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South Korea Election : Voting underway to elect new president

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Seoul, May 9 : Voting is underway across South Korea in the presidential election on Tuesday as the nation is set to elect a new leader after a year of political upheaval, media reports said.

The early poll was triggered by the ouster of former President Park Geun-hye, who was removed from office in March over a massive corruption and influence-peddling scandal involving her close friend, aides and business moguls, Yonhap News Agency reported.

About 42.4 million South Koreans are eligible to cast their ballots. Voting began at 6 a.m. in 13,964 polling stations across the country and is scheduled to end at 8 p.m.

As of 9 a.m., electoral participation stood at 9.4 per cent, the National Electoral Commission (NEC) said.

Front-runner Moon Jae-in, 64, of the Democratic Party cast his ballot at a polling station in northwestern Seoul, together with his wife.

“I felt the people’s earnest desire for government change to create a country worthy of calling a country,” the former human rights lawyer and chief of staff to late President Roh Moo-hyun, told the media.

“I plead with you to join forces to build a country worthy of being called a country by participating in the vote until the end.”

Moon’s closest rivals are conservative Liberty Korea Party candidate Hong Joon-pyo and the People’s Party candidate Ahn Cheol-soo, who is also a liberal. According to latest opinion polls, both are close to 20 per cent in the race.

Hong cast his ballot at a polling station in southern Seoul, also with his wife.

“This election is a war of regime choice in which people will accept the pro-North Korea, leftist administration or choose a government that will defend the free Republic of Korea,” he said.

If elected, Hong promised to swiftly form his government to fill the vacancy left by Park’s ouster and stabilise inter-Korean relations through summit talks with US President Donald Trump.

Ahn expressed hope that more voters will come out and achieve a record high turnout.

Speaking to the media after voting at a polling station in northeastern Seoul, he said: “That is the way democracy will develop.”

The last opinion poll on the presidential election published on May 3 had Ahn and Hong tied at 18.6 per cent with Moon in the lead with 42.4 per cent.

Unlike the previous elections, the president-elect will be sworn in immediately after the NEC makes an official statement of the election result at a meeting scheduled for Wednesday morning, Efe news reported.

There are a total of 13 candidates in the fray. Two others withdrew earlier.

Over 26 per cent, or some 11 million, have already cast their ballots over a two-day early voting period held on May 4 and 5.

The turnout marked the highest rate ever in early voting, apparently indicating high public interest in the election that followed the first impeachment of a President.

(IANS)

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India, China and Russia hold consultation on Afghanistan

Afghanistan, Belarus, Iran and Mongolia currently enjoy observer status while Sri Lanka, Turkey, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Cambodia and Nepal are dialogue partners.

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Nikolai Patrushev

Moscow/Beijing, May 22 : Afghanistan is a major source of terrorist threats for the countries of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, Secretary of Russia’s Security Council Nikolai Patrushev said on Tuesday, four days after he held consultation on the issue with India and China.

For the SCO member-states, the threat of terrorism and extremism comes first and foremost from Afghanistan’s territory. We are convinced that any unilateral attempts to solve the situation in the Islamic republic by force bypassing the norms and principles of the international law may only worsen the situation and create additional security risks, Patrushev said.

His comments followed talks India, China and Russia held on Afghanistan and exchanged views in the Russian capital on May 17.

India’s Deputy National Security Adviser Rajinder Khanna, China’s Vice Foreign Minister Kong Xuanyou and Assistant to the Secretary of the Security Council of the Russian Federation Aleksandr Venediktov consulted each other. Patrushev then held a group meeting with the delegation members of the three countries who took part in the consultation.

The three sides agreed to strengthen coordination and cooperation under the frameworks of the SCO and the BRICS countries, and to hold the next round of consultation in due course, the Chinese foreign ministry said in a statement.

They also exchanged views on the situation in the Asia-Pacific region and cooperation under the frameworks of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) and the BRICS countries, reaching broad consensus, said the statement.

On Monday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Vladimir Putin at their informal summit in Sochi expressed concern over terrorism and radicalisation. In this context, they endorsed the importance of restoring peace and stability in Afghanistan in an atmosphere free from the threat of terrorism, and agreed to work together towards achieving this objective, said the Ministry of External Affairs.

Patrushev said Russia jointly with other SCO members had been calling for restoring peace and stability in Afghanistan through political settlement led by Afghan citizens.

The Tashkent conference on Afghanistan on March 26-27 confirmed the need to step up multilateral cooperation, including in the SCO framework. We view this meeting, and also meetings in the framework of the Kabul process as a logical continuation of consultations as part of the Moscow format and the SCO-Afghanistan contact group, TASS news agency quoted Patrushev as saying.

Any initiatives on the Afghan track should take into account the interests of regional states and rule out the prospects of imposing unacceptable scenarios on them. In this context, we support the Chinese side’s proposal to hold the second meeting of the contact group in Beijing, he said.

The SCO was formed in Shanghai in 2001 by six founding states – Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.

In 2017, India and Pakistan became full-fledged members.

Afghanistan, Belarus, Iran and Mongolia currently enjoy observer status while Sri Lanka, Turkey, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Cambodia and Nepal are dialogue partners.

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16 killed in Afghanistan blast

No group, neither the Taliban or the Islamic State, have claimed responsibility for the incident.

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IED Blast
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Kabul, May 22 : At least 16 people were killed when a vehicle, packed with explosives detonated in the southern Kandahar province on Tuesday, authorities said.

Provincial Governor Tooryalai Wesa said that at least 16 people were killed and 38 others wounded in the explosion, Ariana News reported.

According to Wesa, the death toll is expected to rise, as most of the injured were in critical condition.

No group, neither the Taliban or the Islamic State, have claimed responsibility for the incident.

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India’s Ola in 3 more Australian cities

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Ola

New Delhi, May 22: Indian ride-sharing major Ola on Tuesday expanded its services in Australia to three more cities — Brisbane, Gold Coast and Canberra.

To celebrate its launch in these cities, Ola is offering discounted rides from Tuesday. Customers can download the Ola app either from Google Play or iOS App Store, register for an Ola account and begin booking their rides.

“Customers in these cities can book discounted rides using Ola app starting Tuesday,” the city-based online cab aggregator said in a statement here. The online transportation network company has been operating in Perth, Sydney and Melbourne since it forayed into the island-nation early in 2018.

So far, over 30,000 driver-partners have registered themselves with the company since its launch in Australia on January 30, the statement said.

“Over the coming months, Ola is working on its rollout in other Australian cities Adelaide, Darwin and Hobart,” it added.

Founded in 2011, Ola has been competing against Uber in the Indian ride-hailing market. The seven-year-old Ola claims to have over 125 million users in 110 cities across India.

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