Somalia parliament approves parts of election overhaul plan

Somalia parliament approves parts of election overhaul plan
Experts believe the amendments are ‘likely to ‘divide Somalia’s politics further as opposition groups rally against them.’ (AFP/File)
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Updated 31 March 2024
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Somalia parliament approves parts of election overhaul plan

Somalia parliament approves parts of election overhaul plan
  • Last March, President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud pledged to end the complex clan-based indirect voting system in place for more than half a century in the troubled Horn of Africa nation

MOGADISHU: Somalia’s parliament has unanimously approved proposals to overhaul the country’s electoral system to reintroduce universal suffrage, a plan that has been criticized by some leading politicians.

Last March, President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud pledged to end the complex clan-based indirect voting system in place for more than half a century in the troubled Horn of Africa nation.

The central government and four federal states later announced an agreement that a one-person, one-vote system would be introduced in local elections set for June 2024, but the proposals still had to be approved by parliament.

On Saturday, lawmakers approved four of the 15 constitutional chapters that are due to be amended as part of the overhaul.

“The legislators from both houses unanimously endorsed the amended chapters of the constitution,” said Sheikh Adan Mohamed Nur, president of the lower chamber of parliament.

The remaining 11 chapters are to be voted on later, Mahad Wasuge, head of the Somali Public Agenda think tank, said.

“Once the 11 remaining chapters are amended by the parliament, the constitution will be voted for by the public,” he said.

When the central government announced the election overhaul plan last year, a former president and four former prime ministers were among the prominent politicians objecting because, among other reasons, not all of the country’s federal member states had participated in the talks.

Ahead of Saturday’s vote, former president Mohamed Abdullahi Farmaajo echoed the criticism.

“This Constitution, which is being implemented by an illegal process and that will not be accepted by society, will never be recognized as a legal Constitution,” he said in a statement on Friday.

It does not “represent the current political situation in the country and the pillars that were at the heart of Somali political reconciliation and power sharing,” he said.

Omar Mahmood, senior analyst for eastern Africa at the International Crisis Group, said the amendments were “likely to heighten political tensions” and “divide Somalia’s politics further as opposition groups rally” against them.

Meanwhile, the semi-autonomous Somali state of Puntland said on Sunday it would no longer recognize federal institutions after parliament backed the plan.

It was the latest move in a long-running and sometimes tense saga, with Puntland repeatedly issuing similar declarations in recent years to express its disagreement with the central government in Mogadishu.

Arid Puntland, in Somalia’s northeast, claimed autonomy in 1998, bolstered by natural resources including oil and its Bosaso port.

“The Puntland administration revoked its recognition and confidence in the federal government institutions until an outright constitutional process that is mutually accepted is obtained,” a Puntland statement said.

As a result, “Puntland will have its own comprehensive government authority until a federal government system is in place, with a mutually accepted Somali constitution that is subject to a public referendum.”

Authorities in the region opposed the adoption by parliament of the plan to reintroduce universal suffrage.

The Puntland authorities accused the president of violating the constitution and losing his legitimacy.


Russia says it is not preparing to attack NATO

Updated 2 sec ago
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Russia says it is not preparing to attack NATO

Russia says it is not preparing to attack NATO
Zakharova said NATO was trying to “justify its existence and strengthen Washington’s control over European satellites“

MOSCOW: Russia said on Friday it was not planning to attack NATO and it was the alliance that was aggravating tensions.
Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova was referring to a NATO Summit declaration that said: “Russia remains the most significant and direct threat to Allies’ security.”
Zakharova said NATO was trying to “justify its existence and strengthen Washington’s control over European satellites.”
Western leaders have repeatedly said that President Vladimir Putin will order his military to go further and attack NATO countries in central and eastern Europe if he is not stopped in Ukraine.

