Kenya gov’t bans protests from city centers amid election standoff

Riot police chase opposition protesters in Nairobi, Kenya on Monday, October 2, 2017. (File photo by AP)
Updated 12 October 2017
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Kenya gov’t bans protests from city centers amid election standoff

NAIROBI: Kenya announced a ban on Thursday on demonstrations in the central business districts of key cities including Nairobi amid a deepening stand-off between the ruling party and the opposition over a presidential election re-run.
Internal Security Minister Fred Matiang’i said protesters who violated the ban in Nairobi, the western city of Kisumu and the coastal city of Mombasa would be held personally liable for any damage.
The three cities are strongholds of opposition support, and have seen repeated confrontations between riot police and opposition supporters in recent weeks.
President Uhuru Kenyatta and opposition leader Raila Odinga were due to go to the polls in a repeat presidential election on Oct. 26, after the Supreme Court nullified Kenyatta’s win in Aug. 8 polls over procedural irregularities.
But this week Odinga announced he was withdrawing from the race, throwing the East African nation into political turmoil. Kenya is a regional and trade gateway and a key Western ally in a region roiled by conflict.
On Wednesday, the election board said the polls would be held anyway, and all eight of the original presidential candidates would be on the ballot. In August, only Odinga and Kenyatta polled more than one percent.
Odinga’s opposition alliance called for demonstrations demanding electoral reforms and new elections, raising fears of further clashes between his supporters and police.
A Kenya rights group said this week that at least 37 people were killed in protests immediately following the Aug. 8 poll. Most were killed by police.


Japan’s ruling coalition secures upper house majority

Updated 21 July 2019
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Japan’s ruling coalition secures upper house majority

  • “I believe the people chose political stability, urging us to pursue our policies and carry out diplomacy to protect Japan’s national interests,” Abe said

TOKYO: Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s ruling coalition secured a majority in Japan’s upper house of parliament in elections Sunday but will not reach the super-majority needed to propose constitutional revisions, according to vote counts by public television and other media.
NHK public television said shortly after midnight that Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party and its junior partner Komeito had won 69 seats in the upper house, with nine seats remaining. If Abe gained support from members of another conservative party and independents, it would make only 76 seats, short of 85 he would have needed, NHK said.
Abe’s ruling bloc already has a two-thirds majority in the lower house, but without such control of the upper chamber, he has a slim chance of achieving his long-cherished goal of constitutional reform.
Nonetheless, Abe welcomed the results, saying winning a majority indicates a public mandate for his government.
“I believe the people chose political stability, urging us to pursue our policies and carry out diplomacy to protect Japan’s national interests,” Abe said in an interview with NHK.
Abe hopes to gain enough seats to boost his chances to revise Japan’s pacifist constitution — his long-cherished goal before his term ends in 2021.
But it’s a challenge because voters are more concerned about their jobs, economy and social security. Abe, who wants to bolster Japan’s defense capability, is now proposing adding the Self-Defense Force, or Japan’s military, to the war-renouncing Article 9 of the constitution. He said he is not considering running for another term.
Abe said resolving the decades-old issue of Japanese citizens abducted by North Korea and signing a peace treaty with Russia would be his diplomatic priorities during the rest of his term.
Opposition parties have focused on concerns over household finances, such as the impact from an upcoming 10% sales tax increase and strains on the public pension system amid Japan’s aging population.
Abe has led his Liberal Democratic Party to five consecutive parliamentary election victories since 2012.
He has prioritized revitalizing Japan’s economy and has steadily bolstered the country’s defenses in the backdrop of North Korea’s missile and nuclear threats and China’s growing military presence. He also has showcased his diplomatic skills by cultivating warm ties with President Donald Trump.
Abe needs approval by a two-thirds majority in both houses to propose a constitutional revision and seek a national referendum. His ruling bloc has a two-thirds majority in the more powerful lower house.
The main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan and three other liberal-leaning parties teamed up in some districts. They stressed support for gender equality and LGBT issues — areas Abe’s ultra-conservative lawmakers are reluctant to back.
At a polling station in Tokyo’s Chuo district on Sunday, voters were divided over Abe’s 6 1/2-year rule.
A voter who identified himself only as a company worker in his 40s said he chose a candidate and a party that have demonstrated an ability to get things done, suggesting he voted for Abe’s ruling party and its candidate, as “there is no point in casting my vote for a party or a politician who has no such abilities.”
Another voter, Katsunori Takeuchi, a 57-year-old fish market worker, said it was time to change the dominance of Abe and his ultra-conservative policies.
“I think the ruling party has been dominating politics for far too long and it is causing damage,” he said.