Blow for Macron as Le Pen tops EU election in France

Marine Le Pen’s National Rally received 23.31 percent of the European elections in France. (AFP)
Updated 27 May 2019

Blow for Macron as Le Pen tops EU election in France

  • Marine Le Pen’s National Rally received 23.31 percent of the European elections in France
  • Emmanuel Macron’s centrist alliance trailed with 22.41 percent

PARIS: The far-right National Rally party led by Marine Le Pen finished top in European elections in France, final results showed Monday, dealing a symbolic blow, but not a knock-out punch, to pro-EU President Emmanuel Macron.
Le Pen’s National Rally (RN) received 23.31 percent of the vote, with Macron’s centrist alliance trailing with 22.41 percent.
The two groups will have the same number of seats in the European Parliament, 23, after Britain’s expected departure from the EU.
Le Pen, who lost out to Macron in a bitter presidential contest in 2017, called for the head of state to dissolve the parliament and call new elections, a proposal that was immediately rejected by the government.
“It is up to the president of the republic to draw conclusions, he who put his presidential credit on the line in this vote in making it a referendum on his policies and even his personality,” Le Pen said in a brief speech late Sunday.
But despite triumphalist comments from RN figures, the final results were a mixed picture for the 50-year-old Le Pen: her party ended up losing ground since European elections in 2014 when it finished top with 24.9 percent.
In a first reaction after exit polls were released late on Sunday, an aide to Macron called them “respectable.” Leading allies of the 41-year-old president sounded satisfied that the margin of defeat looked like it would be slender.
A second-place finish for the ruling Republic on the Move (LREM) party was a disappointment for Macron after he put his reputation on the line by campaigning, but it is a symbolic setback that aides said would have no bearing on his policies.
“The catastrophe that some people predicted for Macron has not taken place and the RN has a significant score, but not a spectacular one when you compare it to five years ago,” analyst Zaki Laidi from the Cevipof political institute said.
An aide to Macron, speaking to AFP on condition of anonymity, said that there would be “no change of line” and that he would intensify his planned reforms which include tax cuts for the middle classes and controversial changes to the pension and unemployment benefits system.
Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said the results confirmed the “redrawing” of French politics, which was evident in the presidential election in 2017 when France’s traditional parties were eclipsed by Macron’s new centrist movement and the far-right.
“The time is for action because the French people will judge us ultimately on one thing: results,” Philippe said in a televised statement on Sunday.
He also said the government had “received a message about the ecological emergency” after France’s main green party, EELV, looked set to finish third, with around 13 percent of the vote compared with 8.9 percent in 2014.
Macron had made no secret of the significance he attached to the results, telling regional French newspapers last week that the EU elections were the most important for four decades as the union faced an “existential threat.”
He is a leading champion of further EU integration and is keen for further advances to link the economies, militaries and political systems of the bloc, which numbers 28 member states including Britain.
At home, the former investment banker started his five-year term as an energetic pro-business reformer intent on cutting unemployment and making France more entrepreneurial.
But for six months he has faced so-called “yellow vest” protesters who have blocked roads and demonstrated to denounce him as a “president of the rich” who has ignored the plight of the working poor and rural France.
Macron has since announced major tax cuts for the middle classes and a rise in the minimum wage.
His influence and Le Pen’s in the European parliament will now depend on whether they can make alliances.
Le Pen has previously called for the formation of a “supergroup” of euroskeptic parties, but the hard-right ruling party in Poland — PiS — has shunned her because of her pro-Russian views, while Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban remains aloof.
“The gains for our allies in Europe and the emergence of new forces across the continent ... open the way for the formation of a powerful group in the European parliament,” the RN’s top campaigner, 23-year-old Jordan Bardella, told supporters on Sunday.
Macron meanwhile is in alliance with the ALDE centrist and liberal grouping which is seen as finishing third in the parliament behind the conservative PPE formation and the center-left Socialists and Democrats (S&D).
But the French president, who redrew French politics in 2017, is still hoping to forge a new broader alliance of pro-European which would bring together so-called “progressives.”
“At the European level, the president is still maneuvering to form a large progressive alliance, a force that will be essential in the new parliament,” an aide said on condition of anonymity.

Ukraine missile strike hits Russia’s Black Sea Fleet headquarters, kills 1 serviceman

Updated 8 sec ago

Ukraine missile strike hits Russia’s Black Sea Fleet headquarters, kills 1 serviceman

