Libya PM draws crowd for mass wedding and protest against parliament

FILE PHOTO: Libya’s unity government Prime Minister Abdulhamid Dbeibah looks on at Libya’s mission to the United Nations in New York, U.S. July 16, 2021. REUTERS/Michelle Nichols

September 24, 2021

TRIPOLI (Reuters) – Several thousand Libyans packed a Tripoli square late on Friday for a state-funded mass wedding celebration that also drew supporters of transitional Prime Minister Abdulhamid Dbeibah and protesters against the eastern-based parliament.

Dbeibah was installed in March through a U.N.-backed process to head a unity government after years of division between rival administrations in the civil war, and to prepare for an election.

The election is planned for Dec. 24 but there is controversy over parliament’s handling of a law for the vote to take place and analysts fear the jockeying among rival factions could unravel the peace process.

Dbeibah has courted popular opinion with measures such as financial support for newlyweds but has faced problems with the parliament, which was elected nationally in 2014 but moved east as the country split between warring factions.

The parliament has not passed his budget and this week its speaker, Aguila Saleh, passed a vote to withdraw confidence from the government though some members of the chamber said he had falsified the vote count.

Saleh had earlier passed a law for a presidential election that his critics said was tailored to allow him to run without risking his existing role by stepping aside for three months before the vote.

Parliament has not passed a law for a parliamentary election.

Many of the people who attended the Tripoli wedding celebration on Friday were there to protest against the parliament and back Dbeibah.

“We are fed up with the parliament. We elected them and we now ask them to get out. They have become a real headache,” said Ali al-Hamdi, 41, a shopkeeper.

(Reporting by Ahmed Elumami, writing by Angus McDowall; editing by Grant McCool)





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Paris climate agreement to be presented to Turkish parliament -Erdogan

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ISTANBUL — President Tayyip Erdogan said on Tuesday that the Paris climate agreement would be presented to the Turkish parliament for approval next month.

Speaking at the United Nations General Assembly, Erdogan said Turkey had not ratified the deal due to injustices regarding responsibilities but that there had recently been progress on the issue. (Reporting by Ali Kucukgocmen; Editing by Leslie Adler)



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Russia’s pro-Putin political party gains seats in parliament despite claims of election fraud

The ruling party of Russia, which supports President Vladimir Putin, is expected to retain a veto-proof majority within the Russian legislature. This reported result comes as the international community casts doubt on the legitimacy of the election process.

According to the New York Times, with over 98% of the votes counted, the election commission announced that the United Russia party received just over 50% of the vote, down from 54% in the 2016 legislative elections, according to official results. 

Across Russia, there have been thousands of reports of ballot stuffing, forced voting and votes being counted multiple times. Despite these allegations, the election authority says all fraudulent votes have been annulled. 

Voting was held over three days across the country, which many critics say made it nearly impossible to monitor the voting process.

Moreover, concerns have been raised about new software which allows people to vote online. This new software only allows voters with a mobile phone to cast their ballot, which many say disenfranchises vast populations of Russia.

Despite the dubious election results, officials are not expecting to see mass protests after a crackdown by the Russian government last spring discouraged many from voicing their opinion. 

So far, the Biden administration has not acknowledged the outcome of the Russian election.



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Exclusive-Malaysia’s Najib may seek re-election to parliament despite conviction

Malaysia’s former Prime Minister Najib Razak speaks during an interview with Reuters in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia September 18, 2021. REUTERS/Lim Huey Teng

September 19, 2021

By A. Ananthalakshmi and Rozanna Latiff

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) – Former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak has not ruled out seeking re-election to parliament within the next two years, he told Reuters in an interview, despite a corruption conviction that would block him from running.

Najib’s graft-tainted party, the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), clinched the premiership (https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/malaysias-king-expected-name-new-pm-after-rulers-meet-2021-08-20) last month after it was ousted from power three years ago over a multi-billion dollar scandal. Opponents had expressed fears that party leaders facing criminal charges could secure leniency once back in control.

Najib, who served as premier for nine years until 2018, was found guilty of corruption (https://www.reuters.com/article/us-malaysia-politics-najib-idUSKCN24T042) last year and sentenced to 12 years in jail over one of many cases over the misappropriation of money from now-defunct state fund 1MDB. He has denied wrongdoing and has appealed the verdict, while calling for a probe of his prosecution which he says was politically motivated.

He is still a member of parliament but the constitution bars him from contesting elections unless he gets a pardon or a reprieve from the country’s monarch.

