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Irish prime minister secures re-election after 10-week stalemate

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Enda Kenny
Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny speaks to the media at the general election count centre in Castlebar

Enda Kenny was re-elected Ireland’s prime minister to end 10 weeks of political deadlock, when his party’s biggest rival abstained to usher in the first minority government in decades — and one many believe will be short-lived.

After suffering heavy losses at the Feb. 26 election, Kenny’s center-right Fine Gael party returned to power with the backing of nine independent lawmakers and facilitated by its main rival, Fianna Fail, which agreed to abstain from opposition on key votes until the end of 2018.

“The government I lead will be a very different kind of administration formed in almost unprecedented circumstances,” Kenny told parliament after 59 of its 157 members — one more than he needs to be assured of passing legislation — backed him on the fourth attempt in two months.

Kenny was forced to sit in the chamber awaiting the result of last-minute talks with the independents — on issues including turf-cutting — delaying the vote.

Punished by voters who felt the fruits of Europe’s fastest growing economy were not being fairly distributed, Kenny must now address growing discontent over pay levels and tackle serious bottlenecks in housing and infrastructure.

A draft policy program, a copy of which was published on the Irish Times newspaper’s website on Thursday, indicated no dramatic shift in fiscal policy, though it suggested the state would take a more active role in the banking sector.

Kenny becomes the first two-time Fine Gael prime minister and first European leader to implement a bailout program and be returned to office, though he has said he will not seek a third term and could be replaced within a year.

Analysts have said such a patchwork government may struggle to last until 2018, and that policymaking could be hamstrung.

Fianna Fail, buoyed by an unexpected recovery in February’s poll, might be tempted to force a snap election at any time while more independents will sit at cabinet than ever before and their resolve will be tested by any major crises.

“The narrowness of the numbers and the gamesmanship that brought us to this point wouldn’t strike me with any great confidence that this government will last until 2018,” said Gary Murphy, politics professor at Dublin City University (DCU).

“Fianna Fail have all the power here. They will be able pull the government down at any time.”

Kenny will name his new Cabinet later on Friday. A senior government source said on Sunday that Finance Minister Michael Noonan was likely to be reappointed.

Lifestyle

More people could slip into hunger as result of COVID-19: UN Chief

The COVID-19 pandemic is making things even worse. Many more people could slip into hunger this year, he said.

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Antonio Guterres

United Nations, July 14 : UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned that many more people could slip into hunger this year as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

He sounded the alarm in a video message on Monday during the launch of “The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2020” report, which says almost 690 million people went hungry in 2019, up by 10 million from 2018, and by nearly 60 million in five years, Xinhua news agency reported.

“This year’s State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World report sends a sobering message. In much of the world, hunger remains deeply entrenched and is rising,” said Guterres in the video message.

The COVID-19 pandemic is making things even worse. Many more people could slip into hunger this year, he said.

“The report is clear: if the current trend continues, we will not achieve Sustainable Development Goal 2 — zero hunger — by 2030.”

Guterres said transformation can begin now. Investments in COVID-19 response and recovery need to help deliver on the longer-term goal of a more inclusive and sustainable world.

“We must make food systems more sustainable, resilient and inclusive — for people and the planet.”

He said he will convene a Food Systems Summit next year. “We must make healthy diets affordable and accessible for everyone.”

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Indian-origin leader elected Suriname President

Suriname has had a chequered history after its independence in 1975 marked by ethnic polarisation, a coup and a civil war.

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Chandrikapersad Santokhi

New York, Jul 14 : Chandrikapersad Santokhi has been elected the President of Suriname by the Latin American country’s National Assembly, according to media reports.

A former Justice Minister, Santokhi of the Progressive Reform Party (PRP) was elected unopposed on Monday, the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC) reported on Monday.

He will succeed Desi Bouterse, a former military strongman, whose National Party of Suriname (NPS) lost the election in May as he sent the country to an economic precipice.

Suriname is a former Dutch colony where people of Indian descent make up the largest ethnic group comprising 27.4 per cent of the population of 587,000.

The PRP, known in the Dutch language as Vooruitstrevende Hervormingspartij or VHP by its initials, largely represents the Indian community and had originally been called the United Hindustani Party.

Santokhi inherits an economy run to the ground by the populist Bouterse, who mismanaged the country while forging closer ties with China and Venezuela.

Speaking at the National Assembly on Monday, Santokhi acknowledged that the country faced an economic collapse and said his government will reorient policies to work for Suriname’s recovery.

