Socialist candidate for the presidency of the Republic of Moldova has won. With 98 percent of the vote counted Igor Dodon had 54 percent of the vote while his challenger Maia Sandu, a former World Bank official, had just less than 45 percent.
Moldova is a small, poor, land-locked country in eastern Europe bordered by the Ukraine on the west, north and south and Romania on the east. It is an ex-Soviet state with a population of about 3.5 million. Dodon has vowed to stop closer integration of the country with the European Union. He is pro-Russian. Moldova has been in an economic and political crisis since a corruption scandal in late 2014. Dodon's win reflects a lack of trust in leaders who have been strongly pro-European. On winning Dodon said: "I am president for the whole country, for those who voted for me and those who voted against."The president in Moldova has considerable power and can return laws to parliament and even dissolve parliament in some situations. His promise to pursue stronger ties to Russia is in conflict with that of the current government that tilts towards the EU. Prime Minister Pavel Filip said that the two would need to work together in the best interests of Moldova. However, he also said: "This includes key reforms needed for the country's modernization and continued EU path, which cannot be reversed."
In 2014, Moldova signed a political and trade deal with the EU that hurt its relations with Russia and resulted in trade restrictions against Moldovan farm exports to Russia. Dodon's Socialist party wants to scrap the agreement to join a Eurasian economic union dominated by Russia. Many Moldovans support this idea and favor Putin more than Angela Merkel, or even Obama:"In a sign of the waning enthusiasm for the EU, just 30.9% of Moldovans would currently support joining as a full member, compared with 44% favouring the Eurasian Customs Union, a survey by Moldova’s Institute for Public Policy showed in October. And 66.6% of Moldovans say they trust the Russian leader, Vladimir Putin, compared with 22.1% trusting the US president, Barack Obama, and 28.3% the German chancellor, Angela Merkel."
In 2014 $1 billion dollars was in effect looted from three banks in Moldova representing about an eighth of its annual GDP. Members of the pro-EU government were involved and this resulted in a loss of popularity for the EU and closer relations with the west.
William Hill a former head of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) said: "Local partisans of the West or EU have not only performed weakly but have performed perversely. And this has gone a long way to discrediting popular faith in the ideals of the West and the prescriptions of the EU or the U.S. as effective medicine for what ails their societies and their economies."
In nearby Bulgaria, another pro-Russian candidate, Rumen Radev, also won in the presidential election. The win caused PM Bolko Borisov to resign.
US officials admitted on Saturday that US airstrikes in Kunduz province on Thursday had likely resulted in civilian casualties.
Afghan and US forces were looking for a meeting of Taliban leaders in the village of Bozi Kandahari. They were said to have faced significant enemy fire to which they responded by calling in air support. US officials did not provide any details about the number of casualties but Afghan officials and witnesses claim about 30 civilians including many women and children were killed and 25 injured when their homes were bombed while they slept. In the fighting 2 US troops and 3 Afghan special operations troops were killed as well.Rights groups and some Afghan leaders have criticized civilian deaths caused by US bombings and raids. Many claim the bombings undermine the war against the Taliban and radicalize families of victims.
Just over a year ago a US airstrike in Kunduz city hit a hospital killing 42 people, in what was said to be an error. However, no independent investigation was ever carried out as was demanded by Doctors Without Borders who ran the hospital.
General John Nicholson, who commands US forces in Afghanistan said:"I deeply regret the loss of innocent lives, regardless of the circumstances. The loss of innocent life is a tragedy and our thoughts are with the families. We will work with our Afghan partners to investigate and determine the facts and we will work with the government of Afghanistan to provide assistance."The US troops and Afghans were seeking a meeting of Taliban leaders planning a raid on Kunduz city. They claimed to have come under fire from several locations and had defended themselves with ground fire and the air attacks." Several Taliban leaders and members were reported killed during the engagement.
The Afghan military gave a more detailed account claiming that intelligence reports said that a senior Taliban leader in the area was holding a meeting in a certain house in the village. Special forces were lowered into the village by helicopter. A spokesperson for the Afghan Defense Ministry, Mohammed Radmanash, said: "After our commandos descended, they came under fire from four directions. That's when we asked for air support." He said that the senior Taliban leader and 20 Taliban had been killed. Radmanash said the Taliban were to blame for the civilian casualties as they used people's homes to shelter and hide.
A senior leader of the village denied there were any Taliban in the village and complained that government forces had been harassing residents as they were originally from Kandahar the birthplace of the Pashtun Taliban. Most Kunduz natives are of Tajik or Uzbek ethnic origin. He also said that everyone was asleep late Wednesday when armed troops appeared, breaking through doors and putting up ladders to roofs. The leader who gave his name as Jamaluddin said:"There were Afghans and foreigners. They were screaming at everyone not to move. My cousin Noor Ali and 18 of his family members were killed. Their house was destroyed and parts of it are still burning. We buried the dead yesterday, but neighbors are still going through the rubble, looking for anyone who is alive or for bodies to bury."Jamaluddin said that 4 houses had been bombed with 35 people killed including 18 children and 8 women. He said there were no Taliban in the village but that villagers had to defend their honor and privacy. He said if the government attacks kept up villagers would all end up in support of the Taliban.
Afghan president Ashraf Ghani sent a delegation to the village to investigate the bombings. Former president Karzai was much more critical saying: "Just show me one example of a bombing that has taken us one step closer to peace."According to a report in Al Jazeera provincial spokesperson, Mahmood Danish, said of the incident: "Afghan forces and coalition troops conducted a joint operation against the Taliban insurgents. In the bombardment 30 Afghan civilians were martyred and 25 others were wounded." General Qasim Jangalbagh police chief of Kunduz claimed that two senior Taliban leaders had been killed in the fighting and 65 Taliban fighters. The village is only about 3 kilometers north of Kunduz. Much of the area around Kunduz is controlled by the Taliban.About 10,000 US troops still are in Afghanistan. More than 5,500 Afghan forces have been killed already in 2016.
