Kenya Sets Date for New Presidential Elections

Kenya

Nairobi- Kenya’s election commission on Monday set October 17 as the date for a new vote ordered by the Supreme Court when it canceled the results of an August poll won by President Uhuru Kenyatta.

Kenyatta won the August 8 vote by 1.4 million votes. The court on Friday said the election commission had not followed proper procedures and ordered it to hold a new vote within 60 days.

It was the first time in the African continent a Supreme Court has invalidated the results of presidential elections.

“A new presidential election will be held on October 17, based on a Supreme Court decision that annulled the August 8 presidential election,” the electoral commission said in a statement.

The statement added that the election would feature Kenyatta and opposition leader Raila Odinga, who filed a complaint with the Supreme Court.

October’s elections will see competition between only two candidates, Kenyatta, 55, who achieved victory in August with 54.27 percent of votes, and main opposition Odinga, 72, who won 44.74 percent of votes.

The other six candidates, who received less than one per cent of votes, will not be entitled to participate in the elections.

While Kenyatta pledged to lead a strong campaign to win the new elections, Odinga called for the election commission to be replaced and brought to trial, in light of the Supreme Court ruling.

Uganda, Ghana, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone are other countries on the African continent where presidential elections have been challenged in courts of law but have not been nullified.

Raisi Offends Iranian Government

FILE PHOTO: Iranian Presidential candidate Ebrahim Raisi and Tehran Mayor Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf gesture during a campaign meeting at the Mosalla mosque in Tehran

London- Ten days after the presidential elections, repercussions of the electoral campaigns still threaten of wider divisions in Tehran. On Monday, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani was offended by his rivals: defeated presidential candidate Ebrahim Raisi and head of Judiciary Sadeq Larijani.

In his first speech after losing the elections, Raisi said on Sunday that Rouhani’s government has committed huge violations through tampering the elections.

“I ask the Guardian Council and the judiciary not to let the people’s rights get trampled. If this vote-tampering is not looked into, then the people’s trust will be damaged,” said Raisi.

He lost the presidential competition for 16 million votes compared to 23 million votes to Rouhani.

Rouhani criticized last week the Guardian Council and the Ministry of Interior for not allowing four million Iranians to participate in the presidential elections, considering those who did not participate supporters of him.

Raisi, on the other hand, accused Rouhani of having inappropriately used TV, newspapers and government offices for campaign purposes throughout the five months, preceding the elections.

Official authorities in Iran describe the protests that took place in 2009 after the presidential elections as riot – protests spurred when the two reform candidates claimed that election results were forged for the advantage of Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad.

In his last speech before the voting, Rouhani accused Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) and the judiciary of interfering in the Iranian elections in favor of Raisi.

Iran’s Interior Ministry Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli slammed the doubts being raised about the election integrity and responded to Raisi that elections were “integral and legal”.

Investigation results are expected to be announced today by the Guardian Council on the electoral violations.

Iran Elections to Decide Future of Engagement with the West

Held on Friday May 19, Iran’s presidential election is effectively a tight two-horse race between moderate incumbent Hassan Rouhani and hardline jurist Ebrahim Raisi, with major implications threatening relations with Washington.

Whoever wins the presidential vote will influence not only Iran’s immediate future but also the battle to choose a new supreme leader, who will rule for life.

Rouhani is still seen as the frontrunner, but he faces a tougher than expected challenge from Raisi, who has rallied religious traditionalists and working-class voters angered by the stagnant economy.

But if Raisi wins, it would almost certainly bring to an abrupt halt Iran’s engagement with the west, and ultimately doom the 2015 nuclear agreement – even though the enduring popularity of the deal means he did not directly attack it during the bitter campaign.

More so, Raisi has pushed his charitable credentials as head of the powerful Imam Reza foundation and vowed more support for the poor.

Raisi has attacked the Rouhani government for his “weak” stance during negotiations and for having failed to cash in on the deal.

“We should not show any weakness in the face of the enemy,” he said in a televised debate, raising the possibility that he could deepen already worsening tensions with Washington.

If Rouhani does lose, it would be a first, as all previous presidents since Ayatollah Ali Khamenei became supreme leader in 1989 have been returned to office for a second term.

In Iran, the president has considerable influence – even though he is always constrained by the supreme leader, who has control of a range of unelected military and religious bodies.

Rouhani Calls for Army Neutrality Ahead of Presidential Elections

London- Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has stressed the need for the Iranian Army to remain neutral during Friday’s parliamentary elections.

