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Posts tagged ‘Elections’

Kenyan president leads in nearly complete election results

August 09, 2017

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta was leading challenger Raila Odinga by a significant margin Wednesday in nearly complete election results, but the opposition said the counting process was flawed and disputed the tally.

The website of Kenya’s election commission showed Kenyatta with 54.8 percent and opposition leader Odinga with 44.4 percent after votes were counted from more than 35,000 of the 40,833 polling stations. The commission did not release information about which constituencies had been counted, although Kenyan television news channels later showed results from individual areas that confirmed Kenyatta’s lead.

The election body’s omission of constituency results prompted sharp criticism from Odinga, who also ran against Kenyatta in the 2013 vote and unsuccessfully challenged the results in court with allegations of vote-tampering. The longtime opposition figure also ran in the 2007 election, which was followed by violence fueled by ethnic divisions that killed more than 1,000 people.

“A clean credible process would by now have a dashboard showing all tallies from all constituencies to add to a sum total so that country can know which part of the country has been counted and what the votes are,” Odinga said in a statement Wednesday.

“The system has failed,” Odinga said. He added that the election commission “has just said that no parties have disputed the results. How do parties dispute results which they do not even know their origins?”

Election officials acknowledged the opposition objection, but defended their actions. “We believe that by displaying results, we have been doing well to enhance transparency and accountability in the electoral process, consistent with the commitment the commission has made to the Kenya people,” said commissioner Consalata Bucha Nkatha Maina, vice chairwoman of the election commission.

The commission’s CEO, Ezra Chiloba, also said a results screen at the commission’s counting center had frozen because too much data was being received, and that tallies would be updated later Wednesday morning.

A similar situation with a systems failure in the 2013 election led to Odinga’s legal challenge at the time, though Kenya’s Supreme Court ruled in favor of Kenyatta by validating the results. Kenyatta, the 55-year-old son of Kenya’s first president after independence from British colonial rule, campaigned this year on a record of major infrastructure projects, many backed by China, and claimed strong economic growth. Odinga, 72, also the son of a leader of the independence struggle, cast himself as a champion of the poor and a harsh critic of endemic corruption.

However, many voters were expected to vote along ethnic lines. Kenyatta is widely seen as the candidate of the Kikuyu people, the country’s largest ethnic group. Odinga is associated with the Luo voting bloc, which has never produced a head of state. There were six other presidential candidates, though they lack the wide support of the top two.

The winner of the presidential race must get more than 50 percent of the votes as well as one-quarter or more votes in at least 24 of Kenya’s 47 counties, according to officials. If the front-runner falls short of those benchmarks, the two top contenders will contest a runoff vote.

Former U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who is the chief election observer for The Carter Center, described Tuesday’s vote as “an inspiring day in Kenya watching democracy in action.” “Enthusiastic voters not fazed by long lines,” he tweeted.

Turkey’s ruling party elects President Erdogan as leader

May 21, 2017

ISTANBUL (AP) — President Recep Tayyip Erdogan returned as leader of Turkey’s ruling party Sunday, pushing back criticism that his tenure has curtailed freedoms and polarized the country as he vowed to serve the nation and combat terror.

The Justice and Development Party, or AK Party, re-elected Erdogan, its co-founder, at a congress where he was the only candidate for chairman. A narrow victory in a referendum last month to expand the powers of the Turkish presidency allows him to be both the head of state and of a political party.

Speaking to tens of thousands of people in Ankara, Erdogan said he was back after “998 days of separation” from the party and outlined a vision for its immediate future and elections scheduled for November 2019 with new executive and grassroots teams.

“This congress is the AK Party’s rebirth,” he said before the vote. “AK Party is not just its voters’ party, it’s the party for all of our 80 million citizens.” Elected with 1,414 votes, Erdogan set the party’s course for what he called a “new era” of reforms.

“The upcoming months will be a period of soaring in all areas, including combatting terror, the economy, expanding rights and freedoms and investments,” the president said. Erdogan was forced to cut his formal ties to the party when he became the country’s first directly elected president in 2014. Last month’s referendum eliminated a constitutional requirement mandating that presidents be neutral and cut ties with their political parties.

Critics say the referendum transforming Turkey’s parliamentary governing system to an executive presidency was marred by allegations of election fraud. The vote took place under a state of emergency imposed in the wake of last year’s failed coup.

Erdogan defended the state of emergency and said it would remain in place “until the situation reaches peace and welfare.” He said it had not affected civil rights. Turkey blames the network of U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen for the July 15 coup attempt that left nearly 270 dead— a charge Gulen has denied.

