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FG committed to addressing youth unemployment, Presidential aide

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Mr Ajuri Ngelale, Senior Special Assistant (SSA) to President Muhammadu Buhari on Public Affairs, says the Federal Government is committed to addressing the issue of youth unemployment.

Ngelale said this while fielding questions from journalists at a programme organised by the Mandela Washington Fellows Alumni Association, tagged: “Future of Work”, held at the CBN Training institute, Abuja.

The presidential aide noted that the boom in the demography of graduates coming out yearly from tertiary institutions is a major challenge to employment.

While commending the organisers of the programme, Ngelale said such efforts would help to tackle issue of unemployment in the country.

He said Government was making efforts to address unemployment problem, saying “Nobody in this administration wants to see the unemployment rate escalate in Nigeria.”

According to him, statistics show that more than a million Nigerians come out of secondary and tertiary institutions every year and don’t have access to jobs.

He noted, however, that the statistics never show the effort government was making, especially with informal jobs such as those on the farms, in the market places etc.

“But the challenge that goes unexplained is that the efforts are in evident.”

Ngelale explained that government had introduced the five million dollars Innovation fund to enable creation of about 500,000 new jobs for young people, specifically in ICT development.

He said this will also prepare our youths for the global economy that is knowledge based.

On his part, president of the association, Lamide Johnson said that the outreach was a way to give back to the society after having been beneficiaries of the fellowship themselves.

“We create programmes that can better improve our communities; we hope to develop an action plan that will be recommended to the government.

“The kids gathered here today are all very brilliant kids and whoever among them emerges winner will walk home with a million naira prize,” Lamide said.

On her part, Mrs Abike Dabiri-Erewa, who was represented by Olufunke Oloye, urged Nigerian youths to look inward to develop their potentials.

“I urge Nigerian youths to look inward and come up with innovative ways to develop your potentials towards meeting the new trends in service delivery in line with global best practice.”

Dabiri-Erewa commended members of the association and urged them to sustain the work.

Some of the children, who spoke with Nigeria News Agency , said they were excited to be shortlisted to attend the event.

Master Chijioke Michael and Miss Divine Augustine expressed hope that their inventions would win them the prize at the end of the competition.

The programme featured the Mandela Washington Fellowship Application Master class; Beyond School Community Challenge and Young Leaders Award.

According to the organisers, the event aims to discover, promote and encourage young Nigerians to achieve excellence through creativity and innovation.

PAM/AFA

Edited by Felix Ajide

 

Patience Aliyu: is a graduate and a professionally trained journalist, with experience in national news reporting/editing and verification at the News Agency of Nigeria. NNN is a Nigerian online news portal that publishes breaking news in Nigeria, and across the world. Our journalists are honest, fair, accurate, thorough and courageous in gathering, reporting and interpreting news in the best interest of the public, because truth is the cornerstone of journalism and they strive diligently to ascertain the truth in every news report. Contact: editor[at]nnn.com.ng

Foreign

Burundian ruling party’s Evariste Ndayishimiye wins presidential election: provisional results

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Provisional results show Burundian ruling party’s Evariste Ndayishimiye wins the presidential election held on May 20, the country’s electoral body said here on Monday.

Ndayishimiye from the ruling National Council for the Defense of Democracy-Forces for the Defense of Democracy won 68.72 percent of votes in the presidential election, followed by National Council for Liberty’s Agathon Rwasa who got 24.19 percent of votes, said the National Independent Electoral Commission.

Burundi voters went to the polls last Wednesday to elect a new president, members of the National Assembly, and district councillors.

(XINHUA)

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Foreign

Malawi’s electoral chair resigns ahead of June’s presidential election

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Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) chairperson Jane Ansah has announced that she has resigned from her position as MEC’s chair.

The MEC leader has confirmed the resignation during an exclusive interview with the Malawi Broadcasting Corporation on Thursday. She has also disclosed that she has written President Mutharika about the decision.

