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Presidential vote campaigning starts in protest-hit Algeria2 minutes read

Campaigning for Algeria’s presidential election next month started on Sunday

News Central

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Campaigning for Algeria’s presidential election next month started on Sunday in a country mired by protests demanding a sweeping overhaul of a decades-old political system.

Five candidates will contest the December 12 election, but protesters charge the vote aims to cement in power the political elite linked to former president Abdelaziz Bouteflika who resigned in April under pressure from nationwide demonstrations.

Billboards for campaign posters remained conspicuously bare on Sunday, and some were covered in graffiti with insulting remarks or the names of activists detained in a crackdown on protesters.

“It is a symbol that (the vote) is rejected” by the people, said former university professor Mohamed Hennad, adding that he expected the electoral contest to be “difficult”.

The ailing Bouteflika, 82, was forced to quit after demonstrations erupted in February against his bid for a fifth term.

Since then, Algeria has seen weekly Friday protests demanding deep reforms to a political system that has been in place since independence from France in 1962.

To protesters’ disappointment, all five candidates seeking to replace Bouteflika are known to have links to him.

They include former prime ministers Ali Benflis, 75, and Abdelmadjid Tebboune, 73, considered the two frontrunners in the race.

The others include Azzedine Mihoubi, head of the Democratic National Rally party (RND), the main ally of Bouteflika’s party.

There are also Islamist ex-tourism minister Abdelkader Bengrina, whose party backed Bouteflika, and Abdelaziz Belaid, a member of a youth organisation that also supported the former president.

On Saturday night, the defence ministry issued called on Algerians “to take an active part alongside security forces… to guarantee a successful” campaign and election.

“It is crucial for the future of the country,” it said in a statement.

Powerful army chief General Ahmed Gaid Salah has led a push for presidential polls by the end of 2019 after an earlier date was missed because no candidates came forward.

Meanwhile, none of the candidates has organised an electoral meeting in Algiers or any of the country’s major cities and towns where protesters have thronged the streets on Fridays to denounce the poll.

“If I were to be very generous, I’d say turnout will be less than 10 percent,” said 80-year-old Mohamed Benhrahim, speaking in the capital Algiers, a sly smile on his face.

The only voters he expected to go to the polls are “the families of the candidates, their friends, and other cronies”.

“This election will be taught in history books,” said a teacher who identified himself as Ahmed, also flashing a smile. 

“It will be an election with candidates but with no backing from the people.”

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UN condemns use of IEDs against civilians in Libya

“UNSMIL strongly condemns these acts, which serve no military objective, provoke extreme fear among the population, and violate the rights of innocent civilians…,” the UN said.

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A man inspects the wreckage of a car outside the Khadra General Hospital which is dedicated to treating people infected with coronavirus (COVID-19) in the Libyan capital Tripoli on April 8, 2020, after it was targeted by forces loyal to Libyan strongman Khalifa Haftar. (Photo by Mahmud TURKIA / AFP)

The United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) has condemned the use of improvised explosive devices against civilians in the southern part of Tripoli, as the armed conflict between the east-based army and the UN-backed government continues.

UNSMIL “is extremely concerned about reports that residents of the Ain Zara and Salahuddin areas of Tripoli have been killed or wounded by improvised explosive devices placed in or near their homes,” UNSMIL said in a statement Monday.

“UNSMIL strongly condemns these acts, which serve no military objective, provoke extreme fear among the population, and violate the rights of innocent civilians who must be protected under international humanitarian law,” the statement said.

UNSMIL called on all individuals to “seek information and heed security advice to stay away from areas that have not been declared safe to enter by a competent authority or items of unknown origin which may be explosive devices”.

UNSMIL also commended the search and clearance work by Libyan Police and Military Engineers, reaffirming its continued support to Libyan partners, communities, and stakeholders “who are working tirelessly to rid Libya of the threat of explosive remnant of war (ERW)”.

The UN-backed government’s forces accused the rival east-based army of planting mines before withdrawing from conflict areas in southern Tripoli.

Since April 2019, the east-based army has been leading a military campaign attempting to take over Tripoli and topple the UN-backed government.

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Strike looms as public sector wage dispute enters arbitration in South Africa

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The ongoing face-off between workers in the public sector and the South African government continues. According to the Public Service Coordinating Bargaining Council (PSCBC), disagreement between the trade unions and government has moved the talks to arbitration for further hearing.

PSCBC General Secretary, Frikkie De Bruin explains that the arbitration hearings will begin by mid-June. An arbitrator will issue an award after the hearings are complete, with the matter potentially heading to court or resulting in a strike if the unions aren’t happy.

Ordinarily, public sector workers make up a third of South Africa’s expenditure. But with the coronavirus lockdown and income reduction, Pretoria seems unwilling to incur more debt.

If not handled carefully to appease the workers, the ruling African National Congress, (ANC) could lose its political dominance in the next local elections.

If no resolution is reached and the workers decide to resolve it an industrial action, it could erode all effort made by the government in the fight against the coronavirus.

The dispute started in February when the government affirmed that it could not fulfil its 2018 agreement on a three-year wage agreement.

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Ethiopia to divest 40% of Ethio Telecom

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The Ethiopian government is finalizing plans to sell a 40 percent stake in Ethio Telecom- the country’s sole telecommunication provider . The plan was announced by Ethiopia’s State Minister of Finance, Eyob Tekalign Tolina.

Ethiopia’s telecommunication industry is considered one of the last closed markets. It has been one of the government’s plans to liberalize the country’s economy launched by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. Ethio Telecom has a large market serving a population of around 110 million.

The government will retain ownership of the remaining 60 percent.

Foreign firms in the telecom sector will be invited to bid and a percentage of the minority stake will be sold to Ethiopian citizens. South Africa’s MTN and Kenya’s Safaricom have shown interest in expanding into Ethiopia in the past.

Ethiopia’s communications regulator says the country would proceed with the privatisation of the telecommunications sector despite the novel coronavirus outbreak.

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