Two Italian workers and a Canadian citizen who had been kidnapped in the southwestern Libyan city of Ghat on September 19, have been freed according to Italian authorities.
Matteo Renzi, the Italian Premier expressed his thanks to Libyan authorities and security forces who were instrumental in freeing the men who were techniciansm working at an airport. Renzi said: "Today is a moment of relief and joy that I would like to share with the families of our technicians."The Italian ministry identified the Italians as Danilo Calonego and Bruno Cacace, while the Canadian of Italian origin was Frank Poccia.
Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni said that the two Italians had not been mistreated during their captivity and were in good health but said nothing about the Canadian.
The men were said to have been liberated during the night and brought to Italy on a special flight Saturday morning.
Hassan Ottman, a spokesperson for the municipal council of Ghat said: "The three were released in the early hours of Saturday and were handed over to Italian authorities." The men are being interviewed by Italian authorities before being reunited with their families.
The three men were kidnapped by armed, masked men who had blocked their vehicle in Ghat a southwestern desert city near the border with Algeria. There are numerous criminal and extremist groups operating in the area and it has never been determined for certain who this group were. The three were all technicians working at the airport at Ghat. The two Italians worked for the construction group Conicos.
The men told an investigator that the men were part of a single group and were not jihadists. They drank alcohol and did not pray.
Michel Aoun, the former commander of the Lebanese army, has been elected president. Lebanon had been unable to elect a president for more than two years now. There were 45 sessions that failed to elect a new president as infighting led to no quorum.
While Aoun, who is 81, won the support of 83 MPs he needed only 65 to win the presidency. There are 128 members in the legislature. Fireworks echoed across Beirut on the announcement that Aoun had won. Lebanon has a power-sharing agreement in which the president is required to be a Maronite Christian as is Auon.
Saad Hariri, the former prime minister, who also heads the largest bloc in parliament said earlier this month that he would support Aoun. This helped Aoun win. Hariri's support for Aoun is a big setback for Saudi Arabia who had backed Hariri and his allies in years of struggle against Hezbollah. Hezbollah supported Aoun. Many see the decision as a sign of diminishing influence of Saudi Arabia in Lebanon and an increase in the influence of Iran and Hezbollah.
Y-net complains that the Aoun presidency is bad for Israel: "As far as Israel is concerned, it will mean quite the headache: Iran will expand its foothold in Lebanon, no one will bother to demand that Hezbollah disarm and hand its weapons over to the state, and the the Saudis will be furious, as Israel’s alert level concerning Lebanon will move one step up." Hariri has had his own troubles with Saudi Arabia due to financial difficulties with his Saudi-based construction firm, Saudi Oger. This has caused difficulties in financing his political network in Saudi Arabia.
Aoun is to meet with Lebanese MPs later this week and designate the member with greatest support among MP's as the Prime Minister. This is expected to be Hariri. Security had been tightened during the vote with helicopters flying overhead and cars were forbidden from entering much of central Beirut. There were metal detectors in streets near the parliament buildings. Aoun will be returning to the presidential palace exactly 26 years after he was forced out as army commander by forces loyal to a rival commander.
Top presidential aides to South Korea's president Park Geunh-hye have resigned, including her chief of staff according to the presidential office.
The resignations come just as Park is attempting to fend off allegations of influence peddling that involve her old friend Choi Soon-Sil. Park returned home from Germany to face allegations that she allowed Choi to use their friendship to improperly influence her and for personal benefit. Jeong Yeon-guk, spokesperson for the presidential office announced three aides had stepped down. Park has acknowledged that she provided Choi with drafts of her speeches for editing. However, there is also speculation that Choi was involved in decisions on personnel and also used ties with Park to appropriate funds for non-profit organizations.
Harry Fawcett of Al Jazeera reported from Seoul about the aides who resigned:".. "that these appointments may have been incluenced by Choi, and one of them is under investigation for being the means in conveying important government documents - with national security implications - to this person who has no government position or security clearance. That is the essence of why there is so much anger and disbelief, that someone totally unelected can have so much influence over the state of affairs." Thousands of South Koreans took to the streets of Seoul on Saturday evening demanding that Park step down. Many held candles, and there were signs saying "Who's the real president?" Police estimated the crowd, who held a candlelight vigil by City Hall was about 9.000 people. There are more demonstrations planned according to Fawcett.
At the protest, Jae-myung Lee of the opposition Minjoo Party who is also mayor of the city of Seongnam said that Park had lost her authority as president and had showed she did not have the qualities necessary to rule. Even Park's ruling party has considered calling for a national unity government that would in effect sideline Park. Fawcett claimed that just getting rid of a few aides would not quell the protests. On Saturday, prosecutors had widened their investigation by searching homes of presidential officials who they suspect had interacted with Choi providing him with office files from the presidential office.
President Park made a public apology on TV back on October 25th:In it, Park admitted to sharing state documents with Choi Soon-sil, who gave "her personal opinion" on Park's speeches before the presidential election in 2012. Park also said Choi looked at "some documents" for a certain period of time after Park took office, but didn't specify what they were. "I am shocked and my heart is breaking for causing public concern," Park said in the live telecast. "I've done so (shared the documents) out of pure heart so that I could carefully review (the documents)".The apology appears to have only added fuel to the protests.
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Ken is a retired philosophy professor living in the boondocks of Manitoba, Canada, with his Filipina wife. He enjoys reading the news and writing articles. Politically Ken is on the far left of the political spectrum on many issues.
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