Ansah said the decision has stemmed from the fact that top courts in Malawi has faulted the commissioners for mismanaging the 2019 presidential election.

The resignation has come after the Malawi constitutional court in February upheld the opposition leaders’ petition and nullified the May 2019 presidential election results on grounds of irregularities including manual alterations and use of tippex on the results sheets to change the figures.

Political commentators and activists are asking President Mutharika to appoint new commissioners for the sake of credibility during the next presidential election.

Malawians are expected to go into polls on June 23 to select a new state president despite the threat of COVID-19.

(XINHUA)

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Foreign

Poland’s presidential elections planned for June 28

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The Polish government plans to hold presidential elections on June 28 as a later date is precluded due to the expiry date of the current presidential term, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said on Thursday.

“We want to fulfil our constitutional obligations and conduct these elections in line with the constitution and today we plan to do that on June 28,” Morawiecki was quoted by the Polish Press Agency as saying.

“A later date would not be indicated because afterwards, on August 6, the president’s term ends and later dates that result from the law would mean that announcing the final results or approval of the elections by the Supreme Court would stretch beyond the deadline,” he said.

On the matter of when the State Electoral Commission (PKW) would publish a resolution concerning the elections, the prime minister said analysis were being conducted as to the best time to publish such a resolution.

The PKW stated that in presidential elections scheduled for May 10 there was no possibility to vote and that the Sejm (lower house of the parliament) speaker would announce a new date within 14 days of the resolution being published.

(XINHUA)

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Foreign

Belarus’ CEC registers 15 initiative groups to nominate presidential candidates

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The Belarusian Central Election Commission (CEC) has ended its registration of 15 initiative groups to nominate citizens as candidates for the post of Belarusian president on Wednesday.

The collection of signatures in support of the persons proposed for nomination will start on Thursday and will run through June 19.

Any initiative group must collect at least 100,000 signatures to nominate a presidential candidate.

Members of initiative groups should wear medical masks and gloves to collect signatures, the CEC said.

The presidential election in Belarus will take place on August 9.

(XINHUA)

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General news

No Presidential broadcast on COVID-19 – Presidency

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The Presidency says there will be no presidential broadcast on COVID-19, on Monday as being speculated in some quarters.

Dr Aliyu Sani, the National Coordinator,  Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19, had on Sunday while reacting to a question during a programme on Channels Television, disclosed that President Muhammadu Buhari would address Nigerians on May 18.

According to him, the president will be addressing the nation as the first phase of the easing of lockdown and restrictions for the containment of the coronavirus disease comes to end on May 17.

The president had earlier on Sunday received members of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 led by its Chairman and Secretary to Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, at the State House where he was updated on the activities of the PTF.

However, Mr Femi Adesina, the President’s spokesman on his verified twitter handle, @FemiAdesina, refuted the media report on presidential broadcast, saying President Buhari had no plan to broadcast to Nigerians on COVID-19 on Monday.

“No presidential broadcast on COVID-19 updates today. None was planned. Rather, the PTF will during its usual media briefings bring the nation up to speed on the next steps,’’ Adesina said.

Buhari had on Monday via online meeting with Nigeria Governors’ Forum enjoined governors to work closely with the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 to engender better harmony in the daunting task of checking the pandemic.

The president disclosed that the PTF had briefed him on next step in the national response to the pandemic, “and I have directed that they work very closely with the governors.”

He said the pandemic was “beyond technology, power, and resources”, noting that countries that had all those were recording highest casualties round the world.

“We have to be very careful. We need to continue to educate and persuade the people to accept the reality of the situation, and do all that is necessary to stay safe,” the president said.

Edited By: Grace Yussuf (NAN)

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Foreign

Poland’s main opposition party changes presidential candidate

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Poland’s main opposition party Civic Platform (PO) on Friday chose Rafal Trzaskowski to replace Malgorzata Kidawa-Blonska as new presidential candidate after Kidawa-Blonska announced her quit from Poland’s presidential elections to be held later in the year.

