Protester Killed, Dozens Arrested In Belarus Unrest – Rights Group

A collage of various scenes from the protest in Belarus.

 

A protester was killed and dozens wounded when police in Belarus used stun grenades, rubber bullets, and tear gas to disperse demonstrators disputing election results, a prominent rights group said on Monday.

The Viasna Human Rights Centre said the young male protester suffered a traumatic head injury when he was hit by a police vehicle and medics were unable to save him.

Viasna representative Sergey Sys told AFP that more than 300 people had been arrested on Sunday, including more than 150 in the capital Minsk.

“Dozens of people were wounded as a result of clashes with law enforcement agencies. Ten of them were taken to hospitals,” he said.

Interior Ministry spokeswoman Olga Chemodanova denied there had been any deaths.

“We have no dead,” she told AFP.

More than 200 detained

At least 213 people were detained in Belarus as police cracked down on protesters claiming strongman leader Alexander Lukashenko rigged Sunday’s presidential election, a prominent rights group said on Monday.

The Viasna Human Rights Centre said at least 110 people were detained in the capital Minsk, including at least 40 at or near polling stations and 70 during a pro-opposition protest. Others were detained in various cities.

People hold up Belarusian passports as they protest outside the Belarusian embassy after polls closed in Belarus’ presidential election, in Moscow on August 9, 2020. – Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko was set for an overwhelming victory in a presidential election on August 9, an official exit poll said, after a political newcomer mounted a historic challenge to the strongman leader. (Photo by Dimitar DILKOFF / AFP)
Riot police detain opposition supporters during a protest after polls closed in the presidential election, in Minsk on August 9, 2020. (Photo by Sergei GAPON / AFP)
An injured man lies on the ground during clashes between opposition supporters and riot police after polls closed in Belarus’ presidential election, in Minsk on August 9, 2020. (Photo by Siarhei LESKIEC / AFP)
Riot police disperse protesters after polls closed in the presidential election, in Minsk on August 9, 2020. (Photo by Siarhei LESKIEC / AFP)
An injured man receives medical help during clashes between opposition supporters and riot police after polls closed in Belarus’ presidential election, in Minsk on August 9, 2020. (Photo by Siarhei LESKIEC / AFP)
Riot police detain a demonstrator during a protest after polls closed in Belarus’ presidential election, in Minsk on August 9, 2020. (Photo by Sergei GAPON / AFP)

Biden Under Pressure To Address Sexual Assault Allegation

emocratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden delivers remarks about the coronavirus outbreak, at the Hotel Du Pont March 12, 2020 in Wilmington, Delaware. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images/AFP)

 

Presidential hopeful Joe Biden said Wednesday he has a proud history of campaigning against sexual violence, as he faces mounting pressure to respond to an assault allegation made by a former aide.

The presumptive Democratic nominee has been accused by Tara Reade of assaulting her in 1993, when she was a 29-year-old staff assistant in the office of Biden, then a US senator from Delaware.

Biden’s campaign has denied the claims, but he himself has not responded directly to the allegations by Reade, now 56.

However he touted his record of supporting abuse victims when asked a question about military prosecutions for felonies including rape at a virtual town hall late Wednesday.

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“As you know, I wrote and championed the Violence Against Women Act, transformed how this country gets justice and support to survivors and led the ‘It’s On Us’ campaign to fight sexual assault on campuses. As VP, I fought to provide a special victims counsel for sexual assault cases in the military,” the 77-year-old said.

He promised that “all options are on the table” when it came to assaults in the military.

Biden spoke as the furor surrounding the claim by Reade continues to grow, despite a statement issued by his campaign on April 13 which said the incident “absolutely did not happen.”

The claim has drowned out other news about Biden, such as his search for a running mate, who he has pledged will be a woman.

President Donald Trump’s campaign manager Brad Parscale has flooded his Twitter feed with mocking references to Reade’s allegation, ignoring the string of accusations made by women against his own candidate.

