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Netanyahu given first chance to form new Israeli government

Israel’s president tasks Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to form a new government amid a political stalemate following inconclusive elections.

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gestures at Likud Party election campaign headquarters in Tel Aviv, Israel, on Sept. 18, 2019. (Xinhua photo)

JERUSALEM, Sept. 25 : Israel’s president on Wednesday requested Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to assemble the next government, tasking the decade-long leader with solving a political stalemate following inconclusive elections.

Netanyahu will have up to six weeks, beginning Thursday, to form a majority coalition.

He is facing struggles as his right-wing Likud faction won 32 seats in last Tuesday’s voting, far cry from the needed 61 seats to form a majority coalition in the 120-seat parliament, or Knesset.

President Reuven Rivlin said in broadcast remarks that he tapped Netanyahu with the task of forming the country’s 36th government although Benny Gantz and his centrist Blue and White party won a narrow 33-32-seat victory over Netanyahu’s Likud.

Rivlin said his decision followed a two-day official consultations process, during which 55 lawmakers said they supported Netanyahu as the next prime minister and agreed to join a governing coalition under his leadership.

Gantz had 54 lawmakers recommending him but 10 of them, lawmakers with the Arab-Jewish Joint List, said they will not join a possible governing coalition under Gantz.

Netanyahu said he accepted the appointment and called for a “wide unity government” under his leadership. Gantz rejected the call.

Gantz, a former military chief, said he is “committed” to the idea of unity but will not join forces with a leader who might face serious corruption charges, referring to Netanyahu’s involvement in several corruption cases. The attorney-general has said he intends to indict Netanyahu, pending a hearing.

Gantz said that during two days of talks on a possible unity government, brokered by President Reuven Rivlin, the Likud representatives said that any future government should include the pro-settler party of Yemina and two ultra-Orthodox parties.

“This composition would not allow a wide government under my leadership that will work for the benefit of the entire citizens of Israel,” Gantz said.

Rivlin implored all of the heads of the parties to show “responsibility” and strive for a unity government, saying it was the only solution to break the political deadlock. “The people do not want a third election,” he said.

The elections on Sept. 17 were the second time Israelis cast their ballots in five months.

After Netanyahu had won a narrow victory over Gantz’s Blue and White in the April’s election, he failed to form a governing coalition. Instead of risking Rivlin handing Gantz the chance to form a government, Netanyahu called for a snap election.

Coalition-building in Israel usually drags on as smaller parties demand cabinet seats and financial and legislative changes to fulfill the promises they gave to their voters during the election campaign.

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Recount of presidential votes in Wisconsin ends, reaffirms Biden’s win

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Joe Biden

Washington: US President-elect Joe Biden’s win in Wisconsin has been reaffirmed after two of the state’s largest counties completed the recount of the ballots cast in the November 3 presidential election, with just a little change in the tally.

The Democratic former Vice President’s lead over incumbent President Donald Trump in the key swing state grew by 87 votes, after the latter gained 45 votes in the Dane County recount and Biden got a 132-vote net gain in the Milwaukee county recount, Xinhua news agency reported.

The statewide tally showed Biden won Wisconsin by over 20,000 votes.

The Trump campaign has, as required by state law, paid $3 million for the recount, only to see his defeat more apparent.

A day before the recount results, Trump had tweeted on Saturday that he would file a lawsuit “Monday or Tuesday” to continue challenging the results.

“The Wisconsin recount is not about finding mistakes in the count, it is about finding people who have voted illegally,” he said.

“We have found many illegal votes.”

Wisconsin is set to certify the results on Tuesday.

Wisconsin Voters Alliance, a conservative voter group, has filed a lawsuit against the Wisconsin Elections Commission, asking the state’s Supreme Court to prevent the certification.

But Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers’ attorneys filed a response to the lawsuit on November 27, calling the group’s effort a “brazen attack on democracy itself” and asked the state Supreme Court to dismiss it.

The Democratic Governor said the lawsuit was a “mishmash of legal distortions” that attempted to disenfranchise millions of Wisconsin residents.

He said failing to certify the election results would alter other election results across the state, throwing the government into chaos.

