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Arab list presents demands to Gantz to back him as PM

The leaders of the Arab alliance are yet to make a final decision on which candidate they will ultimately support

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Jerusalem, Sep 23 : The United Arab List, the third most powerful political group in Israel, having won 13 seats in the recent elections presented a series of demands to centrist leader Benny Gantz in exchange for backing his candidacy for Prime Minister.

Consultations to form a new government will be ongoing on Sunday with the sponsorship of the President of Israel, Reuven Rivlin, Efe news reported.

The leaders of the Arab alliance are yet to make a final decision on which candidate they will ultimately support, as they are pending a reply on their coalition request from Gantz’s Blue and White alliance.

Depending on what Gantz’s side says, the Arab list is to consider its final stance in a last-minute meeting which will take place just before the consultation with Rivlin, Aida Touma-Suleiman, an Arab list parliamentarian, told Efe.

The Arab alliance represents the Arab minority in Israel, which is estimated to make up around 20 per cent of the total Israeli population.

Among their demands, Arab list leaders demanded a freeze to home demolitions in the so-called “unrecognized Arab villages” and to form an investigation team to inspect the conflicts and issues of those villages, according to the Times of Israel’s digital edition.

The list also requested effective governmental measures to battle violence within the Arab sector, re-initiating the peace process with the Palestinian National Authority.

They also called for revoking the controversial nation-state law that defines Israel as a Jewish state, as that law treats Arabs as second-class citizens and only recognizes the capacity of self-determination to the Jews.

If the United Arab List eventually supports Gantz, the group will break with their traditional stance and abstain from taking sides in Israeli politics and this will be the first time since 1992 that they would back an Israeli candidate as prime minister.

The last time the United Arab List recommended a candidate was more than 25 years ago when they supported Labour leader Isaac Rabin.

The Israel political scene remains marred by uncertainty after the 17 September election in which the Blue and White alliance won 33 seats, outdoing the right-wing party of Likud, presided by the current acting PM, Benjamin Netanyahu, who had to settle for 31 seats.

However, neither Gantz nor Netanyahu managed to form a majority government, which has led to complications and the Israeli President Rivlin having to be involved in deciding who will be Prime Minister.

This situation might continue, as neither of the political alliances has enough seats to reach the magic 61 seat threshold.

The coalition between right-wing parties and their religious allies, which is led by Netanyahu, currently has 55 seats in the Knesset, while Gantz’s alliance is set to reach a maximum of 57 seats if Arab Israeli parties support him.

Rivlin, who has called on all parties to create a national unity government, will attempt to clear the situation through the two-day consultations he will carry out over Sunday and Monday.

The President will announce the chosen candidate next Wednesday, after receiving the official and final results of Tuesday’s elections.

The key factor in this puzzle will be Avigdor Lieberman’s right-wing party, Yisrael Beiteinu, which means “Israel Our Home,” as its eight seats could shift the balance towards Gantz or Netanyahu.

On Thursday, Netanyahu has invited his rival Gantz to form a unity government to end the political deadlock that emerged from repeat elections.

Yisrael Beiteinu is yet to decide who will be its candidate for the PM office, and they will be discussing the matter this afternoon in a party meeting before party leaders gather with Rivlin, a spokesperson told Efe.

Local media report that Lieberman, who is considered to be a force for secularism in Israel, will support neither Gantz nor Netanyahu, which will extend the political deadlock even further.

Election

PM Modi doesn’t understand economy: Rahul in Haryana

Citing the lack of jobs and the rising farmers distress, he said: “The fate of country is known to you… unemployment is highest in the country in last 45 years.

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Rahul Gandhi

Mahendergarh (Haryana), Oct 18 : Hitting out the BJP-led Central government over the slowdown, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Friday said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi “does not know anything about economics”.

Addressing his second rally in Haryana, in the Ahirwal region – seen as a BJP citadel, ahead of the October 21 Assembly elections, the former Congress President warned that the economic situation will become worse and “big corporates will run away like Mehul Choksi and Nirav Modi”.

Citing the lack of jobs and the rising farmers distress, he said: “The fate of country is known to you… unemployment is highest in the country in last 45 years.

If you ask business men, either small or medium, everybody will say that demonetisation and GST has ruined them.”

“If Nyay (the Congress proposal for a universal basic income in the 2019 polls) had been implemented, then the things would have been better, but Haryana has a chance to vote for the Congress,” Gandhi added.