Under the state of emergency, more than 47,000 people have been arrested and 100,000 dismissed from public service for alleged connections to the cleric and groups Turkey deems terror organizations. A dozen lawmakers from the pro-Kurdish opposition party, including its co-presidents, are behind bars along with some 160 journalists.

Calling the purge necessary for the country’s survival, Erdogan said, “Nothing in Turkey will be like what it was before July 15. A new era has begun in combatting terror organizations inside and outside our country’s borders.”

Hours before the congress convened, 2 suspected Islamic State militants were killed in an Ankara police operation. Police said they recovered weapons and explosives. Turkey’s state-run news agency said the men were believed to be planning an attack in the capital.

The operation follows a string of attacks blamed on the Islamic State group, which led to Turkey’s cross-border operation into northern Syria to combat both IS and U.S.-backed Syrian Kurdish militants.

Erdogan’s meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump last week resolved little of the discord over his administration’s decision to more heavily arm Syrian Kurdish militants as part of the fight against IS.

Turkey considers the considers the People’s Protection Units, or YPG, in Syria a terror organization and an extension of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has waged a three-decade-long insurgency against the Turkish state and is blamed for multiple deadly bombings since 2015.

Erdogan has said he would retaliate if the YPG posed a security threat, signaling more cross-border operations. “Those who use terror organizations to keep us in line will soon recognize their mistakes,” he said. “We would be glad to solve our problems with our friends and our allies. But if that option is no longer there, we cannot sit with our hands tied.”

Erdogan also criticized Turkey’s European allies, saying, “We do not have to tolerate the European Union’s two-faced attitude.” Erdogan called on the EU to grant visa-free travel to Turkish citizens, give promised aid for migrants hosted in Turkey and to speed up Turkey’s accession bid in return for the country’s work in curtailing the flood of migrants to Europe.

“Despite everything, our choice is still to continue with the EU,” he said. “The decision here belongs to the EU.”

Low turnout expected in Albanian election key to EU bid

June 25, 2017

TIRANA, Albania (AP) — Albanians voted in what was expected to be low numbers Sunday in a general election that was aimed at giving the country’s two biggest political parties a chance to look past their bitter differences and work toward eventually joining the European Union.

The voting ended at 8 p.m. (1800 GMT) after the Central Election Commission decided to extend voting by one hour due to low turnout that was attributed to religious festivities and hot temperatures that reached 39 degrees (102 Fahrenheit.)

The decision caused chaos in some places as more people waited in line to cast ballots. When the polls closed, the preliminary turnout from the 19 percent of stations reporting participation figures was 43.9 percent, compared to 53.5 percent four years ago. Preliminary election results are not expected until Monday.

Holding a free and fair election is key to launching EU membership talks for the nation of 2.9 million, which is already a NATO member. After earning EU candidate status in 2014, Tirana has struggled to pass important reforms vital for its bid to advance to EU — namely deeply reforming its corrupted justice system.

Eighteen political parties are running for 140 seats in parliament in Sunday’s vote. The main contenders are Prime Minister Edi Rama’s Socialist Party and the opposition Democratic Party led by Lulzim Basha.

An agreement reached in May ended the three-month parliamentary boycott by the Democrats, who claimed that voting was open to manipulation. The election date was delayed a week and Rama’s Socialists promised greater oversight on election transparency.

All main parties campaigned on a reform agenda, pledging faster economic growth, pay hikes and lower unemployment, which stands at about 14 percent. Some 6,000 police officers were on duty for election security, while more 300 international observers came to monitor the vote.

“We expect a better Albania and leaders to work to do what they have pledged at the campaign,” Zenel Caka, 47, said at a polling station in Tirana. Luan Rama of the Socialist Party for Motivation, the third main political party, said one member was injured following a quarrel and a shooting incident outside a polling station in Shengjin, 60 kilometers (37 miles) northwest of the capital, Tirana.

Police investigating the incident said they found a cartridge but no injured person was taken to the hospital. They said it did not disrupt the voting. The Interior Ministry also reported hundreds of attempts to buy votes, a crime that may result in a jail term.

Central Election Commission said partial turnout at a quarter of polling stations by 10 a.m. was 12.6 percent, almost the same as in the previous election. Albanians also celebrated Eid al-Fitr on Sunday, the end of the fasting month of Ramadan. In the early morning, thousands of Muslim believers said prayers at the recently-renovated Skanderbeg Square in Tirana.