Aged 48, Trzaskowski is the current mayor of Warsaw.

The change comes a nearly week after the elections originally scheduled for May 10 being postponed. The ruling Law and Justice party (PiS) accused the PO of falsely citing health reasons of the COVID-19 pandemic and democratic standards to force the postponement.

Incumbent Polish President Andrzej Duda, a former MEP and staunch supporter of PiS and its leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski, was polling well among the likely voters. Opinion polls suggested a result of over 50 percent in favor of Duda in the first round if the elections took place as normal, as a large part of opposition supporters had declared that they would not take part in a vote conducted entirely by post, which the government tried to push through. A result above 50 percent would see Duda reelected outright.

More recent polls, however, showed Duda dipping below 50 percent again, making a runoff with the second-placed candidate likely. The new date for the elections has not been announced, but are speculated at the end of June or in early July.

(XINHUA)

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Foreign

Burundi expels four WHO officials ahead of presidential elections 

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Burundi has expelled the country representative of the World Health Organisation (WHO) and three other WHO officials ahead of its presidential elections, the Foreign Affairs Ministry said.

The organisation’s officials have been declared “persona non grata” and ordered to leave the East African country before April 15, according to a statement signed on May 12 by Foreign Affairs Minister Ezechiel Nibigira.

Nibigira declined to comment on the reason for the expulsion.

“We are in communication with the government of Burundi to understand the reason behind the decision they have taken,” WHO Africa director Matshidiso Moeti told journalists on Thursday.

Burundi is scheduled to hold presidential elections on May 20 amid the coronavirus pandemic, to elect a successor of President Pierre Nkurunziza.

WHO recommends that during the coronavirus pandemic, elections should only be conducted with strict hygiene measures in place, with particular focus on wearing masks and maintaining physical distance, according to Moeti.

The government of Nkurunziza, who has been in power since 2005, has previously expelled officials of international agencies, including UN investigators into human rights abuses, and rejected the deployment of African Union peacekeepers after civil unrest.

Edited By: Emmanuel Yashim (NAN)

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Politics

Senate decry breach of presidential order on inter-state movement

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The Senate on Tuesday at plenary condemned in strongest terms the “barefaced breach” of the presidential order on interstate movements to curb further spread of Coronavirus in Nigeria.

Senate resolution was hinged on a motion on the “Need to Enforce Presidential Order Banning Interstate Movements.”

The motion was sponsored by Sen. Ike Ekweremadu (PDP-Enugu).

Ekweremadu in his lead debate said there was an alarm at the spike in the number of COVID-19 cases in the country.

He said reports indicates currently that COVID-19 infection stood at 4,641 cases and 150 deaths.

Ekweremadu said confirmed daily cases of COVID-19 by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, (NCDC) was now in hundreds.

He said that President Muhammadu  Buhari, in his wisdom and relying on advice by relevant authorities and powers conferred on him by Section 3 of the Quarantine Act, CAP Q2 Laws of the Federation 2004 issued proclamation order on general management of COVlD-19.

Ekweremadu said the president had banned non-essential inter-state passenger travels until further notice to contain the deadly novel Coronavirus.

“Also aware of the presidential order declaring dusk to dawn curfew all over the country.

“Seriously worried by the numerous reports and trending videos on the flagrant breach of the curfew and interstate travel.

“Aware that the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 has raised alarm over what it described as ‘increased level of interstate movement, worsened by the dubious concealment of people in foods carrying vehicles.

“Further aware that the Nigeria Governors’ Forum has equally raised serious concerns over the way Nigerians crisscross the country in their numbers in spite of the subsisting order to the contrary.

“Conscious of the very grave implications of the brazen breach of the presidential order restricting interstate movements.

