Macron urges French to make ‘right choice’ in election gamble

Emmanuel Macron with German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier during the 80th anniversary of the massacre of 643 persons by the Nazis at Oradour-sur-Glane, France, June 10, 2024. (AFP)
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Updated 10 June 2024
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Macron urges French to make ‘right choice’ in election gamble

  • Le Monde: ‘By playing with fire, the head of state could end up by burning himself and dragging the entire country into the fire’
  • Macron appeared unfazed as he visited the southwestern French village of Oradour-sur-Glane, site of a massacre by Nazi soldiers during World War II, together with German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier

PARIS: President Emmanuel Macron on Monday said that he was confident French voters would make the “right choice” in snap elections he called after the far right crushed his centrist alliance in Sunday’s EU ballot.
His surprise move came after mainstream centrist parties kept an overall majority in the European Parliament in Sunday’s elections, but the far right notched up a string of high-profile victories in Italy, Austria and France.
In Germany, where the three governing coalition parties also performed dismally, center-left Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s spokesman ruled out a snap vote.
Analysts say Macron has taken the risky gamble of dissolving the national parliament in a bid to keep the far-right National Rally (RN) out of power when his second term ends in 2027.
“I am confident in the capacity of the French people to make the right choice for themselves and for future generations,” Macron wrote on X on Monday.
His announcement of elections for a new National Assembly on June 30, with a second round on July 7, has sparked widespread alarm, even from within the ranks of his party.
“By playing with fire, the head of state could end up by burning himself and dragging the entire country into the fire,” Le Monde wrote in an editorial.
Despite the storm of criticism, Macron appeared unfazed on Monday as he visited the southwestern French village of Oradour-sur-Glane, site of a massacre by Nazi soldiers during World War II, together with German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier.
Steinmeier said: “Let us never forget the damage done in Europe by nationalism and hate.”
Back in Paris, even some Macron allies expressed dissent over his latest announcement.
Lower-house speaker Yael Braun-Pivet, a senior figure within Macron’s party, indicated that forming a coalition with other parties could have been a better “path.”
“The president believed that this path did not exist,” she told television channel France 2.
Meanwhile, Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo, a Socialist, described the prospect of elections just weeks before the start of the Paris Olympics as “extremely unsettling.”
But International Olympic Committee chief Thomas Bach played down any direct impact on the event.
Uncertainty around the election also sapped market confidence, with Paris’s CAC 40 index closing 1.35 percent lower and the interest rate on French government debt gaining 10 basis points, to 3.22 percent.
In a televised address late on Sunday, Macron warned of the danger of “the rise of nationalists and demagogues” for France and its place in Europe.
He noted that, including the RN, far-right parties in France had managed to take almost 40 percent of the EU Parliament vote.
Macron is hoping to win back the majority he lost in France’s lower house in 2022 legislative elections after winning a second term.
But some fear the anti-immigration RN could instead win, forcing Macron to work in an uncomfortable coalition with a far-right prime minister.
RN vice president Sebastien Chenu said the party’s 28-year-old leader Jordan Bardella would be its contender for the post.
Bardella’s mentor Marine Le Pen, who was runner-up in the last two presidential elections, has remained party leader in parliament and is largely expected to tilt for the top job again in 2027.
The far right came out on top in France, Italy and Austria, and second in Germany and the Netherlands.
The Kremlin, which hopes the far right would take a softer line on Russia over its invasion of Ukraine, said it was “attentively observing” the gains.
The RN came in first with more than 31 percent of votes in France — its score was more than double that of Macron’s list with 14 percent.
The Socialists and hard-left France Unbowed trailed behind with 13 and nine percent each.
Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire warned that the election results would have “consequences of unprecedented seriousness for our nation.”
The team of Foreign Minister Stephane Sejourne, who is also secretary-general of Macron’s Renaissance party, told RTL radio he would be “fully engaged” in the battle for parliament seats as well as his job as minister.
Socialist party chief Olivier Faure called for setting up “a popular front against the far right.”
On the far right, Marion Marechal, deputy head of the Reconquest party founded by pundit Eric Zemmour and seen as even further to the right of the RN, was meeting Marine Le Pen — who is her aunt — and Bardella at the RN headquarters.
Bardella said he had also “stretched out his hand” to the mainstream conservative Republicans party and had spoken with senior members.
Mujtaba Rahman, managing director for Europe at Eurasia Group, said Macron appeared to believe he could defy the polls by confronting France with a choice between the pro-European status quo and a far right that has “a history of admiration for — and funding by — Vladimir Putin.”