All top leaders cast their ballots, congratulating Muslims on the holiday and urging citizens to vote. “Today, Albania needs God more than ever,” Rama said. The western city of Kavaja was also holding a mayoral election.

Rwandans vote in presidential election

August 04, 2017

KIGALI, Rwanda (AP) — Rwandans voted in an election Friday that the country’s longtime president is widely expected to win. President Paul Kagame is running against Frank Habineza of the Democratic Green Party of Rwanda — the only permitted opposition party — and independent candidate Philippe Mpayimana.

There were long queues in some parts of the capital Kigali, where all the candidates are registered to vote. At some polling stations, music was being played urging the voters to choose the candidate who will transform the country and unite all Rwandans.

Kagame, who won the 2010 election with 93 percent of the vote, told a rally in July that “the day of the presidential elections will just be a formality.” “Even the critics will tell you Kagame is an extraordinary leader who walks the talk,” Kigali resident Charles Karemera said after voting at the city’s Amahoro Stadium.

The 59-year-old Kagame has been de-facto leader or president of the nation of 12 million people since his rebels ended the 1994 genocide. While he remains popular for presiding over economic growth, critics accuse him of using the powers of the state to remove perceived opponents.

Rwandan authorities, including Kagame, deny critics’ claims that the government targets dissidents for assassination or disappearances. Presidential candidates were barred from putting campaign posters in most public places, including schools and hospitals. The electoral commission has vetted candidates’ campaign messages, warning that their social media accounts could be blocked otherwise.

Three potential candidates for Friday’s election were disqualified by the electoral commission for allegedly failing to fulfill certain requirements, including collecting enough signatures. A constitutional amendment after a referendum in 2015 allows Kagame to stay in power until 2034 if he pursues it.

Rwanda has about 6.9 million registered voters. More than 44,000 Rwandans living outside the country voted Thursday. Polls close at 3 p.m. local time, and provisional results are expected later on Friday, said Charles Munyaneza, executive secretary of the Rwanda Electoral Commission.

Kenya leader ‘deeply shocked’ at election official’s killing

August 01, 2017

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — Kenya’s president said Tuesday he is “deeply shocked” by the torture and killing of an election official who was crucial to next week’s presidential vote, while concerns grew that the election again will face dangerous unrest.

President Uhuru Kenyatta said on Twitter that investigations into Christopher Msando’s killing should be allowed to “proceed calmly,” and he warned against “careless speculation.” Msando was in charge of managing information technology systems at the electoral commission. He had publicly sought to reassure voters that the results of the Aug. 8 election would not be tampered with.

Analysts have warned that further violence could accompany the hotly contested election in which Kenyatta is running again. The country’s elections have turned violent in the past, notably after the 2007 vote that international observers said was flawed. More than 1,000 people died.

The main opposition group has charged that Kenyatta wants to rig the upcoming election, an accusation the presidency has denied. The National Super Alliance called Msando’s death an assassination and an attempt to disrupt the vote.

The U.S. and British diplomats in Kenya have expressed grave concern about Msando’s death and offered the Kenyan government assistance in investigating. Hundreds of activists on Tuesday marched peacefully to the electoral commission to protest the killing. A former government official turned whistleblower, John Githongo, said there was plenty of reason to believe Msando’s death was related to the election.

The electoral commission chairman, Wafula Chebukati, has called the death a “brutal murder” and called for security for all commission staff. “Let us remember Chris by voting peacefully,” Chebukati told Tuesday’s gathering. The commission “shall ensure that the ground for voting on the eighth of August is level for everyone. So we can remember Chris best by participating in free, fair and credible elections.”

Kenya’s police chief Joseph Boinnet has said a special team from the Directorate of Criminal investigations has been set up to investigate Msando’s murder.

Putin hails meeting, thinks Trump accepted election denials

July 09, 2017

HAMBURG, Germany (AP) — Russian President Vladimir Putin hailed his first face-to-face meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump, saying Saturday he thinks Trump accepted his assurances that Russia didn’t meddle in the U.S. presidential election and that their conversation could be a model for improving ties between the two countries.

Speaking to reporters after the two-day Group of 20 summit in Germany ended, Putin said he and Trump had a long discussion about the allegations of Russian interference in last year’s election that have dogged Trump’s presidency.

The Russian leader said he reiterated his “well-known” position that “there are no grounds” for the allegations. “He asked many questions on the subject, I tried to answer them all,” Putin said. “It seems to me that he has taken note of that and agreed, but it’s better to ask him about his attitude.”