More than a dozen women have accused the real estate mogul of sexual misconduct including rape before he became president.

Biden has not been asked directly about Reade’s allegation in either the interviews he has given from his Delaware home, where he has been confined because of the coronavirus pandemic, or various online campaign events.

‘Everything shattered’

According to Reade, the assault took place in August 1993 in a hallway on Capitol Hill.

“We were alone, and it was the strangest thing,” Reade said in a late March interview on the Katie Halper Show podcast. “There was no, like, exchange, really, he just had me up against the wall.

“His hands were on me and underneath my clothes and, yeah, he went, he went down my skirt but then up inside it and he penetrated me with his fingers,” she said.

“He was kissing me at the same time,” she said.

Reade said she pulled away and Biden allegedly said: “Come on man, I heard you liked me.”

“For me everything shattered at that moment,” Reade said.

Reade has since recounted her story to other media outlets, and filed an incident report with the Washington police in early April — seen by AFP — in which she did not name Biden.

“This is an inactive case,” a police spokesman told AFP when asked about the status of the matter.

Reade told the right-leaning Washington Examiner that she had filed the report to show she was serious and establish a paper trail.

Other women have accused Biden of touching them inappropriately in the past, and Reade’s initial claims were similar — less severe than her most recent allegations.

The New York Times reported that it had interviewed Reade on multiple occasions, along with her friends and others who worked for Biden in the early 1990s.

According to the Times, no former Biden staffers corroborated her account, and a pattern of misconduct was not uncovered.

A friend said Reade had told her about the alleged assault at the time. A second friend said Reade told her in 2008 of a traumatic experience while working in Biden’s office.

Reade said she had also related the incident to her brother.

The allegations have led some supporters of Senator Bernie Sanders, who dropped out of the Democratic race and endorsed Biden, to call on the former vice president to end his White House bid.

“Out of respect for survivors and for the good of the country, he should withdraw from the race,” said Claire Sandberg, the former national organizing director of the Sanders campaign.

Trump ‘Cheats At Golf’: Bloomberg Mocks President With Billboard

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Democratic White House hopeful Michael Bloomberg mocked Donald Trump with a giant billboard on the Las Vegas Strip on Friday, fueling their feud as the US president visits the city for a rally.

“Donald Trump lost the popular vote,” read one slogan on the world-famous street lined with casinos, while another read “Donald Trump’s wall fell over.”

The giant digital billboard is just two miles (three kilometers) down the Strip from Trump’s own hotel, where the president is staying while in Las Vegas.

Bloomberg is vying for the Democratic nomination to take on Trump at November’s election and has focused his fire on the president rather than candidates from his own party.

When Bloomberg did face fellow Democrats at a Las Vegas debate on Wednesday, Trump was quick to crow: “Worst debate performance in history!”

Perhaps inevitably in a row between billionaires, golf was also a theme of the billboards — “Donald Trump cheats at golf,” read a third sign.

“A lot of people cheat at golf, it’s probably true,” said Gerry Frenze, a transport company owner from Delaware who was in town for a convention Friday.

“But I don’t like the idea (Bloomberg) can buy his way into office.”

His wife, Kim Corrigan, had little sympathy for Trump.

“Trump makes you want to attack him,” she said. “I don’t like (Bloomberg) doing that. But Trump started it. The way he operates cheapens everyone.”

The attack comes on the eve of Nevada’s key vote in the race for the Democratic nomination, with media from around the world in town.

Another passerby who did not wanted to be named simply shrugged: “He’s got the money.”

But Mya Sepeda, a tarot card reader working on a pedestrian bridge beneath the sign, took the matter more seriously.

“Maybe it’s true but he is the president and he deserves a bit of respect,” said Sepeda — adding that he had foreseen Trump would win the last election.

