Weekly Global Newscast |16 December – 22 December, 2019

Asia

Afghanistan’s Ghani Wins Majority in Presidential Poll

Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani was on track to win a second term after elections official announced he had scored a majority in the presidential poll. But despite Ghani’s apparent clean win, the fallout from the bitterly contested September 28, 2019 election looked set to continue, with top rival Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah saying he would contest the result.

Analysis

“According to the Independent Election Commission, Ghani won 50.64 percent of the vote in the September 28 poll, easily besting Abdullah, who scored 39.52 percent. Candidates now have the right to file any complaints they may have before final results are announced, probably within a week. As soon as the result was announced, Abdullah’s office said in a statement that he would contest it,” said The Times of India.

“Mr. Abdullah lost to Mr. Ghani in 2014 in a divisive election that saw the U.S. intervene to broker an awkward power-sharing deal between the two rivals,” said The Hindu.

Nine People Reported Wounded in Fresh Clashes on Kyrgyz-Tajik Border

Six Kyrgyz nationals and three Tajik nationals were wounded after clashes broke out along a section of the border between the two countries, authorities and medics say. Kyrgyzstan’s Border Service said that four Kyrgyz border guards, a local lawmaker, and a resident, were wounded in the December 18 clashes in the southern Batken region.

Analysis

“Medical staff at a hospital in the Tajik town of Isfara said that three Tajik civilians – 14-year-old Umedjon Safarov, 23-year-old Asrorkhon Asadzoda, and 59-year-old Sodiqboi Nabiev – were wounded. There has been no official statement on the incident from the Tajik authorities,” said Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty.

“Many border areas in Central Asian former Soviet republics have been disputed since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. The situation is particularly complicated near the numerous exclaves in the volatile Ferghana Valley, where the borders of Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Kyrgyzstan meet. Since January, there were at least 10 clashes along the Kyrgyz-Tajik border, four of which were deadly,” said Central Asia News.

Middle East & North Africa

Twitter Removes Thousands of Saudi ‘State-Backed’ Accounts

Twitter has banned almost 6,000 accounts for being part of an alleged state-backed information operation originating in Saudi Arabia. The social media network announced the bans in a public blog posted on Friday. It accused the accounts of violating its “platform manipulation policies” as part of a “significant” operation. Twitter said they were part of a larger network of more than 88,000 accounts engaging in “spammy behaviour” on a “wide range of topics.”

Analysis

“Twitter believes the “co-ordinated” activity can be traced to a social media marketing company called Smaat based in Saudi Arabia. BBC News has approached both the Saudi government and Smaat for comment about Twitter’s allegations,” said BBC.

“Social media companies have been trying to tackle misinformation on their services, especially in the lead up to next year’s US presidential election. The efforts followed revelations that Russians bankrolled thousands of fake political ads during the 2016 polls. There was no immediate comment by Saudi officials,” said Al-Jazeera.

Sub Saharan Africa

Darfur Conflict: Sudan Launches Investigation into Crimes

Sudan has launched an investigation into crimes committed in the Darfur region under former President Omar al-Bashir, the state prosecutor says. A trial could take place outside the country, Tagelsir al-Heber said. Ten years ago, the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for Bashir on charges of genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity.

Analysis

“The conflict between rebels and pro-government militias began in 2003. The UN says 300,000 people died. After more than 30 years in power, Bashir was ousted earlier this year following mass protests. The country is now run by a transitional government – composed of military rulers as well as members of the protest movement,” said BBC News.

“Gosh, head of the feared National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS), resigned on April two days after the ouster of al-Bashir, and is now outside of Sudan. Sudan’s new transitional government, brought to power after the protest movement toppled al-Bashir, has vowed to establish peace in conflict-hit regions, including Darfur. On December 14, al-Bashir was sentenced by a court in Khartoum to two years’ detention in a correctional centre for corruption in the first of several cases against him. Al-Bashir is also being investigated for his role in the 1989 coup that brought him to power,” said Al-Jazeera.

Europe

Croatian President to Face Leftist Former PM in Second-Round Run-Off

Croatia’s conservative president will face a leftist former prime minister in a runoff election in early January after no candidate won an outright majority in a first round of voting on Sunday, near-complete results showed. The vote was held just days before Croatia takes over the European Union presidency for the first time. The governing conservatives are hoping to keep their grip on power ahead of assuming the EU chairmanship.

Analysis

“Left-wing former Prime Minister Zoran Milanović led the field with nearly 30% of the votes in preliminary returns. President Kolinda Grabar Kitarović had almost 27%, the state election authorities said after counting almost all ballots. Rightwing singer Miroslav Škoro was in third place with around 24%. Some 3.8 million voters in the EU’s newest member country choose from among 11 candidates in Sunday’s election, but only the top three finishers were considered serious contenders,” said The Guardian.

“Incumbent President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic garnered 26.7 percent, eking out a second place finish just two points ahead of 57-year-old far-right singer Miroslav Skoro. Skoro, whose patriotic folk tunes were a hit in the 1990s, won nearly a quarter of the vote with campaign promises such as pardoning a notorious war criminal and deploying troops to stop migrants at the border,” said Channel News Asia.

Oceania

Australian PM Defends Climate Policies as Cooler Weather Helps Firefighters

Fire conditions eased on some of the major fronts burning across Australia on Sunday after a cool weather change, with firefighters trying to contain blazes before the expected return of hotter conditions at the end of the week. Prime Minister Scott Morrison visited the Rural Fire Service (RFS) headquarters in Sydney, after returning on Saturday night from a holiday in Hawaii that drew sharp criticism as the wildfires crisis in his home state deepened.

Analysis

“He also addressed his conservative Liberal-National coalition’s climate policies, which his government has been forced to defend following the severity of this year’s bushfires. Morrison said there was no argument that there is a link between climate change and weather events around the world,” said TRT World.

“Australia is one of the world’s largest carbon emitters per capita because of its reliance on coal-fired power plants. It has pledged to cut carbon emissions by 26 percent from 2005 levels by 2030, but critics accuse Morrison of paying lip service to that commitment,” said Japan Times.

Americas

At the US-Mexican Border, Migrants give up Hope of Crossing

In muddy makeshift camps in the Mexican border city of Ciudad Juarez, more than 1,000 migrants waited for weeks for a chance to request asylum in the United States, enduring cold nights and long days of uncertainty. Frustrated, many are giving up and clearing out. The authorities say that as of two weeks ago, there were still about 1,400 migrants, most of them from south-western Mexico, holding out hope under tents and tarps not far from the Rio Grande.

Analysis

“But last Thursday, only about 700 remained. The others grew tired of the near-freezing temperatures at night and the seemingly fruitless quest to be heard by US officials. Local associations convinced several families to head to shelters or hotels when the mercury started to plummet. Some instead made their way across the river, without any idea if they would succeed. And still others opted to remain – they are afraid to lose their place on the murky wait list system they themselves created to convince US border agents to take them in order of their arrival,” said Strait Times.

“According to a survey recently led by several universities in northern Mexico, 60 percent of displaced people in camps wait their turn in tents, but more than a quarter are sleeping in the open air. Many migrants say they are fleeing violence in their hometowns,” said Yahoo News.

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