▼ Uhuru Kenyatta is Kenya's President [10-31-17]
Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta was on 30th Oct 2017 declared the winner of the country’s deeply divisive elections, taking 98% of the ballots cast in a poll boycotted by his rival Raila Odinga.
Despite his crushing win, the turnout of just 38.8% among 19.6 million registered voters is set to raise questions about the credibility of an election that has plunged East Africa’s most stable democracy into its worst crisis in a decade.
Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) chairman Wafula Chebukati said Mr. Kenyatta had received 7,483,895 votes to Mr. Odinga’s 73,228 - less than one percent of votes cast - in a sign the boycott had held.
A total of 7,616,217 cast ballots in Thursday’s protest-hit election.
The vote was the chaotic climax of two months of political drama after the Supreme Court overturned Mr. Kenyatta’s victory in August 8 polls over widespread irregularities and mismanagement by the IEBC.
Mr. Odinga refused to take part in the re-run, accusing the IEBC of failing to make sufficient reforms to ensure it would not be flawed.
▼ Thai King's ashes laid to rest [10-27-17]
With solemn faces and outright tears, black-clad Thais said farewell to their king on Bangkok's streets and at viewing areas around the nation, capping a year of mourning with funeral ceremonies steeped in centuries of tradition.
Three processions involving the royal family, thousands of troops, a golden palanquin, a chariot and a royal gun carriage carried a ceremonial urn representing King Bhumibol Adulyadej's remains from the Dusit Maha Prasad Throne Hall to the newly built crematorium.
King Bhumibol's death at age 88 on October 13, 2016, after a reign of seven decades sparked a national outpouring of grief.
Millions of Thais visited the throne hall at Bangkok's Grand Palace to pay respects.
The funeral is by design an intensely somber event, but also rich in history and cultural and spiritual tradition.
Thais have braved tropical heat and torrential monsoon rains to secure street-side vantage points to witness the funeral.
Thai King Maha Vajiralongkorn: Know More
- Reign: 13 October 2016 – present
- Coronation: November 2017
- Predecessor: Bhumibol Adulyadej (Rama IX)
- Heir presumptive: Dipangkorn Rasmijoti
- Regent: Prem Tinsulanonda (13 October 2016 – 1 December 2016)
▼ Kiwis to get youngest woman PM in more than 150 years! [10-23-17]
New Zealand will get its youngest Prime Minister in more than 150 years after the small, nationalist New Zealand First Party agreed to form a new government with Labour Party leader Jacinda Ardern, ending the National Party’s decade in power.
The outcome caps a remarkable rise for Ms. Ardern, 37, who only took over the party’s top job in August, and marks another victory for a youthful global leader promising change.
It is replete with big implications for the world’s 11th most traded currency, the central bank, immigration and foreign investment.
Labour had an even chance as National to form a government after inconclusive elections on Sept. 23 gave neither party enough seats to form a majority in parliament.
The announcement of the new government drove the New Zealand dollar down around 1.7% to its lowest levels in four and half months, as markets worried about more protectionist policies to come.
Labour said it would stick to its campaign promise to change the central bank’s mandate, seek to renegotiate the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal and prioritize an effort to ban foreign ownership of certain types of housing.
It has said it wants to add employment to the central bank’s mandate, which would mark a big change for the Reserve Bank of New Zealand which was the pioneer of the inflation-targeting regime adopted across the world.
Record net migration of more than 70,000 annually has fuelled demand for housing in New Zealand, far outstripping supply and pushing house prices prohibitively higher, pricing ordinary New Zealanders out of the housing market
Labour made a last minute-gamble when it appointed Ms. Ardern as a leader not long before the vote, hoping to ride the global sea of change that drove Britain to vote to leave the European Union and Donald Trump to become US president.
Her popularity and message of hope have drawn comparisons with the similarly youthful leaders such as France’s Emmanuel Macron and Canada’s Justin Trudeau.
Markets are concerned about uncertainty.
They worry that curbs to migration and trade could hurt two key sources of New Zealand’s robust growth in recent years.
More restrictive trade and foreign ownership could also hurt New Zealand’s reputation as an open economy and antagonize the likes of China, a key trading partner. Trade between the two countries has grown to more than NZ$20 billion ($14.4 billion) a year.
▼ Hamas, Fatah sign historic deal [10-13-17]
Rival Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah signed a reconciliation deal on Oct 12, 2017.
This is after Hamas agreed to hand over administrative control of Gaza, including the key Rafah border crossing, a decade after seizing the enclave in a civil war.