AFP

Facebook Exec Says It Helped Put Trump In White House

Facebook’s hardware vice president Andrew Bosworth gestures as he speaks during an AFP interview on September 17, 2019 in San Francisco, California.

 

 

A senior Facebook executive on Tuesday said the world’s biggest social network unintentionally helped put Donald Trump in the White House but warned against dramatic rule changes.

The Trump campaign did effectively use Facebook to rally support for his presidential run, and the social network should be mindful of that without making moves that stifle free political discourse, Andrew Bosworth said in a lengthy post on his personal Facebook page triggered by The New York Times publishing an internal memo he wrote.

“So was Facebook responsible for Donald Trump getting elected?” Bosworth asked.

“I think the answer is yes, but not for the reasons anyone thinks.”

Bosworth contended Trump was not elected because of Russia or misinformation or Cambridge Analytica, but rather because he ran “the single best digital ad campaign I’ve ever seen from any advertiser.”

Since Facebook has the same ad policies in place now, the outcome of the 2020 election could be the same as it was four years ago, he added.

Facebook has maintained a hands-off policy on political ads, in contrast with Google which in November placed restrictions on how advertisers can target specific groups of voters.

“As tempting as it is to use the tools available to us to change the outcome, I am confident we must never do that or we will become that which we fear,” Bosworth wrote.

That doesn’t mean Facebook should not draw a line when it comes to how it is used, he reasoned. Clearly inciting violence, thwarting voting, and other blatant transgressions should be banned, but voters should be trusted to decide what kind of leaders they want to elect, according to Bosworth.

“If we don’t want hate-mongering politicians then we must not elect them,” Bosworth wrote.

“If we change the outcomes without winning the minds of the people who will be ruled then we have a democracy in name only. If we limit what information people have access to and what they can say then we have no democracy at all.”

– War rooms –
Bosworth’s comments came with Facebook under pressure to better protect user data and prevent its services from being used to spread misinformation, exacerbate social divides and sway political opinions as was the case in 2016 in the US.

Keeping the social network secure while thwarting misinformation and fending off the competition with new features were among priorities laid out by executives at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas Tuesday.

“The innovation piece is important to us while we keep people in the company focused on security,” said Facebook vice president of global marketing solutions Carolyn Everson.

Facebook provided visitors a look at a revamped “Privacy Checkup” tool for users which is rolling out this week.

“What is top of mind for me is regulation and how the privacy landscape is developing,” Everson said.

“We would like help on the regulatory front for privacy and security.”

Facebook priorities this year include preventing the platform from being used by malevolent actors to influence the US election, according to Everson.

The social network is in nearly 200 countries around the world, where scores of elections take place annually and will apply lessons learned through experience to the US, Everson said.

Facebook will once again have a “war room” to coordinate responses to the election or voter manipulation efforts by state actors or others in real-time.

“The war room model has been working around the world,” Everson said.

“We have 70 to 90 elections each year, so we have been getting better. War rooms are part of our strategy.”

Facebook will ban hyper-realistic deepfake videos ahead of the US election but will still allow heavily edited clips so long as they are parody or satire.

Everson re-affirmed Facebook will stick with its controversial policy of allowing politicians to post information proven to be false.

“We do not believe we are in the position to be the arbiter of truth, but we have been clear that we are continuing to evaluate how we can do it better,” Everson said.

“We don’t want people to mislead on our platform.”

Facebook last month took down a network of accounts it said was using fake identities while spreading pro-Trump messages at the social network and its Instagram service.

Gunmen Fire At Buses Carrying Muslim Sri Lankan voters

 

Gunmen fired at buses carrying minority Muslim voters on Saturday as Sri Lankans elected a new president, with the powerful Rajapaksa clan eyeing a comeback seven months after Islamist extremists staged deadly bombings.

Minority Tamils and Muslims are seen as crucial in the close election, and the attack in the northwest of the island — in which no one was injured — was likely aimed at deterring people from heading to the polls.

