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Thailand expects to keep junta leader as PM after disputed elections



Thailand expects to keep junta leader as PM after disputed elections

The party is expected to easily form the next government, since it needs only a few more votes in the elected House of Representatives to choose the prime minister under complicated new electoral rules written by the military regime.

Palang Pracharat is expected to be joined by the Democrat and Bhumjaithai parties as well as 11 other smaller parties that are not affiliated with either the pro-army camp or the Democratic Front of parties opposing the military, said Yuttaporn Issarachai, a political scientist from Sukhothai Thammathirat Open University,

“Prayuth will certainly be prime minister,” under this scenario, he said, but he added that the government would likely be unstable, with only a slim majority in the House.

Leaders of the Democratic Front have cried foul and threatened legal action, saying both the electoral system and the Election Commission were biased toward extending the military regime.

Election officials and Palang Pracharat deny the accusation.

The Democratic Front of seven parties is led by the Pheu Thai party loyal to exiled former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in a 2006 coup.

Pro-Thaksin parties had won every election since then but each time saw its governments ousted by legal rulings and coups.

In the latest intervention, the military in 2014 toppled a government that had been led by Thaksin’s sister.

It still could be weeks before a new government is formed, even though the pro-junta party is in a favourable position.

Palang Pracharat’s most obvious potential allies are the pro-establishment Democrat Party and the Bhumjaithai party, which campaigned on marijuana legalisation among other issues.

The Democrats won 52 seats and Bhumjaithai 51, meaning that either could push Palang Pracharat, which won 115 seats, well over the magic number of 126 votes needed in the House to approve the prime minister under the new system.

The Democrats’ spokesman, Thana Chiravinij, told Reuters the party would meet next week to decide whether it would join with Palang Pracharat in government or form an “independent opposition”.

But he said the Democrats would never join the Democratic Front because it is led by the pro-Thaksin Pheu Thai.

Prominent members of the pro-establishment Democrat Party in 2014 led protests against the civilian government led by Thaksin’s sister, with some openly calling for military intervention.

Bhumjaithai leader Anutin Charnvirakul was not available for comment but he said on Facebook that the party “is still listening to the people”.

The new post-coup constitution calls for the 250-seat Senate, appointed entirely by the junta, to vote along with the 500-seat elected House of Representatives to choose the prime minister.

Involving the Senate effectively gives pro-army parties a head start of 250 votes to get to the required majority of 376 in the combined House and Senate vote.

“Thailand isn’t returning to democracy,” said Titipol Phakdeewanich, dean of the Faculty of Political Science at Ubon Ratchathani University.

“The election was a whitewashing effort for the military to stay in power so that they can tell the international community that they are an elected government,” he said.

The Democratic Front also complained it was denied what it had expected to be majority of 255 seats in the House of Representatives when the Election Commission decided to use a new formula in allocating seats.

The new formula gave 11 tiny parties one seat each, with most of them taken from the anti-military Future Forward Party, part of the opposition alliance.

Under the new formula, the Democratic Front won 245 seats in the House – just short of the majority it had hoped would give it leverage to block legislation if Prayuth remained prime minister.




Poverty falls for German children, but violence, neglect rise



The number of children and young people under the age of 18 experiencing poverty in Germany declined over the course of last year, but an increasing number faced the likelihood of violence or neglect.

This is according to official statistics published on Tuesday in Frankfurt.

The number of those under 18 in danger of poverty or social exclusion fell to 2.4 million, down six per cent on the figure for 2017, the Federal Statistical Office reported.

An increasing number of households with children were able to afford a one-week holiday, whereas 15.5 per cent of such households said in 2017 they were not able to afford this, in 2018 that figure fell to 13.4 per cent.

But more young people were exposed to neglect or violence.

Youth welfare offices found that 50,400 young people under the age of 18 were in danger in this respect, some 10 per cent up on the 2017 figure.

Edited by Fatima Sule/Maharazu Ahmed

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German Olympic Chief, Hoermann, welcomes private initiative on games



Alfons Hoermann, president of the German Olympic Sports Confederation (DOSB), has given a cautious welcome to private plans promoting a bid to host the 2030 Winter Games.

“Fundamentally, it is pleasing when traditional venues in Germany express an interest in hosting major sporting events and creating the conditions for this,’’ he said on Tuesday.

“But the path to a successful Olympic bid leads through a completely different dimension of requirements.

“On the DOSB side, we will examine the possible concept in due course and assess if it can have a chance of success.’’

On Monday, two individuals revealed an initiative to host the games across Thuringia, Saxony and Bavaria.

They hope to present their idea to the DOSB general assembly on Dec. 7.

The 2022 winter games will be hosted in Beijing and 2026 has been awarded to Milan-Cortina in Italy.

Edited by Fatima Sule/Abdulfatah Babatunde

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World Food Programme warns of ‘dramatic humanitarian crisis’ in Sahel region



A “dramatic humanitarian crisis” is unfolding in the three Sahel countries of Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger, fuelled by conflict, displacements, hunger and poverty, the World Food Programme (WFP) said on Tuesday.

