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Thursday, 12 May 2016

Former coup leader elected president of Comoros

Former coup leader Azali Assoumani was elected president of Comoros on Thursday, according to official provisional results, after an earlier poll had to be partially re-run due to violence and "irregularities".
Colonel Assoumani beat Vice President Mohamed Ali Soilihi to lead the east African archipelago nation in April, but a court ordered that 13 polling stations should vote again after accusations of ballot stuffing, broken boxes and interruptions in voting.
He won again by 2,271 votes to 1,308, the electoral commission said, increasing the lead he took last month.
Two percent of the electorate needed to vote again Wednesday, with hundreds of people waiting in line during the day as armed security forces stood guard to ensure polling was smooth.
"We did not vote last time but today the military are protecting me and my blind husband," Boueni Aboudou told AFP.
The army deployed 200 soldiers in Anjouan, one of three main Comoros islands, according to the country's Chief of Staff Youssouf Idjihadi.
In Mramani in the south, where voting had to be discontinued last month after a crush of voters, as many as 100 armed soldiers stood guard outside five polling stations located in a school, according to an AFP journalist.
Polls closed at 1500 GMT and voting passed off without any major incidents, according to an AFP journalist.
The colonel's inauguration is scheduled for May 26.
Assoumani took 40.98 percent of the nationwide vote in April, just ahead of Vice President Mohamed Ali Soilihi, the ruling party's presidential candidate, who picked up 39.87 percent.
Soilihi, who is known as Mamadou, said he rejected the earlier result.
Assoumani first came to power in 1999 after ousting acting president Tadjidine Ben Said Massounde in a coup.
He then won the presidential election three years later, stepping down when his term ended in 2006.
"I expect concrete benefits for my vote: a decent price for cloves, work for my children and food at affordable prices," said Idrissa Ahmada, a farmer and father of nine before polls closed.
The three islands that make up the Comoros -- Anjouan, Grande-Comore and Moheli -- have a total population of just under 800,000 people, nearly all of whom are Sunni Muslims.
The fourth island of Mayotte voted against independence and is still governed by France.
Comoros' electoral system was established in 2001 after about 20 coups or attempted takeovers, four of which were successful, in the years following independence from France in 1975.
Assoumani is set to take over from outgoing President Ikililou Dhoinine, who completed his five-year term in office.
Comoros exports vanilla, cloves and ylang-ylang perfume essence, but poverty is widespread.
by Aboubacar M'Changama
© 2016 AFP

India's Manohar elected ICC chairman

Former Indian cricket supremo Shashank Manohar became the first elected chairman of the International Cricket Council on Thursday, unanimously chosen by his peers to lead the game's world governing body.
"It is an honour to be elected as the chairman of the International Cricket Council and for that I am thankful to all the ICC directors who have put their faith and trust in my abilities," Manohar said in a statement after the election at a meeting in Dubai.
"I look forward to working with all stakeholders to shape the future of cricket, which has a proud history and rich tradition."
Manohar had been serving as head of the ICC in his role as president of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) in line with the organisation's previous system of revolving chairmanships.
But under reforms that he himself had championed, the ICC has amended its constitution to bring in direct elections for the position which will now be officially an independent post.
The 58-year-old Manohar had resigned as BCCI president on Tuesday in a move that freed him up to run for the ICC chairmanship, and his election had been widely predicted.
In its statement, the ICC said Manohar had been the sole nominee for the position and was "unanimously elected" for a two-year term.
Under the new reforms, the largely ceremonial position of ICC president has now been scrapped.
Manohar, who is a successful lawyer, had only taken over as BCCI president in October 2015 when he returned for a second stint in the position after the death of veteran administrator Jagmohan Dalmiya.
But he became frustrated after coming under pressure to introduce reforms to the BCCI's governance recommended by a panel convened by the Supreme Court, including age limits for the organisation's office-holders.
In an interview published by The Times of India on Wednesday, Manohar said his "conscience no longer permits me to continue" as BCCI president, and added that the recommended reforms were "not in the interests of the board".
Manohar has been critical of recent ICC rule changes designed to give greater power to India, England and Australia, and has moved to reverse some of them.
© 2016 AFP

Yemen Qaeda hits army with 'multiple suicide bombings'

Al-Qaeda fighters, including three suicide bombers who blew up vehicles, attacked Yemeni government troops outside the southeastern port city of Mukalla on Thursday, a military official said.
Several soldiers were killed or wounded in the assault on the eastern outskirts of the city, which government troops recaptured from Al-Qaeda last month ending a year of jihadist rule, the official said.
© 2016 AFP