In his last electoral speech in the city of Mashhad on Wednesday, Rouhani who is running for the elections as a “reformist” candidate, said that the armed forces should not engage within any party or political group and “stay away from political games”, in line with the recommendations of Iran’s spiritual leader Ali Khamenei.

The president criticized the interference of the judiciary and media institutions in the electoral process.

He also strongly defended his government’s achievements with regards to the nuclear deal and the openness to the international community.

Rouhani and his ultra-conservative opponent Ebrahim Raisi held dueling rallies in northeastern Iran on Wednesday, the final day of campaigning before the presidential elections.

Addressing his supporters, Raisi said: “We follow the culture of ability and action.”

He added that, if elected president, he would seek to resolve the country’s economic and living problems.

Meanwhile, Rouhani’s government received a strong support on Tuesday when four French-Italian made ATR 72-600s planes landed in Tehran, within a deal which forms part of plans to rebuild the airline’s fleet.

Another sign of support to the current Iranian government was highlighted on Wednesday, when Reuters said that US President Donald Trump extended wide sanctions relief for Iran called for under the 2015 international nuclear deal.

During his presidential campaign, Trump criticized the nuclear agreement and went on to say that he would “dismantle the disastrous deal with Iran”; however, Wednesday’s actions demonstrated that he has decided, at least for now, to keep it, according to Reuters.

“The United States continues to waive sanctions as required to continue implementing US sanctions-lifting commitments in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action,” the State Department said in a statement published by Reuters, referring to the deal by its formal name.

France Votes for a New President

France

Paris – Amidst tight security measures, French electors will be back to ballot boxes today in the second and decisive round of presidential elections, which will determine the president for the next five years.

Emmanuel Macron – highly possible to win – would be the youngest president since the foundation of the French republic 170 years ago.

Until Friday, the elections’ result was almost predictable after a survey showed that Macron not only did advance Marine Le Pen but has also achieved additional progress after the intense televised debate between the two rivals on Wednesday.

The accusations that went viral claiming that Macron is practicing taxes evasion and has secret banking accounts offshore quickly disappeared after his firm denial and the absence of any evidence.

However, the great surprise came three hours before the “electoral silence” that bans candidates, their supporters and media means from publishing or announcing any news that might influence the 47 million electors – Chan4 published an enormous amount of pictures, contracts and emails of officials from Macron electoral campaign and were promoted as Macron Leaks.

“We knew that this kind of risk would be present during the presidential campaign, because it has happened elsewhere. Nothing will be left without a response,” French President Francois Hollande said.

The political party of Macron En Marche! (On the Move), said that some of the documents are valid and were obtained several weeks ago after both personal and professional mailboxes of party leaders were hacked. Other documents in circulation are bogus, the party added.

The election commission, which supervises the electoral process, warned social and traditional media not to publish the hacked emails. “The commission stresses that publication or republication of these data…could be a criminal offense,” it said.

Security Concerns Raised after Greenpeace Unfurls Political Banner on Eiffel Tower

Eiffel

Greenpeace activists unfurled a political banner in broad daylight on the Eiffel Tower in Paris creating security concerns among the city’s police ahead of Sunday’s presidential elections.

Paris’s police chief called emergency talks after a dozen activists from the advocacy group climbed the north face of the vast metal-lattice structure, one of the world’s most visited sites, to hang a banner carrying the French national motto, “Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite” (Liberty, Equality, Fraternity).

The incident exposed security concerns despite the fact that France is deploying extra police for voting day on Sunday. These come on top of thousands of police and soldiers mobilized following attacks by militants which have killed more than 230 people in France in the past two-and-a-half years.

“Above and beyond the motives, this publicity stunt, in the current climate, exposes faults in the security arrangements at the Eiffel Tower,” police prefect Michel Delpuech said.

At least three in four of France’s 47 million voters are set to go to polling stations throughout the day on Sunday to cast a ballot in a contest where centrist Emmanuel Macron is tipped to beat far-right National Front leader Marine Le Pen.

The Eiffel Tower, in the heart of the capital nears the banks of the Seine River, attracts nearly 7 million visitors a year, not far short of 20,000 a day on average, according to its operators.

A dozen Greenpeace activists were detained for questioning, police sources said.

Beneath the French republican slogan in large black letters was the word “Resist”, a message directed against Le Pen and her party.

Greenpeace said a dozen activists were involved, hoisting a 300-square-metre banner at around 7:45 a.m, which is before normal business hours but well after dawn has broken at this time of year.

