The World Today for September 04, 2017

NEED TO KNOW

KENYA

The Stunning Do Over

Kenya’s supreme court Friday annulled presidential election results and ordered a repeat poll within 60 days.

It was a precedent-setting step for the country and the African continent, where autocrats keep winning unfair or rigged elections, often to rule for decades, the Guardian reported.

The court found that the “transmission” of the polls to election authorities, not the voting and counting at polling stations, raised concerns.

“Irregularities affected the integrity of the poll,” said Chief Justice David Maraga.

Kenyans – and others watching around the world – were stunned.

“Wow! Big step for the rule of law in Kenya,” tweeted Human Rights Watch Executive Director Kenneth Roth. “And a blow to electoral “’irregularities.’”

But the ruling itself was only part of the surprise. How it came to pass and how politicians responded to it have also been remarkable.

The ruling reflected widespread eyebrow-raising among international monitors, suggesting the court took third-party arguments into consideration.

“As the tallying was going on and forms needed to be uploaded there were some challenges,” EU Election Observer Marietje Schaake, a Dutch member of the European Parliament, told the BBC.

Incumbent President Uhuru Kenyatta, who won the Aug. 8 election, criticized the ruling. “Millions of Kenyans queued, made their choice, and six people have decided that they will go against the will of the people,” he said.

But ultimately he accepted the decision, calling for “peace, peace, peace.”

He will now run against opposition leader Raila Odinga for a second time. Odinga received 44 percent of the Aug. 8 vote. He asserted that as many 7 million votes had been stolen, said the New York Times.

It’s possible Kenyatta relented because he was honestly thinking about the violence that might explode if he rejected the court ruling.

Shortly before the election, the Kenyan election commission’s IT expert, Chris Msando, was tortured and murdered. Odinga supporters said Kenyatta was to blame, USA Today explained.

After the Aug. 8 poll, riots resulted in 24 dead after Kenyatta was declared the winner with 54 percent of the vote.

That was tame compared to the contested 2007 election, when more than 1,000 people died and 600,000 were displaced following Odinga’s loss amid irregularities.

Odinga and his followers unsurprisingly reveled in the court’s move but even they were stunned. “For the first time in the history of African democratization, a ruling has been made by a court nullifying irregular election of a president,” he said.

Kenyan human rights activist Tina Alai told the Washington Post that the new election could help her fellow citizens get over ethnic differences that usually result in fighting. Members of the Kikuyu tribe and their allies support Kenyatta, while Luos and their friends vote for Odinga.

If Kenyan elections are free and fair, they “will cease to be the opportunity where politicians can prey on these divisions among us,” she said.

That would be the best result of all.

[siteshare]The Stunning Do Over[/siteshare]

WANT TO KNOW

NORTH KOREA

Testing Times

The brinksmanship continues on the Korean peninsula.

Seoul and Washington confirmed Monday that both are planning fresh military exercises in the wake of a stunning North Korean nuclear test on Sunday. The Hermit Kingdom detonated what it claimed was an advanced hydrogen bomb, Reuters reported.

South Korea’s military conducted a live-fire exercise early Monday intended to simulate a strike on North Korea’s nuclear test site, CNN reported. The drill involved surface-to-surface ballistic missiles and F-15K fighter jets hitting targets off the east coast of South Korea.

The United Nations Security Council was set to meet later on Monday to discuss fresh sanctions against the North. The latest moves could include banning Pyongyang’s textile exports and its national airline, stopping supplies of oil to the government and military, preventing North Koreans from working abroad and freezing the assets of top officials.

Based on tremors created by the blast, Japanese and South Korean officials said the bomb was 10 times more powerful than the one North Korea tested a year ago.

[siteshare] Testing Times [/siteshare]

CAMBODIA

Disastrous Setback

Cambodia arrested opposition leader Kem Sokha and charged him with treason on Sunday in what a prominent human rights activist called “a disastrous setback” for the country.

The arrest comes as Cambodia’s authoritarian Prime Minister Hun Sen consolidates power ahead of elections next year, the New York Times reported.

Kem Sokha’s daughter says he is now being held at a remote prison on the Vietnamese border known as CC3 without access to a lawyer. Citing a video of a speech in which Kem Sokha says he received advice from the United States in building the opposition movement, the government said he could be arrested without a warrant despite his parliamentary immunity because he was caught committing treason.

Founded in 2012, Kem Sokha’s Cambodia National Rescue Party poses the first genuine challenge in years to Hun Sen’s rule. Hun Sen has reacted by cracking down on democracy advocates and independent news outlets in recent weeks.

Hun Sen, a former member of the Khmer Rouge, has been Cambodia’s prime minister since 1985.

[siteshare]Disastrous Setback[/siteshare]

GERMANY

The Chancellor Strikes Back

German Chancellor Angela Merkel squared off against opposition candidate Martin Schulz in a high-stakes TV debate on Sunday – the only head-to-head debate to be held in the lead-up to federal elections Sept. 24.

Most observers thought Merkel squeaked by with a narrow victory, according to post-debate polls. But as many as 46 percent of voters remain undecided, the New York Times reported.

Key differences surfaced between the candidates on relations with Turkey, Germany’s refugee policy and the emissions scandal that engulfed Volkswagen two years ago, CNN noted. Schulz called for stopping negotiations for Turkey’s entry to the European Union, saying “all our basic values are called into question” by the regime of President Recep Erdogan. But Merkel resisted ending talks altogether, saying “I do not want to stop diplomatic relations with Turkey.”

On refugees, a vulnerable spot for Merkel, Schulz promised to speed up deportations of those asylum seekers who do not have the right to stay in Germany, though he argued against mass deportations.

[siteshare]High-Stakes Debate[/siteshare]

DISCOVERIES

Gingers’ Revenge

Natural red hair is a rarity in most communities.

But during the first weekend in September every year, redheads band together in the small Dutch town of Breda for the Redhead Days festival to celebrate their colorful uniqueness.

What started as a small gathering of a dozen or so redheaded women 12 years ago is now an international gathering that attracts more than 1,000 Gingers from more than 80 different countries. The weekend-long festival has spawned iterations across the world.

Redhead Days is free to attend and offers carnival games galore for visitors – as well as a lecture on the history of red hair, National Geographic reports.

And while you need not have red locks to attend, the annual group photo, taken on the last day of the festival, is for redheads only.

In 2015, the last time attendance was counted, festival goers in the photo broke the Guinness World Record for redheads in one place with 1,721 freckled faces.

The previous world record holder for most redheads in one place: The festival’s attendees two years earlier.

It seems that red is one color that’s not going out of style any time soon.

[siteshare]Gingers’ Revenge[/siteshare]

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