“Conscious of the fact that the nation’s security agencies, particularly the police, have the responsibility to enforce law and order, including the presidential ban on interstate movement,” Ekweremadu said.

He expressed concern over reports of alleged complicity in the said breaches by those who are supposed to enforce compliance with the directives of the President.

Following Ekweremadu’s presentation, Senate in its other resolutions
enjoin Nigerians to strictly comply with the orders for their own safety and to quicken Nigerian’s victory over COVID-19 pandemic.

It further urged the Inspectors-General of Police, Commandant-General of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps and Heads of all security agencies charged with enforcing the ban on interstate travel to investigate the alleged complicity of their officers in the breach of the curfew and ban non-essential interstate travels.

The Senate also called for arrest and prosecution of anyone found wanting.

It urged the Inspector-General of Police and the Commandant-General of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps to fully enforce presidential orders on curfew and ban on nonessential interstate travel.

It urged the security chiefs to ensure that their various commands cooperate with respective state authorities in enforcing the presidential orders and other protocols aimed at curbing the COVID-19 pandemic.

Edited By: Dorcas Jonah/Sadiya Hamza (NAN)

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Sport

Algerian Ibbou finds presidential support after challenging Thiem over player fund

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Algerian Ines Ibbou was hailed as a hero by Venus Williams while her country’s president pledged full support after the low-ranked tennis player posted an emotional video to take on world No. 3 Dominic Thiem for his opposition to a player relief fund.

Thiem rejected the notion that top tennis players should chip in to help lower-ranked competitors who are struggling financially due to the pause in tournaments due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

In the video, which runs over nine minutes and was posted on Ibbou’s Instagram page, the world number 620 starts with “Dear Dominic” and goes on to talk about the difficulties she has had to endure and the sacrifices she needed to make in her career.

The 21-year-old pleads with Thiem to understand the stark difference in the Austrian’s “magical world” and how she had to pursue tennis in the North African country, which she said lacked even basic infrastructure for the sport.

“I cherish the day when I’ll be able to afford a gift for my parents. I’m dreaming about this day,” said Ibbou, who started playing at the age of six but has only managed to make $27,825 in tournament earnings so far.

“I’m a lonely lady, travelling the world generally in three-legged trips, always looking for the cheapest tickets.”

World number one Novak Djokovic has urged fellow professionals to contribute to a fund set up by the sport’s governing bodies to help players affected by a shutdown which began in March and will continue at least until mid-July.

Austrian Thiem said he felt there were sections of society that needed more urgent help than his fellow competitors during the economic crisis caused by the pandemic.

“Do you alternate clay and hard from a week to another like I do,” Ibbou questioned Thiem. “Do you finish your tournaments with holes in shoes like I do?”

“Dear Dominic, unlike you, many share my reality.

“Just a reminder, it’s not because of your money that we survived until now. And nobody requested to you anything.

“The initiative went from generous players who showed instant compassion with a classy touch.”

The governing bodies recently raised over $6 million to help lower-level players affected by the shutdown.

Ibbou said the crisis showed “who people truly are” and helping the needy players was only to help the game survive.

“We did not ask anything from you. Except a bit of respect to our sacrifice,” she said before signing off. “Players like you make me hold on to my dreams. Please, don’t ruin it.”

Williams, a seven-time Grand Slam singles winner, commented on the post: “You’re my hero.”

Ibbou replied: “You’ve always been mine too, and now you’re even more to me. Thank you so much.”

Australian Kyrgios, who had criticised Thiem for his comments, said “Respect!” before adding, “Keep doing you, I’m always willing to support.”

As Ibbou’s post gained popularity and was widely shared on social media, it caught the eye of Algerian president Abdelmadjid Tebboune.

“Algeria can’t miss a sporting talent like Ines Ibbou in a young age and a flower of giving, in a specialty that is rarely born in it,” Tebboune said in a message for Ibbou on his official Facebook page.