KYIV: Ukraine carried out a fiery missile strike Friday on the main headquarters of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, killing one serviceman, the Russian Defense Ministry said.
Photos and video showed large plumes of smoke over the building in Sevastopol in annexed Crimea.
The Russian-installed governor of Sevastopol, Mikhail Razvozhayev, said no one was injured outside the burning headquarters, and he didn’t provide information on other casualties. Firefighters battled the blaze, and more emergency forces were being brought in, an indication the fire could be massive.
Sevastopol residents said they heard explosions in the skies and saw smoke, Russian news outlets reported. Images circulated in Ukrainian Telegram channels showed clouds of smoke over the seafront. The Associated Press could not immediately verify the videos.
A stream of ambulances arrived at the fleet’s headquarters, and shrapnel was scattered hundreds of meters (yards) around, the Tass news agency reported.
The Defense Ministry said five missiles were shot down by Russian air defense systems responding to the attack on Sevastopol. It was not immediately clear if the headquarters was hit in a direct strike or by debris from an intercepted missile.
Oleg Kryuchkov, an official with the Crimean administration, said one cruise missile downed near Bakhchysarai, about 30 kilometers (18.5 miles) inland, sparked a grass fire.
Razvozhayev said civilian infrastructure wasn’t damaged but did not mention the impact on the fleet headquarters.
He initially warned Sevastopol residents that another attack was possible and urged them not to leave buildings or go to the city center. He later said there was no longer any threat of an air strike but reiterated calls not to go to the central part of the city, saying roads were closed and unspecified “special efforts” were underway.
Police asked residents to leave the central part of the city, Tass said.
Ukrainian officials, who have claimed responsibility for a series of other recent attacks on Crimea, didn’t immediately announce Kyiv launched the strike.
The attack comes a day after Russian missiles and artillery pounded cities across Ukraine, killing at least five people as President Volodymyr Zelensky met with President Joe Biden and congressional leaders in Washington with an additional $24 billion aid package being considered.
The port city of Sevastopol serves as the main base for Russia’s Black Sea Fleet. A Ukrainian drone hit the fleet’s headquarters in July 2022, injuring six people and causing minor damage to the building.
Last week, the Russian-installed authorities in the city accused Ukraine of attacking a strategic shipyard in the city, damaging two ships undergoing repairs and causing a fire at the facility.
The Crimean Peninsula, which Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014 in an act that most of the world considered illegal, has been a frequent target since Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered a full-scale invasion of Ukraine more than 18 months ago. The attack on the shipyard was the biggest in weeks.
In other developments, ongoing shelling in the southern Kherson region killed one man and injured another, said regional Gov. Oleksandr Prokudin.
“Kherson has been restless since the morning,” he said on Telegram.
Russian shelling sparked fires in a residential building and a garage.
In Kharkiv, regional Gov. Oleh Synyehubov said over 14 settlements came under attack. A house was damaged and a fire broke out in Vovchansk, in Chuguyiv district. There were no casualties, the governor said.

Indonesia sends 200 cabin crew to support Saudi Vision 2030 aviation goals

Updated 39 min 44 sec ago

Indonesia sends 200 cabin crew to support Saudi Vision 2030 aviation goals

  • Indonesian pilots and flight attendants have jobs with Saudia, flyadeal and Flynas
  • Jakarta’s manpower minister says deployment expected to strengthen Saudi-Indonesian ties

JAKARTA: Indonesian pilots and flight attendants are going to support Saudi Arabia’s aviation goals under Vision 2030, the manpower minister has said, as she sent off more than 220 cabin crew to join the Kingdom’s airlines.

Saudi Arabia has been investing heavily in the aviation sector and in March announced the creation of a new national airline, Riyadh Air, as it moves to compete with regional transport and travel hubs.

Indonesia’s Manpower Minister Ida Fauziya met 224 cabin crew who had secured jobs with Saudia, flyadeal and Flynas during a send-off ceremony in Jakarta on Thursday evening, and said that their deployment is in line with the Kingdom’s efforts to boost the tourism sector.

“You all have an important role in supporting Saudi Arabia’s vision,” she told the participants, as quoted in a statement released by the ministry.

“This will bring a positive contribution in strengthening relations between Indonesia and Saudi Arabia.”

Data from the Indonesian embassy’s labor attache in Riyadh shows that 300 cabin crew from the country are already working in Saudi Arabia.

The manpower minister said that demand for Indonesian workers is high as they have an “excellent reputation in the world of international aviation.”

Earlier this month — for the fifth consecutive year — the Southeast Asian nation’s flag carrier Garuda Indonesia received the World’s Best Cabin Crew award from British-based consultancy Skytrax, which runs annual airline and airport rankings.

India to reserve one-third of parliament seats for women

Updated 43 min 26 sec ago

India to reserve one-third of parliament seats for women

  • New law paves the way for higher number of female representatives across the country
  • But the legislation is unlikely to be implemented before 2029, says constitutional lawyer

NEW DELHI: Billed as a landmark decision, India’s parliament has passed legislation that guarantees parliamentary seats for women lawmakers, although it is expected to take years before the law comes into force.

The Lok Sabha, or the lower house of India’s parliament, approved the law on Wednesday, and the upper house, or the Rajya Sabha, passed it unanimously on Thursday evening — more than two decades after a parliamentary proposal was submitted to give greater representation to women.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi took to social media after the passage of the bill and welcomed it as “a defining moment” in India’s democratic journey.

“With the passage of the Nari Shakti Vandan Adhiniyam (Women’s Empowerment Reservation Bill) in Parliament, we usher in an era of stronger representation and empowerment for the women of India,” he said. “This is not merely legislation; it is a tribute to the countless women who have made our nation.”