Speaking to Reuters on Saturday, Najib challenged his disqualification, saying: “It is subject to interpretation.”

“It depends on interpretation in terms of the law, the constitution and whatever happens in court proceedings,” Najib said.

Asked if he would contest the next elections due by 2023, he said: “Any politician who would want to play a role would want a seat in parliament.”

He declined to specify, however, how he could get around the constitutional barriers.

PUBLIC TRUST

UMNO, which held power for more than 60 years until outrage over the 1MDB scandal and the opulence displayed by Najib’s family helped to dislodge it, is eager to regain public trust under Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob’s nascent government, which must also address factional infighting.

Najib has pursued a public relations campaign to shed his image as an elite and to portray himself as a man of the people. He remains a popular figure on social media, where his critique of past governments has earned him praise.

Najib said in the interview that he has discussed with Ismail Sabri a possible role for him in government. Media reports have said he could be made an economic adviser.

The former premier would not say if he would accept a position, saying his priority was on clearing his name.

He also said UMNO’s return to power guarantees “temporary political stability” and that he would not call for early elections, like he had with Ismail Sabri’s predecessor Muhyiddin Yassin. Muhyiddin’s government collapsed when Najib and some UMNO lawmakers withdrew their support.

Malaysia has seen political instability since the 2018 polls, with two coalitions collapsing because of infighting.

CONSTITUTIONAL BARRIERS

A future Najib candidacy would face a constitutional provision that any person sentenced to imprisonment for more than one year or fined more than 2,000 ringgit ($480) is disqualified from contesting a parliamentary election.

Constitutional lawyer New Sin Yew said Najib can run only if he succeeds in his appeal, receives a royal pardon, or if the king uses his discretion to remove the disqualification despite the conviction remaining in place.

Malaysian and U.S. authorities say more than $4.5 billion was stolen from 1MDB, some of which went into Najib’s bank accounts. The U.S. Department of Justice has described the scandal as “kleptocracy at its worst” (https://www.reuters.com/article/us-malaysia-scandal-doj-idUSKBN1DZ0MX).

Najib, who faces more than 40 charges of abuse of power, money laundering and other offences mostly linked to 1MDB, said he can prove his innocence even as many entities and individuals around the world have admitted guilt or paid hefty penalties and settlements over the scandal.

Malaysian prosecutors have said Najib, who co-founded 1MDB in 2009, played a central role.

Since his election defeat, the United States has returned to Malaysia more than $1 billion in funds it recouped from assets bought with stolen 1MDB money.

Najib said the charges against him were politically motivated and he is pushing for a royal commission of inquiry (RCI) into former Attorney General Tommy Thomas of the post-UMNO government, who first brought the cases against him in 2018.

“I’ve been insisting on it. The RCI is to establish that it will be a fair and just trial for everyone, not just for me,” he said.

Thomas did not respond to an emailed request for comment.

Najib said he had discussed the proposal with Ismail Sabri, who has so far not agreed to it, and he had also discussed it with Muhyiddin, who rejected it.

Spokespersons for Ismail Sabri and Muhyiddin did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

($1 = 4.1700 ringgit)

(Reporting by A. Ananthalakshmi and Rozanna Latiff; Editing by Edmund Klamann)





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Daniel Hannan: Powdered wigs, knee breeches, frock coats – all part of a vanished age. But I rejoice that male MPs must still wear ties.


Lord Hannan of Kingsclere is a Conservative peer, writer and columnist. He was a Conservative MEP from 1999 to 2020, and is now President of the Initiative for Free Trade.

I knew Michael Martin was a wrong ’un when he refused to wear the Speaker’s wig. It might seem a small thing, but accoutrements of office serve a purpose, reminding the wearer of his responsibilities.

When you settle that old horsehair on your bonce, you step up to your role. You cease to be Mr Martin and become Mr Speaker, the latest in a long line of defenders of parliamentary supremacy.

The grounds on which Martin defied tradition were telling. “It’s just not me,” he declared – thereby inadvertently advertising his belief that he was bigger than the office he occupied. Sure enough, he went on to become the first Speaker in 300 years to be removed from the chair after MPs had tired of his bias, his inability to follow procedure and, worst of all, his constant backing of the executive against the legislature.

