postpone the vote by the party of a jailed frontrunner.

ISIE said campaigning would kick off Thursday for the second and final round of voting, which will see imprisoned media mogul Nabil Karoui face off against independent law professor Kais Saied.

“ISIE can neither advance nor postpone the date of the elections under the constitution,” commission head Nabil Baffoun said.

The spokesman for Karoui, who has been detained since August 23 on charges of money laundering and tax evasion, had called Tuesday night for a suspension of the vote as long as the candidate remains behind bars.

That came as Tunisia’s court of appeal rejected a fresh request for Karoui’s release.

ISIE, international observers and political leaders have called for Karoui to be allowed to campaign fairly.

“We have made every effort to ensure equal opportunities,” Baffoun said.

“We sent letters to the justice ministry, the prosecutor general and even the judge in charge of the case to give Nabil Karoui the opportunity to speak in the media, or even to release him.”

The timing of Karoui’s arrest, 10 days before the start of campaigning, raised questions about the politicisation of the judicial process.

Despite the legal proceedings, Karoui’s candidacy was approved by ISIE and he campaigned by proxy via the Nessma television channel he founded and through his wife.

After the first round of voting on September 15, Saied led with 18.4 percent of votes, according to ISIE, with Karoui in second with 15.6 percent.

AFP

Afghans Vote In Presidential Election Amid Deadly Violence

In this handout photograph taken and released by Press Office of President of Afghanistan on September 28, 2019, an Independent Election Commission (IEC) official (L) scans a finger of Afghan President and candidate Ashraf Ghani (R) with a biometric device at a polling station in Kabul. Handout / Press Office of President of Afghanistan / AFP

 

Afghans voted in presidential elections amid tight security Saturday, as Taliban insurgents determined to disrupt the process unleashed a string of attacks on polling centres across the country that killed at least five people.

The first-round vote marked the culmination of a bloody election campaign that despite a large field of candidates is seen as a close race between President Ashraf Ghani and his bitter rival Abdullah Abdullah, the country’s chief executive.

Authorities placed Kabul under partial lockdown, flooding streets with troops and banning trucks from entering the city in an effort to stop would-be suicide bombers targeting residents as they cast their votes.

The Taliban, who carried out multiple bombings during the two-month election season, claimed to have conducted hundreds of attacks against Afghanistan’s “fake elections”.

Officials said five security officials had been killed and 37 civilians wounded.

“The enemy carried out 68 attacks against election sites across the country… but security forces repelled most of the attacks,” acting defence minister Asadullah Khalid said.

Compared to previous elections, the initial toll appeared relatively light, though authorities in the past have suppressed information on election day only to later give much larger numbers.

Having voted at a Kabul high school, Ghani said the most important issue was finding a leader with a mandate to bring peace to the war-torn nation.

“Our roadmap (for peace) is ready, I want the people to give us permission and legitimacy so that we pursue peace,” said Ghani, who is seeking a second five-year term.

Some 9.6 million Afghans are registered to vote, but many lack faith that after 18 years of war any leader can unify the fractious country and improve basic living conditions, boost the stagnating economy or bolster security.

Observers from the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission said turnout appeared to be low, especially among women.

“I know there are security threats but bombs and attacks have become part of our everyday lives,” 55-year-old Mohiuddin, who only gave one name, told AFP.

“I am not afraid, we have to vote if we want to bring changes.”

Abdullah and Ghani both claimed victory in the 2014 election — a vote so tainted by fraud and violence that it led to a constitutional crisis and forced the administration of then-US president Barack Obama to push for a compromise that saw Abdullah awarded the subordinate role.

“The only request I have from the election commission is that they ensure the transparency of the election because lots of people have lost their trust,” said Afghan voter Sunawbar Mirzae, 23.

Problems Voting

Voting in Afghanistan’s fourth presidential election — the first was in 2004 — took place at nearly 5,000 polling centres across the country, and the interior ministry said it had deployed 72,000 forces to help secure these.

Many Afghans said voting went smoothly, triumphantly holding up fingers stained in indelible ink to show they had cast a ballot, but several said they had experienced problems.

“I came this early morning to cast my ballot. Unfortunately, my name was not on the list,” said Ziyarat Khan, a farmer in Nangarhar. “The whole process is messy like the last time.”

Campaigning was hampered by violence from the first day when Ghani’s running mate was targeted in a bomb-and-gun attack that left at least 20 dead.

The campaign itself was muted compared to years past, as many thought the already-twice-delayed election would be postponed again while talks between the US and the Taliban for a troop withdrawal played out.

That deal has been scuppered for now after US President Donald Trump pulled out, and Afghanistan’s next president will likely face the daunting task of trying to strike a bargain with the Taliban.

Election officials say this will be the cleanest election yet, with equipment such as biometric fingerprint readers and better training for poll workers to ensure the vote is fair.

Still, the US has expressed disquiet about the possibility of fraud and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told Ghani in a phone call this week that candidates’ behaviour must be “beyond reproach to ensure the legitimacy of the outcome”.

Preliminary results are not expected until October 19. Candidates need more than 50 per cent of the vote to be declared the outright winner, or else the top two will head for a second round in November.

Algeria To Hold Presidential Election On December 12

File Photo: AFP/FAROUK BATICHE

 

Algeria is to hold a presidential election on December 12, five months into a political vacuum since longtime leader Abdelaziz Bouteflika resigned in the face of mass protests, his interim successor announced Sunday.