More than 1,200 UK cyclists ride to raise awareness, funds for Gaza

Updated 6 sec ago
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More than 1,200 UK cyclists ride to raise awareness, funds for Gaza

  • Rides will run across London, Belfast, Liverpool, Sheffield, Manchester, Birmingham, Bristol, and South Wales

LONDON: For three weeks, more than 1,200 people will be cycling in cities across the UK, calling on the newly-elected Labour government to demand an immediate ceasefire in Gaza and to end arms sales to Israel.
The Big Ride was founded in 2015 by activists seeking to combine a passion for cycling with solidarity for Palestine.
This year’s events start on Saturday and run until Aug. 10 in London, Belfast, Liverpool, Sheffield, Manchester, Birmingham, Bristol, and South Wales.
The grassroots organization will also be raising funds for Palestinian charities, including the Middle East Children’s Alliance, The Amos Trust, and the Gaza Sunbirds para cycling team, which continue their work in Gaza amidst the ongoing conflict.
Ellen Logan, one of the organizers of The Big Ride, said: “For years we’ve witnessed the daily oppression of the Palestinian people — discrimination, subjugation, and inhumanity. And now we’ve spent the last 10 months watching a live-streamed genocide. Everyone should be outraged and campaigning for an end to this violence.”
Logan added: “We use our bikes and freedoms to raise awareness and provide crucial aid for children and disabled cyclists on the ground in Gaza.”
A recent letter published in British medical journal, The Lancet, estimated the actual death toll in Gaza could be as high as 186,000.
British actress Maxine Peake, who is participating in the cycling event, said: “The Big Ride for Palestine has been raising awareness of this for nearly 10 years now. This year, more riders than ever have signed up, so please join a Big Ride near you.”
 


Bangladeshi military enforces ‘unprecedented’ curfew as protest deaths mount

Updated 20 July 2024
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Bangladeshi military enforces ‘unprecedented’ curfew as protest deaths mount

  • Supreme Court hearing on contentious job quotas expected on Sunday
  • At least 103 people dead, including 44 killed in Dhaka on Friday alone

DHAKA: The Bangladeshi military was deployed to the streets to impose a nationwide curfew on Saturday, after more than 100 people were killed in clashes between police and students protesting government job quotas.

The curfew follows a communications blackout that has left the country of 170 million cut off from the world. Television channels were off air and most local news websites were down as the government shut internet services a day earlier.

“Army members will operate in aid to the civil administration under the guidance of district administrators and city commissioners,” Home Minister Asaduzzaman Kamal told Arab News.

In the capital, the military joined riot police and thousands of Border Guard personnel after the Dhaka Metropolitan Police banned all gatherings amid increasing numbers of casualties.

Students have been demonstrating since the beginning of July against a rule that reserves a bulk of government jobs for the descendants of those who fought in the country’s 1971 liberation war.

At least 103 people have been killed in the past five days and thousands injured, according to a count based on reports in the local media. On Friday alone, at least 44 people were killed in Dhaka, which saw intense clashes between protesters, government supporters and security forces.

Air Commodore (Rtd) Ishfaq Ilahi Choudhury, a security analyst, told Arab News that the nationwide military-backed curfew and the amount of violence across the country were “something unprecedented.”

He was referring to reports that numerous administration offices were set on fire and government vehicles vandalized on Friday. On Thursday, the headquarters of a state-owned television station was set ablaze.

“We have not seen such vandalism earlier in the country where many significant government establishments were vandalized and set on fire,” Choudhury said.

The government abolished the controversial quota system after student protests in 2018, but the High Court reinstated it in June, triggering protests.

An appeal hearing is expected at the Supreme Court on Sunday morning.

Under the quota system, 56 percent of public service jobs are reserved for specific groups, including women, marginalized communities and children and grandchildren of freedom fighters — for whom the government earmarks 30 percent of the posts.

These quotas, which reserve hundreds of thousands of government jobs, hit young people directly.

The country’s unemployment rate is the highest among people aged between 15 and 29 — more than a fourth of Bangladesh’s population — who constitute 83 percent of the total unemployed.