But election chief Mahinda Deshapriya said over 80 percent of the 15.99 million electorate was estimated to have turned out Saturday, compared to 81.5 percent at the previous presidential poll in 2015.

“Comparatively this is the most peaceful presidential election we have had in this country,” Deshapriya told reporters at the end of the 10-hour voting period.

However, two women voters were injured when unidentified attackers pelted stones at their bus in the northwest region of Medawachchiya, police said.

The victims were travelling in a convoy of busses which had come under gunfire in the same region earlier in the day.

In the first attack, assailants burned tyres on the road and set up makeshift roadblocks before shooting at and pelting with stones two busses in a convoy of more than 100.

In the Tamil-dominated northern peninsula of Jaffna, meanwhile, police said they arrested 10 men they suspected of “trying to create trouble”, while also complaining that the army had illegally set up roadblocks that could stop people getting to polling stations.

Such tactics are nothing new in Sri Lanka, which emerged from a horrific civil war only a decade ago. At the 2015 election, there was a series of explosions in the north.

Supporters from rival parties meanwhile clashed in a tea plantation area 90 kilometres (55 miles) east of the capital Colombo, with two people taken to hospital with cuts, the election commission said.

Terminator vs Padman

Some 85,000 police were on duty for the election with a record 35 candidates running for president, an office with considerable power similar to the French political system.

Results could come as early as midday (0630 GMT) on Sunday if there is a clear winner, but Deshapriya said floods in three out of the 22 electoral districts had disrupted counting and warned of delays in releasing the final tallies.

One of the two frontrunners is grey-haired retired army lieutenant colonel Gotabaya Rajapaksa, 70, younger brother to the charismatic but controversial Mahinda Rajapaksa, president from 2005-15.

Dubbed the “Terminator” by his own family, “Gota” is promising an infrastructure blitz and better security in the wake of the Islamist attacks in April that killed 269 people.

“Gotabaya will protect our country,” construction worker Wasantha Samarajjeew, 51, said as he cast his ballot in Colombo.

His main rival is Sajith Premadasa, 52, from the governing liberal United National Party (UNP), son of assassinated ex-president Ranasinghe Premadasa.

He is also pushing development and security as well as free sanitary pads for poor women, earning him the nickname “Padman” after a famous Bollywood movie.

The Rajapaksas are adored by Sri Lanka’s Sinhalese majority for defeating Tamil Tiger separatists and ending a 37-year civil war in 2009.

They are detested and feared by many Tamils, who make up 15 percent of the population. The conflict ended with some 40,000 Tamil civilians allegedly killed by the army.

During Mahinda Rajapaksa’s presidency, Gotabaya was defence secretary and effectively ran the security forces, even allegedly overseeing “death squads” that bumped off political rivals, journalists and others.

He denies the allegations.

What also concerns Western countries, as well as India, is that strategically located Sri Lanka moved closer to China under Mahinda Rajapaksa, even allowing two Chinese submarines to dock in Colombo in 2014.

Under its Belt and Road Initiative spanning Asia and beyond, China loaned and granted Sri Lanka billions of dollars for infrastructure projects, many of which turned into white elephants and became mired in corruption allegations.

Mahinda says credit was unavailable elsewhere.

Western capitals “should give a fair chance to us”, Basil Rajapaksa, another brother, told reporters. “They can’t be monitors of this country. They must be partners.”

Sporadic Violence As Nigerians Vote In State Elections

 

Sporadic violence-marred polls in Kogi and Bayelsa states on Saturday despite a heavy security presence after a bloody run-up to the elections.

The Southern oil-rich Bayelsa and central Kogi are among seven states where gubernatorial elections are held at different times from the general election due to court rulings.

Bayelsa has been ruled by the main opposition People’s Democratic Party since Nigeria returned to civilian rule in 1999.

Counting began on Saturday evening.

Election officials said results had been trickling in but voting would continue in areas where there had been stray violence.