“I have decided… that the date of the presidential election will be Thursday, December 12,” said Abdelkader Bensalah, who is precluded from standing himself, in a televised address to the nation.

The announcement comes after army chief General Ahmed Gaid Salah, seen as Algeria’s strongman since the fall of the ailing Bouteflika, insisted that polls be held by the end of 2019, despite ongoing protests demanding the creation of new institutions ahead of any elections.

On Friday, Algerian protesters returned to the streets after parliament passed bills paving the way for the announcement of elections.

Demonstrators are demanding key regime figures step down and an overhaul of political institutions before any polls, arguing an election under the current framework would only reinforce the status quo.

Gaid Salah earlier this month called for an electoral college to be summoned on September 15 so as to conduct an election within 90 days, in mid-December.

Last week, parliament passed two bills that would facilitate the announcement of a vote.

Justice Minister Belkacem Zeghmati presented the bills on Wednesday, with both legislative chambers passing them within two days.

Opposition parties in the People’s National Assembly boycotted the session in which the bills were passed.

The first bill proposed the creation of an “independent” election authority, while the second text was a revision of Algeria’s electoral law.

Presidential polls originally planned for July 4 were postponed due to a lack of viable candidates, plunging the country into a constitutional crisis as the 90-day mandate for Bensalah expired in early July.

The army’s high command has rejected any solution to the crisis other than presidential elections “in the shortest possible time”.

Updated: Tribunal Dismisses PDP, Atiku’s Petition Challenging Buhari’s Victory

 

The Presidential Election Petitions Tribunal has dismissed the petition filed by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its candidate in the 2019 Presidential election challenging the victory of President Muhammadu Buhari in the February 23 Presidential election.

The five-man panel of the tribunal, led by Justice Mohammed Garba gave the unanimous judgement on Wednesday.

The tribunal dismissed the petition in its entirety and the parties are to bear their respective cost.

“This petition is accordingly and hereby dismissed in its entirety.”

Other members of the tribunal including Justice Peter Olabisi-Ige, Justice Abdul Aboki, Justice Joseph Ikyegh and Justice Samuel Oseji, agreed with the lead judgement.

Justice Garba affirmed that President Muhammadu Buhari is the winner of the 2019 presidential election.

READ ALSO: Buhari ‘Eminently Qualified’ To Contest Presidential Election, Tribunal Rules

The PDP and Atiku had filed a joint petition on March 18, 2019, specifically asking the tribunal to disqualify Buhari, winner of the February 23 presidential election, on the grounds that he (Buhari) did not possess the requisite academic qualification to contest for the office of President, and the election was marred with irregularities.

Other petitions filed by the petitioners include; deployment of electronic voting, over-voting, substantial non-compliance with the electoral law as well as the use of security agencies to rig the election in favour of Buhari.

The tribunal also dismissed Atiku’s claim that he won the election based on results allegedly transmitted into the INEC sever.

According to the Tribunal, the Kenyan Information and Communication Technology (ICT) expert, David Njorga invited as the 59th witnesses to establish the claim that INEC transmitted results to a server during the last presidential election was based on ‘hearsay’ from a third party.

“The author of the content revealing the information from the said server claimed to be an INEC staff. This to me is unreliable for any information that should be relied on by an expert.

“Whatever he got came from the server belonging to the whistleblower and not INEC. Under cross-examination, he admitted that the information on the website www.factdontlie.com could have been doctored.

“His evidence is hanging on third party information from an unknown source. The law is clear on hearsay evidence,” Justice Garba stated.

The chairman of the tribunal added that the petitioner failed to prove substantial non-compliance of the electoral act in the 11 states complained to have been marred by electoral malpractices.

“They alleged arbitrary allocation of figures, result sheets not showing results of all political parties that participated in the election, intimidation etc.

“In other to prove these, witnesses ought to be called from each of those units who were eyewitnesses to the allegations to testify, but the petitioners did not call witnesses who are tied to the documents tendered. Even at that, the evidence of some polling units called by the petitioners cannot take the place of voters who were said to have been disenfranchised.

“Because there was no eyewitness account and no evidence by the petitioners the court cannot decide in favour of the petitioners as far as allegations of malpractices and irregularities are concerned.”

On other issues, the Chairman resolved that; “The petitioners failed to prove that the security agencies connived with the electoral umpire to assist the APC in manipulating the election results in the 11 states including Kebbi, Nassarawa, Borno etc.

“They also failed to prove that fake policemen were deployed by the APC to Influence the election. They also failed to prove allegations that the president retained the services of the service chiefs to use them to manipulate the election.

“It is their further allegation that in all the states of the federation military and police officers firmed themselves as supporters of the second respondent to attack, harass and stop the supporters of the petitioners from exercising their franchise.”

The tribunal also ruled that most of the witnesses called by the petitioner gave hearsay evidence which is not applicable in proving all the specific allegations and all the criminal allegations contained in the petition.

“There is no admissible evidence on record to back the claims of the petitioners.”

Justice Mohammed Garba started the pre-trial on June 10, 2019, after President of the Appeal Court, Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa withdrew from the matter, following calls of partisanship.

The tribunal used a total of 177 out of the 180 days stipulated by section 285 of the 4th alteration of the 1999 constitution.

The judgment which started around  9:30 a.m. on Wednesday ended at 5:58 p.m.