He said that Modi had assured that farmers’ loans would be written off but it has not happened, but the government has “written off loans of corporates to tune of Rs 5.5 lakh crore”.

“More than Rs 1 lakh crore have been given as tax rebate to corporates. But he (Modi) will not give money to the poor,” he added.

Gandhi said that under the Congress-led UPA, India was competing with the US and China, but “now India’s image has been dented due to the BJP’s policies”.

“Their sole aim is to divide people and fight each other,” he said, stressing that a “divided India can’t march ahead”.

Gandhi also criticised the media, saying that they “do not give the real picture to the people”.

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Despite Article 370, Local Unemployment and Business remains topmost issues in ensuing Haryana, Maha polls

Significantly, the BJP’s main poll plank of abolition of special status of Jammu and Kashmir granted under Article 370 did not figure among the biggest issues for the voters.

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BJP Election Flag

New Delhi, Oct 18 : Notwithstanding the BJP’s high-decibel pitch for Article 370, local employment and business is the topmost issue for the electorate of Maharashtra and Haryana in the October 21 Assembly elections, according to a IANS-CVoter poll survey.

At the same time, there is a big chunk of voters in the “Others/Can’t say” category, as reflected in the survey conducted between September 16 and October 16.

Both Haryana and Maharashtra are currently ruled by the BJP.

In Haryana, 28 per cent of those asked about the “Biggest issue for you at the moment” opted for the “Status of local employment/business”.

In Maharashtra, 23.1 per cent identified this as the biggest issue for them.

The status of water supply was second biggest issue for the voters in both the states. While in Haryana, 12.4 per cent of those surveyed said so, 18.4 per cent stated this in Maharashtra.

Condition of local roads stood third in the sample survey in these states, with 8.6 per cent identifying it as one of the biggest issues in Haryana and 14.1 per cent doing so in Maharashtra.

The issue of “condition of social/caste/religious harmony” figured very poorly in the survey, with only 0.9 per cent identifying it as one of the biggest issues in Haryana and a similar number doing so in Maharashtra.

In Haryana, only 0.4 per cent saw women security as one of the biggest issues while in Maharashtra, the issue had only 0.3 per cent votaries.

Status of law and order was found to be a big issue only by 0.9 per cent in Haryana and 0.3 per cent in Maharashtra.

Control on corruption in government was one of the biggest issues only for 3.1 per cent in Haryana and merely 1.4 per cent in Maharashtra.

The status of economy, which is the main poll plank of Opposition Congress in both the states, was a big issue only for 0.3 per cent in Haryana and 0.2 per cent in Maharashtra.

Control on price rise was a major issue for 4.3 per cent in Haryana and 4.1 in Maharashtra.

Significantly, the BJP’s main poll plank of abolition of special status of Jammu and Kashmir granted under Article 370 did not figure among the biggest issues for the voters.

The BJP, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has been making a big pitch about the issue, saying that such a “bold” step could be taken only by a strong and decisive government.

The Congress, which is on a defensive on this issue, has been raking up the status of economy, which has been slowing down lately, to counter the BJP. The Congress has been particularly highlighting the job losses witnessed over the last several months.

In the survey, 30.3 per cent in Haryana and 19.1 per cent in Maharashtra opted for “Others/Can’t Say”.

Among other issues, status of electricity supply was big for 5.7 per cent in Haryana and 2.7 per cent Maharashtra.

The sample size of the survey in Haryana was 10,061 and 19,489 in Maharashtra.

Haryana has 90-member Assembly while the strength of the Maharashtra Assembly is 288.

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Election Commission notice to Mumbai BJP chief on communal speech

He apparently referred to the Dongri and Nagpada areas, inhabited mostly by minorities, while referring to “lanes”.

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Mangal Prabhat Lodha

Mumbai, Oct 18 : The Election Commission on Thursday issued a show-cause notice to Mumbai chief of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party Mangal Prabhat Lodha for his alleged communal remarks during the ongoing poll campaign.

Lodha had recenly at an election rally in Mumbadevi constituency, which has a sizeable Muslim population, hinted that the explosives used for blasts in the early nineties in Mumbai were “manufactured in the lanes within 5 km.”

He apparently referred to the Dongri and Nagpada areas, inhabited mostly by minorities, while referring to “lanes”.

The EC has taken cognizance of his speech and asked him to explain. According to a report, an EC team present at the meeting had recorded his speech.

Mumbai goes to the polls on October 21.

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