I urged his successor, John Bercow, to restore the wig. He laughed at my suggestion and went on, sadly, to politicise the office in an unprecedented and unconscionable manner. Rules were twisted, broken or made up on the spot in an attempt to overturn Brexit. Bercow, too, refused to recognise that he was passing through an office bigger than himself, and ended up plunging Britain into the worst democratic crisis of the modern era.

What a relief, after all that, again to have a Speaker who sees himself as the neutral servant of the House of Commons. Lindsay Hoyle is a practical and level-headed Lancastrian. At the beginning of his term of office, he appeared on Radio 4’s Today Programme. Hearing that he was “coming up after the news”, I texted the interviewer, Justin Webb, and suggested that he put The Wig Question.

Webb did so, in his polite but searching way, and Hoyle replied, without hesitation, that he’d gladly wear the eighteenth-century headgear on important occasions.

I knew then that he was the man for the job, and so he has proved. Hoyle is impartial among the political parties, but strongly partial in the defence of parliamentary sovereignty. Eloquent and personable, he has no desire to place himself at the centre of attention. Nor does he presume to know better than all his predecessors. He sees the traditions of the Commons, not as fusty anachronisms, but as default settings that should be altered only when there is a persuasive argument for change.

Wigs have started to appear on the heads of some of his officials, and the dress code for MPs has also been tightened. Again, this might seem trivial, but it serves to dignify Parliament. Having to wear a tie, like having to use correct forms of address, elevates proceedings, reminding MPs of how extraordinarily privileged they are to be speaking for their constituents in the highest counsels of the realm.

Indeed, ties may come to be seen as a kind of unofficial uniform for male politicians – rather as bow-ties used to be for medical doctors. I can’t help noticing that, as people return blinking to their offices after the lockdown, ties have almost disappeared everywhere else.

Not for the first time, Parliament may end up trailing years behind the rest of the nation. I spent a whimsical afternoon last week looking at the pictures in the corridors: portraits of various heroes and villains and an occasional panorama showing some great debate. I’d Google what men were wearing at that time and, in general, I’d find a ten- or 15-year lag.

MPs and peers were slower than the population at large to get out of powdered wigs, to swap their knee breeches for trousers, to shrug off their frock coats, to doff their top hats. They were occasionally seen in stripy grey trousers and black jackets after the Second World War, when almost no one else affected that style. Indeed, I remember seeing Enoch Powell in his spongebags in the late 1980s.

On one level, I’m enough of a conservative to approve. Continuity, formality and, yes, a certain stiffness of style have their place in a legislature. MPs should not carry themselves in Parliament as they do in their homes. We want them to be our representatives in the sense of having a fiduciary responsibility to defend our interests; but that doesn’t mean we want them to dress the way we do when we’re lounging about.

At the same time, though, I’m slightly irked. You see, I have always hated wearing ties. I find them constricting, rash-inducing and useless – the only item of male dress with no function whatever. Yet I have ended up in almost the only place in Britain where wearing the bloody things is still expected. And, because I support the concept of formal attire as a general principle, I can’t in conscience complain. Ah, the burdens of being a conservative.





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Chinese ambassador barred from UK parliament over sanctions row

FILE PHOTO: Chinese Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Zheng Zeguang attends a news conference on the state of trade negotiations between China and U.S. in Beijing, China December 13, 2019. REUTERS/Jason Lee

September 15, 2021

(Corrects paragraph 9 to refer to envoy by family name Zheng)

By William James and Andrew MacAskill

LONDON (Reuters) -The Chinese ambassador to Britain has been banned from attending an event in the British parliament because Beijing imposed sanctions on lawmakers who highlighted alleged human right abuses in Xinjiang.

China placed the sanctions on nine British politicians, lawyers and an academic in March for spreading what it said were “lies and disinformation” the over the treatment of Uighur Muslims in the country’s far west.

Lindsay Hoyle, the speaker of the House of Commons, and John McFall, the speaker of the House of Lords, stepped in to prevent Zheng Zeguang from speaking at an event in parliament.

“I regularly hold meetings with ambassadors from across the world to establish enduring ties between countries and parliamentarians,” Hoyle said.

“But I do not feel it’s appropriate for the ambassador for China to meet on the Commons estate and in our place of work when his country has imposed sanctions against some of our members.”

A Chinese embassy spokesperson criticised the move.

“The despicable and cowardly action of certain individuals of the UK Parliament to obstruct normal exchanges and cooperation between China and the UK for personal political gains is against the wishes and harmful to the interests of the peoples of both countries,” a Chinese statement said.

