Tlaib faces tough challenge in US primary race, poll shows

Tlaib faces tough challenge in US primary race, poll shows
Rashida Tlaib, right, questions Michael Cohen, Donald Trump’s former lawyer, on Capitol Hill, in Washington, D.C., February 27, 2019. (Reuters)
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Updated 01 May 2020

Tlaib faces tough challenge in US primary race, poll shows

Tlaib faces tough challenge in US primary race, poll shows
  • Rashida Tlaib narrowly won Michigan’s 13th congressional district race on Aug. 7, 2018, defeating four African-American candidates in the process
  • Ed Sarpolus, a veteran pollster, said his polling shows Tlaib’s popularity in the district has dropped 28 percent in the 16 months since she took office

CHICAGO: First-term Michigan Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib, a member of the anti-Trump “Squad” and a strong critic of Israeli policy, is losing ground in her re-election bid, according to a leading pollster.

Tlaib narrowly won Michigan’s 13th congressional district race on Aug. 7, 2018, defeating four African-American candidates to fill the vacancy left by the death of Congressman John Conyers.
 
Ed Sarpolus, a veteran pollster and former adviser to Conyers, said his polling shows Tlaib’s popularity in the district has dropped 28 percent in the 16 months since she took office, leaving her vulnerable to defeat in this year’s Democratic primary on Aug. 4.

So far only Brenda Jones, the popular Detroit City Council president who ran second in the 2018 election — losing to Tlaib by only 900 votes out of nearly 90,000 votes cast — has announced her intention to run again.

In a survey of voting intentions, Jones received 34 percent and Tlaib 43 percent, with 23 percent undecided.

The poll shows Tlaib’s lead dropping to 38 percent from 54 percent the previous year in Detroit, and from 57 percent to 48 percent in suburban areas.

Sarpolus cautioned that although polling shows Tlaib is vulnerable, Jones entered the race late and has struggled to build momentum in the past 16 months.

“Even though Tlaib’s base has been cut, Jones doesn’t have the money and hasn’t made any effort to organize a campaign since losing in 2018,” Sarpolus said.

He said that “organized efforts” had been made to defeat Tlaib.

“Political leaders in both parties in the state and nationally have expressed their unhappiness with her, and indicated their support for a replacement. Tlaib has alienated various special interest, ethnic and racial groups,” he said.

On top of those challenges, both candidates face uncertainty because of the coronavirus pandemic, with restrictions on face-to-face campaigning, rallies and even fundraising amid crippling unemployment and a sagging economy.

“Tlaib has lost support because some believe she has embarrassed Michigan with the things she has said,” Sarpolus claimed.

However, the Michigan rep’s attacks against Israel are unlikely to translate into strong opposition in the election since the Jewish community appears unwilling to enter the race strongly, he added.

Sarpolus said that Jones has done little campaigning until now and is yet to show she will be a strong candidate.

“Jones’ biggest problem is raising money. Tlaib has money and experience running a strong and effective campaign. This election is Rashida’s to lose,” he said.

The 13th district was held by Conyers, a popular African-American leader, for 52 years. The population base is 56.5 percent black, 37.6 percent white and 1.2 percent Asian.

Although Greater Detroit has a strong Arab-American presence in the district, their numbers are included in the white category by the Census.

Sarpolus said his polling shows that Tlaib and Jones are neck-and-neck in Detroit, where the African-American vote is based, but the former enjoys a stronger lead in the Detroit suburbs, or “out county” as it is often called in Michigan.

Tlaib has been a more vocal critic of Donald Trump than Jones, who failed to exploit the tensions that exist between the black community and the president, he said.

“The black community originally didn’t want Tlaib, but Jones has been quiet on Trump,” Sarpolus said, adding that this is a major political mistake for the candidate.

Although the election is more than 90 days away, a change in the voting process last election will allow “absentee” votes to be cast from July 1.

That means most voters are likely to make their decision a month before the election, reducing the campaign time to only two months, Sarpolus said.

More than 40 percent of voters cast absentee ballots in the last election and that number will increase dramatically.

