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MALE, Maldives, September 23, 2018 (AP) — Huge crowds flocked to closely guarded polling stations on Sunday to vote in the Maldives' third multiparty presidential elections, widely seen as a referendum on the island nation's young democracy.

Both President Yameen Abdul Gayoom and the opposition candidate, Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, voted in the capital, Male, shortly after polls opened.

More than 260,000 of the 400,000 Maldivians were eligible to vote at about 400 polling stations across the islands that comprise the Indian Ocean archipelago.

Observers from Transparency Maldives said in a statement late Sunday morning that opening procedures "went well," with nearly all of the polling stations opening within 30 minutes of the scheduled opening time.

Hundreds waited in line as a light rain fell in Maldives' capital, Male.

Voters debated the relative merits of the two candidates in front of a polling station at the Imauddin School.

Aviation worker Mohamed Ismail, 23, said he cast his ballot for Solih because "people live in fear" under strongman President Yameen, who has been criticised for cracking down on democratic freedoms.

"Look around. People are moving freely," countered Adam Thaufeeg, a 40-year-old government employee, who said he voted for Yameen because of his vision for developing the Maldives.

An election-eve police raid of Solih's main campaign office cast a pall over Sunday's elections.

A police warrant obtained by The Associated Press cited police intelligence that Solih's campaign office may have been used to coordinate vote-buying. Senior campaign official Ahmed Shahid was named in the warrant as a suspect. Repeated calls to Shahid went unanswered.

The raid Saturday was the latest sign of a government crackdown against the opposition, raising fears that the election may be rigged to favor Gayoom's party.

Gayoom used his first term in office to consolidate power, jailing opponents, including his half brother, a former president, and two Supreme Court Justices, and asserting control over the courts.

The European Union said Friday that it was not sending election observers because the Maldives had failed to meet the basic conditions for monitoring.

"In view of events in Maldives," the country's British ambassador, James Dauris, tweeted Saturday, "it's easy to understand why so many people are concerned about what might happen on Election Day."

The polls close at 4pm and results are expected after 10pm, election officials have said.

BEIJING, September 19, 2018 (Reuters) - China foreign ministry said on Wednesday China does not interfere in the internal affairs of other countries, when asked about US President Donald Trump’s tweet accusing China of trying to sway the US election.

Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang made the comment at a regular briefing in Beijing.

Trump tweeted on Tuesday that China was “actively trying to impact and change our election by attacking our farmers, ranchers and industrial workers because of their loyalty to me.”


ROME, September 12, 2018 (News Wires) - Conditions in Libya are too unstable to hold elections, Prime Minister Fayez Seraj was cited as saying on Wednesday, casting doubts on a French-led push for a vote in December which aims to end years of turmoil and unify the North African country.

French President Emmanuel Macron hosted a conference in May where rival Libyan factions agreed to work with the United Nations for a national election by Dec. 10.

Libya splintered following the 2011 NATO-backed revolt that toppled Muammar Gaddafi, and since 2014 has been divided between competing political and military groups based in Tripoli and the east.

“You can not vote with instability in the streets ... it is necessary that everyone accepts the result of the ballot. We need shared rules,” Seraj, who leads the UN-brokered transitional government based in Tripoli, said in an interview with Italian daily Corriere della Sera.

Armed groups have vowed to resume hostilities if talks to be hosted by UN Special Envoy Ghassan Salame do not result in a lasting settlement.

Seraj has close relations with Italy.

His main rival, military commander Khalifa Haftar, is aligned with a government based in the east and is seen as closer to France.

Seraj also said factions would need to agree on a constitution before any vote is held.

“We had talked about elections in Paris, but the constitutional document, which is ready but not approved, must first be voted on,” Seraj said.

“Unfortunately, the parliament of Tobruk has not yet examined it. Without the constitution, how can one go to a national vote?”

