Maldives presidential election heading for 2nd round after no clear winner emerges

Voters flaunt the electoral ink on their finger after they cast their vote at a polling station in Male on September 9, 2023, during the 2023 presidential election. (AFP)
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Updated 10 September 2023
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Maldives presidential election heading for 2nd round after no clear winner emerges

  • Mohamed Shareef, a senior official for Muiz’s party, told The Associated Press that the removal of Indian military personnel was a “non-negotiable” position for the party
  • Both India and China are vying for influence in the tiny state made up of some 1,200 coral islands in the Indian Ocean, located by the main shipping route between East and the West

MALE, Maldives: The Maldives presidential election Saturday was headed toward a second round between the top two candidates after none of the eight contestants secured more than 50 percent of the vote for an outright win, local media reported.
Main opposition candidate Mohamed Muiz secured a surprise lead with more than 46 percent of votes, while the incumbent President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih secured 39 percent in an election that turned into a virtual referendum over which regional power — India or China — will have the biggest influence in the Indian Ocean archipelago state.
The elections commission was scheduled to announce its official results Sunday morning. A second round, if confirmed, will take place later this month.
Saturday’s vote was to choose the country’s fifth freely elected president since Maldives became a multiparty democracy in 2008. Eight candidates are vying for the post with Solih, perceived as pro-India, facing off against his main rival Muiz, who is seen as pro-China.
Solih is seeking a second term and is battling allegations by Muiz that he had allowed India an unchecked presence in the country.
Muiz promised that if he wins the presidency, he will remove Indian troops stationed in the Maldives and balance the country’s trade relations, which he said is heavily in India’s favor.
The People’s National Congress, Muiz’s party, is viewed as heavily pro-China. Its leader, Abdullah Yameen, was president from 2013-2018, during which he made the Maldives a part of China’s Belt and Road initiative. The initiative envisages building ports, railways and roads to expand trade — and China’s influence — across Asia, Africa and Europe.
Mohamed Shareef, a senior official for Muiz’s party, told The Associated Press that the removal of Indian military personnel was a “non-negotiable” position for the party. He said the number of Indian troops and their activities are hidden from Maldivians and that they have near-exclusive use of certain ports and airports in the country.
Both India and China are vying for influence in the tiny state made up of some 1,200 coral islands in the Indian Ocean, located by the main shipping route between East and the West.
Solih was considered the front-runner in the field of eight candidates since his strongest rival, Yameen, was blocked from running by the Supreme Court because he is in prison for corruption and money laundering convictions.
Muiz seems to have taken advantage of a split in Solih’s Maldivian Democratic Party that led Mohamed Nasheed, a charismatic former president, to break away and field his own candidate. Nasheed’s candidate, Ilyas Labeeb, has secured 7 percent of the vote.
Sahida Saeed, a university student who was voting in the Maldives Embassy in neighboring Sri Lanka, said she wanted a leader who can take care of current issues. “Due to the population increase, the employment rates are at risk (of decreasing),” she said.
“Indian influences are a threat to us since military bases are coming to Maldives. And I don’t believe that any other country’s military forces should come to our country and try to take over,” said Isaq Nuhan, a school teacher also voting in Colombo.
Nasheed is backing Labeeb who, though not highly critical of India, has accused Solih of not being transparent in his dealings with New Delhi, said Azim Zahir, a political science and international relations lecturer at the University of Western Australia.
The “India Out” campaign — spearheaded by Muiz’s party — has been ubiquitous on social media in the runup to the election and almost all candidates except Solih adopted the “India vs. the rest” rhetoric, said Zahir.
Solih was widely credited with having brought stability to the country and adeptly handling the COVID pandemic, which was expected to help him gain support.
Solih also had no corruption allegations against him, unlike Muiz, who had served as a housing minister.
There is also a possibility that the mostly Sunni Muslim nation could become more socially conservative because both sides are backed by religious hard-liners. The groups are not known to espouse violence but they want more control over women and are against music and art and religious freedom, Zahir said.
Maldives is believed to have sent the highest number of fighters per capita when the Daesh group was at its height. A local group with the IS ideology set off a bomb targeting Nasheed in 2021, seriously wounding him.
More than 282,000 people were eligible to vote in the election.
 