The deal brokered by Egypt bridges a bitter gulf between the Western-backed mainstream Fatah party of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas, an Islamist movement designated as a terrorist group by Western countries and Israel.
Palestinian unity could also bolster Mr. Abbas’s hand in any revival of talks on a Palestinian state in Israeli-occupied territory.
Internal Palestinian strife has been a major obstacle to peacemaking, with Hamas having fought three wars with Israel since 2008 and continuing to call for its destruction.
Hamas’s agreement to transfer administrative powers in Gaza to a Fatah-backed government marked a major reversal, prompted partly by its fears of financial and political isolation after its main patron and donor Qatar plunged in June into a major diplomatic dispute with key allies such as Saudi Arabia.
They accuse Qatar of supporting Islamist militants, which it denies.
Egypt helped mediate several previous attempts to reconcile the two movements and form a power-sharing unity government in Gaza and the West Bank, where Mr. Abbas and the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority (PA) are based.
Hamas and Fatah agreed in 2014 to form a national reconciliation government but the deal soon dissipated in mutual recriminations with Hamas continuing to dominate Gaza.
The agreement calls for Mr. Abbas’s presidential guard to assume responsibility of the Rafah crossing on November 1, and for the full handover of administrative control of Gaza to the unity government to be completed by December 1.
Analysts have said the deal is more likely to stick than earlier ones given Hamas’s growing isolation and realisation of how hard Gaza, its economy hobbled by border blockades and infrastructure shattered by wars with Israel, was to govern and rebuild.
Rafah Crossing, and Palestine: Know More
- Key was the Rafah crossing, once the gateway to the world for the 2 million people packed into the small impoverished territory.
- Fatah said it should be run by presidential guards with supervision from the European Union border agency, known as EUBAM, instead of the currently deployed Hamas-linked employees.
- EUBAM Rafah maintains readiness to redeploy to the Rafah crossing point when the security and political situations will allow.
- Any decision on EUBAM deployment would be taken in conjunction with the Palestinian Authority and Israel’s government, he said in a statement.
- Some 3,000 Fatah security officers are to join the Gaza police force.
- But Hamas would remain the most powerful armed Palestinian faction with around 25,000 well-armed militants.
- Both rivals hope the deal’s proposed deployment of security personnel from the PA to Gazas borders will encourage Egypt and Israel to lift tight restrictions at frontier crossings - a step urgently needed to help Gaza revive a war-shattered economy.
- Another major issue in talks on the deal was the fate of 40,000-50,000 public employees Hamas has hired in Gaza since 2007, a thorny point that helped crash the 2014 unity accord.
- Under the deal, these employees will receive 50 per cent of what their PA salary would be - or equivalent to what they are being paid now by Hamas - pending vetting of their professional qualifications.
- The last Palestinian legislative election was in 2006 when Hamas scored a surprise victory.
- This sparked the political rupture between Hamas and Fatah which eventually led to their short civil war in Gaza.
▼ US withdraws from UNESCO citing “anti Israel bias” [10-13-17]
The United States on October 12 announced its withdrawal from the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), accusing it of “continuing anti-Israel bias”.
UNESCO is the first UN agency that has admitted Palestine as a full member, in 2011.
As required by law, the US has stopped funding the UNESCO since then.
The U.S. withdrawal will take effect on December 31, 2018 and until then it will remain a full member of the body.
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson notified UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova on the morning of October 12 of the U.S decision.
US State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said the U.S. would seek to establish a permanent observer mission to UNESCO.
This decision was not taken lightly, and reflects U.S. concerns with mounting arrears at UNESCO, the need for fundamental reform in the organisation, and continuing anti-Israel bias at UNESCO.
The United States indicated to the Director-General its desire to remain engaged with UNESCO as a non-member observer state in order to contribute US views, perspectives and expertise on some of the important issues undertaken by the organisation, including the protection of world heritage, advocating for press freedoms, and promoting scientific collaboration and education.
US laws bar funding to any U.N. agency that recognises the Palestinian state.
The US had earlier once withdrawn from the UNESCO, in 1984, under President Ronald Regan who accused it of favouring the Soviet Union.
Under President George W. Bush, Washington rejoined the organisation in 2002.
Israel and UNESCO have a contentions relationship, and Israel recalled its ambassador to UNESCO in 2016, accusing it of ignoring Jewish views of the heritage of the region.
▼ India-EU 14th annual summit held on Oct 6, 2017 [10-9-17]
The 14th annual Summit between India and the European Union (EU) was held in New Delhi on 6 October 2017.