STOCKHOLM, Sept 8, 2018 (News Wires) - Swedish prime minister Stefan Lofven denounced an increasingly popular far-right party as racist and a threat to the nation's European values Saturday as political candidates made their final pre-election pitches to voters.

The parliamentary election being held Sunday will be Sweden's first since the government in 2015 allowed 163,000 migrants into the country of 10 million. While far less than what Germany took in that year, it was the most per capita of any European nation.

An immigration backlash is expected to shape the vote even though the number of migrants arriving in Sweden has been restricted sharply since the height of Europe's mass influx. Polls showed established parties losing some support, including the center-left parties which earlier favored open-door policies.

The Sweden Democrats has played a role in breaking down longstanding taboos on what Swedes could say openly about immigration and integration without being shunned as racists.


By the Gazette Editorial Board

Cairo is anxiously watching the tragic escalation of the situation in its western neighbour – Libya. There are growing fears that this already war-ravaged country is sliding helplessly and uncontrollably into a whirlwind of violence.


Clashes have been renewed between armed militias and the 7th Brigade in Tripoli. More than 40 people were killed. The Libyan interior ministry has warned all residents to stay away from the conflict areas.


The Government of National Accord (GNA), under Fayez el-Seraj, had earlier decided to disband the 7th Brigade. But the Commander of the 7th Brigade ignored the order. There are conflicting reports about the situation, some of which maintain that the 7th Brigade has launched a military coup against el-Saraj’s GNA for its alleged backing of the armed militias.


The spokesman for the 7th Brigade declared that they would not stop until they had eliminated armed militias (Islamists) from the capital. It is known that el-Seraj’s GNA legitimatised the presence of the Islamists in Libya’s political life.


The commander of the 7th Brigade has sent a reassuring message to the foreign diplomatic corps in the capital, confirming that peace would prevail after the dismissal of all armed militias.


The UN envoy to Libya appears to be at a loss, being unable to persuade the warring factions to agree to a ceasefire and return to the negotiating table ahead of presidential elections scheduled to take place in December.


Facebook has been blocked. Telecom companies deny involvement. The spokesman for the International Communications Company in Tripoli said that Facebook has stopped working because of an international provider malfunction.


Italy has accused France of being behind the renewal of the armed clashes between the warring factions in Libya. There is growing uncertainty over whether parallel presidential and parliamentary elections scheduled for later this year will ever take place.


Italy is pressing hard for the postponement of presidential elections in Libya to the first half of next year.  Nonetheless, France is determined that the presidential elections should be held as scheduled in December.


Italy won the support of key players in Libya for delaying the presidential elections, during a meeting held in Rome two weeks ago. The meeting was attended by representatives of the US, Britain, Russia, France, Qatar, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the UAE.


Italy has real concerns that holding elections in Libya before achieving inclusive national reconciliation will have negative repercussions. Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte called for a stable political framework to be secured, before elections take place.


Responding to Conte’s statement, French President Emmanuel Macron said last week that the coming months would be decisive concerning the situation in Libya. Macron confirmed that France was determined that the different factions in Libya should honour their obligations regarding political reconciliation and the sovereignty of Libyan territory.


It is too difficult to predict the outcome of the new clashes between the warring parties in Libya. Nor is it possible to tell which personality or which faction will be the winner in the end.

ISLAMABAD, September 4, 2018 (News Wires) — Polling has started in Pakistan to elect a president, a process likely to strengthen the grip of the ruling party whose nominee is expected to easily become the new ceremonial head of state.

The president is indirectly elected by lawmakers from the National Assembly, the Senate and four provincial assemblies.

Tuesday's election comes two weeks after Pakistan's cricket star-turned-politician Imran Khan became prime minister following the July 25 national elections, which saw his Tehreek-e-Insaf party come into power.

Khan's candidate Arif Alvi faces little challenge from Aitzaz Ahsan from the opposition Pakistan People's Party and Maulana Fazlur Rehman, who is a pro-Taliban, anti-US radical Islamic leader.

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