“Soon, the ministry of youth and sports will take care of your work. You have my full support and I wish you success, God willing.”

Edited By: Emmanuel Okara/Donald Ugwu (NAN)

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Foreign

Belarus presidential election to be held on Aug. 9

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The Belarusian parliament announced on Friday the presidential election will be held on Aug. 9 this year.

Lidia Ermoshina, chairwoman of the country’s Central Electoral Commission (CEC), said the deadline for submitting documents for the registration of initiative groups is May 15. The initiative group should have more than 100 people.

Presidential candidates are proposed by initiative groups with at least 100,000 signatures. The collection of signatures for the nomination of candidates will begin on May 21.

(XINHUA)

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Foreign

Judge reinstates NY presidential primary

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A federal judge on Tuesday reinstated New York’s Democratic presidential primary, ruling that the state’s Board of Elections’ decision to cancel the contest amid the coronavirus pandemic unconstitutionally “deprived” millions of residents of “the right to vote”.

The decision by Manhattan Federal Court Judge Analisa Torres puts the primary back on for June 23.

Andrew Yang, who dropped out of the Democratic presidential race in February, filed the lawsuit that prompted Torres’ decision.

Edited By: Emmanuel Yashim (NAN)

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Defence/Security

Police warn FCT residents against violation of presidential curfew

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The Police Command in the Federal Capital Territory has warned residents against violation of the nationwide curfew imposed by the Federal Government to contain the spread of COVID-19.

The Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), in the FCT, DSP Anjuguri Manzah disclosed this in a statement on Tuesday in Abuja.

He said the subsisting nationwide curfew, imposed by President Muhammadu Buhari commenced on Monday, between 8p.m. and 6a.m.

“This implies that movement of persons will not be allowed within this stipulated time. Essential service providers, especially medical personnel on duty during the period will be considered.

“The command in compliance with the directive, has commenced enforcement of the overnight curfew. The public is, therefore, advised to comply with the presidential directive and stay at home during the curfew period,” he said.

He said violators of the curfew would be arrested, detained and arraigned before Mobile Courts.

Edited By: Abiodun Esan/Ismail Abdulaziz (NAN)

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Defence/Security

COVID-19: Police ready to enforce Presidential directive in Bauchi

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The Police Command in Bauchi State says it is ready to enforce the Presidential directive on new measures to contain the spread of Covid-19 in the country.

This is contained in a statement issued by DSP Kamal Abubakar, the Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO) in the state and made available to  the News Agency of Nigeria on Tuesday in Bauchi.

Abubakar said the command in collaboration with sister security agencies in the state had commenced the full enforcement of the directive effective Monday to ensure full compliance.

“To this effect, members of the public are kindly advised to strictly adhere to the restriction orders contained in the presidential directive until further notice.

“Particularly, the over night curfew between 8:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m. which means all movements are prohibited during this period except for essential services.

“Also the ban of non essential movement in and out of the state will be fully enforced,” he said.

The spokesman appealed for cooperation from members of the public toward the enforcement to enable the command succeed.

He, therefore, warned officers and men deployed for this operation to ensure observance of human rights and strictly adhere to the Force’s rules of engagement in the discharge of their duties.

Edited By: Gregg Mmaduakolam/Ismail Abdulaziz (NAN)

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Foreign

China ‘has no interest’ in meddling in U.S. presidential election amid Trump’s allegations

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The Chinese Foreign Ministry on Thursday said Beijing has no interest in meddling in the 2020 U.S. presidential election.

Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang underscored during a news briefing that the upcoming election is the domestic affair of the U.S. and that Beijing voices hope Washington will not drag China into the process.

His remarks came after U.S. President Donald Trump told Reuters on Wednesday that China “will do anything they can to have him lose” the 2020 vote scheduled for November.

The statement followed POTUS claiming in 2018 that Beijing was trying to interfere with the midterm elections because he had imposed tariffs on billions of dollars’ worth of Chinese goods.