The Republic of India was represented by Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi. The EU was represented by Mr. Donald Tusk, President of the European Council, and Mr. Jean Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission.
The leaders reviewed the wide-ranging cooperation under the India-EU Strategic Partnership.
Recognising that India and the EU are natural partners, the leaders reaffirmed their commitment to further deepen and strengthen the India-EU Strategic Partnership based on shared principles and values of democracy, freedom, rule of law and respect for human rights and territorial integrity of States.
The leaders expressed satisfaction at the progress made towards implementing the India-EU Agenda for Action 2020-the roadmap for bilateral cooperation endorsed during the 13th India-EU Summit.
The leaders committed to work in a result-oriented and mutually beneficial manner to further strengthen the India-EU Strategic Partnership by deepening their trade cooperation among other bilateral ties.
The leaders commended the strong engagement of the European Investment Bank in India in a wide range of key sectors, in particular in the field of climate action and renewable energy.
List of Agreements signed during 14th India-EU Summit in New Delhi (October 06, 2017)
|S. No.||Name of Agreement||Indian Signatory||EU Signatory|
|1.||Implementing Arrangement between the European Commission and the Science and Engineering Research Board (SERB) for Indian Researchers hosted by the European Research Council grantees in Europe||Dr R. Sharma (SERB Secretary)||Mr. Tomasz Kozlowski (EU Ambassador)|
|2.||Finance Contract of Bangalore Metro Rail Project Phase-2-Line R6 for Euro 300 million out of total loan of Euro 500 million||Mr. Subhash Chandra Garg (Secretary, DEA)||Mr. Andrew McDowell (Vice President, EIB)|
|3.||Joint Declaration between the Interim Secretariat of the International Solar Alliance and the European Investment Bank||Mr. Upendra Tripathy (Secretary General, ISA Secretariat)||Mr. Andrew McDowell (Vice President, EIB)|
▼ Canada welcomes first non-white, Sikh party leader Jagmeet Singh [10-4-17]
While Canada has long promoted multiculturalism, it took until this week for a major Canadian political party to choose a leader - Jagmeet Singh - who was not a white man or woman.
But Mr. Singh's decisive win in the race to be the leader of the New Democratic Party, the furthest to the left of Canada's mainstream parties, is far more than a symbolic victory for minority groups in the country
Mr. Singh's election underscores the already prominent role that Sikhs, who make up about 2 per cent of Canada's population, play in Canadian politics.
Four members of Mr. Trudeau's cabinet, including his defence minister, are Sikhs.
Other Sikhs are prominent in provincial offices. Mr. Singh himself, who lives in the Toronto area, was the New Democrats' deputy leader in Ontario's legislature.
The New Democratic Party is the third-largest party in the federal Parliament.
During the leadership race, Mr. Singh's campaign signed up 47,000 new members, according to party figures.
But he now faces several significant challenges, not least of which is to get elected to the Parliament, most likely through a special election to fill a vacant seat.
Most of the seats the New Democrats hold in Parliament are from Quebec, where Mr. Singh's wearing of symbols related to his faith, including a turban, are seen as an affront to a widely held belief that politics should be secular.
Mr. Pierre Nantel, one of the New Democrats from Quebec, was particularly critical of Singh's religious practice during the leadership campaign.
Mr. Singh will also have to swiftly gain greater recognition outside of Ontario and communities with large Sikh populations, like Burnaby, British Columbia.
Mr. Singh, whose father was a psychiatrist in Windsor, has repeatedly said that he was bullied as a child.
The situation became so severe that his family sent him across the international border to Michigan to attend the elite Detroit Country Day School for his middle and high school education.
A degree in biology and then legal studies at the Osgoode Hall Law School in Toronto followed.
Mr. Singh's career was to become entwined with that of his older brother Gurratan.
The two were involved with the Sikh Activist Network, a youth group co-founded by Mr. Gurratan Singh.
While intended as a group to fight for social justice, it also became a meeting place for Sikh performing artists.
By many accounts, it was also the foundation of Mr. Jagmeet Singh's political career.
The brothers were not the family's first political advocates.
Their great-grandfather Sardar Sewa Singh Thikriwala was the founder of a rebel movement against British rule in Punjab State in India.
As an elected politician, Mr. Singh's agenda has been more focused on domestic issues.
Like most New Democrats, he speaks out about income inequality, housing disparities, the cost of education, the need for job opportunities and efforts to reconcile relations with indigenous people.
Mr. Singh noted that he has taken on issues that were deeply divisive among Sikhs, including his support for gay, transgender and lesbian rights.