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Philippines gives thumbs-up to Duterte as loyalists dominate election

MANILA: Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte looked set on Tuesday to strengthen his grip on power after unofficial results of a mid-term election showed big wins for his candidates, and resounding public endorsement of his controversial rule. Nine of 12 available seats in the all-important Senate looked set to go to pro-Duterte candidates and the rest…

Philippines gives thumbs-up to Duterte as loyalists dominate election

MANILA: Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte looked set on Tuesday to strengthen his grip on power after unofficial results of a mid-term election showed big wins for his candidates, and resounding public endorsement of his controversial rule.

Nine of 12 available seats in the all-important Senate looked set to go to pro-Duterte candidates and the rest to independents, unofficial tallies showed, as the opposition that campaigned against his strongman approach failed to make the cut.

Monday’s ballot for more than 18,000 posts, among them hundreds of mayors, governors, and congressmen, was billed as a referendum on the firebrand president, with special focus on his bid to consolidate power in an upper house that has not always worked in his favor.

A Senate majority would cut the chance of censures and house investigations against his government, making it easier to co-opt independents and remove the few remaining hurdles to an ambitious agenda for massive infrastructure spending, re-drafting the constitution and the return of the death penalty.

“This president’s popularity and transferability of his popularity is unprecedented to say the least, despite all the controversies,” said political analyst Edmund Tayao.

“You expect normally two or three candidates from the opposition to win, but this is a wipe-out.”

Candidates leading the Senate contest include Duterte’s closest aide, the daughter of late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, the wife of the country’s richest man, a movie star, a jailed politician recently cleared of plunder charges, and a police general who spearheaded Duterte’s brutal war on drugs.

They would join 12 Senate incumbents, only four of whom are from the opposition, including Leila de Lima, the biggest critic of Duterte’s deadly anti-drugs crackdown, held since 2017 on narcotics charges.

The mid-term results leave the opposition in tatters and will change the dynamic of a Senate that has traditionally been a check on state power, and a bulwark against the kind of political dominance Duterte is demonstrating.

He is also expected to retain control in the lower house.

Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said the Senate’s independence would not be in question, but the vote showed the public overwhelmingly backed Duterte and his vision.

“Undoubtedly, the Duterte magic spelled the difference,” he said. “People yearn for stability and continuity of the genuine reforms that this administration started. They yearn for a constructive and not obstructionist Senate.”

The mid-terms come as Duterte, 74, appears untouchable, with last year’s spiraling inflation under control and a recent poll showing his public approval rating at a staggering 81 percent.

Experts say the winning formula was selling Duterte as a brand, including use of his daughter Sara as a surrogate to promote his candidates, in a possible succession play for the 2022 presidential election.

The result also shows the effectiveness of a diehard social media support base, despite intermittent outrage over his pro-China stance, jokes about rape, tirades about the church, and his anti-drugs crackdown.

Duterte’s critics needed to accept that the electorate had rejected such negative propaganda, Panelo added.

The opposition, however, said it would not give in.

“Our fight for justice, for sovereignty and a more progressive future for our people continues,” said incumbent Senator Francis Pangilinan.

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Pakistan PM Khan speaks with India’s Modi to congratulate him on election win

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan on Sunday spoke to Narendra Modi and congratulated the Indian leader on the runaway election victory of his Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), both countries said on Sunday.“Prime Minister Imran Khan spoke to Prime Minister Narendra Modi today and congratulated him on his party’s electoral victory in the Lok…

Pakistan PM Khan speaks with India’s Modi to congratulate him on election win

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan on Sunday spoke to Narendra Modi and congratulated the Indian leader on the runaway election victory of his Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), both countries said on Sunday.“Prime Minister Imran Khan spoke to Prime Minister Narendra Modi today and congratulated him on his party’s electoral victory in the Lok Sabha elections in India,” Pakistan’s foreign ministry said in a statement.“The Prime Minister expressed his desire for both countries to work together for the betterment of their peoples.”Tensions between India and Pakistan, both nuclear-armed countries, flared in February with cross-border air strikes and a brief battle between fighter jets above Kashmir.India’s Ministry of External Affairs confirmed Khan had called Modi on Sunday, adding the two leaders had discussed fighting poverty together.“He (Modi) stressed that creating trust and an environment free of violence and terrorism were essential for fostering cooperation for peace, progress and prosperity in our region,” the ministry added in a statement.