“We wanted to say we are against the rise of nationalism and authoritarianism in France and in other countries,” Greenpeace France’s head, Jean-Francois Julliard, added on public radio station francinfo.

It is “a warning against Marine Le Pen’s program and the dangers it poses for NGOs and others,” Julliard told reporters.

Defending basic rights “is critical to continuing our environmental struggle,” he added.

Earlier, Macron revealed that he had chosen as his prime minister someone with enough political experience to help bring together a legislative majority but refused to name his choice.

Despite a testy debate with Le Pen on Wednesday, Macron insisted that — should he win — she would be the first person he would call.

For her part, Le Pen said her anger during the debate is a reflection of the anger she sees throughout France.

In the last day of campaigning before the elections, Le Pen acknowledged the testy debate, criticizing Macron as the candidate of the elite and said the French have had enough of their political and economic situation.

An Opinionway poll later on Friday saw Macron beating Le Pen by 62 percent to 38 percent of Sunday’s vote.

Iran: Pro-Rouhani Officials Accuse Conservatives of Slander, False Claims

Iran

London – Campaign tensions between outgoing president Hassan Rouhani and his rival candidate, Tehran’s conservative Mayor Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf, escalated two weeks ahead of the May 19 presidential election.

On Wednesday, Iranian Justice Minister Mostafa Pourmohammadi responded to Ghalibaf’s televised speech on the trafficking scandal pinned to one of the children of a pro-Rouhani minister.

Iranian politician and cultural advisor Hesamodin Ashna harshly criticized conservative candidate and senior cleric Ebrahim Raisi for speeches accusing the government of widespread corruption.

On the other hand, former president and leader of the reformist Mohammad Khatami issued a statement in support of reelecting his ally Hassan Rouhani for another term.

“Today, Mr. Rouhani not being elected would mean the increased likelihood of the return of [Iran’s] isolation and sanctions,” wrote the Reformist heavyweight.

Accusations of corruption were exchanged faster than a shooting round of bullets between Tehran’s moderate and conservative platforms, exasperating tensions on the nation’s political arena.

Conservative candidates are betting on Rouhani losing votes over worsening economic and living conditions in Iran, which has given corruption speculations a margin for credibility across the political scene– despite the stringent vetting procedures limiting presidential candidates to a pre-approved few by supreme decision-making circles.

Ghalibaf had demanded Rouhani apologizes to the Iranian people for corruption, particularly on scandals related to trafficked goods. The conservative presidential nominee stressed that four percent of Iranians control the country’s wealth, while a 96 percent remains underprivileged and submerged with economic strain.

On the case of trafficked goods, Justice Chief Pourmohammadi denied statements made by judiciary mouthpiece Mohsen Ajai on authorities apprehending smuggled clothes at a minister’s house.

Pourmohammadi came out saying that the smuggled shipment confiscated in Lavasan, Tehran is open to judicial investigation into the case.

“The suspicious shipment belongs to one of the minister’s children and was seized at the minister’s house,” Ajai had reported.

Pourmohammadi ordered prosecution to file an apology for Rouhani after allegedly investigation showing that the shipment was “legal and licensed”.

Another response that rushed to defend the Rouhani government was made by Iran’s Vice-President for Parliamentary Affairs Hossein Ali Amiri, a close associate of Rouhani, expressed serious Iranian concerns on declassifying issues on debates broadcasted nationwide.

Amiri said such malicious publicity jeopardized Iranian national security, Tehran-based IRNA news agency reported.
Amiri said that the uncivilized exchange of accusations and slander between candidates during the election campaigns violates the law and ethics.

He urged candidates to focus on their own electoral programs instead of targeting their rivals.
Amiri warned of the consequences of candidates making promises that supersede the extent of legal jurisdiction assigned to the post of president.

“We are hearing words and promises causing social and national divisions,” he added.

Le Pen Deliberately Lifts Part of Fillon Speech to Win over Conservatives

Pen

French Presidential candidate Marine Le Pen made a bold move during a recent speech when she lifted verbatim part of another delivered by former candidate Francois Fillon.

The far-right candidate lifted parts of a speech by the former prime minister in what her critics called plagiarism and she said was a deliberate “wink” to him to woo his conservative voters in France’s presidential runoff Sunday.

The stolen words and casual reaction by Le Pen and her team marked the latest shocking development in a French presidential campaign like no other. Perhaps more surprisingly, there was little sign it would seriously damage Le Pen.

Polls consider her centrist rival Emmanuel Macron the front-runner in the vote, seen as a test of global populism and decisive moment for the European Union.