 


Residents protest over power cuts in southern Russian city

Updated 21 July 2024
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Residents protest over power cuts in southern Russian city

  • One video posted on the Baza Telegram channel appeared to show police making at least two arrests during Saturday’s protest

MOSCOW: Residents angry over recent power cuts in southern Russia staged a rare public protest on Saturday in the city of Krasnodar, posts on social media said, as the local governor blamed a heatwave for causing the blackouts.
The south of Russia has been affected by unusually hot weather that has caused mass power outages in several regions and led to the shutdown earlier this week of one of four power units at the Rostov nuclear power plant, the region’s largest.
The unit has been put back into operation since then.
“There has been abnormal heat in the Krasnodar region for a week now. The load on the energy system is colossal. I know and understand all the indignation of residents due to power outages,” Veniamin Kondratyev, the governor of Krasnodar region, said on the Telegram messaging app.
He said power capacities were not currently sufficient to meet peak demand during the hot summer months.
One video posted on the Baza Telegram channel appeared to show police making at least two arrests during Saturday’s protest.
Russian authorities have clamped down on any protest activity, especially politically laced dissent, since the start of the conflict with Ukraine in February 2022, and public protests are very rare given the risk of arrest.


Nigeria fines Meta $220m for ‘violations’

Updated 21 July 2024
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Nigeria fines Meta $220m for ‘violations’

  • Meta’s platforms — WhatsApp, Facebook and Instagram — are among the most popular social media in the country.

LAGOS: Nigeria has issued a $220 million fine against Meta, the parent company of Facebook and WhatsApp, for “multiple and repeated” violations.
The country’s Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC) on Friday accused Meta of violating the country’s data protection and consumer rights laws on Facebook and WhatsApp.
The FCCPC’s chief executive officer Adamu Abdullahi said the investigations the commission carried out in conjunction with the Nigeria Data Protection Commission between May 2021 and December 2023 showed that it engaged in “invasive practices against data subjects/consumers in Nigeria.”
Abdullahi accused Meta of discriminatory practices, abuse of market dominance, sharing Nigerians’ personal data without authorization and denying Nigerians the right to determine how their data are used.
Apart from the hefty fine, the FCCPC boss insisted that Meta must “comply with prevailing law and cease the exploitation of Nigerian consumers and their market abuse.”
It ordered the company to “desist from future similar or other conduct/practices that do not meet nationally applicable standards.”
Meta did not immediately respond to a request for a response to the fine. But the FCCPC said the company was aware of its 38-month investigation.
About three quarters of the 200 million people in Africa’s most populous country are younger than 24 — a generation that is also hyper-connected to social media.
The country had some 164.3 million Internet subscriptions as of March, according to the figures published by the National Communication Commission (NCC) on its website.
Meta’s platforms — WhatsApp, Facebook and Instagram — are among the most popular social media in the country.
The minister for communication and the digital economy, Bosun Tijani, said in December that there were “over 51 million WhatsApp users in Nigeria.”
The European Union (EU) accused Meta at the beginning of July of breaching the bloc’s digital rules, paving the way for potential fines worth billions of euros.
The EU said Meta’s new ad-free subscription model for Facebook and Instagram “forced millions of users” in the bloc to pay to avoid data collection or agree to share their data with Facebook and Instagram to keep using the platforms for free.


Poland calls on EU to stress ties with US to counter Russian ‘disinformation’

Updated 21 July 2024
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Poland calls on EU to stress ties with US to counter Russian ‘disinformation’

  • Poland calls for positive action ahead of the US presidential election
  • The Kremlin has said it would not meddle in the November US election

BRUSSELS: Poland wants the European Union to launch a campaign in the United States to raise awareness with the American public about the importance of the joint relationship.
In a paper prepared for an EU foreign ministers’ meeting on Monday, Poland calls for positive action ahead of the US presidential election on Nov. 5 to counter what it describes as Russian “disinformation” aimed at sowing division between the EU and Washington.
“At this critical moment in history, it is imperative that we collectively take swift and robust action to strengthen the transatlantic relations through strategic communication about the EU in the US,” the paper, seen by Reuters, says.
It adds: “This means scaling up our de-bunking and, even more importantly, pre-bunking of Russian disinformation and launching campaigns which set the record straight about where Europe stands today and about the benefits of diplomacy, collective security and open society.”
The Kremlin has said it would not meddle in the November US election. It has also dismissed US allegations that it orchestrated campaigns to sway the 2016 and 2020 US presidential elections.
Poland’s paper said Russian state media and online accounts tied to the Kremlin were spreading and amplifying misleading content about US immigration and border security, misstating the impact of immigration, highlighting stories about crimes committed by immigrants, and warning of dire consequences if the US does not crack down at its border with Mexico.
“We should expect much more is to come, as eroding support for Ukraine remains Russia’s top priority. We need to remind the American public, especially the younger generation of the deliverables our decades-long partnership has brought to the US economy,” the paper said.
Poland has said it has been the target of numerous Russian attempts at destabilization and election interference because of its role in supplying military aid to its neighbor Ukraine, allegations Russia has dismissed.
“We should raise awareness among the American public about the size of European aid to Ukraine and how that effort helps save Ukrainian lives,” the Polish paper said in reference to claims by US presidential candidate Donald Trump that European aid to Ukraine was much smaller than that of the US
Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2022, the EU has provided 107 billion euros ($116.38 billion) to Ukraine and has agreed on a further 50 billion euros for the next four years.
The US Council on Foreign Relations estimates US support for Ukraine at $107 billion.