Sarpolus said that many factors will decide the election, but his polling indicates that “this election is Tlaib’s to lose.”

He said that Jones has a lot of campaign ground to make up and lacks financial resources to mount an effective campaign.

“Brenda Jones has been around a long time. She has been very supportive of the Arab-American community and is president of the Detroit City Council,” Sarpolus said.

“The black community does not have a lot of money to support candidates in Greater Detroit, so Jones has had to turn to the business community, which has been hit hard by the pandemic,” he added.


World Bank threatens to halt $200m Afghan aid over banking data row

Updated 11 min 45 sec ago

World Bank threatens to halt $200m Afghan aid over banking data row

World Bank threatens to halt $200m Afghan aid over banking data row
  • Letter sent to Afghan president comes amid corruption claims linked to new government controls on public-private partnerships

KABUL: The World Bank has threatened to close the taps on $200 million worth of aid to Afghanistan if Kabul fails to share banking sector data.
Afghanistan’s Ministry of Finance on Wednesday said that the World Bank had warned the country’s President Ashraf Ghani that it would halt its assistance if the information was not forthcoming.
In a letter dated Nov. 23, Henry G. Kerali, the World Bank’s country director for Afghanistan, mentioned issues that “remain to be resolved” and “may impact” the bank’s capacity to disburse the full amount of $200 million.
The issues included the World Bank’s inability to obtain banking data from Da Afghanistan Bank (DAB), the country’s central bank.
“The letter has actually been addressed to the president, and copies of it have been sent to relevant offices. The issue will be resolved in the coming week,” finance ministry spokesman, Shamroz Khan Masjidi, told Arab News.
“In the past, we would have shared a number of non-sensitive banking data with the World Bank. Now, a misunderstanding has appeared with the central bank which has not shared it with it (the World Bank) … the issue will be resolved.” The World Bank’s Kabul office declined to comment on whether the letter, a copy of which has been seen by Arab News, was a warning to Ghani. In an equivocal statement issued on Wednesday, the lender said: “No letter from the World Bank to the government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan has been released to the public.” Ghani’s spokesman declined comment.
The World Bank’s purported threat comes amid complaints over increasing corruption after the presidential palace in recent months took control of public-private partnerships (PPP) from the Ministry of Finance through amendments to the country’s PPP law.
Reliant on international assistance, Afghanistan is considered one of the most corrupt countries.
Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, the US government’s leading oversight authority on Afghanistan reconstruction, in a letter on Nov. 11 said that the Afghan government “often makes paper reforms, such as drafting regulations or holding meetings, rather than concrete actions that would reduce corruption, such as arresting powerful actors.” Even Ghani’s brother, Hashmat Ghani, spoke against the PPP law move. “Taking away PPP office and authority from the finance ministry has been a mistake. It should be reversed immediately,” he said in a tweet on Thursday.
Torek Farhadi, a former Afghan and International Monetary Fund adviser, said the World Bank’s letter was “not a good signal” for Afghanistan.
“The reason for which it is interrupting the payment is that the president wants to move a number of important state-owned enterprises and the management of PPP to the palace where there is no oversight of the parliament at the palace as opposed to the ministry (Finance Ministry),” he told Arab News.
“So, this is how corruption creeps in, and the international community is worried about what is going on and the World Bank expresses it in a diplomatic language in this letter.” Sediq Ahmad Usmani, a lawmaker from the parliamentary financial affairs committee, said: “The executive power, particularly, the presidency, has created another government of its special circle which deals with appointments and budget’s expenses. All the power lies with the president and without his knowledge they cannot do anything.” “This has been our concern and we have shared it with the donors and have asked them to prevent such wayward acts,” he added.
Ghani’s chief spokesman, Sediq Seddiqi, denied the existence of any “circle” under the president. “These MPs, I am sure they know the whole process and the authority of government officials and the president on budget spending. Budget issues must not be politicized.
“The government sends details of the budget to the parliament in a very transparent way and they have the legal right to oversee the spending. It is an open budget system, there is no circle.”