Le Pen borrowed from a speech delivered last month by Fillon, the former Republicans party candidate, about France’s important role in Europe and the world.

The subject is at the heart of Le Pen’s campaign. She promises to restore French glory, pull France out of the EU and return to the franc currency. She has denounced the effects of globalization on the French economy and culture.

Speaking April 15, Fillon described France as a force reaching out on multiple fronts:

“The English Channel and the North Sea opening onto the Anglo-Saxon world and to the immense northern spaces. … The Atlantic, which has opened us for centuries onto the great sea and brings us adventures. The Mediterranean, the cradle of some of history’s oldest and richest civilizations. … The Pyrenees, first of all, engaging France with that immense Hispanic and Latin universe. The Alps border, with Italy our sister and beyond that central Europe, the Balkans and eastern Europe. … France is something more and much more than an economic, agricultural or military power.”

Le Pen, speaking Monday at a Paris region campaign rally, said:

“The English Channel and the North Sea opening onto the Anglo-Saxon world and to the immense northern spaces. The Mediterranean, the cradle of the oldest and richest civilizations. The Pyrenees, first of all, engaging France with that immense Hispanic and Latin universe. The Alps border, with Italy our sister and beyond that central Europe, the Balkans and eastern Europe. … France is something more and much more than an economic, agricultural or military power.”

Like three of her aides earlier in the day, Le Pen used the word “wink” to describe the extracts copied word for word from Fillon. At no point in the speech did she cite Fillon or acknowledge the source.

“I totally own this wink,” she said in a Tuesday night interview with French broadcaster TF1 news.

Le Pen added that her far-right National Front party and Fillon’s conservative voters share “the same vision of France, of its greatness, of the role it should have in the world.”

Fillon and his aides have not commented on Le Pen’s move, which puts his Republicans party in an awkward spot. However the website that revealed the copied text, Ridicule TV, is reported to be run by Fillon supporters.

Polls suggest that as many as a third of Fillon’s voters will choose Le Pen in the second round — but Fillon himself, immediately after being eliminated in the first-round vote April 23, urged voters to keep the long-pariah National Front out of power and vote instead for Macron.

A writer well-known in ultraconservative circles, Paul-Marie Couteaux, claimed credit for the passage used by both Le Pen and Fillon.

Couteaux expressed hope it would encourage right-wing voters to unite under a single banner. He tweeted Tuesday that the passage was borrowed from his 1997 book “Europe toward War.”

Couteaux has past links to both Fillon’s campaign and Le Pen, according to French media reports.

Le Pen and Emmanuel Macron, her centrist rival in Sunday’s runoff election, have their only televised debate on Wednesday. Both are going after supporters of Fillon and the nine other candidates knocked out in the first round. France’s two main parties failed to make it to the second round for the first time in the country’s modern history.

Meanwhile, a senior FN official said on Wednesday that Le Pen would try to change France’s electoral law by referendum if she wins the presidency and her National Front fails to win a parliamentary majority in June.

She would then call new elections under the new rules. France holds parliamentary elections on June 11 and 18.

“If the new Assembly is hostile to us, we would change the electoral law via a referendum organized as soon as next summer, then the president would dissolve the National Assembly,” Gilles Lebreton, the FN official told Le Canard Enchaine newspaper.

Sparks Set to Fly as Le Pen, Macron Face Off in Final Debate ahead of Sunday’s Vote

Macron

French presidential candidates, centrist Emmanuel Macron and far-right Marine Le Pen are set to square off in the final face-to-face televised debate ahead of Sunday’s runoff vote.

Sparks are sure to fly between Macron, a strongly Europe-minded ex-banker who wants to cut state regulations in the economy while protecting workers, and Le Pen, a euroskeptic who wants to ditch the euro currency and impose sharp curbs on immigration.

Opinion polls still show Macron, 39, holding a strong lead of 20 points over the National Front’s Le Pen with just four days to go to the final vote, in what is widely seen as France’s most important election in decades.

Macron finished only three points ahead of Le Pen in the first round on April 23, but he is widely expected now to pick the bulk of votes from the Socialists and the center-right whose candidates were eliminated.

Though Le Pen has a mountain to climb to catch Macron, the 2017 campaign for the Elysee has been packed with surprises, the exchanges between the two have become noticeably sharper and the 48-year-old National Front veteran has shown she is capable of catching him out with clever public relations maneuvering.

Macron warned he would not pull his punches in Wednesday night’s televised encounter against a rival whose policies he says are dangerous for France.

