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Turkey Referendum: Erdogan Declares Victory

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(Last Updated On: April 17, 2017)

Turkey

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the country’s prime minister have declared victory in a Sunday referendum designed to hand Erdogan sweeping powers.

The Turkish Election Commission has yet to release its official results, and the opposition promised to contest at least a third of the votes cast. But according to the state-run Anadolu Agency, with 99.8% of the ballots counted, Erdogan appeared poised to win with 51.4% of voters casting ballots in his favor.

A total of 47.5 million votes were cast, Anadolu said.

Supreme Electoral Council President Sadi Guven also confirmed that the “yes” votes had prevailed, according to unofficial results. He said official results would arrive in about 10 days, after any objections had been considered.

Voters were asked to endorse an 18-article reform package put forward by the ruling Justice and Development Party that would replace the current system of parliamentary democracy with a powerful executive presidency.

“God willing, these results will be the beginning of a new era in our country,” Erdogan said at a news conference Sunday night, explaining that unofficial totals indicated the “yes” votes had prevailed in the referendum by about 1.3 million ballots, while Anadolu pegged it at closer to 1.14 million.

Several groups fighting in Syria tweeted their congratulations to Turkey, and according to Anadolu, Azerbaijani, Palestinian, Qatari, Pakistani, Hungarian, Macedonian, Saudi, Sudanese and Kenyan leaders passed along congratulatory messages to Turkey’s Foreign Ministry.

Shortly before Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım declared a victory for Erdogan, thousands converged in celebration at the Ankara headquarters of the Justice and Development Party, or AKP, that Erdogan founded. The revelers danced, sang, chanted, lit flares, honked their car horns and waved Turkish flags along with white flags saying, “Evet” — Turkish for yes — which appeared to be the way the majority of voters cast their ballots.

Many in attendance saw the referendum’s result as an important message for the world, not just the nation. Wasin Yalcin, 24, said the vote represented “a new hope for us to get rid of foreign forces,” while Yusuf Basaran, 20, said he believed “Europe’s spine has cracked. This referendum will be the most effective thing in the rebirth of the Ottoman Empire.”

Added Aysel Can, a member of the AKP’s women’s branch, “For a strong Islamic state, for a strong Middle East, Turkey had to switch to this executive presidency system. This is a message to the world to shut up; Turkey is getting stronger. America has to know this, too. We are the voice, we are the ears, we are everything for the Middle East.”

Erdogan called Yıldırım and the leaders of the right-wing National Movement and Great Unity parties to offer “congratulations for the referendum victory” before the final vote tally was announced, according to Anadolu.

Yildirim later took the stage at AKP headquarters in Ankara to herald a win for the “yes” vote. He said those who voted yes and those who voted no remain one, and now the country will look to improve the economy, expedite development and fight its foreign and domestic enemies.

“No one should have an offended or broken heart,” the prime minister said. “There’s no stopping. We will continue our path. We will continue marching on from where we left.”

Written by: CNN

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Lebanese government quits amid fury over Beirut blast

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(Last Updated On: August 11, 2020)

Lebanon’s prime minister announced his government’s resignation on Monday, saying the huge explosion that devastated Beirut and triggered public outrage was the result of endemic corruption.

Last week’s detonation at a port warehouse of what authorities said was more than 2,000 tonnes of ammonium nitrate killed at least 163 people, injured more than 6,000 and destroyed swathes of the city, compounding months of political and economic meltdown.

“Today we follow the will of the people in their demand to hold accountable those responsible for the disaster that has been in hiding for seven years,” Prime Minister Hassan Diab said in a speech announcing the resignation.

He blamed the disaster on endemic corruption and said those responsible should be ashamed because their actions had led to a catastrophe “beyond description”.

“I said before that corruption is rooted in every lever of the state but I have discovered that corruption is greater than the state,” he said, pointing to a political elite for preventing change and saying his government faced a brick wall on reforms.

While Diab’s move attempted to respond to popular anger about the blast, it also plunged Lebanese politics deeper into turmoil and may further hamper already-stalled talks with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on a financial rescue plan.

The talks, launched in May, were put on hold due to inaction on reforms and a row between the government, banks and politicians over the scale of vast financial losses.

President Michel Aoun accepted the resignation and asked Diab’s government – formed in January with the backing of Iran’s powerful Hezbollah group and its allies – to stay as a caretaker until a new cabinet is formed, a televised announcement said.

At the White House, US President Donald Trump said the explosion had triggered what he called “a revolution,” but did not comment further.

Ahead of Diab’s announcement, demonstrations broke out for a third day in central Beirut, with some protesters hurling rocks at security forces guarding an entrance leading to the parliament building, who responded with tear gas.

For many ordinary Lebanese, the explosion was the last straw in a protracted crisis over the collapse of the economy, corruption, waste and dysfunctional governance, and they have taken to the streets demanding root-and-branch change.

“The entire regime needs to change. It will make no difference if there is a new government,” Joe Haddad, a Beirut engineer, told Reuters. “We need quick elections.”

The system of government requires Aoun to consult with parliamentary blocs on who should be the next prime minister, and he is obliged to designate the candidate with the greatest level of support among parliamentarians.

Forming a government amid factional rifts has been daunting in the past. Now with growing public discontent with the ruling elite over the blast and a crushing financial crisis, it could be difficult to find a candidate willing to be prime minister.

After former premier Saad Hariri stepped down in October last year amid anti-government protests over perceived corruption and mismanagement, it took more than two months to form Diab’s government.

