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MALE/COLOMBO, September 19, 2018 (News Wires) - More than a quarter of a million people will vote on Sunday for the next leader of the tropical Maldives in an election criticised internationally for a lack of transparency and suppression of government critics.

President Abdulla Yameen is seeking a second five-year term in the Indian Ocean archipelago, a popular high-end tourist destination and a key state in the battle for influence between India and China.

But the government has jailed many of his main rivals after speedy trials for charges ranging from terrorism to corruption, and introduced new vote-counting rules that observers say will prevent them from seeing individual ballot papers, leading to doubts about the legitimacy of the vote.

The main opposition Maldives Democratic Party (MDP) and local and international observers have also raised concerns over restrictions on foreign journalists wanting to cover the polls and the Election Commission’s refusal to share the final list of voters.

“Maldives authorities have detained critics, muzzled the media and misused the Election Commission to obstruct opposition candidates to ensure President Yameen a victory on election day,” said Patricia Gossman, Asia associate director at Human Rights Watch.

Transparency Maldives (TM), an independent election monitor, said on Tuesday that “unless these issues are resolved, it is very likely that the outcome of such an election will not be accepted by the people”.

Election Commission spokesman Ahmed Akram told Reuters the allegations “don’t have any basis in reality”.

“The counting process will not be different from the previous elections,” he said.

The Election Commission has previously said that foreign observers will be present, without naming who those will be.

Yameen, 59, dismissed allegations of abuse of power earlier this month during campaigning.

“If the accusations about authoritarianism are true, when I go to islands, the people will tell me ‘we are tolerating so much abuse’,” he said.

“I won’t see smiles on the faces. No one will come to greet me and shake my hand, if there is tyranny.”

The country has faced upheaval since February, when Yameen imposed a state of emergency to annul a Supreme Court ruling that quashed the convictions of nine opposition leaders, including former president Mohamed Nasheed, the country’s first democratically elected leader.

Since then, Yameen’s ruling coalition has enacted laws without a required quorum in parliament, approved by the Supreme Court after its chief justice was arrested in February for alleged corruption under emergency regulations.

MDP leader Nasheed, who in 2009 famously held a cabinet meeting underwater in scuba gear to highlight the dangers of global warming to the low-lying islands, is currently in exile in Sri Lanka and is barred from standing in Sunday’s poll.

Member of parliament Ibrahim Mohamed Solih (Ibu) is running against Yameen under an opposition coalition, promising democracy, a crackdown on corruption and better relations with the West after Yameen steered the country closer to China.

“What happens from today to the voting day remains uncertain,” the MDP’s spokesman, Hamid Abdul Ghafoor, who lives in exile, told Reuters.

Yameen has disregarded calls from the United Nations, several western countries and India for an amicable solution to the lingering political crisis. In 2016, the Maldives quit the Commonwealth group of nations, which threatened to suspend the country after it criticised the government for rights abuses.

LONDON, September 2, 2018 (News Wires) — Britain's prime minister has again spoken out against calls for a second referendum on Britain's decision to split with the European Union.

Theresa May wrote in the Sunday Telegraph that it would be a "gross betrayal of our democracy" to have another vote.

She said "millions came out to have their say" in the June 2016 vote that set Brexit in motion.

Her embattled government has faced increasingly strident calls for another vote once the terms of Britain's future relations with the EU are known.

The prime minister used the column to defend her "Chequers proposal" that would maintain some ties with the EU, and said she won't be pushed around by EU negotiators.

Britain is expected to leave the EU in March and enter a transition phase.

BAMAKO, Mali, August 16, 2018 (News Wires) — Mali's President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita won a second five-year term in the turbulent West African nation with more than 67 per cent of the vote in a runoff election, the Ministry of Territorial Administration said on Thursday.

Opposition leader Soumaila Cisse received over 32 per cent of the vote in Sunday's runoff that had an estimated turnout of 34 per cent amid threats of violence from extremist groups.

The turnout dropped from the first round, in which nearly 43 per cent of voters made it to the polls.

The constitutional court must approve the results by August 22.

"We are very happy for this well-earned victory for our president," said Mahamadou Camara, spokesman for Keita. "Malians have expressed a choice which had already been evident since the first round. Our candidate came in first. We are not scared of a post-election crisis."

Cisse supporters gathered in the capital, Bamako, shouting in disappointment. The 68-year-old opposition leader has blamed Keita for the country's insecurity, and his party alleged fraud in the first round and warned against it in the runoff.

"We are not in agreement with these results. It's Soumaila Cisse who won, and we will march in protest because IBK stole our victory," said 33-year-old Oumar Toure, referring to the president by his initials.

It was not immediately clear whether Cisse's party would challenge the runoff's results in court.

The 73-year-old president leads a nation that has grown more insecure since he beat Cisse in a second-round election in 2013, the same year that French-backed forces pushed extremists in the north from their strongholds.

The extremists have been staging more brazen attacks that have spread into central Mali, where both Islamic State and al-Qaeda-linked militants are present. Deadly communal clashes between ethnic groups and accusations of heavy-handed counterterror operations have caused even deeper tensions and mistrust of the state.

In northern and central Mali more than 50 polling stations had closed before noon on Sunday because of threats by extremists, according to the Citizen Observation Pool of Mali which had more than 2,000 observers.

