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Israel election: Netanyahu, Gantz battle too close

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Israel’s election was too close to call on Wednesday, with a partial vote tally showing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tied with his main rival, former military chief Benny Gantz.

An official result was still hours, perhaps days off. But with more than 63 percent of votes counted, theis  Netanyahu-led right-wing bloc was, as expected, more or less even with Gantz’s center-left.

With no single-party majority in the 120-seat Knesset, or parliament, there will likely be weeks of coalition talks before a new government is formed.

The ballot’s wildcard, former Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, emerged as a likely kingmaker as head of the secular-nationalist Yisrael Beitenu party.

Lieberman has been pushing for a unity government comprised of the biggest parties. He declined to back Netanyahu’s bid to form a narrow right-wing and religious coalition after an April election, bringing about Tuesday’s unprecedented repeat vote.

Addressing Likud party faithful, Netanyahu, Israel’s longest-serving premier, sipped water frequently and spoke hoarsely. He made no claim of victory or concession of defeat, saying he would await final results.

His dead-of-night appearance was a far cry from his triumphant – and in the end premature – declaration five months ago that he had won a close election.

Gantz was more upbeat, telling a rally of his Blue and White party that it appeared “we fulfilled our mission”, and he pledged to work toward forming of a unity government.

Reuters

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24 Hours Across Africa

Inter Milan cancells pre match conference ahead of Fiorentina clash

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Inter Milan cancelled a pre-match news conference on Saturday after what it called an “offensive letter” about manager Antonio Conte was printed in Italian newspaper Corriere dello Sport.

The Serie A club said the letter, submitted by a reader, was accompanied with a comment from one of the paper’s journalists “justifying its aggression”.

“In order to send out a message to all media outlets that they must ‘guarantee respect for people’, there won’t be a press conference today,” the club said.

Inter were eliminated from the Champions League on Tuesday, losing 2-1 to a young Barcelona team to finish third in their group behind the Spanish giants and Borussia Dortmund.

In the letter, a Bologna fan said that he “enjoyed seeing the great Inter outclassed by Barcelona B”, who had shown Inter’s “worn-out” coach how to play football.

The fan added that although Conte has won a lot of games in his career, he has “never shown a good game” and despite spending more than 150 million euros (£125m), Inter could not beat Slavia Prague and lost to Dortmund in the Champions League.

A journalist added a comment to the letter, saying that Inter have “thrown away the Champions League and maybe the rest too” by loaning striker Mauro Icardi to French side Paris St-Germain.

The journalist added: “No Icardi, No Party”.

Earlier this month, Roma, along with Inter’s rivals AC Milan, announced they would not work with Corriere dello Sport until January in response to the paper using the headline ‘Black Friday’ accompanied by images of Romelu Lukaku and Chris Smalling.

Corriere dello Sport defended the “innocent” headline in a comment piece on its website, saying it was a way to celebrate diversity.

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24 Hours Across Africa

Thailand: Thanathorn call for protest against possible ban

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Thai opposition party leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit called for a peaceful protest on Saturday after asking supporters to mobilize in the face of a possible banon his Future Forward party.

Thanathorn, 41, has emerged as the most outspoken opponent of the government headed by former junta chief Prayuth Chan-ocha, 65, since elections in March that the opposition said were manipulated to favor the army.

“We reject all of violence, be it from the demonstrators or be it from government officials”.

“We believe that it’s time for the people who will not tolerate any more the NCPO regime to show themselves, to show their willingness to participate in politics,” he said, referring to the name of the former junta, The National Council for Peace and Order.

The call by Thanathorn for supporters to mobilize has revived memories of the spasms of protest in Bangkok over the past two decades of turbulent politics that were interrupted by coups in 2006 and 2014.

Thanathorn said he did not want to revive those disturbances or to call protests like those that have rocked Hong Kong this year.

Police in the Bangkok district to which Thanathorn has called his followers to gather said they had not received a request for a gathering in line with a law on public meetings, but have not said they would try to block it.

Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha told reporters it was inappropriate to organize a demonstration towards the end of the year.

Thailand’s election panel has asked the Constitutional Court to dissolve the Future Forward Party, accusing it of infringing laws governing political parties by accepting multi-million dollar loans from its leader Thanathorn.

Last month, the Constitutional Court found Thanathorn guilty of holding shares in a media company on the date his candidacy was registered for the election, disqualifying him as a member of parliament. Thanathorn disputed the ruling.

On Saturday, Thanathorn signed an agreement with six parties in an opposition alliance to push for changes to the constitution that was drawn up by the junta before the elections.

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