Berlusconi claims win for center-right in Sicily vote

This file photo taken on May 22, 2014 shows Former Italian Prime Minister and president of the Italian center-right Forza Italia (FI) party, Silvio Berlusconi during a rally. (AFP)
Updated 07 November 2017
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Berlusconi claims win for center-right in Sicily vote

PALERMO, Italy: Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi was poised for for a stunning political comeback on Monday, as he claimed victory in an election in Sicily that puts him and his rightist allies in pole position for a national vote due by next May.
With about 85 percent of the votes counted, a center-right bloc backed by the four-times prime minister was running five percentage points ahead of the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement, with the center-left a distant third.
“Sicily, just as I asked, has chosen the path of real, serious, constructive change, based on honesty, competence and experience,” the 81 year-old said in a video posted on Facebook.
The result puts Berlusconi back on the political map after years of sex scandals and graft allegations. By contrast, it deals a stinging blow to another former prime minister, Matteo Renzi, head of the ruling Democratic Party (PD), which is locked in feuding with erstwhile leftist partners.
After a raft of vote setbacks in recent years, Renzi has many critics inside the PD who may now try to mount a challenge to his leadership.
The regional Sicilian ballot, held on Sunday, is seen as a dry run for the national vote, with many of the island’s problems reflecting those of the country as a whole — high unemployment, a debt mountain and sluggish economic growth.

“A WINNING MODEL“
Sicily is traditionally a center-right stronghold which was poached by the PD in 2012 thanks to splits in the conservative bloc. This time Berlusconi reunited the coalition behind a widely respected leader with a far-right background.
Nello Musumeci, the center-right’s candidate for governor of the island, had 39.8 percent of the vote, while the 5-Star’s Giancarlo Cancelleri had 34.7 percent. The center-left’s Fabrizio Micari was lagging on 18.5 percent.
“From Sicily we will demonstrate that this is a winning model that can triumph at a national level,” said Giorgia Meloni, the leader of the right-wing Brothers of Italy party which is the junior partner in the center-right alliance.
The maverick 5-Star, founded by comedian Beppe Grillo, had campaigned relentlessly for months in Sicily, looking to take charge of its first region after a string of successes in municipal ballots in recent years, including in Rome and Turin.
Its leader Luigi Di Maio said the party had been penalized in Sicily by low turnout — less than half of those eligible cast a vote.
“In two or three months I think many of those who abstained will regret not going to vote,” Di Maio said, insisting that if turnout had been 3 or 4 points higher it could have tilted the result in the movement’s favor.
Although defeat is a blow, the 5-Star can take comfort from the fact that it is the largest single political force, taking at least 30 percent of a separate vote on Sicily for party lists against less than 15 percent for its nearest rival — Berlusconi’s Forza Italia (Go Italy!)


Democrats to probe Ivanka Trump’s private email use for gov’t work

Updated 20 November 2018
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Democrats to probe Ivanka Trump’s private email use for gov’t work

WASHINGTON: Democrats called on Tuesday for an investigation into US President Donald Trump’s daughter and top White House adviser Ivanka Trump following reports that she repeatedly used a personal email account last year for government business.
A White House review of Ivanka Trump’s email found she used her personal account up to 100 times to contact other Trump administration officials, the Washington Post reported on Monday, citing people familiar with the review.
Use of a personal account for government business could potentially violate a law requiring preservation of all presidential records.
Representatives for the White House did not respond to a request for comment.
President Trump, a Republican, repeatedly blasted his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election campaign over her use of personal email and a private server while she was US secretary of state, and promised to investigate her once in office.
Representatives for US Representative Elijah Cummings, the top Democrat on the House Oversight Committee, said the panel would investigate White House communications when Democrats take over the US House of Representatives in January.
“We plan to continue our investigation of the presidential records act and federal records act, and we want to know if Ivanka complied with the law,” his office said a statement, adding that a panel probe of White House correspondence began last year but was dropped by Republicans who currently control the committee. Democrats are taking over following their election gains this month.
Peter Mirijanian, a spokesman for Ivanka Trump’s ethics lawyer, Abbe Lowell, told the Post that her use of personal email was different from Clinton’s case because there was no private server, none of the messages contained classified information and they occurred before Ivanka Trump was aware of government record-keeping regulations.
He said Ivanka Trump turned over all her government-related emails months ago so they could be stored with other White House records, the Post reported.
Ivanka Trump’s emails came to light when White House officials began reviewing them in response to a lawsuit from watchdog group American Oversight, according to the Post. The paper said she used the personal account for official business fewer than 100 times in 2017.
The New York Times also reported on Ivanka Trump’s email use.
Clinton’s email practices as secretary of state prompted an FBI investigation that overshadowed the 2016 election and still draws ire from Trump and calls from his supporters to “lock her up.”
The FBI concluded Clinton’s actions were extremely careless but did not recommend any charges be filed. Clinton expressed regret for her decision to use a private server but said she violated no rules.
US Senator Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat on the Senate Judiciary panel, said there was “no way” Ivanka Trump did not know the rules after the 2016 campaign and that there were larger questions about the Trump family’s mixing of private enterprise and government duties.
“It raises the issue of whether there has been anything improper. There should be some kind of investigation,” either by Congress or the White House ethics office, Blumenthal told CNN.
The White House began reviewing senior aides’ email use last year after reports that Ivanka Trump’s husband Jared Kushner, also a top White House adviser, used private email for government work.