The observers also reported several incidents of violence on voting day, including the killing of a village chairman and the harassment of at least four election workers. A number of polling stations were burned. In Bamako, voting was also hindered by rains.

Erdogan gains more opponents

 By the Gazette Editorial Board

The recent decree issued by Turkish President Erdogan for the dismissal of more than 18,500 civil servants, police officers, soldiers and academics, can only be seen as a continuation of his attempt to clear state institutions of all voices of opposition to his authoritarian rule of the country.


On the pretext of the failed coup against his rule in July 2016, Erdogan forced a state of emergency on the country to help him get rid of the greatest number of his opponents.


The emergency has been renewed seven times. The latest period is officially due to end on July 19.

Over 110,000 civil servants had already been removed from their jobs under emergency decrees since July 2016. Tens of thousands more have been suspended on charges of belonging to a terrorist organisation.


Erdogan accuses US-based Muslim preacher Fethullah Gulen of having orchestrated the attempted coup. The majority of those fired under the emergency decrees were accused of links to Gulen's movement. Gulen strongly denied any coup links and insisted his movement was peaceful.


Erdogan's recent decree was issued shortly after he won the presidential election and a day before he was due to take the oath of office, inaugurating a powerful executive presidency.


Although he won the election by no more than 52.5 per cent of the vote, Erdogan behaves as if he had come to office with overwhelming public support.


Instead of adopting policies to help him regain his lost popularity, the arrogant leader decided to crack down yet again on his opponents and escalate public anger against his regime. He seems more determined than ever today to force his fundamentalist ideology on Turkish society.


For long the Islamist leader claimed to respect the secular traditions and principles on which the state of Turkey was created in the first half of the 20th century. When he and his party in parliament came to power, however, Erdogan accelerated the removal of all his opponents in one move and before the end of the state of emergency on July 19.


The proof is that the list that comprised more than 18,000 people gathered elements from various categories of society that couldn't come together in one movement, such as that of Gulen, or be part of the failed military coup carried out by some members of the military institution in July 2016.


It is, in fact, difficult to find a connection between all those rivals other than their strong opposition to Erdogan’s new authoritarian rule and his obsession with reviving the Ottoman Empire.


It is hard to imagine a link between the military personnel who used to guard the secular nature of modern Turkey and the Islamist preacher Fethullah Gulen who shares Erdogan's AK Party ideology of reviving the Islamic background of Turkey but differs on the means for its enforcement.


In other words, the decree, the Turkish media labelled as the last was a must. It was meant to remove all Erdogan's opponents from state bodies to ensure the full domination of the AKP over all state institutions.


The question is can Erdogan or any other ruler govern a society in which around 50 per cent of its members hold the ruler in contempt?

ANKARA, Turkey, June 25, 2018 (News Wires) — The head of Turkey's electoral board says 99.91 per cent of the ballots cast in Sunday's dual presidential and parliamentary elections have been "processed" so far.

Sadi Guven on Monday described the elections, in which President Recep Tayyip Erdogan won a new five-year term with vastly increased powers, as "healthy" and said the results would be opened for public scrutiny in 10 days.

According to unofficial results, Erdogan won 52.6 percent of the votes in the presidential race, avoiding a second-round runoff vote. His ruling Justice and Development Party garnered 42.5 per cent of the parliamentary vote.

The board is scheduled to confirm the results on June 29 after reviewing complaints.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has become one of the first world leaders to congratulate Recep Tayyip Erdogan on being re-elected as Turkey's president.

Turkey's national electoral board has declared Erdogan the winner of the country's presidential election with an absolute majority of valid votes.

Putin sent Erdogan a telegram to congratulate him on the victory, the Kremlin said in a statement on Monday.

Putin told Erdogan that the results of the election were a testament to his political authority and the broad support for his leadership.

Turkey and Russia have put aside their traditional rivalries and differences on regional issues to forge closer ties. Putin and Erdogan have met several times in the past year and regularly speak on the phone.

Also Monday, Kosovo President Hashim Thaci congratulated Erdogan in a tweet, adding: "Looking forward to our continued good co-operation."

Turkey has been a main supporter of Kosovo, which declared independence from Serbia in 2008.

HARARE, June 5, 2018 (News Wires) — Thousands of opposition supporters marched in Zimbabwe’s capital on Tuesday to demand electoral reforms ahead of the July 30 vote, the first since Robert Mugabe stepped down last year.

The street demonstration was Harare’s largest since the massive one in November leading to Mugabe’s departure. Speakers warned they would march again if President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who took power with the military’s help, “steals” the election.

Mnangagwa has promised a “free, fair and credible” vote and invited Western observers for the first time in nearly two decades, mindful that the West has indicated a fair vote must take place before international sanctions can be lifted. Previous elections have been marked by allegations of fraud and violence.

Nelson Chamisa, the 40-year-old MDC-T party leader who has energized the opposition since the death of longtime opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai in February, said they will not allow elections to go ahead if the vote is not free and fair.

“We will stop all processes until they accept our demands. ... We are prepared to do whatever is necessary,” Chamisa told cheering supporters.

Chanting slogans, the marchers passed through Mnangagwa’s office, where a Cabinet meeting was under way, and presented a petition. They did the same at the electoral commission.

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