Campaign begins for Russia’s presidential election

A man walks past an official poster announcing next year's presidential election in Moscow, Dec.18, 2017. (AFP)
Updated 18 December 2017
0

Campaign begins for Russia’s presidential election

MOSCOW: Campaigning officially started on Monday for Russia’s presidential election in March, in which President Vladimir Putin is widely expected to win a fourth term that would keep him in power until 2024.
Russian government newspaper Rossiyskaya Gazeta published a resolution adopted by the upper house of the Russian parliament, the Federation Council, scheduling the election for March 18.
Lawmakers had earlier voted to change the date of the March vote so that it marks the fourth anniversary of the signing of a treaty formally annexing Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula. The treaty came two days after a controversial referendum deemed illegal by the West.
Putin, who was first elected president in 2000, is widely expected to sail to victory, cementing his status as Russia’s longest-serving ruler since dictator Joseph Stalin.
With the result of the election a foregone conclusion, turnout could be low, analysts warn.
According to a study by the independent Levada pollster released last week, 58 percent of Russians said they would vote in March, down from 75 percent in December 2007.
Last week, the head of Russia’s Central Election Commission, Ella Pamfilova, said 23 people had expressed their wish to run for the presidency. She added that the number of presidential hopefuls could grow.
One of the potential candidates is Ksenia Sobchak, a former socialite turned liberal TV presenter who many suspect is running as a Kremlin “spoiler” candidate to split the opposition and boost interest in the polls.
Putin’s top critic Alexi Navalny, 41, has been barred from putting his name on the ballot paper because of a criminal conviction, which he says is politically motivated.
Gennady Zyuganov and Vladimir Zhirinovsky, the long-time leaders of Russia’s Communist Party and ultra-conservative LDPR, who are tolerated by the Kremlin and sit in parliament’s lower house, the State Duma, have both expressed a desire to run.
They are not expected to win more than 10 percent of the vote, however, according to the Levada pollster.
During his annual end-of-year news conference last week, Putin said he would stand for election as an independent candidate rather than with the backing of the ruling party, United Russia.


Pakistan and China push for peace in Afghanistan

Updated 15 December 2018
0

Pakistan and China push for peace in Afghanistan

  • Trilateral talks also focused on boosting trust and security between the three countries
  • FM Qureshi extends the olive branch for a new chapter with Kabul

KABUL: Foreign Ministers of Afghanistan, Pakistan, and China held a trilateral meeting in Kabul on Saturday where they discussed measures to boost political trust and join hands for a regional war against militancy which would facilitate the Afghan peace process, even as Taliban insurgents stepped up their attacks.

The meeting was the second one to take place after Beijing had initiated the talks in December last year in order to ease the rising tension between Kabul and Islamabad whose relationship is highly critical for Beijing’s growing economic and political clout in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

In recent years, China has deepened its economic and political ties with Afghanistan and is actively using its influence to bring the two South Asian neighbors closer.

Pakistan has long been accused by Afghanistan and the US of providing safe havens for Afghan Taliban leaders, by funding and arming them since their ouster in late 2001.

Islamabad has denied the allegations.

After the meeting on Saturday, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister, Shah Mahmood Qureshi pushed for a new chapter with Afghanistan, adding that the ongoing blame game would not help in achieving peace or building trust between Islamabad and Kabul.

He said that the Daesh and militants from Central Asia and eastern China were against the peace process in Afghanistan, urging for joint efforts to tackle the extremism.

“I am here to engage with Afghanistan. Let us not stick to the past and stop pointing a finger on Pakistan… I came here to build trust and bridges and reach peace and stability. Any improvement in Afghanistan will benefit Pakistan,” Qureshi told a news conference.

The three countries signed an agreement pushing for joint efforts in the war against militancy with Afghanistan’s Foreign Minister, Salahuddin Rabbani, saying that the coming weeks and months will be highly crucial in evaluating Pakistan’s intentions and its role in supporting an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process.

Officials from both Afghanistan and Pakistan have held a number of meetings in recent years to mend bilateral ties and work towards measures to fight militancy. However, those talks were an exercise in futility as they were followed by the two countries trading accusations and resorting to the blame game. Rabbani said that “the time has come (for Pakistan) to practically show with genuine steps” that it will fulfill its pledges.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi described both Afghanistan and Pakistan as its strategic partners, adding that China had great political trust in the two. He asked both the countries to resolve their problems in a peaceful manner and backed the US’ efforts to engage in peace talks with the Taliban, urging the militant group to get involved in the process. 

“We support Afghanistan and Pakistan’s efforts for peace and we call on the Taliban to join the peace process. Cooperation between Afghanistan, Pakistan, and China is important to bring peace to Afghanistan.” 

The three sides emphasized the importance of regional connectivity and economic development between them. 

Saturday’s meeting took place at a time when Washington is stepping up its efforts to hold talks with the Taliban by meeting with regional powers on how to end the US war in Afghanistan which began more than 17 years ago.

Mohammad Nateqi, a former Afghan diplomat, said that a deciding factor for Saturday’s agreement to work depended on building mutual trust between Pakistan and Afghanistan given the fact that similar conversations have taken place between Kabul and Islamabad earlier as well, without bearing any fruit.

However, at the same time, he was optimistic about positive results, reasoning that the situation had changed when compared to the past with the US increasing its efforts for talks with the Taliban.

“Such meetings can be helpful in mending ties between the countries and in helping them come closer to achieving a peace plan,” he told Arab News.