The law reserves a third of seats for women in the lower house of parliament and state assemblies. It does not apply to the upper house of Parliament, as its members are chosen by state legislatures.

However, the new legislation will only come into effect after India conducts a census and then redraws the boundaries of parliamentary constituencies. No date has yet been announced for completing the census that was scheduled to be held in 2021 but was delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The amendment provides that reservation will be implemented after new seats are created by delimitation after a fresh census,” Sanjay Hegde, constitutional lawyer from the Supreme Court, told Arab News on Friday.

“The census could not be done in 2021 due to COVID and may be done in 2025 or later. Compiled data may be available much later, after the census, and based on such data fresh delimitation has to be worked out. If the census is postponed, the entire cycle can be kicked further down the road to take effect in 2029 or 2034 polls or even later.”

The new law was welcomed by several women activists but the absence of a definite timeline made them wonder about the level of commitment to greater female representation in parliament.

“They passed it with the caveat that they can’t be implemented without the census and without the delimitation,” said Maimoon Mollah, president of the All India Democratic Women’s Association, the largest women’s organization in India.

“We don’t know when that is going to happen.”

For Kavita Krishnan, a Delhi-based activist, the most disappointing part was that the rule would not apply in next year’s polls.

“In the next election there is not going to be any women reservation,” she said.

“Basically, they are indefinitely postponing this thing.”

Authorities in Indian-administered Kashmir free key Muslim cleric after years of house arrest

Updated 22 September 2023

Authorities in Indian-administered Kashmir free key Muslim cleric after years of house arrest

  • Mirwaiz Umar Farooq was spearheading protests against Indian rule in disputed region
  • Farooq was detained ahead of India revoking Kashmir’s special status in 2019 

SRINAGAR: Indian authorities released a key Muslim cleric after four years of house arrest and allowed him to lead Friday prayers in Srinagar, the main city of Indian-administered Kashmir, according to mosque authorities.
Mirwaiz Umar Farooq has been spearheading protests against Indian rule in the disputed region. He was detained ahead of India revoking Kashmir’s special status in 2019 and throwing the Himalayan territory into political uncertainty.
The 2019 decision stripped the region of statehood, its separate constitution and inherited protections on land and jobs.
“Senior police officials visited the residence of Mirwaiz on Thursday to inform him that the authorities have decided to release him from house detention and allow him to go to Jamia Masjid for Friday prayers,” the mosque management committee said in a statement.

Senior separatist leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq (C) released after four years of house arrest, arrives to deliver the friday sermon at Jamia Masjid in downtown Srinagar on September 22, 2023. (AFP)

Kashmiri separatist leaders, many of them either under house arrest or in police detention, have vowed to continue their struggle and refuse to participate in any dialogue. They want New Delhi to accept Kashmir as a disputed region, release political prisoners, revoke harsh emergency laws and announce a plan for Kashmir’s demilitarization.
Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan since British colonialists granted them independence in 1947 and both claim the region in its entirety. They have fought two wars over its control.

Kashmiri Muslim devotees pray while senior separatist leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq released after four years of house arrest, delivers the friday sermon at Jamia Masjid in downtown Srinagar on September 22, 2023. (AFP)


UK authorities used Gillette razor study to guess age of Afghan child migrant

Updated 22 September 2023

UK authorities used Gillette razor study to guess age of Afghan child migrant

  • 16-year-old was deemed to be 25 based on ‘subjective’ decision-making, judge ruled
  • Home Office spokesman: ‘We are strengthening the age verification process’

London: The UK Home Office used a report compiled by a razor manufacturer about how and when young men start shaving to assess the ages of migrants, The Times reported on Friday.

A hearing into the case of a young Afghan asylum-seeker revealed that officials had used the study by Gillette to determine he was 25 years old when he was rescued from a sinking boat in the English Channel in October 2021.

The asylum-seeker, who has not been named, insisted to immigration officials he was below the age of 18.

At an appeal into his right to stay in the UK in July this year, a judge determined he was 16 when he arrived in the UK.

Having assessed the evidence provided, including identification documents from the young Afghan, the judge criticized the Home Office and immigration officials for using “guesswork and speculation” to decide the age of some asylum-seekers.

The judge found that officials decided the asylum-seeker was older than he said he was based on the young man’s assertion that he had started shaving regularly before he fled Afghanistan in 2021.

The decision, the judge said, was “inherently subjective and not properly capable of bearing much evidential weight.”

Enver Solomon, CEO of the Refugee Council, told The Times: “Distinguishing between adults and children is not something that can be done quickly; it takes time and expertise to make the right decision.

“But the reality is that poor quality decisions are resulting in far too many children being wrongly age-assessed and put at risk.”

A Home Office spokesman said in statement: “It’s vital that we remove incentives for adults to pretend to be children in order to remain in the UK.

“Between January 2016 and the year ending in June 2023, 49 per cent of asylum applicants whose age was disputed were found to be adults.

“We are strengthening the age verification process through the National Age Assessment Board, introducing scientific assessments, such as x-rays, and measures under the Illegal Migration Act which will help ensure assessments are robust and protect children.”