US to take ‘hard look’ at fighter project, top official says

Updated 21 July 2024
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US to take ‘hard look’ at fighter project, top official says

  • Kendall: The idea of using drones or Collaborative Combat Aircraft (CCA) will remain part of the proposed initiatives
  • The Air Force faces heavy costs for renewing its land-based nuclear deterrent and developing the B-21 bomber.

RAF FAIRFORD, England, July 20 : The US will closely dissect its plans for a Next Generation Air Dominance (NGAD) platform — a future family of fighters and drones — before deciding whether to go ahead, Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall said on Saturday.
The cost of the future F-22 replacement has come under scrutiny after topping $300 million each, three times the cost of an F-35. But Kendall also highlighted evolving threats, in an apparent reference to rapidly arming China.
The idea of using drones or Collaborative Combat Aircraft (CCA) will remain part of the proposed initiatives, he said.
“Before we make the commitment that we are close to making, we want to make sure we have got the right design concept,” Kendall said at Britain’s Royal International Air Tattoo, the world’s largest military air show.
“NGAD was conceived before a number of things: before the threat became so severe, before CCAs were introduced into the equation and before we had some issues with affordability that we are currently facing,” Kendall told reporters.
“So we are going to take a hard look at NGAD before moving forward, but the family of systems which includes a crewed platform and CCAs and weapon systems and communications ... is still very much the concept that we are pursuing.”
The Air Force faces heavy costs for renewing its land-based nuclear deterrent and developing the B-21 bomber.
“Before we commit to the 2026 budget, we want to be sure we are on the right path,” Kendall told reporters.
Analysts attending the air show said the depth of the review suggested the Air Force wanted to refresh its view on whether NGAD remained well adapted to threats posed by China as its schedule slips into the 2030s.
“NGAD is a whole series of programs under the umbrella of capabilities that the Air Force wants in order both to better deter China and to fight and win if necessary,” said Vago Muradian, editor of Defense & Aerospace Report.
“The Chinese are changing how they’re going to fight. So the question that a budget-constrained Air Force is asking is whether the tens of billions of dollars is the right investment, or are there better ways of achieving some of these same aims.”
Boeing and Lockheed Martin are widely seen as competing to win the core fighter part of the project.
The rethink has captured attention in Europe where Britain’s crewed-uncrewed GCAP project, in partnership with Japan and Italy, may face scrutiny in an upcoming UK defense review and France, Germany and Spain are working on the FCAS/SCAF project.
Partners in GCAP are expected to give an update at the opening of the Farnborough International Airshow on Monday.


Trump’s former physician gives new details on gunshot wound

Updated 21 July 2024
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Trump’s former physician gives new details on gunshot wound

WASHINGTON: Donald Trump’s former physician Ronny Jackson said on Saturday that the former president is recovering as expected from a gunshot wound to his ear that he suffered last week, but noted intermittent bleeding and said Trump may require a hearing exam.
The bullet fired by a would-be assassin at a July 13 Trump rally in Pennsylvania came “less than a quarter of an inch from entering his head” before striking the top of Trump’s right ear, said Jackson, a Republican congressman from Texas who served as physician to Presidents Trump and Barack Obama.
Five days after narrowly escaping assassination, Trump on Thursday accepted the Republican Party’s presidential nomination for the Nov. 5 election.
Jackson, providing what appeared to be the first public description by a medical professional of Trump’s gunshot wound, said in a letter posted on social media Saturday that “the bullet track produced a 2 (centimeter) wide wound that extended down to the cartilaginous surface of the ear.”
“There was initially significant bleeding, followed by marked swelling of the entire upper ear. The swelling has since resolved, and the wound is beginning to granulate and heal properly,” he wrote.
Jackson said he had provided daily evaluation and treatment of Trump’s wound since the shooting. He said no sutures were required, but noted that due to the “highly vascular nature of the ear, there is still intermittent bleeding requiring a dressing to be in place.”
“He will have further evaluations, including a comprehensive hearing exam, as needed,” Jackson added.
Trump recounted the assassination attempt to a rapt audience on Thursday at the Republican National Convention in Milwaukee, saying that he was only there “by the grace of Almighty God.”
“I heard a loud whizzing sound and felt something hit me really, really hard on my right ear,” he said, a thick bandage still covering his ear. “I said to myself, ‘Wow, what was that? It can only be a bullet.’”