Nigeria school collapse kills several students, traps others

Nigeria school collapse kills several students, traps others
Updated 11 min 47 sec ago
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Nigeria school collapse kills several students, traps others

Nigeria school collapse kills several students, traps others
  • Parents desperately looked for their children at the Saint Academy in Jos North district
  • It was not immediately clear what caused the collapse

JOS, Nigeria: A school in central Nigeria collapsed on Friday, killing several students and trapping others who were heard crying out for help under the rubble, a rescue agency and witnesses said.
Parents desperately looked for their children at the Saint Academy in Jos North district of Plateau State after the building fell in on students taking their exams, an AFP correspondent at the site said.
“A two-story building housing Saint Academy... in Busa Buji in Jos North Local Government Area of Plateau State collapsed this morning killing several students,” the National Emergency Management Agency said in a statement.
“NEMA and other critical stakeholders are presently carrying out Search and Rescue operations,” it said.
Officials did not give a precise toll, but a resident at the scene Chika Obioha told AFP he estimated eight people died at the site and dozens more had been injured.
“Everyone is helping out to see if we can rescue more people,” he said.
It was not immediately clear what caused the collapse but residents said it came after three days of heavy rains in Plateau.
Building collapses are fairly common in Africa’s most populous nation because of lax enforcement of building standards, negligence and use of low quality materials.


France seeks government as PM vows to ‘guard against’ extremes

France seeks government as PM vows to ‘guard against’ extremes
Updated 22 min 11 sec ago
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France seeks government as PM vows to ‘guard against’ extremes

France seeks government as PM vows to ‘guard against’ extremes
  • Voters from different camps joined forces in the second round to shut the far-right National Rally (RN) out of power in a “republican front“
  • Macron has rejected LFI demands they should be tasked with forming the next government

PARIS: France’s political parties scrambled Friday to break a parliamentary deadlock brought on by an inconclusive snap election, as the outgoing prime minister vowed to prevent any government with far-right or hard-left members.
A runoff Sunday left the National Assembly without any overall majority, but a broad alliance of Socialists, Communists, Greens and the hard-left France Unbowed (LFI) won the most seats, with 193 in the 577-strong lower chamber.
Voters from different camps joined forces in the second round to shut the far-right National Rally (RN) out of power in a “republican front,” allowing President Emmanuel Macron’s followers to claim second place with 164 seats and leaving the far right in third at 143.
With each of the three blocs controlling roughly one-third of the chamber, political leaders are admitting it may be a long slog to find a government able to survive a no-confidence vote.
Macron has rejected LFI demands they should be tasked with forming the next government, appearing to rule out a role for either LFI — the largest player in the New Popular Front (NFP) left alliance — or the far-right RN in any new coalition.
Prime Minister Gabriel Attal echoed that stance Friday saying that he would seek “to guard against any government” that included RN or LFI ministers.
In a document outlining his bid to take the leadership of the Macron-allied “Renaissance” parliamentary group, Attal acknowledged it had “narrowly escaped extinction” in the vote.
As party group leader, Attal said he would “completely revise our methods and our organization.”
Attal, the only candidate to take over the Renaissance parliamentary leadership, said he hoped to “contribute to the emergence of a majority concerning projects and ideas” in the future parliament.
Renaissance deputies are to elect their new leader on Saturday. If voted in, Attal said he would rename the formation “Together for the Republic.”
The document, seen by AFP, made no mention of Macron, with reports suggesting that Attal is distancing himself from his former mentor, blaming Macron’s decision to dissolve parliament and call the election for the political quagmire.
Under the French constitution Macron, who has just under three years left of his second presidential term, will appoint the next prime minister.
The nominee must be able to garner enough support to negotiate the first hurdle, a confidence vote in the National Assembly.
There is, meanwhile, a good chance that the current government remains in place until after the Paris Olympic Games which open on July 26, according to political observers.
The leftist NFP, which had initially promised to suggest a candidate for prime minister to Macron by the end of the week, on Friday acknowledged that it probably wouldn’t be able to.
“I’d rather not set a deadline,” said LFI coordinator Manuel Bompard, telling the TF1 broadcaster that “more time may be needed for discussions.”
Green party boss Marine Tondelier said the problem was that “everybody claims that they are the biggest group” which she said showed that vote size was perhaps not “the most important criterion.”
A source within the Socialist party who declined to be named said the LFI had put forward four names, including that of firebrand Jean-Luc Melenchon who is unacceptable to all other parties, and controversial even among LFI members.
The Socialists themselves are pushing for their party’s boss, Olivier Faure, who they say would be acceptable as prime minister to a broad range of deputies from the left to center-right.
“Faure or Melenchon? That’s the real question,” remarked a Socialist official who declined to be named.
The head of the RN, Marine Le Pen, has already threatened that her deputies would reject any government that included LFI or Green ministers.
The RN’s vice president Sebastien Chenu meanwhile said that he saw “no satisfactory solution” to the current standoff “except a kind of technocratic government without political affiliation.”