During a United Nations Security Council meeting at the time, Trump asserted that Beijing doesn’t “want me or us to win because I am the first president to ever challenge China on trade”.

Trump’s latest statement came as Washington and Beijing remain embroiled in a trade spat over what Trump has deemed unfair economic conditions and alleged anti-competitive behaviour by China, a charge that Beijing denies.

Late 2019, the sides announced that they had worked out a phase one trade deal as part of a larger bilateral agreement that would help resolve the long-lasting trade row between the two countries.

As part of the accord, the sides agreed to not introduce new duties that were planned to go into effect on Dec. 15.

Edited By: Abiodun Oluleye/Ali Baba-Inuwa (NAN)

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Foreign

Hillary Clinton endorses Biden’s presidential bid

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Former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton on Tuesday endorsed former Vice President Joe Biden, the Democratic Party’s current presumptive presidential nominee.

“This is a moment where we need a leader, a president, like Joe Biden,” Clinton said during a virtual town hall.

“I want to add my voice to the many who have endorsed you to be our president,” the former secretary of state said, describing Biden as a “friend” and a figure who has been “preparing for this moment his entire life.”

Biden called Clinton a “friend” and thanked her for the “wonderful personal endorsement.”

One day earlier, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi also endorsed Biden, calling him a “voice of reason and resilience” amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Biden already has the formal support of former President Barack Obama, progressive leaders Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, and the party’s two previous presidential nominees John Kerry and Al Gore.

(XINHUA)

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Coronavirus

New York state cancels presidential primary over coronavirus risk

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The New York State on Monday canceled its presidential primary, which had already been delayed from late April to June 23, over concerns voting was an unnecessary risk amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The New York State Board of Elections said it would be “unnecessary and frivolous” to hold an effectively uncompetitive election in a state that is the epicenter of the U.S. coronavirus outbreak.

The former Vice President Joe Biden the Democratic Party’s presumptive nominee, Douglas Kellner, one of two of the party’s commissioners is a member of the board.

Republican President Donald Trump will be seeking a second term in the Nov. 3 election. Biden’s last remaining rival, Sen. Bernie Sanders, suspended his campaign on April 8.

Sanders had hoped to have his name on the ballot in remaining primary contests to enable his progressive supporters to choose like-minded delegates to influence the party’s platform. Reuters/NAN)

IAA

Edited By: Isaac Aregbesola (NAN)

 

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Foreign

New York state cancels Democratic presidential primary due to COVID-19

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The U.S. state of New York on Monday canceled the state’s Democratic presidential primary scheduled for June 23, becoming the first state to do so due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Democratic members of the State Board of Elections have voted to nix the primary as the risk of spreading coronavirus seems to be not affordable in the hard-hit state.

With over 288,000 cases and more than 22,200 deaths, New York currently is the COVID-19 epicenter in the United States, according to official figures.

The cancellation followed Senator Bernie Sanders’ decision to drop out of the presidential race and to endorse former Vice President Joe Biden for the Democratic nomination, which makes a primary unnecessary.

A provision in the recently passed state budget allows the State Board of Elections to remove names of any candidates who have suspended or terminated their campaign.

Asked about the cancellation at his daily coronavirus briefing on Monday, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said he would “leave it up to the Board of Elections” on this issue.

The state will still hold its congressional, state-level primaries and local races on June 23. Voters in some 20 counties who only had the Democratic presidential primary on their ballot will not have to go to the polls on the day, according to The New York Times.
(XINHUA)

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Foreign

U.S. House Speaker Pelosi endorses Democratic presidential candidate Biden

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U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Monday endorsed former Vice President Joe Biden as the Democratic Party’s presumptive presidential nominee.

In a video released on Monday morning, Pelosi described Biden as a “voice of reason and resilience” amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“When our nation faced the Great Recession, it was Joe Biden who led the implementation – and the accountability – of the Recovery Act, helping create and save millions of jobs. When the Democratic Congress was passing the Affordable Care Act, Joe Biden was a partner for progress in the White House and also championed the cancer moonshot,” she said.