In Bayelsa, the election was canceled in some stations in the Ogbia area following the abduction of an election official and the burning of voting materials.

Voting opened late in most polling stations in the state, with long queues forming in Yenagoa, the state capital, and elsewhere.

In Otuoke, the hometown of former President Goodluck Jonathan, party thugs fought over the late arrival and distribution of voting materials.

Many people were injured in the fracas.

The polls officially closed at 2:00 pm (1300 GMT), but electoral officials said those who had already queued up would be allowed to vote even after the deadline.

Some 900,000 voters are eligible to vote for the candidates of 45 political parties in 1,804 polling stations across Bayelsa.

The leading candidates are David Lyon of Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari’s All Progressive Congress (APC) and PDP’s Douye Diri, a former senator.

The winner of the election will replace PDP Governor Seriake Dickson, who is stepping down after two four-year terms, the legal maximum.

The Independent Electoral Commission of Nigeria (INEC) said over 31,000 police had been deployed in Bayelsa, as well as 87 be gunboats, to prevent violence.

Helicopters, soldiers, riot police

Police helicopters hovered over Yenagoa, while soldiers and anti-riot police mounted roadblocks at major points, an AFP reporter said.

This week, a staffer at a radio station was shot dead and many injured during an attack on a political rally in Bayelsa, and in Kogi state, a campaign office was burnt down.

“Already there have been several instances of violence at election campaign rallies in both Bayelsa and Kogi states,” Amnesty International said.

Voters on Saturday said they wanted a peaceful election.

“We crave a free, fair and hitch-free election in Bayelsa. Everybody should be allowed to exercise his or her franchise without harassment and intimidation,” Joseph Cookey, a textile trader in the southern city of Port Harcourt, told AFP.

Housewife Alice Ebere urged “politicians to shun violence and allow the wish of people to prevail”.

In Kogi where incumbent Governor Yahaya Bello of APC is seeking re-election against Musa Wada of PDP and 22 other candidates, a boy was shot in the leg when a group of people stormed into a polling unit and snatched ballot boxes.

Local reports also said some party agents were beaten up at another polling booth in the state.

In Kogi, a total of 35,200 police had been deployed to protect some 1.5 million registered voters, according to INEC.

Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation with 190 million people, has a long history of electoral violence, vote-buying, ballot-stuffing, and voter intimidation.

Dozens of people were killed during the 2019 general election which returned Buhari to power.

In 2011, hundreds of people were killed in post-election violence, mostly in northern Nigeria.

Buhari, the 76-year-old general who headed a military regime in the 1980s, has promised to reform the country’s electoral system to ensure free, fair and credible elections.

Bolivia’s Election Turmoil: A Timeline

 

Bolivian President Evo Morales has resigned after three weeks of turmoil stemming from a disputed October 20 election in which he was declared the winner, giving him a fourth straight term.

Here is a recap of the tensions leading to his dramatic move.

Morales seeks fourth term

On October 20, Bolivians go to the polls with Morales, Latin America’s longest serving leader, seeking a fourth straight term.

His only serious challenger is centrist Carlos Mesa, president between 2003 and 2005.

Second round?

Partial results released hours after polls close put Morales on 45 percent of the votes and Mesa 38 percent, with 84 percent of ballots counted.

A margin of 10 percentage points between candidates is required to avoid a second round runoff.

Morales has won all his previous elections in the first round.

Vote count stalls

The release of official results is inexplicably stalled overnight with 84 percent of votes counted.

On October 21, international observers ask for clarification and Mesa accuses Morales of cheating to avoid a runoff.

Opposition supporters protest outside key vote counting centers in the capital, La Paz, and in other cities.

Count change

Late October 21, the election authority releases more results showing Morales edging towards an outright victory with 95 percent of the votes counted.

Organization of American States (OAS) monitors express “deep concern and surprise at the drastic and hard-to-explain change.” Mesa alleges fraud.

