Shehbaz Sharif elected president of Pakistan’s ruling party

Pakistani ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif, right, claps after his younger brother and Chief Minister of Punjab province Shahbaz Sharif, center, is elected as President of ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party at the General Workers Council in Islamabad on March 13, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 13 March 2018
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Shehbaz Sharif elected president of Pakistan’s ruling party

ISLAMABAD: The younger brother of deposed Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has been elected as the new president of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party.
The PML-N General Council on Tuesday elected Chief Minister Punjab Shehbaz Sharif, who contested for the slot unopposed.
He was nominated as the acting president of PML-N in February by Nawaz Sharif who was barred from serving as PML-N’s president following a Supreme Court verdict.
“It is an honor for me to be elected as president of the party,” Shehbaz said. “I am thankful to Mian Nawaz Sharif and all the party workers for trusting me and providing me with this opportunity.”
Shehbaz said that he has been serving Pakistan for the past 30 years under the leadership of Nawaz Sharif and would continue his journey with the support of the people. “We will win the upcoming general election despite all conspiracies,” he said.
“Nawaz Sharif is still our leader and will remain so in the future as well,” he said.
The PML-N president said that Nawaz Sharif was denied justice in the recent cases against him, but expressed the hope that he would “get justice one day.”
Addressing the General Council meeting, Nawaz Sharif said that his party had elected Shehbaz Sharif as new president of the party under compulsion.
“We have to elect Shehbaz Sharif as the party president for this situation was created for us,” he said, listing numerous development projects that were initiated across Pakistan when he was the prime minister.
“I will not back down from the mission that I have chosen. It is part of my belief now,” he said.
Nawaz Sharif said that he would keep struggling to strengthen democracy and the rule of law in the country despite the challenges.
Sharif said that “respect the sanctity of the vote” would be the only manifesto of his party in the general elections. “It means respect the mandate of the people. And I’ll keep struggling for it.”
The former prime minister said that he was fighting for the betterment of the country and the people and that was why he was being punished through fabricated cases of corruption. He urged party workers to convert the general election into a referendum.
The PML-N has been facing a leadership crisis since the apex court, in its July 28 Panama Papers judgment, ordered Nawaz’s disqualification from public office and he was removed as party head.
Talking to Arab News, political analyst Tahir Malik said that Nawaz Sharif had been trying to build a narrative for the general elections by criticizing judiciary and other state institutions.
“Shehbaz Sharif should try to come out of the shadow of his elder brother if he wants to steer the party out of crisis,” he said.
“The PML-N won’t be able to win the general election if its leaders continue attacking the state institutions in their speeches,” he said. “Pakistanis won’t like politicians who target the armed forces and judiciary for political purposes,” Malik said.


Macron’s ratings fall further after month of protests

Updated 16 December 2018
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Macron’s ratings fall further after month of protests

  • Many of the protesters have targeted Macron personally, calling on him to resign
  • Until last week, a clear majority of French people had backed the protests, which sprung up initially over high taxes

PARIS: A month of “yellow vest” protests have taken a further toll on the popularity of French President Emmanuel Macron, a new poll showed Sunday, with analysts saying he will be forced to change his style of governing.
Around 66,000 protesters turned out again on Saturday on the fifth round of anti-government demonstrations, which sprung up over diesel taxes last month.
The figure was about half the number of the previous weekend, suggesting momentum was waning and the most acute political crisis of Macron’s 19-month presidency was coming to an end.
“It is calming down, but what remains of it all is a strong feeling of hatred toward Macron,” said veteran sociologist Herve Le Bras from the School of Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences (EHESS).
A major poll by the Ifop group published in Journal du Dimanche newspaper showed Macron’s approval had slipped another two points in the last month, to 23 percent.
The proportion of people who declared themselves “very dissatisfied” by his leadership jumped by six points to 45 percent.
Many of the protesters have targeted Macron personally, calling on him to resign or targeting his background as an investment banker and alleged elitism.
A different poll by Ipsos on Wednesday last week showed that a mere 20 percent of respondents were happy with his presidency, a fall of six points to its lowest ever level.
Le Bras said the protests had underlined the depth of dislike for Macron’s personality and style of governing, which critics see as arrogant and too distant.
“Even by being more humble, it’s going to be complicated,” he added.

Until last week, a clear majority of French people had backed the protests, which sprung up initially over high taxes before snowballing into a wider opposition front against Macron.
In a bid to end the standoff, he announced a package of measures for low-income workers on Monday in a televised address, estimated by economists to cost up to 15 billion euros ($17 billion).
The 40-year-old also acknowledged widespread animosity toward him and came close to apologizing for a series of verbal gaffes seen as dismissive of the poor or jobless.
Two polls published last Tuesday — in the wake of Macron’s concessions — suggested the country was now broadly 50-50 on whether the protests should continue.
“It’s a movement that has succeeded in forcing back what looked like a strong government,” Jerome Sainte-Marie, a public opinion expert at the Pollingvox group, told AFP.
“People have confidence in themselves now, so things won’t return to how they were on November 15” before the protests started, he said.
“The context in which Emmanuel Macron holds power has changed,” he added.
The former investment banker had until now styled himself as a determined pro-business reformer who would not yield to pressure from protests like his predecessors.
“Macron has given an indication that he is more open to dialogue,” Jean-Daniel Levy from the Harris Interactiv polling group told AFP.
The government has announced a six-month consultation with civil society groups, mayors, businesses and the “yellow vests” to discuss tax and other economic reforms.
Hikes in petrol and diesel taxes, as well as tougher emissions controls on old vehicles — justified on the grounds of environmental protection — were what sparked the “yellow vest” movement.
Macron “won’t necessarily change the overall course of his reforms, rather the way he carries them out,” Levy added.

In Paris on Saturday, the more than 8,000 police on duty easily outnumbered the 2,200 protesters counted by local authorities.
There were 168 arrests by early evening, far fewer than the 1,000 or so of last Saturday.
Tear gas was occasionally fired, but only a fraction compared with the weekends of December 8 or December 1 when graffiti was daubed on the Arc de Triomphe in scenes that shocked France.
Richard Ferrand, the head of the National Assembly, welcomed the “necessary” weakening of “yellow vest” rallies on Saturday, adding that “there had been a massive response to their demands.”
Interior Minister Christophe Castaner also called on protesters to halt their blockades across the country which have seen traffic and businesses disrupted.
“Everyone’s safety has to become the rule again,” he said in a tweet.
“Dialogue now needs to unite all those who want to transform France.”
He said eight people had died since the start of the movement.
Around 69,000 security forces were mobilized across France on Saturday, down from 89,000 the weekend before when 2,000 people were detained.