Diab’s cabinet was under severe pressure to step down. Some ministers had already resigned over the weekend and Monday while others, including the finance minister, were set to follow suit, ministerial and political sources said.

Diab said on Saturday he would request early parliamentary elections.

Aoun has said explosive material was stored unsafely for years at the port. In later comments, he said the investigation would consider whether the cause was external interference as well as negligence or an accident.

The cabinet decided to refer the investigation of the blast to the judicial council, the highest legal authority whose rulings cannot be appealed, a ministerial source and state news agency NNA said. The council usually handles top security cases.

Lebanese, meanwhile, are struggling to come to terms with the scale of losses after the blast wrecked entire areas.

“The economy was already a disaster and now I have no way of making money again,” said Eli Abi Hanna, whose house and car repair shop were destroyed. 

“It was easier to make money during the civil war. The politicians and the economic disaster have ruined everything.”

The Lebanese army said on Monday that another five bodies were pulled from the rubble, raising the death toll to 163. Search and rescue operations continued.

Anti-government protests in the past two days have been the biggest since October, when angry demonstrations spread over an economic crisis rooted in pervasive graft, mismanagement and high-level unaccountability.

An international donor conference on Sunday raised pledges worth nearly 253 million euros ($298 million) for immediate humanitarian relief, but foreign countries are demanding transparency over how the aid is used.

Some Lebanese doubt change is possible in a country where sectarian politicians have dominated since the 1975-90 conflict.

“It won’t work, it’s just the same people. It’s a mafia,” said Antoinette Baaklini, an employee of an electricity company that was demolished in the blast.

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Morrison urges Trump to stop release of prisoner who killed Australian soldiers

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(Last Updated On: August 10, 2020)

Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison urged US President Donald Trump to ensure an Afghan soldier who carried out an insider attack and killed three  Australian soldiers was not part of the group of 400 hard core Taliban prisoners expected to be released within days. 

According to the Sydney Morning Herald, officials from the Department of Defence contacted the families of the three Australian soldiers on Friday, warning the soldier, Hekmatullah, would likely be one of the prisoners released as part of peace negotiations between the Afghan government and the Taliban.

Hekmatullah has spent seven years in prison after killing Lance Corporal Stjepan Milosevic, Sapper James Martin and Private Robert Poate in August 2012 while they were playing cards, the Herald reported.

Australia’s Foreign Minister Marise Payne and Defence Minister Linda Reynolds raised the matter with their US counterparts in Washington during talks late last month, and Morrison has written to Trump asking that Hekmatullah not be released, the Herald stated. 

“This has been a matter of very regular and persistent petitioning on our behalf,” Morrison said in Canberra on Monday.

“It is a matter of keen interest to Australia, and we’ve reminded them of that. Hekmatullah was responsible for murdering three Australians, and our position is that he should never be released. We do not believe that his release adds to peace in this region.”

“And that is the position that we will continue to maintain and we’ll maintain it strongly. I can’t promise you the outcome we all want here, but it’s certainly the outcome that we will continue to press for as hard as we can,” he said. 

This comes after Sunday’s decision by the Loya Jirga, or grand council, in Kabul, that the remaining 400 controversial prisoners be released in accordance with the Doha agreement between the US and the Taliban in February this year. 

Following Sunday’s resolution, President Ashraf Ghani issued a decree ordering the release of the prisoners so that intra-Afghan talks can start as soon as possible. 

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At least 18 dead as Air India repatriation flight crashes on landing

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(Last Updated On: August 8, 2020)

At least 18 people were killed and dozens injured after an Air India Express passenger plane repatriating Indians stranded by the COVID-19 pandemic overshot the runway in heavy rain near the southern city of Kozhikode, officials said.

The Boeing-737 flight from Dubai to Calicut airport was carrying 190 passengers and crew, the civil aviation ministry said in a statement. Among them were 10 infants.

Television footage showed rescue workers moving around the wreckage in pouring rain. The aircraft lay split into at least two chunks after the plane’s fuselage sheared apart as it fell into a valley 30 feet below, authorities said.

“Unfortunately, 16 people have lost their lives. I offer my condolences to their next of kin and pray for speedy recovery of the injured,” Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri said in a tweet.

Friday’s crash is the worst passenger aircraft accident in the country since 2010, when an Air India Express flight, also from Dubai, overshot the runway and slid down a hill while landing in the southern Indian city of Mangalore, killing 158 people.

Both Mangalore and Calicut have table-top runways that are located at an altitude and have steep drops at one or both ends of the runway.

Media reports suggested the plane skidded off the runway of Calicut international airport, crashing nose-first into the ground. Calicut is in the southern state of Kerala, home to a large number of Indians working in the Middle East.

Puri said rescue operations had been completed and all passengers had been removed from the aircraft. Police said earlier four people were stuck in the wreckage.

The civil aviation ministry said in a statement there was no fire on board.

India, which shut down all air travel in late March to try to contain the novel coronavirus, has restarted limited international air travel.

Air India Express AXB1344, was a government-operated repatriation flight for Indians previously unable to return home because of the travel restrictions.

TV visuals showed the aircraft’s nose smashed into a brick wall, with much of the middle of the plane pulverised.

Local TV news channels showed passengers, some of them lying motionless on stretchers, brought into a hospital surrounded by health workers wearing masks because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Pained by the plane accident in Kozhikode” Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted. “My thoughts are with those who lost their loved ones. May the injured recover at the earliest,” he said.

Source: Rueters

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