“If we do not act now to tackle hunger in the Sahel, a whole generation are at risk,” said WFP spokesman Herve Verhoosel.

About 20 million people live in conflict-affected areas across the region, bearing the brunt of the unfolding crisis as hunger and malnutrition loom, according to WFP.

More than 2.4 million people already require urgent food and nutrition assistance in Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger, the organisation added.

Roughly 1.1 million people across Niger, Burkina Faso and Mali had fled their homes in search of safety, the report said.

Conflict is devastating agriculture and rural economies, and almost one in three children is out of school in many conflict-affected areas, according to the statement.

The impacts of climate change had been felt heavily in the Sahel, interfering with regional weather patterns and upending the delicate balance struck between farmers and pastoralists who share vital resources such as water or grazing lands,’’ WFP said.

Fierce competition over these vital resources has been fuelling conflict between ethnic groups.

In addition, the north of Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger serves as a refuge for Islamist extremists, who also attack the civilian population.

Edited by Fatima Sule/Ese E. Ekama

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Morales wants guarantees before calling for supporters to demobilise



Bolivia’s ousted president Evo Morales, who is in exile in Mexico, says he has ruled out asking his supporters at home to demobilise to facilitate new elections until his and their security is guaranteed.

Morales made his position known in an interview with dpa in Mexico City.

According to the Inter-American Human Rights Commission, 23 people have been killed and more than 700 injured since riots erupted in Bolivia.

Morales’ supporters have clashed with security forces against what they consider a “coup d’etat” that led to his resignation on Nov. 10.

“First this de facto government needs to give guarantees.

“Former ministers, lawmakers are being unfairly persecuted, threatened.

“Secondly, there needs to be a national and international commission to identify those intellectually and materially responsible for such a massacre,” he said.

The former president said that new elections should be called and that he would be willing to not run as a candidate.

He, however, said that a major roadblock to restoring “democracy” was Jeanine Anez, the lawmaker who has declared herself Bolivia’s interim president.

Morales called on her to resign.

Morales, 60, stepped down after the army called for him to do so following weeks of violent protests against alleged fraud in the Oct. 20 elections, in which the leftist president claimed an outright victory against his centre-right challenger Carlos Mesa.

Morales said that new elections must be the result of a mediation process with all sectors of society and must go through the Plurinational Legislative Assembly, where his Movement to Socialism (MAS) party has a two-thirds majority.

“We are prepared to accept new elections based on the constitution.

“For the sake of life and of democracy, Evo is not participating if they don’t want him to participate,” Morales told dpa.


(Edited by Emmanuel Yashim)

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Pakistani PM to reshuffle cabinet amid economic hardship – Adviser



Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan plans to reshuffle the cabinet to provide “public relief” amid economic hardship.

The prime minister’s Special Assistant on Information, Firdous Ashiq Awan said this in a tweet late on Monday.

She said that the upcoming “expansion and modification of the federal cabinet” would bring back Asad Umar, a former finance minister and one of Khan’s most trusted men.

Umar will replace Khusro Bakhtiar as minister in charge of planning, development, and reforms, while Bakhtiar will be given the role of oil minister.

“A notification will be issued in this regard soon,” Awan further tweeted, adding: “several actions for the relief of masses are in the cards.”

Pakistan has been struggling for years to avert a balance of payments problem.

It negotiated a multibillion-dollar loan from the International Monetary Fund on touch terms in spring, prompting Umar to quit. (Sputnik/NAN)

(Edited by Emmanuel Yashim)

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Impeachment inquiry hearings move into second week in U.S. House



The second week of impeachment hearings in the U.S. House of Representatives kicks off on Tuesday with four current and former administration officials scheduled to testify.

Alexander Vindman, the top Ukraine expert on the National Security Council (NSC), and Jennifer Williams, an aide on Vice President Mike Pence’s staff, are scheduled to testify in the morning session.

Vindman and Williams directly listened in on the July 25 phone call at the centre of the impeachment inquiry.

Top U.S. diplomats said in testimony last week they were alarmed about what they viewed as an attempt by the White House to make military aid to Ukraine conditional on an investigation into his political rival Joe Biden and his son.

Republicans have accused the Bidens of corruption over Hunter Biden’s work for a Ukrainian energy company.

Democrats launched the inquiry after a whistleblower reported details of the July 25 call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

They accuse Trump of abusing his power by withholding the military aid while pressuring Ukraine to investigate his domestic political rival in order to help his own 2020 re-election campaign.

The two other officials due to testify on Tuesday are Tim Morrison, the NSC’s former official in charge of overseeing Russia and Europe policy, and Kurt Volker, former special representative to Ukraine.

They are expected to say the phone call was part of a months-long efforts to get Ukraine to find political dirt on the Bidens.

Trump has called the inquiry a “great fraud” but on Monday said he is considering providing written testimony.

(Edited by Fatima Sule/Emmanuel yashim)

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