Violence breaks out at protests in several cities. Mobs torch electoral offices in the cities of Sucre and Potosi, while rival supporters clash in La Paz.

Opposition strike

On October 22, opposition groups call for a nationwide general strike from midnight “until democracy and the will of the citizens are respected.”

The vice president of the Supreme Electoral Tribunal resigns, criticizing what he calls mismanagement of the election count.

There are new clashes between protesters and security forces in La Paz.

‘Coup’

On October 23, Morales likens the general strike to a right-wing coup.

Mesa urges his supporters to step up protests and insists a “second round must take place.”

He says he will not recognize the results tallied by the tribunal, which he accuses of manipulating the count to help Morales win.

Clashes break out between rival demonstrators in the opposition bastion of Santa Cruz, where offices housing the electoral authority are set on fire.

Security forces and demonstrators also clash elsewhere.

Morales declares victory

On October 24, Morales claims he has won outright.

In the evening, the election authority issues final results, giving Morales has 47.08 percent of votes and Mesa 36.52 percent.

The opposition, the EU, the US, OAS, Argentina, Brazil and Colombia urge a second round.

Fresh clashes take place between rival groups, along with road blocks and demonstrations.

On October 27, Morales says that there will be no “political negotiation” and accuses his rivals of preparing a “coup”.

Call for ‘de-escalation’

On October 28, protests deepen with around 30 wounded in clashes with security forces and between supporters of Morales and Mesa at La Paz, Cochabamba and Santa Cruz.

On the 29, the government invites Mesa to take part in an audit of the election results by the OAS, a body that works to promote cooperation in the Americas.

The United Nations calls for an urgent “de-escalation” of tensions.

Outside audit

As outrage grows, the OAS begins to audit the election results.

On November 3, an opposition leader vows to oust Morales and appeals to the military for its support.

The death toll in the protests rises to three on November 6 with the death of a student.

On the 8th, police officers in at least three Bolivian cities join the opposition, in some cases marching in the street with them.

On November 10, the OAS announces that it found many irregularities in its analysis of the election.

Morales calls a new election, but it is too late. Two ministers and the speaker of congress resign after their homes are attacked by opposition supporters.

The commanders of the armed forces and the police add their voices to the calls for Morales to step down.

On the evening of November 10, from his native coca growing region in central Bolivia, Morales announces his resignation after nearly 14 years in power.

OAS Recommends Fresh Bolivia Elections

Map of Bolivia

 

The Organization of American States recommended Sunday canceling the first round of the Bolivian elections, held three weeks ago and claimed by the opposition as fraudulent, and holding new elections.

“The first round of the elections held last October 20 must be annulled and the electoral process must begin again, the first round taking place as soon as there are new conditions that give new guarantees for it to take place, including a newly composed electoral body,” the organization said in a press release, as thousands of Bolivians are preparing to enter a fourth week of protests demanding the annulment of the elections and the resignation of President Evo Morales.

More details later.

Spain Votes In Repeat General Election Amid Catalonia Tensions

 

Spain voted Sunday in its fourth general election in as many years amid heightened tensions over the separatist push in Catalonia that has fuelled a surge in support for upstart far-right party Vox.

The repeat polls were called after Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez failed to secure support from other parties following an inconclusive election in April which saw his Socialist party win the most votes, but no working majority in parliament.

Opinion polls however suggest this new election will fail to break the deadlock. Neither the left nor the right look likely to win a ruling majority in Spain’s 350-seat parliament.

The Socialists are on track to finish top again, but with slightly fewer seats than the 123 they picked up in April, while the main opposition conservative Popular Party (PP) may strengthen its parliamentary presence.

But the most striking development could be the rise of the far-right Vox party, which might even jump to third-largest in parliament, according to polling.

Party leaders from across the political spectrum urged Spaniards to head to the polls.

Sanchez told reporters after voting in Madrid that “it is very important that we all participate to strengthen our democracy” and “have the needed stability to be able to form a government”.