Putin said his answers were detailed and covered his discussions on the election meddling issue with representatives of the previous administration, including former President Barack Obama. But he would not reveal details of his exchange with Trump, saying the conversation was confidential.

“He asked questions, I replied. It seemed to me that he was satisfied with the answers,” Putin said. Trump’s top envoy to the United Nations quickly disputed the Russian president’s assessment of Trump’s takeaway from their one-on-one meeting.

“President Trump still knows that they meddled. President Putin knows that they meddled, but he is never going to admit to it. And that’s all that happened,” Ambassador Nikki Haley told CNN on Saturday.

Trump has avoided firmly blaming Moscow for campaign hacking in the past, and the day before he met with Putin, he was similarly elusive. He argued variably that it could have been Russia, probably was Russia and indeed was Russia, while insisting it could have been other countries, too, and adding: “I won’t be specific.”

In his post-summit remarks, Putin said that a working group on cybersecurity he and Trump agreed to create during their meeting should help prevent such election controversies in the future. “What is important is that we agreed that there should be no uncertainty in that sphere,” he said. “We agreed with the U.S. president to create a working group and work jointly on how to ensure cyberspace security, how to ensure the fulfillment of international legal norms in that sphere and prevent meddling in internal affairs of Russia and the U.S. We believe that if we work that way, and I have no reason to doubt it, there will be no such allegations.”

Putin also praised Trump as a strong negotiator who quickly grasps various issues. “As for relations on personal level, I believe we have established them,” Putin said. “Trump’s T.V. persona differs sharply from the real man. He is a very straightforward person, grasps precisely what his interlocutor says, quickly analyzes and responds to questions or new elements of the discussion.”

The Russian leader said his talks with Trump offered a model for rebuilding Russia-U.S. ties, which have plummeted to post-Cold War lows over the Ukrainian crisis, the war in Syria and other disputes.

“I think that if we develop our relations in the same way, there is every reason to believe that we would be able to at least partially restore the level of interaction that we need,” Putin said. He particularly hailed the U.S.-Russian deal on a cease-fire in southwestern Syria announced Friday as a step toward ending the hostilities.

Jim Heintz contributed to this story from Moscow.

Albanian vote in election seen as key to moving toward EU

June 25, 2017

TIRANA, Albania (AP) — Albanians were voting Sunday in a general election that follows a landmark agreement between the country’s two biggest political parties to look past their bitter differences and back efforts for Albania to eventually join the European Union.

Holding a free and fair election is key to launching EU membership talks for the nation of 2.9 million, which is already a NATO member. After earning EU candidate status in 2014, Tirana has struggled to pass important reforms vital for its bid to advance to EU — namely deeply reforming its corrupted justice system.

Eighteen political parties are running for 140 seats in parliament in Sunday’s vote. The main contenders are Prime Minister Edi Rama’s Socialist Party and the opposition Democratic Party led by Lulzim Basha.

An agreement reached in May ended the three-month parliamentary boycott by the Democrats, who claimed that voting was open to manipulation. The election date was delayed a week and Rama’s Socialists promised greater oversight on election transparency.

All main parties campaigned on a reform agenda, pledging faster economic growth, pay hikes and lower unemployment, which stands at about 14 percent. Some 6,000 police officers were on duty for election security, while more 300 international observers came to monitor the vote.

“We expect a better Albania and leaders to work to do what they have pledged at the campaign,” Zenel Caka, 47, said at a polling station in Tirana. Luan Rama of the Socialist Party for Motivation, the third main political party, said one member was injured following a quarrel and a shooting incident outside a polling station in Shengjin, 60 kilometers (37 miles) northwest of the capital, Tirana.

Police investigating the incident said they found a cartridge but no injured person was taken to the hospital. They said it did not disrupt the voting. The Interior Ministry also reported hundreds of attempts to buy votes, a crime that may result in a jail term.

Central Election Commission said partial turnout at a quarter of polling stations by 10 a.m. was 12.6 percent, almost the same as in the previous election. Albanians also celebrated Eid al-Fitr on Sunday, the end of the fasting month of Ramadan. In the early morning, thousands of Muslim believers said prayers at the recently-renovated Skanderbeg Square in Tirana.

All top leaders cast their ballots, congratulating Muslims on the holiday and urging citizens to vote. “Today, Albania needs God more than ever,” Rama said. The western city of Kavaja was also holding a mayoral election.

Preliminary results from the vote are expected Monday.

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