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24 Hours Across Africa

Australia’s political leaders launch last campaign ahead of elections.

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Source: Reuters

Australia’s political leaders on Thursday made their last big pitch to voters ahead of a May 18 election, with the opposition Labor leader calling for generational change and conservative Prime Minister Scott Morrison promising economic stability.

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In contrasting campaigns, Labor leader Bill Shorten offered voters an egalitarian dream and reform agenda, saying “It’s Time” for a change, while Morrison warned a change to Labor would risk the nation’s long-held economic prosperity.

While Morrison’s re-election prospects have been lifted by tightening polls after early fears he would lose decisively, Labor is still on track to end six years of conservative rule.

An Essential Poll for The Guardian newspaper on Thursday showed Labor ahead of Morrison’s coalition government by a margin of 51.5-48.5 on a two-party preferred basis where votes are distributed until a winner is declared.

Both Morrison and Shorten have campaigned urgently since the election was called last month, squeezing in trips to the outback north and island south, along with obligatory big city tours. On Thursday, Morrison delivered his last major campaign speech in Canberra, while Shorten gave his in Sydney.

The opposing candidates begged voters to see Saturday’s ballot as essentially a fight between Morrison’s aspirations and Shorten’s reforms.

“I will burn for you everyday, every single day, so you can achieve your ambitions, your aspirations, your desires. That is what’s at the top of my agenda,” said Morrison.

While Morrison promised stability, Shorten promised “real change”, reducing inequality through tax reform, higher wages and better public infrastructure.

“Our political opponents stand where they always have stood – against change, against progress, and are servants to the same vested interests – the big banks and big business,” Shorten said.

CLIMATE CHANGE

Climate change policy has consistently polled as one of the most significant issues this election, prompting a movement in marginal seats to remove government hard-right politicians who champion coal-fired power.

“I promise that we will send a message to the world, that when it comes to climate change Australia is back in the fight,” said Shorten.

“We will take this emergency seriously, and we will not just leave it to other countries or to the next generation.”

If Labor wins it plans to cut carbon emissions by 45 percent from 2005 levels by 2030 and reach 50 percent renewable power by 2030.

Morrison’s coalition has committed to a 26 percent reduction in emissions by 2030 under the Paris Accord, but some in his government question the need for that and the coalition remains staunchly in favor of coal-fired power in Australia.

Morrison’s Liberal-led coalition and center-left Labor are vying for a majority share of 151 lower house seats to form government. There are also 76 Senate spots which determine how difficult it will be for the next government to enact policy.

While Morrison, who took over as prime minister last year amid party infighting, has kept the government within reach of an election upset, his path to victory remains narrow.

“Realistically, Morrison will require everything to go right,” said Chris Salisbury, professor of political science at the University of Queensland.

“He will need a number of surprising results, and the polls show this is unlikely.”

ECONOMIC FIGHT

Morrison has tied his campaign to economic management, after announcing in April the government would deliver the country’s first surplus in more than a decade.

But the promise of economic stability has been partially undermined by stagnant wage rises, high costs of living and falling house prices. Shortly before Morrison delivered his Canberra speech, Australia’s unemployment rate rose to the highest in eight months.

Labor, a party with deep ties to the union movement, has promised to abolish several property and share investment tax concessions primarily aimed at Australia’s wealthiest.

It has been able pledge bigger budget surpluses, while also ramping up spending on health and education, which directly challenges the government’s re-election platform.


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24 Hours Across Africa

Kenya: Popular author and gay activist dies.

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Kenyans prolific writer Binyavanga Wainaina, who was born in Nakuru in Rift Valley Province has died after a short illness in Kenya.

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He is popularly known for his debut book, a memoir entitled One Day I Will Write About This Place, was published in 2011.

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In January 2014, in response to a wave of anti-gay laws passed in Africa, Wainaina publicly announced that he was gay, first writing a short story that he described as a “lost chapter” of his 2011 memoir entitled “I am a Homosexual, Mum”, and then tweeting: “I am, for anybody confused or in doubt, a homosexual. Gay, and quite happy.

Prize-winning Kenyan writer Binyavanga Wainaina has died in Nairobi after a short illness at the age of 48.

Wainaina was also named among Time Magazine’s 100 most influential people in 2014 for his gay rights activism.

He “demystified and humanized homosexuality” author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie wrote at the time.

Wainaina was one of the first high-profile Kenyans to openly declare he was gay and “he felt an obligation to chip away at the shame” that people felt about being gay, Adichie added.

Wainaina challenged Kenyans to rethink their negative stereotypes about homosexuality, Nyabola added.

“Inasmuch as homosexuality is illegal in Kenya, there are people who are very comfortable with their identity… but the public space for acceptance and respect has always been lacking and even characterised by violence,” Nyabola said.

“What he said is ‘look I’m here and I’m still the same person that you know and love and respect ‘… I think it’s incredibly powerful,” she added.

Homosexual relations are currently illegal in Kenya but the Supreme Court is due to rule on Friday whether to overturn the law banning them.


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24 Hours Across Africa

Algerians army Chief shun claims over political ambition.

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Algeria’s army chief of staff said on Wednesday he had no political ambitions in response to democracy activists who say that he intends to copy the authoritarian model of Egypt.

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The armed forces have been a pivotal power center in Algeria for decades and have been managing a transition after mass protests forced President Abdelaziz Bouteflika to resign last month after 20 years in office.

Street demonstrations have continued to press demands for a dismantling of the elite of independence veterans, security commanders and business tycoons that have run the major oil and natural gas producer since independence from France in 1962.

“Everybody should know that we have no political ambitions,” Lieutenant General Ahmed Gaed Salah told state television.

A presidential election has been scheduled for July 4 but an informed source said on Friday it might be postponed.

Algerian activists say they are concerned the army-steered transition toward democracy will prove illusory as in Egypt.

As Egypt’s army chief in 2013, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi toppled freely elected Islamist President Mohamed Mursi, won election himself in 2014 and then suppressed Mursi’s supporters as well as the liberal opposition in a pervasive crackdown on dissent.

In Algeria, analysts the army fears the crisis will continue at a time of worsening disorder in neighboring Libya, where there is factional fighting for control of the capital Tripoli.

Salah also said a fight against corruption and cronyism, among protesters’ main grievances, would continue and that he disagreed with some officials who said this was not a priority.

Earlier this month a military judge placed Bouteflika’s youngest brother and two ex-intelligence chiefs in custody. They joined a string of businessmen and officials under investigation over corruption ahead of the presidential election.

Said Bouteflika, who served as a top adviser to the presidency, acted as Algeria’s de facto ruler after his brother suffered a stroke in 2013 that left him in a wheelchair.

Several businessmen, including Algeria’s richest man, Issad Rebrab, have also been placed in custody pending completion of investigations into corruption allegations.


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