The last election produced a near-record 76 percent turnout, which helped Sanchez who had mobilised left-leaning voters to oppose Vox but analysts warn the numbers will likely drop this time, as Spaniards suffer election fatigue.

Voting stations will close at 8:00 pm, with results expected a few hours later.

‘Put order’

The election comes as Spain finds itself increasingly polarised by the Catalan crisis, which has deepened in recent weeks.

Less than a month ago, the Supreme Court sentenced nine Catalan separatist leaders to lengthy jail terms over their role in a failed 2017 independence bid, sparking days of angry street protests in Barcelona and other Catalan cities that sometimes turned violent.

More than 600 people were injured in the protests, which saw demonstrators torching barricades and throwing stones and Molotov cocktails at police.

During a TV election debate PP leader Pablo Casado called for a “real government that will put order in Catalonia”.

But the toughest line against the Catalan separatists has come from Vox leader Santiago Abascal.

“Drastic solutions are needed,” he said during his final campaign rally on Friday night in Madrid.

He then repeated his pledge to end the Catalan crisis by suspending Catalonia’s regional autonomy, banning separatist parties and arresting its regional president, Quim Torra, who has vowed to continue the secession drive.

The crowd responded by chanting “Torra to the dungeon”.

At the rally, Ana Escobedo said she has voted for the PP in the past but was drawn to Vox because of its hard line on Catalonia as well as illegal immigration.

“I think we need to take a heavy hand,” she said.

‘Remain difficult ‘

Vox won 24 seats in parliament in the last election in April, in the first significant showing by a far-right faction since Spain’s return to democracy following the death of dictator Francisco Franco in 1975.

This time Vox could double that number, polls suggest.

In recent days, Sanchez has repeatedly raised the alarm about Vox’s “aggressive ultra-rightwing” policies, warning the party would drag the country back to the dark days of Franco’s dictatorship.

Spain has been caught in political paralysis since the election of December 2015 when far-left Podemos and business-friendly Ciudadanos entered parliament.

That put an end to decades of dominance of the two main parties, the PP and the Socialists, in the eurozone’s fourth-largest economy.

But there is a risk Sunday’s vote will only prolong the agony.

With no single party able to secure the required 176 seats for a majority, the Socialists are likely to opt for a minority government, ING analyst Steven Trypsteen said.

“Voting intentions appear to have changed since the April election. But these changes will not make it easier to form a government, so the political situation is likely to remain difficult after this weekend’s vote,” he added.

Former NYC Mayor Bloomberg Preparing Presidential Run

(FILES) File photo dated July 24, 2019 shows Michael Bloomberg addressing the NAACP’s (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) 110th National Convention at Cobo Center in Detroit, Michigan.

 

Former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg is preparing to enter the crowded race to become the Democratic nominee for the 2020 presidential election, US media reported Thursday.

The 77-year-old is expected to file paperwork in at least one state this week declaring himself a candidate, according to multiple outlets including The New York Times.

Bloomberg had said back in March he wouldn’t run, but has been toying for weeks with the idea of seeking the White House after all, according to an advisor, who was quoted as saying he had yet to make a final decision.

The billionaire has, though, sent members of staff to Alabama to gather the necessary signatures required to register for that state’s primary ahead of the deadline Friday in anticipation of a bid, the reports said.

Alabama is not one of the earlier primaries but it has one of the earliest deadlines.

The move is the first clear sign that Bloomberg, long touted as a possible US presidential candidate, is getting ready to battle it out to take on President Donald Trump.

“We now need to finish the job and ensure that Trump is defeated –- but Mike is increasingly concerned that the current field of candidates is not well positioned to do that,” Bloomberg advisor Howard Wolfson said in a statement.

“Based on his record of accomplishment, leadership and his ability to bring people together to drive change, Mike would be able to take the fight to Trump and win,” Wolfson added, according to Bloomberg News.