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UN says Taliban captives in Afghanistan subjected to abuse

WASHINGTON: Less than a dozen people affiliated with the Ku Klux Klan white supremacist group were drowned out by hundreds of counter-protesters Saturday at a rally in the midwestern US state of Ohio, authorities and local media said.The event ended peacefully without injuries or arrests, the city government of Dayton, Ohio, said in a statement…

UN says Taliban captives in Afghanistan subjected to abuse

WASHINGTON: Less than a dozen people affiliated with the Ku Klux Klan white supremacist group were drowned out by hundreds of counter-protesters Saturday at a rally in the midwestern US state of Ohio, authorities and local media said.The event ended peacefully without injuries or arrests, the city government of Dayton, Ohio, said in a statement on Facebook.Nine people from a group called the Honorable Sacred Knights showed up for a rally they’d obtained a permit to hold in Dayton’s Courthouse Square. They were met by 500 to 600 counter-protesters, city officials said.The counter-protesters chanted, sang and played various instruments to drown out the racist demonstrators, who had gathered behind a tall metal fence under tight police security, local media reports said.More than 350 law enforcement officers were on hand amid fears of violence.In 2017, a woman was killed at a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.President Donald Trump sparked outrage in its aftermath after claiming there were good people “on both sides” at the rally.

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India’s beleaguered Jet Airways founder held at airport

MUMBAI: Indian Immigration authorities on Saturday stopped former Jet Airways chief Naresh Goyal and his wife from traveling to London, an official said, months after the debt-laden company grounded its fleet.Goyal was taken into custody at Mumbai’s international airport along with his wife Anita after authorities recalled the Dubai bound Emirates flight as it headed…

India’s beleaguered Jet Airways founder held at airport

MUMBAI: Indian Immigration authorities on Saturday stopped former Jet Airways chief Naresh Goyal and his wife from traveling to London, an official said, months after the debt-laden company grounded its fleet.Goyal was taken into custody at Mumbai’s international airport along with his wife Anita after authorities recalled the Dubai bound Emirates flight as it headed to the runway for take-off, a spokesperson for the immigration department said in a statement to AFP.Officials gave no explanation for the couple’s travel ban but media reports said they were allowed to leave the airport later.Goyal is not under investigation but a number of high-profile businessmen have fled India over their alleged involvement in financial crimes, causing a massive public outcry.The 69-year-old stepped down from the company’s chairmanship and board in March following a debt restructuring pact with lenders as it reeled under a loan of $1.2 billion.Anita also stepped down from the board.Once India’s top airline, Jet halted its operations after a consortium of lenders declined to pay emergency cash as it failed to find a buyer for a 75 percent stake in the carrier in April.The consortium led by State Bank of India, India’s biggest state-owned bank, took control of Jet in March, pledging to give $218 million in “immediate funding support” as part of a rescue plan.But the lenders refused dole-out cash to the beleaguered airline that has failed to pay employees’ salaries since January, forcing hundreds on to the streets as some 20,000 staff face losing their jobs.Bad investments, competition from several low-cost carriers, high oil prices and a weak rupee have led to Jet’s current financial predicament. Mismanagement has also plagued the airline.Analysts trace the start of Jet’s financial problems to its 2006 purchase of Air Sahara for $500 million in cash.Goyal, a travel-agent-turned entrepreneur, launched Jet in 1992 after the Indian government passed a series of reforms designed to make the economy more market-driven.The Mumbai-based carrier quickly gained a reputation for introducing new initiatives — Jet was the first Indian airline to offer a frequent flyer program and in-flight entertainment.But it began to take a battering from new, well-run budget airlines including IndiGo, GoAir and SpiceJet, which were founded between 2005 and 2006.Another low-cost carrier, Kingfisher Airlines closed in 2012 after it failed to repay loans worth millions of dollars to state-owned banks. Its owner Vijay Mallya fled India in 2016 and is currently fighting an extradition case in London court against his deportation for facing financial fraud trial.

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