Hoyle said he was not banning the Chinese ambassador permanently, but only while the sanctions remained in place.

Richard Graham, chairman of the All Party Parliamentary China Group, had given an invitation to Zheng during the summer, the Daily Telegraph said.

Graham did not respond to a request for comment. The All Party Parliamentary China Group declined to comment.

PARALLEL SANCTIONS

China sanctioned five British lawmakers, including former Conservative Party leader Iain Duncan Smith and Tom Tugendhat, the chairman of parliament’s foreign affairs committee.

The targeted individuals and their immediate family members are prohibited from entering Chinese territory and Chinese citizens and institutions are prohibited from doing business with them.

China took the action after Britain, the United States, the European Union and Canada imposed parallel sanctions on senior Chinese officials accused of the mass internment of Uighurs in Xinjiang.

Tim Loughton, a Conservative politician targeted by the sanctions, welcomed the decision to bar the ambassador from the event.

He said China could not think “they can shut down free speech by parliamentarians in a democracy”.

At the time the sanctions were imposed, Britain condemned the move as an attempt by Beijing to stifle criticism.

London and Beijing have been trading angry words over a range of issues, including China’s reforms in former British colony Hong Kong and China’s trade policy.

Activists and U.N. rights experts say at least a million Muslims have been detained in camps in Xinjiang. The activists and some Western politicians accuse China of using torture, forced labour and sterilisations.

China has repeatedly denied all accusations of abuse and says its camps offer vocational training and are needed to fight extremism.

(Reporting by William James and Andrew MacAskill; Editing by Costas Pitas, Alex Richardson and Angus MacSwan)





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U.K. Parliament Bans Chinese Ambassador

The British Parliament banned China’s ambassador from attending its meetings after the Chinese government sanctioned leading China hawks in the U.K. government.

A group of British lawmakers led by Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Tom Tugendhat sanctioned Chinese ambassador Zheng Zeguang from events in Parliament. The move completes a tit-for-tat exchange between the United Kingdom and China, which began after Beijing slapped restrictions on five members of Parliament in March. Zheng was set to attend a reception in the House of Commons Wednesday. Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle said extending continued invitations to Zheng after sanctions on British officials would not be “appropriate.”

“I do not feel it’s appropriate for the ambassador for China to meet on the Commons estate and in our place of work when his country has imposed sanctions against some of our members,” Hoyle said. “If those sanctions were lifted, then of course this would not be an issue.”

The move comes as the United Kingdom takes a tough stance toward Beijing over its aggression in the South China Sea. London dispatched a fleet of British warships to the region in July in an effort to uphold freedom of navigation, a principle regularly violated by Chinese vessels.

U.S. lawmakers, however, have yet to endorse a similar policy even after sanctions from the Chinese Communist Party on members of Congress. China slapped sanctions on Sens. Ted Cruz (R., Texas) and Marco Rubio (R., Fla.) in July 2020, citing their criticism of Chinese human rights abuses. The regime also issued sanctions on ongoing Trump administration officials for similar reasons in January.

China’s new ambassador to the United States, Qin Gang, has taken an aggressive approach toward American foreign policy. In his first major speech as ambassador, Qin threatened “disastrous consequences” for the United States if it continues to pursue hawkish policies against Beijing. He also demanded Americans who do not think differences with China can be resolved should “please shut up.”





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Estonia’s parliament elects museum head as country’s president

Estonia’s newly elected president Alar Karis speaks to the media after second round of voting in the presidential election in the contry’s Parliament Riigikogu in Tallinn, Estonia August 31, 2021. REUTERS/Ints Kalnins

August 31, 2021

(Reuters) – Alar Karis, the head of the Estonian National Museum, was elected country’s president by its parliament on Tuesday, replacing the first female head of state Kersti Kaljulaid.

Karis, 53, was nominated to the largely symbolic role by the two largest parliament parties, which together form the governing coalition, and received support from all opposition parties except the far-right EKRE.

He served as an Auditor General in 2013-2018, and was a rector at the Estonian national university from 2007 to 2012.

(Reporting by Andrius Sytas in Vilnius; Editing by Alison Williams)





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S.Korea parliament committee votes to curb Google, Apple commission dominance

FILE PHOTO: A 3D printed Google logo is placed on the Apple Macbook in this illustration taken April 12, 2020. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo

August 25, 2021

By Heekyong Yang and Joyce Lee

SEOUL (Reuters) -A South Korean parliamentary committee voted early on Wednesday to recommend amending a law, a key step toward banning Google and Apple from forcibly charging software developers commissions on in-app purchases, the first such curb by a major economy.