Biden faces more pressure from Democrats to abandon re-election bid

Biden faces more pressure from Democrats to abandon re-election bid
Updated 41 min 29 sec ago
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Biden faces more pressure from Democrats to abandon re-election bid

Biden faces more pressure from Democrats to abandon re-election bid
  • It was unclear whether Biden’s performance would convince doubters in his party that he is their best bet to defeat Republican Donald Trump
  • At least 17 congressional Democrats so far have called for him to drop out

WASHINGTON: President Joe Biden faced more calls from fellow Democrats to abandon his re-election bid on Friday, following a news conference in which he delivered nuanced responses but occasionally stumbled over his words.
It was unclear whether Biden’s performance would convince doubters in his party that he is their best bet to defeat Republican Donald Trump in the Nov. 5 election and serve another four-year term in the White House.
At least 17 congressional Democrats so far have called for him to drop out and allow the party to pick another standard-bearer, including some who announced their positions after the news conference on Thursday night.
Democrats are worried that Biden’s low public approval ratings and growing concerns that he is too old for the job could cause them to lose seats in the House and Senate, leaving them with no grip on power in Washington should Trump win the White House.
But Biden made clear that he did not plan to step aside.
“If I show up at the convention and everybody says they want someone else, that’s the democratic process,” Biden said, before shifting to the stage whisper he often uses for emphasis to add, “It’s not gonna happen.”
Biden perhaps did not reassure those who were spooked by his poor presidential debate performance against Trump on June 27.
At one point, he referred to his vice president, Kamala Harris, as “Vice President Trump.” That came just hours after he introduced Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky as “President Putin” at the NATO summit, drawing gasps from those in the room.
Biden occasionally garbled his responses at the news conference, yet he also delivered detailed assessments of global issues, including Ukraine’s war with Russia and the Israel-Gaza conflict, that served as a reminder of his decades of experience on the world stage.
Some Democrats were not reassured.
“We must put forward the strongest candidate possible to confront the threat posed by Trump’s promised MAGA authoritarianism. I no longer believe that is Joe Biden,” said Representative Jim Himes of Connecticut, who called on the president to end his campaign after the news conference.
But one influential party figure, Representative James Clyburn of South Carolina, reiterated his support on Friday morning.
“I am all in. I’m riding with Biden no matter which direction he goes,” he said on NBC’s “Today” program.
A senior campaign official who spoke on condition of anonymity called the performance the “worst of all worlds. Not good. But not bad enough to make him change his mind ... It’ll give some enough cover to back him publicly, only to say he’s not up for it privately.”
Fundraiser Dmitri Melhorn said other donors told him they saw a strong performance from the president. “This is the person who can beat Trump. The mistakes are baked in and the upside is strong,” he told Reuters.
Biden will hold a rally on Friday in Detroit, where his campaign says he will focus on the “dangers” of Trump’s agenda.
The Michigan city is also headquarters of the United Auto Workers labor union, whose leaders endorsed Biden but now are assessing their options, three sources told Reuters.
With most US voters firmly divided into ideological camps, opinion polls show the race remains close.
An NBC/PBS poll released on Friday found Biden leading Trump 50 percent to 48 percent, a slight increase from his position before the debate. Biden fared slightly worse than Trump when third-party candidates were included in the questioning.
A Reuters/Ipsos poll released last week found Biden and Trump tied at 40 percent each. But some nonpartisan analysts have warned that Biden is losing ground in the handful of competitive states that will determine the outcome of the election.


Kyiv says it wants permission for strikes in Russia to destroy air bases

Kyiv says it wants permission for strikes in Russia to destroy air bases
Updated 48 min 37 sec ago
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Kyiv says it wants permission for strikes in Russia to destroy air bases

Kyiv says it wants permission for strikes in Russia to destroy air bases
  • Kyiv sought the destruction of air bases from which Russian aircraft fly

KYIV: Kyiv wants its allies to lift restrictions on long-range attacks inside Russia so that it can systematically destroy Russian air bases where aircraft used in attacks on Ukraine are stationed, a Ukrainian presidential adviser said on Friday.
Mykhailo Podolyak said on X that Kyiv sought the destruction of air bases from which Russian aircraft fly to carry out “deliberate massive strikes against the civilian population and civilian objects.”