Trump to hold first campaign rally after assassination attempt

Updated 20 July 2024
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Trump to hold first campaign rally after assassination attempt

  • Trump and Vance will take the stage in Grand Rapids with the Republican Party unified behind them after this week’s nominating convention

GRAND RAPIDS:Donald Trump will hold his first campaign rally on Saturday since he narrowly escaped an assassination attempt one week ago and fresh from his nominating convention where his takeover of the Republican Party was cemented.
Trump will appear in Grand Rapids, in the battleground state of Michigan, along with his new vice presidential pick, Ohio US Senator J.D. Vance. It will be their first campaign event together as the now official Republican presidential ticket.
Republican Party officials said during Trump’s nominating convention in Milwaukee this week that his brush with death last Saturday had changed him, and that when he made his acceptance speech on Thursday night he would call for national unity.
While Trump began the address with a call for unity and national healing, much of his speech was his well-known list of grievances and attacks on opponents.
It is unclear what type of a speech Trump will deliver on Saturday, but his diehard supporters typically flock to such events to hear Trump’s more traditional inflammatory rhetoric.
Trump and Vance will take the stage in Grand Rapids with the Republican Party unified behind them after this week’s nominating convention. In contrast, the Democrats are in turmoil and it is no longer certain that President Joe Biden will be the Democratic nominee facing Trump in the Nov. 5 election.
Biden is facing mounting calls from many elected officials in his own party to step aside as the party’s White House candidate and to end his re-election bid, after his poor debate performance against Trump last month.
Biden is trailing in opinion polls and is behind in every swing state against Trump. Many Democrats fear he may have virtually no path to victory and that the party needs a new presidential candidate to take on Trump.
The rally in Grand Rapids will be in an indoor arena, unlike the event in Butler, Pennsylvania last weekend, which was outdoors. At that event, the gunman was able to scale the roof of a building outside the Secret Service perimeter before opening fire on Trump, clipping his ear, killing a rally-goer and wounding several others.
The US Secret Service, which is responsible for protecting Trump, declined to comment on security for the Grand Rapids event. An investigation is under way into the security failures at the Butler rally.
“The Secret Service does not discuss the means and methods used for our protective operations,” the agency said in a statement.
Trump gave a detailed account of his narrow brush with death in his convention speech on Thursday, telling the audience that he was only talking to them “by the grace of Almighty God.”


Senegal detains boat carrying 200 migrants

Updated 20 July 2024
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Senegal detains boat carrying 200 migrants

DAKAR: Senegal’s army said Saturday that it had intercepted a boat carrying over 200 migrants trying to reach Europe, after nearly 90 died when attempting the dangerous Atlantic crossing earlier this month.
The boat intercepted by the patrol boat in fishing waters near Lompoul in northwest Senegal on Friday was carrying 202 people, including five women and a minor, the army posted on X.
In early July, a boat carrying around 170 people who set off from Senegal capsized off the coast of Mauritania, killing nearly 90 people.
The disaster prompted Senegal’s President Ousmane Sonko to urge people not to risk the Atlantic Ocean’s currents in overcrowded vessels that often are not seaworthy.
But the route is increasingly used as authorities step up surveillance in the Mediterranean.
“I once again make a plea to the young: your solution is not to be found in boats,” Sonko told a crowd of youths in Saint-Louis.
“The future of the world is in Africa... the only continent that still has the significant scope for progress and growth.”
According to the Spanish NGO Caminando Fronteras, more than 5,000 people died trying to reach Spain by sea in the first five months of this year, representing the highest daily average toll since it began keeping records in 2007.


Two killed in overnight strikes on Ukraine

Updated 20 July 2024
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Two killed in overnight strikes on Ukraine

KYIV: At least two people were killed and four wounded in a Russian airstrike overnight on Ukraine’s northeastern Kharkiv region, the regional prosecutor said Saturday.
“Around 3:15 in the morning the enemy launched a missile attack on the town of Barvinkove, in Izium district,” the prosecutor said in a statement.
It listed the dead as two men aged 48 and 69 and said around 50 buildings were damaged in the strike, apparently by three Russian Iskander missiles.
Another strike hit an agricultural business in the village of Oleksiivka, it said, though there were no reported casualties.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has been urging his nation’s allies to step up air defense support to be able to intercept Russian missiles and drones raining down daily on the country over nearly 30 months of conflict.
The death toll in a Russian strike Friday on a playground in the southern city of Mykolaiv rose to four, including one child, with 24 injured, its mayor Oleksander Senkevitch posted on Telegram.