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France’s Macron defeats far-right, pledges change

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(Last Updated On: April 25, 2022)

Emmanuel Macron comfortably defeated far-right rival Marine Le Pen on Sunday, heading off a political earthquake for Europe but acknowledging dissatisfaction with his first term and saying he would seek to make amends.

His supporters erupted with joy as the results appeared on a giant screen at the Champ de Mars park by the Eiffel tower.

Leaders in Berlin, Brussels, London and beyond welcomed his defeat of the nationalist, eurosceptic Le Pen.

With 97% of votes counted, Macron was on course for a solid 57.4% of the vote, interior ministry figures showed. But in his victory speech he acknowledged that many had only voted for him only to keep Le Pen out and he promised to address the sense of many French that their living standards are slipping.

“Many in this country voted for me not because they support my ideas but to keep out those of the far-right. I want to thank them and know I owe them a debt in the years to come,” he said.

“No one in France will be left by the wayside,” he said in a message that had already been spread by senior ministers doing the rounds on French TV stations.

Two years of disruption from the pandemic and surging energy prices exacerbated by the Ukraine war catapulted economic issues to the fore of the campaign. The rising cost of living has become an increasing strain for the poorest in the country.

“He needs to be closer to the people and to listen to them,” digital sales worker Virginie, 51, said at the Macron rally, adding he needed to overcome a reputation for arrogance and soften a leadership style Macron himself called “Jupiterian”.

Le Pen, who at one stage of the campaign had trailed Macron by just a few points in opinion polls, quickly admitted defeat. But she vowed to keep up the fight with parliamentary elections in June.

“I will never abandon the French,” she told supporters chanting “Marine! Marine!”

Macron can expect little or no grace period in a country whose stark political divisions have been brought into the open by an election in which radical parties scored well. Many expect the street protests that marred part of his first term to erupt again as he presses on with pro-business reforms.

“There will be continuity in government policy because the president has been reelected,” Health Minister Olivier Veran said. “But we have also heard the French people’s message.”

How Macron now fares will depend on the looming parliamentary elections. Le Pen wants a nationalist alliance in a move that raises the prospect of her working with rival far-rightists like Eric Zemmour and her niece, Marion Marechal.

Hard-left Jean-Luc Melenchon, who emerged as by far the strongest force on the left of French politics, said he deserves to be prime minister – something that would force Macron into an awkward and stalemate-prone “cohabitation”.

“Melenchon as prime minister. That would be fun. Macron would be upset, but that’s the point,” said Philippe Lagrue, 63, technical director at a Paris theatre, who voted for Macron in the run-off after backing Melenchon in the first round.

Outside France, Macron’s victory was hailed as a reprieve for mainstream politics rocked in recent years by Britain’s exit from the European Union, the 2016 election of Donald Trump and the rise of a new generation of nationalist leaders.

“Bravo Emmanuel,” European Council President Charles Michel, wrote on Twitter. “In this turbulent period, we need a solid Europe and a France totally committed to a more sovereign and more strategic European Union.”

“Congratulations to the President and a true friend @EmmanuelMacron on the election victory,” Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy wrote on his Twitter account in early hours on Monday.

“The financial markets will breathe a collective sigh of relief following Macron’s election victory,” said Seema Shah, Chief Strategist at Principal Global Investors.

The disillusion with Macron was reflected in an abstention rate expected to settle around 28%, the highest since 1969.

Initial polling showed the vote was sharply split both by age and socio-economic status: Two-thirds of working class voters backed le Pen, while similar proportions of white-collar executives and pensioners backed Macron, an Elabe poll showed.

Macron won around 59% of votes by 18-24 year-olds with the vote almost evenly split in other age categories.

During the campaign, Le Pen homed in on the rising cost of living and Macron’s sometimes abrasive style as some of his weakest points.

She promised sharp cuts to fuel tax, zero-percent sales tax on essential items from pasta to diapers, income exemptions for young workers and a “French first” stance on jobs and welfare.

“I’m shocked to see that a majority of French people want to reelect a president that looked down on them for five years,” Adrien Caligiuri, a 27-year-old project manager said at the Le Pen rally.

Macron meanwhile pointed to Le Pen’s past admiration for Russia’s Vladimir Putin as showing she could not be trusted on the world stage, while insisting she still harboured plans to pull France out of the European Union – something she denies.