Yemen foes discuss military pullouts, arms handovers: UN

Yemen's government and Iran-backed rebels have discussed the crucial issues of military withdrawals, the handover of weapons and the restoration of state institutions during peace talks, the UN said Thursday.
Negotiators on Wednesday also debated the logistical details of a release of prisoners and detainees announced a day earlier, UN envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed said in a statement.
It was their third day of consecutive face-to-face meetings -- the longest run yet in the three-week-old talks.
"Parties began to present their visions on the withdrawals and the handover of weapons, especially mechanisms of withdrawal and assembling of forces," Ould Cheikh Ahmed said.
He did not say if the teams made any progress on these issues, which are central to any peace settlement in the impoverished Arab nation.
A working group focused on political issues meanwhile discussed "specific aspects for the restoration of state institutions and the resumption of the political dialogue," Ould Cheikh Ahmed said.
A UN Security Council resolution has ordered the Huthi Shiite rebels to pull out of territory they occupied in a 2014 offensive and surrender heavy arms they captured.
There has been mounting international pressure to end the Yemen conflict, which the United Nations estimates has killed more than 6,400 people and displaced 2.8 million since March last year.
The two sides said Tuesday they had agreed to free half of all prisoners and detainees within 20 days, but the UN said the agreement has not been finalised.
The Huthis and their allies loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh seized most of Yemen in the 2014 offensive, forcing internationally recognised President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi and his government to flee.
Pro-government forces, backed by Saudi air power, pushed the rebels out of five southern provinces last year.
The Huthis however still control the capital Sanaa as well as large parts of the country's north and west, and the Saudi-led coalition has drawn strong criticism over heavy civilian casualties.
The rebels are demanding the formation of a consensus transitional government to handle the pullout and arms issues but the government delegation insists Hadi is the legitimate head of state.
More meetings are scheduled for Thursday. The talks follow two failed peace attempts in June and December last year in Switzerland.
© 2016 AFP

New president, same crises in Brazil

It could be a short honeymoon for Brazil's interim president Michel Temer, who replaces a deeply unpopular leader but inherits many of the same problems.
Brazilians are hoping their country can finally move on from a months-long battle over suspended president Dilma Rousseff's impeachment, which distracted their political leaders from a laundry list of woes, including the worst recession in decades.
But although Temer has the backing of the business world, political analysts say he will likely hit many of the same stumbling blocks as did Rousseff, who was suspended by the Senate on Thursday for up to 180 days pending an impeachment trial on charges of hiding budget shortfalls.
Temer, who has spent his career in the wings of power but never at center stage, will also face some new challenges all his own.
- Sick of politics -
A 75-year-old veteran of the center-right, Temer is just about as unpopular as Rousseff, the leftist leader he served as vice president in an awkward, ultimately aborted alliance.
While Rousseff's approval rating has tumbled below 10 percent, Temer would receive just one to two percent of the vote in presidential elections, according to a recent poll.
He has a reputation in Brasilia as a deft backdoor negotiator, but is short on charisma and was all-but unknown to many voters until recently.
Condemned by Rousseff as the "coup-monger in chief," he could struggle to heal the wounds of the impeachment battle and restore faith in a political system many Brazilians see as hopelessly corrupt.
"He will inherit a good part of Brazilians' dissatisfaction with the kind of traditional politics he represents," said Thiago Bottino, an analyst at the Getulio Vargas Foundation. "It's not going to be easy for him to present himself as a new man with no relation to the felled leadership."
Lincoln Secco, a historian at the University of Sao Paulo, said Temer would also face another problem: Rousseff.
"For five to six months, we'll have the president (Rousseff), but she won't exercise that function. Temer will have the president's shadow hanging over him, pressuring his government to achieve fast results," he said.
- Tanking economy -
The Temer administration's greatest hope is to revive the tanking economy, Latin America's largest.
The business world has been rubbing its hands at the prospect of a more market-friendly government after years of left-leaning policy and ballooning deficits.
Brazil is in the middle of its second year of recession and is not forecast to return to growth until 2018.
To turn things around, Temer has proposed a "bridge to the future" that includes spending cuts and free-market reforms.
But getting such changes through the fragmented political system will be tough. And the pain may get worse before it gets better.
- Divided society -
A giant country of huge inequalities, Brazil has had a transformative 13 years under Rousseff and her predecessor, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, whose social programs helped lift tens of millions of people from poverty.
To some, Temer looks like a throw-back to another era.
"The most complicated issue the new government faces is the possible rollback of the rights we've gained," Debora Messenberg of the University of Brasilia said. "There's a lot of suspicion that the advances made in recent years under the Workers' Party -- social gains, labor rights -- will recede."
"I think social movements will take to the streets," she added. "They're not going to make life easy for Temer."
- Lurking corruption probe -
Temer's party, the PMDB, has been broadsided by the corruption investigation upending Brazilian politics, which uncovered a multi-billion-dollar bribery and kickbacks scheme centered on state oil company Petrobras.
The explosive investigation, dubbed Operation Car Wash ("Lava Jato"), was the main rallying cry for the movement to oust Rousseff -- although she has not been implicated herself.
Many of those protesters are just as disgusted with Temer's party, a symbol of pork-barrel politics and backdoor deals.
Although the interim president is not under investigation, key witnesses have told prosecutors he participated in the scheme.
"The ongoing Lava Jato probe remains the largest vulnerability for a Michel Temer administration," said analyst Christopher Garman of consultancy Eurasia Group.
by Damian Wroclavsky
© 2016 AFP