“I am not going to employ invective. I am not going to use cliches or insults. I’ll use hand-to-hand fighting to demonstrate that her ideas represent false solutions,” he told BFM TV.

Le Pen, who portrays Macron as a candidate of high finance masquerading as a liberal, said: “I shall be defending my ideas. He will be defending the posture that he has adopted.”

“His program seems to be very vague, but in reality it is a simple continuation of (Socialist President) Francois Hollande’s government,” she said in an interview with Reuters on Tuesday.

Bold and gritty, Le Pen, 48, is an experienced party leader making her second bid for the French presidency. She has held elected office several times in northern France and has been a European lawmaker since 2004.

On stage, she favors a classic style, often wearing somber suits or playing on the blue-white-red colors of the French flag.

In her speeches she uses dramatic, cut-to-the-chase expressions and doesn’t hesitate to harshly criticize her rivals.

Macron, 39, has never held elected office. He is a literature lover who likes to quote French authors in his lengthy speeches. He asks his supporters not to boo other politicians.

He’s leading an American-style campaign in which he often appears publicly with his wife Brigitte, 24 years his senior. Le Pen’s long-time companion, Louis Aliot, remains more discreet.

Even their music choices contrast: Macron’s supporters were dancing to modern techno music during his election party in a Parisian exhibition center. Le Pen’s militants were celebrating with 1980s standards in her town of Henin-Beaumont in northern France.

Commentators said Wednesday’s debate could still have an influence, particularly on potential abstainers, many of whom voted for the candidate of the hard left who came fourth in the April 23 first round.

The final face-to-face debate between rivals in a French presidential election, aired live, is a “must-watch” event across the country, when the candidates take the gloves off to land whatever punches they can.

Some clashes have entered into political legend.

Valery Giscard d’Estaing, a center-right candidate, famously bested the Socialist Francois Mitterrand in 1974 when the latter referred to “a matter of heart” when discussing an economic point.

Giscard d’Estaing hit back saying “You don’t have a monopoly on the heart, Monsieur Mitterrand” – a phrase which stuck and which he later said helped his victory over the Socialist in what was an extremely tight contest.

In 2002 conservative Jacques Chirac, then the incumbent in the Elysee, refused to debate with Jean-Marie Le Pen, father of Marine Le Pen, after the National Front’s founder unexpectedly got through to the second round.

Chirac said no debate was possible “in the face of intolerance and hate”, a reference to Le Pen’s policies and thinking, which were considered to be xenophobic.

Chirac defeated Le Pen senior in a landslide.

May 1 Protests Slam Rouhani for Failure to Deliver on Economic Promises

Rouhani

London – Iran’s Hassan Rouhani chose Ruhollah Khomeini’s shrine as a platform for his May 1 Labor Day rally. Unexpectedly, the president seeking reelection was met with an angry crowd repeating slogans slamming his policy.

The laborers demanded an improvement of their living conditions and the repeal of a highly contentious labor bill from parliament.

Rouhani’s campaign management gathered over 30,000 Tehran workers on Labor Day. According to Iranian news agencies, Rouhani’s speech promising improving the lives of workers was booed and hissed at, as complaints rose that his administration overlooked the demands of the working class.

“Those who ignore labor force problems do not understand the reality of the situation,” Rouhani said, while stressing that Iran is facing two choices for settling internal crises.

The first is a passive one made of “slogans and promises” and the other is an active plan pivoted on “perceiving the status quo and working on projects that improve living conditions.”

On one hand, pro-Rouhani Iranian Labor News Agency (ILNA) described those opposing the president at his rallies as “saboteurs.”

On the other hand, Revolutionary Guard conservative mouthpiece “Fars” said that workers’ contempt was a reflection of deteriorating living conditions and the performance of Rouhani’s government.

Religious leader Naser Makarem Shirazi protested the content and moderating job done on nationwide televised debates between presidential candidates. He called on rivals to refrain from telling lies in their attempt to sway the public opinion.

Earlier, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei made comments that appeared to favor hardline candidates in the May 19 presidential elections. He played down the benefits of “moderate” Rouhani’s agreement to curb Iran’s nuclear activities in return for a lifting of international sanctions.

Khamenei and his hardline supporters also criticized the nuclear deal – which stifled talk by Washington of possible military action against Iran – for failing to deliver promised economic benefits.

One of Rouhani’s main challengers, Ebrahim Raisi, an influential cleric with decades of experience in the hardline judiciary, said Iran had no need of foreign help to improve the economy and could always defend itself.