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Mexico records deadliest year yet for journalists, with 18 murders so far

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(Last Updated On: August 19, 2022)

This year will be the deadliest on record for journalists in Mexico, with 18 killed so far, human rights organization Article 19 said in a report Thursday, Reuters reported.

Of the 18 deaths, Article 19 had identified a potential link to their work in nine cases so far, the organization’s regional director Leopoldo Maldonado told Reuters.

“2022 could be the worst year in a century for the press,” Maldonado said.

In a little over eight months, the death toll for 2022 has already outpaced the 13 murders recorded last year and the 14 recorded in 2020. Article 19 found the deaths were linked to the victims’ profession in about half of the cases in 2021 and 2020, it said.

Meanwhile, the organization has documented a total of 331 attacks against journalists in the first half of the year, most of which involve intimidation and harassment. Some also received threats, while a handful of cases involved the alleged abuse use of public power.

That marks a 51.83% increase compared to the first half of 2018, when former President Enrique Pena Nieto was in power, it said.

According to Reuters in addition, Article 19 said four journalists had been forcibly displaced within the country while two went into exile in the first half of the year.

“The role that the authorities have in the violence against the press clearly reflects a breach of the state’s obligations to guarantee the rights and integrity of journalists and the media,” the report added.

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has said repeatedly that his government does not attack the press and that recent murders were by criminal groups, read the report.

Article 19 alleged the state was behind most attacks on the press, with 128 cases recorded in the first half. This is “a trend that has been consistent since 2007,” the group said.

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Israel and Turkey to restore full diplomatic relations

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(Last Updated On: August 18, 2022)

Israel and Turkey have decided to restore full diplomatic ties and will return ambassadors to each other’s countries, Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid’s office said on Wednesday.

“Upgrading relations will contribute to deepening ties between the two peoples, expanding economic, trade, and cultural ties, and strengthening regional stability,” the statement said.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu confirmed the move saying, “Appointment of ambassadors was one of the steps for the normalization of ties. Such a positive step came from Israel as a result of these efforts, and as Turkey, we also decided to appoint an ambassador to Israel, to Tel Aviv.”

In 2018, Turkey recalled its ambassador to Israel after deadly protests on the Gaza border and then-US President Donald Trump moved Washington’s embassy to Jerusalem. Israel also pulled its ambassador to Turkey, Deutsche Welle reported.

Cavusoglu said on Wednesday, “we are not giving up on the Palestinian cause.”

“It is important for our messages to be conveyed directly through the ambassador,” he added.

In recent months, however, both Turkey and Israel have made moves to improve relations.

In March, the countries announced a new era in relations when Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan met with Israeli President Isaac Herzog in Ankara, DW reported.

On Wednesday, Lapid described the diplomatic breakthrough as an “important asset for regional stability and very important economic news for the citizens of Israel.”

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Turkish airstrikes on Syrian border posts kill 17

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(Last Updated On: August 17, 2022)

Turkish airstrikes on Syria border posts run by regime forces killed 17 fighters on Tuesday, according to a war monitor, prompting the Damascus government to threaten retaliation.

“Seventeen fighters were killed in Turkish airstrikes that hit several Syrian regime outposts… near the Turkish border,” the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

It did not specify if the victims were affiliated with the government or Kurdish forces.

At least three Syrian soldiers were among the dead and six were wounded in the Turkish raids, said the official SANA news agency, citing a military source.

“Any attack on a military outpost run by our armed forces will be met with a direct and immediate response on all fronts,” read the report.

The strikes took place near the Kurdish-held town of Kobane, the site of overnight clashes between Turkish forces and the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

Kurdish forces also struck inside Turkish territory overnight, killing one soldier, Turkey’s defense ministry said.

“Thirteen terrorists were neutralised” in retaliatory attacks by Ankara inside Syria, the ministry said, adding that operations in the region were ongoing.

Turkey has stepped up its attacks in Kurdish-controlled areas of Syria since a July 19 summit with Iran and Russia failed to green-light a fresh offensive against Kurdish fighters viewed by Ankara as terrorists.

Turkey has fervently opposed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, backing rebels calling for his removal and opening its doors to refugees.

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