Suriname had depended on bauxite exports but recently vast oil reserves have been found in its territorial waters and they could help the country tide over the economic crisis when they eventually come on line.

Till then it may need bailouts from international financial institutions and the Netherlands, whose colony it once was.

Relations with the Netherlands and other western countries had deteriorated under Bouterse, first because of the coup and after his election due to his convictions and his drift to Venezuela and China.

Sanotokhi will have to try to repair relations with the west.

He also faces the strange task of having to deal with Bouterse’s conviction by a Suriname court for the killing of 15 opponents after the 1980 coup in which he overthrew the elected government and seized power.

Sentenced to 20 years, Bouterse had appealed the conviction while he was President. Santokhi had investigated the case while he was with the police.

Suriname’s economy depended on bauxite exports but recent oil finds

Santokhi, 61, was trained in a police academy in the Netherlands and rose to be the chief police commissioner of Suriname.

He later served as the Justice Minister in an earlier administration in 2005.

After Santokhi became Pts president in 2011, the PRP began to broaden its base reaching out to people of other ethnicities with its centre-left policies.

The PRP is in a coalitition with the General Liberation and Development Party (GLDP) and its head Ronnie Brunswijk, who is of African descent was elected Vice President, CMC reported..

Suriname has had a chequered history after its independence in 1975 marked by ethnic polarisation, a coup and a civil war.

After a brief return to democracy in 1987 following the 1980 coup, Surinam had another coup 1990, but democracy was restored a year later.

Meanwhile, a brutal civil war took place between the government and rebels led by Brunswijk known as the Surinamese Liberation Army from 1986 to 1992.

Bouterse’s army brutally suppressed Brunswijk’s forces.

In a strange twist, Bouterse became President in a democratic election in 2010 with the support of Brunswijk and was re-elected in 2015.

Both of them have been convicted in the Netherlands on drug-smuggling charges but remain free in Suriname.

The NPS is dominated by Surinamese of African and mixed ancestry, while the GLDP is mostly made up of people of African ethnicity who are descendants of runaway slaves who settled in the interior and are known as Maroons.

Indians were brought over by the Dutch as indentured labourers after slavery was abolished in the colony in 1863 in an arrangement similar to that in neighbouring Guyana, a former British colony.

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US strengthening Indo-Pacific policies against Chinese threats: Pompeo

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mike pompeo

Accusing China of posing an “unprecedented threat” to the Indo-Pacific region, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has declared that the US was strengthening its policies there and dismissed Beijing’s maritime claims against its neighbours.

He said on Monday, “The United States champions a free and open Indo-Pacific. Today we are strengthening US policy in a vital, contentious part of that region — the South China Sea.”

“In the South China Sea, we seek to preserve peace and stability, uphold freedom of the seas in a manner consistent with international law, maintain the unimpeded flow of commerce, and oppose any attempt to use coercion or force to settle disputes,” his statement said.

He said that Washington was making clear to Beijing that its claims to offshore resources across most of the South China Sea “are completely unlawful, as is its campaign of bullying to control them”.

Pompeo categorically dismissed all the various claims China has made in south-east Asia involving Malaysia, Vietnam, the Philippines, Indonesia and Brunei.

With the failure to make progress before the November elections in the trade negotiations on which President Donald Trump had expended a lot of diplomacy and the China-originated Covid-19 economic catastrophe, Washington is on the offensive, especially because under the cover of the pandemic Beijing has become more aggressive towards its neighbours.

Pompeo has put several Chinese officials under a visa ban over Beijing’s crackdown on Hong Kong, human rights violations of Uyghurs in Xinjiang, interference in the South China Sea and trade restrictions.

He has launched a campaign to stop its technology inroads into countries, particularly the advanced 5G cell phone system, and warned of the dangers of its aid programmes that in reality push the recipients into a debt trap that forces them to hand over their resources.

Washington has imposed restrictions on Beijing’s access to US technology.

The US has also sent three aircraft carrier strike groups that include other ships to the Indo-Pacific zone in a show of force.

Pompeo said last week that the Chinese confrontation in the Galwan Valley in Ladakh was a part of a pattern of Beijing’s aggressiveness and said the world must unite to confront it.

In his statement on Monday, Pompeo said the 2016 decisions of the arbitration tribunal set up under the Law of the Sea Convention, which China has signed, should stand.

In recent months, China has sunk a Vietnamese fishing boat, interfered with a Malaysian exploration vessel and intrusions by Chinese boats in Indonesian maritime economic zone.

(Arul Louis can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter at @arulouis)

Source: IANS

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