Bloomberg, the co-founder and CEO of the media company that shares his name, is one of the richest people in the United States.

His huge personal wealth would likely shake up the contest at a time when frontrunner Joe Biden’s fundraising is sagging.

Bloomberg is perceived as a centrist figure close to Wall Street who views Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, two of the other Democratic frontrunners, as too left-wing.

“He thinks (leader) Joe Biden is weak and Sanders and Warren can’t win,” the New York Post quoted a source familiar with Bloomberg’s plans as saying.

Bloomberg’s entry would bloat an already crowded field of contenders, with 17 candidates currently vying for the right to take on Trump as the Democratic nominee.

‘Scared’

Bloomberg, who was elected mayor of the Big Apple in 2001 and served until 2013, is known to be opposed to some of the policies espoused by Warren and Sanders.

They regularly lash out at financiers and big corporations. Both have said they plan to hit the rich with bigger taxes.

“Welcome to the race, @MikeBloomberg!” tweeted Warren.

“If you’re looking for policy plans that will make a huge difference for working people and which are very popular, start here,” she added.

Warren accompanied the tweet with a link link to a calculator on her website which works out how much more billionaires would pay in tax under her presidency.

“The billionaire class is scared and they should be scared,” Sanders posted on Twitter, in a not-so-subtle reference to the reports about Bloomberg.

Bloomberg has switched between the Republican and Democratic parties over the years and also served as an independent mayor.

He has used some of his fortune to back Democratic politicians and fund policies that he believes in — including the fight against climate change and anti-vaping efforts.

Bloomberg considered running as an independent in 2016 but opted not to for fear of splitting the Democratic vote.

Women Ask Pope Francis For Voting Rights

Pope Francis waves as he meets with bishops during the weekly general audience on October 23, 2019 at St. Peter’s Square in the Vatican. Vincenzo PINTO / AFP

 

Catholic nuns taking part in a three-week Vatican assembly on the Amazon have urged Pope Francis to allow them to vote on the final document Saturday.

A green light from Francis would be a historic first. The Vatican has not publicly responded to the request, but an expert said it would be unusual for voting rules to be changed once the assembly, or “synod”, was under way.

Only “synod fathers” — bishops, cardinals and specially-appointed male representatives — are allowed to vote on the final document, which brings together a list of recommendations submitted to the pope.

Francis will take those recommendations into consideration when he draws up his own document in the coming months.

There are 184 bishops or cardinals with voting rights taking part — nearly two-thirds of whom come from the Pan-Amazon region, which covers nine Latin American countries.

The meeting, which ends Sunday, has also been attended by non-voting observers, auditors and experts, including 35 women.

Ecuadorian nun Ines Azucena Zambrano Jara said Friday a letter had been sent to the pontiff.

She told journalists at a press briefing that the women took an active part in the synod, with some of them defining themselves as “synod mothers”.

Specialized site Religion Digital said the 35 women had signed a petition calling for the right to vote.

The synod fathers will vote later Saturday on each paragraph in the document.

Francis bent the rules at a previous synod in 2018, allowing two lay men to vote in their capacity as superiors general of their religious orders.

There have been calls for the pontiff to extend the right to female superiors general.

AFP

Academic Wins Tunisia Presidential Poll By A Landslide

Conservative academic Kais Saied kisses the Tunisian flag as he celebrates his victory in the Tunisian presidential election in the capital Tunis on October 13, 2019. Photo Credit: FETHI BELAID / AFP

 

Conservative academic Kais Saied Sunday won a landslide victory in Tunisia’s presidential runoff, sweeping aside his rival, media magnate Nabil Karoui, state television Wataniya said.

It said he scooped almost 77 percent of the vote, compared to 23 percent for Karoui.

News of the victory triggered celebrations at the retired law professor’s election campaign offices in central Tunis, as fireworks were set off outside and supporters honked car horns.