Trump also suffered consecutive legal defeats in Pennsylvania, as the state’s Supreme Court on Saturday ruled against a Republican-filed case alleging voting irregularities, after a federal appeals court denied his re-election campaign’s effort to appeal its own case that was rejected by a lower court.

Trump told Fox News on Sunday that he “would like to file one nice big beautiful lawsuit” in the US Supreme Court, complaining that “it’s hard to get into the Supreme Court”.

He said the high court needs to be “willing to make a real big decision”, adding he’s got “the best Supreme Court advocates, lawyers that want to argue the case if it gets there”.

Last week, US District Judge Matthew Brann rejected the Trump campaign’s lawsuit accusing Pennsylvania of allowing voters to fix errors in the mail-in ballots and seeking to prevent the state from certifying the results.

The judge also refused the campaign to file an amended complaint.

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Around 52% Polling recorded in 1st phase of DDC Polls in Jammu and Kashmir

The SEC said that the DDC elections will play a decisive role for development at the grass-roots level.

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Jammu: State Election Commissioner (SEC) K.K. Sharma said on Saturday that the first phase of District Development Council (DDC) elections in Jammu and Kashmir has been conducted successfully with a voter turnout of 51.76%.

The polling was by and large peaceful in the 43 constituencies of DDC that went to the polls on Saturday in which 3,62,766 voters, including 1,93,375 males and 1,69,391 females, out of 7,00,842 voters, exercised their franchise to choose their representatives in their respective councils, the SEC said in a press conference.

Sharma said that Reasi district recorded the highest polling at 74.62 per cent, followed by Rajouri (70.52 per cent), Poonch (68.69 per cent), Samba (68.61 per cent), Doda (64.49 per cent), Kathua (62.82 per cent), Jammu (61.49 per cent), Ramban (64.21 per cent), Udhampur (57.13 per cent) and Kishtwar (55.16 per cent) — all in Jammu division.

In the Kashmir division, Budgam district recorded the highest polling at 56.96 per cent, followed by Kupwara (50.74 per cent), Ganderbal (48.62 per cent), Bandipora (43.57 per cent), Anantnag 43.32 (per cent), Shopian (42.58 per cent), Kulgam (34.35 per cent), Srinagar (33.76 per cent) and Baramulla (32.51 per cent).

The SEC further said that large number of people came out to cast their votes in the first phase of DDC polls and panch/sarpanch bypolls. Long queues could be seen despite severe cold conditions in the Kashmir division and the hilly areas of the Jammu division, Sharma added.

The SEC said that the DDC elections will play a decisive role for development at the grass-roots level.

He also appreciated all the stakeholders for their tireless efforts for the successful conduct of the polling process. Adequate security personnel were deployed at all the polling stations to ensure the smooth conduct of the polls, he said.

The SEC further informed that arrangements for the second phase of polling — to be held in 43 constituencies, 25 in Kashmir division and 18 in Jammu division — have been put in place.

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Ahead of DDC polls, BJP targets Abdullahs over ‘land grab’

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Farooq Abdullah

New Delhi: Ahead of the District Development Council (DDC) polls in Jammu and Kashmir beginning Saturday, Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad trained his guns on the Abdullahs for their alleged role in the Roshni scam.

Prasad alleged that the key leaders of the erstwhile state, including Farooq Abdullah, used their “influence and power for land grabbing”.

“In 1998, Farooq Abdullah had purchased 3 kanals of land but he encroached upon 7 kanals of land which were double the size of the purchase,” Prasad alleged while speaking to the media. He further said that under the Roshni scam, the name of Farooq Abdullah’s sister Suraiya Mattu has also appeared, who, the minister alleged, is also a beneficiary of 3 kanals of land.

“There was a conscious land loot by the powerful people of J&K who were getting benefits under the Roshni Act which was declared unconstitutional by the J&K High Court. This is low level politics by the powerful people of J&K and we condemn it,” alleged Prasad.

Prasad said the J&K High Court has declared the Roshni Act as unconstitutional and has stated that the names of people who have acquired land under this Act should be listed and made public.

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