Biden already has the formal support from former President Barack Obama, progressive leaders Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, and the party’s two previous presidential nominees John Kerry and Al Gore.
(XINHUA)

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Foreign

UN chief asks Guinea-Bissau to move ahead after region endorses outcome of presidential poll

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UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Friday asked political players in Guinea-Bissau to accept the results of last year’s presidential election and work to form a new government, said his spokesman.

Guterres took note of Thursday’s decision by the heads of state and government of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to recognize Umaro Sissoco Embalo as the winner of the presidential election in Guinea-Bissau, said Stephane Dujarric, the spokesman, in a statement.

Guterres encouraged all Bissau-Guinean actors to work inclusively and constructively to implement relevant ECOWAS decisions, particularly regarding the appointment of a prime minister and the formation of a new government, in full compliance with the constitution, and taking into account the results of the March 2019 legislative elections, said the statement.

Guterres reiterated the UN’s commitment to continue to accompany Bissau-Guineans in their efforts to consolidate peace, democracy and sustainable development, it said.

Embalo finished second in the first round of voting on Nov. 24. He won 54 percent of the vote in the second round run-off on Dec. 29 against Domingos Simoes Pereira, who led in the first round.

Pereira refused to concede and challenged the outcome. Embalo swore him in as president in February 2020 without clearance from either the Supreme Court or Parliament.
(XINHUA)

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Foreign

EU concerned about Poland’s presidential election, commissioner says

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The European Commission is concerned about Poland’s upcoming presidential election, fearing the ballot may be compromised, EU Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders said on Thursday.

“If the presidential election goes ahead under the current circumstances, it may fall short of a number of international standards,’’ Reynders said during a European Parliament committee sitting, citing a statement from the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).

Poland’s presidential ballot is set for May 10.

The governing conservative Law and Justice (PiS) party wants to hold a nationwide postal vote in view of the novel coronavirus pandemic, but the opposition is calling for declaring a state of natural disaster, which would automatically postpone the election.

The country’s electoral code does not provide for a nationwide postal vote and a bill that would change that is currently being debated in the Senate. It could take effect only days before the vote.

“Amending the electoral code so close to the election runs counter to the guidelines of the Venice Commission, which recommends such changes be implemented no later than one year ahead of a vote.

“Also, campaigning is close to impossible at present,” Reynders noted.

While it is up to EU member states to decide whether to hold an election during a pandemic, “any such decision must be consistent with member states’ obligations under international law and with their constitutional arrangement to guarantee free and fair elections,’’ Reynders added.

The commissioner’s comments were criticised by Poland’s deputy Foreign Minister Pawel Jablonski.

“Anyone who expects that Poland will postpone the election in fact expects Poland to introduce a state of emergency,’’ Jablonski said in comments to the PAP news agency.

“That would be surprising, especially as commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, recently stressed that a state of emergency should be introduced only in exceptional situations.

A situation in which one state is criticised for infringing on EU rules for introducing a state of emergency and another for not introducing it would risk ridiculing the EU,” Jablonski said in an apparent reference to the EU’s recent criticism of Hungary’s Covid-19 emergency legislation.

PiS-backed incumbent Andrzej Duda has recently extended his lead in opinion polls ahead of the presidential ballot.

Duda can now expect to secure 59 per cent of the vote, according to a poll published by Kantar on Thursday.

Malgorzata Kidawa-Blonska, until recently a clear second in the polls, enjoys the support of just 4 per cent of respondents.

Kidawa-Blonska had earlier called for boycotting the election if PiS pushes for a May vote.

Poland has so far recorded 10,346 cases of the novel coronavirus and 435 virus-related fatalities.

Edited By: Halima Sheji/Salif Atojoko (NAN)

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