Apple Inc and Alphabet Inc’s Google have both faced global criticism because they require software developers using their app stores to use proprietary payment systems that charge commissions of up to 30%.

In a statement on Tuesday, Apple said the bill “will put users who purchase digital goods from other sources at risk of fraud, undermine their privacy protections”, hurt user trust in App Store purchases and lead to fewer opportunities for South Korean developers.

Wilson White, senior director of public policy at Google, said “the rushed process hasn’t allowed for enough analysis of the negative impact of this legislation on Korean consumers and app developers”.

Experts said app store operators could assure security in payment systems other than their own by working with developers and other companies.

“Google and Apple aren’t the only ones that can create a secure payment system,” said Lee Hwang, a Korea University School of Law professor specialising in competition law.

Others noted that South Korea had some of the most robust legal protections for online transactions in the world, and said app store operators should provide advanced services to bolster profits.

“Dominant app store operators with large platforms should by now look to profit from value-added services, not just taking a cut from apps sold on its store,” said Yoo Byung-joon, a Seoul National University School of Business professor who specialises in electronic commerce.

Based on South Korean parliament records, the amendment bans app store operators with dominant market positions from forcing payment systems on content providers and “inappropriately” delaying the review of, or deleting, mobile contents from app markets.

It also allows the South Korean government to require an app market operator to “prevent damage to users and protect the rights and interests of users”, probe app market operators, and mediate disputes regarding payment, cancellations or refunds in the app market.

After the vote from the legislation and judiciary committee to amend the Telecommunications Business Act, dubbed the “Anti-Google law,” the amendment will come to a final vote in parliament.

That vote could come on Wednesday https://www.reuters.com/technology/skorea-set-curb-google-apple-commission-dominance-2021-08-24, although South Korean news agency Yonhap reported that parliament would act at a later date.

A parliament official told Reuters the office had not yet received an official request not to hold the meeting on Wednesday.

This month in the United States, a bipartisan group of senators introduced a bill that would rein in app stores of companies that they said exert too much market control, including Apple and Google.

(Reporting by Heekyong Yang and Joyce Lee. Editing by Gerry Doyle)





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Nigel Farage: ‘No way’ U.K. parliament will approve military cooperation with U.S. under Biden

Former Brexit party leader Nigel Farage blasted the Biden administration’s relations with the United Kingdom in the midst of the evacuation from Afghanistan, saying that “there is no way” parliament would vote to cooperate militarily with the U.S. under a Biden or a Harris administration.

Farage was asked by Fox News on Tuesday how the U.S. looks on the world stage. “Never been worse,” he said. “I mean, we have been beside you for 20 years. We’re a smaller country than America, but the U.K. has put in the same money, and suffered the same human loss. And we’ve never ever quibbled about that. We understood the reasons for the mission.

“And we, too, after 20 years, were tired of being there, but how you withdraw, the method by which you withdraw, is just as crucial with a military operation as how you go in.

“And for President Biden, unilaterally, without consultation with us or the rest of the NATO allies, just to announce America is going, to effectively fly the white flag to the Taliban, to see that dramatic takeover of these barbarians of the country … right now, why would we ever trust America in any international mission, given they make decisions without consulting their closest friends?”

Farage criticized the Biden administration for betraying the U.K. and “treating us with contempt” during the withdrawal from Afghanistan.

“The medium-term problem is the resurgence of international terror, already evidence that extremist jihadi groups all over the world have taken great cheer from what the Taliban have done in Afghanistan,” Farage told Fox News.

During “the last few years, we’ve not seen major terrorist atrocities in the West,” he added. “But if they start to happen again and we start to think, well, how do we go out again and try and stop these cells that are spreading international terror? How can we do it with the Americans? How can we do it with an ally that is treating us with contempt and betrayed us and, into the bargain, many of our own citizens?

“Certainly, if it’s a Biden or Harris administration, honestly, there is no way, there is no way a British parliament right now would vote for military cooperation with America led by this administration. And that’s a very sad thing to say, because since 1917, the U.K. and America have been side by side in virtually every major conflict.

“We’ve been the closest allies in terms of military action, in terms of intelligence sharing, in terms of culture, in terms of business. You couldn’t have a better ally in the world. And right at the moment, I’m sorry, but there’s no way we could enter into another operation with you.”



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