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Partisan polarisation may help Biden’s electoral campaign | US Elections 2020



As soon as presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden selected Kamala Harris as his running mate, those on the American left and right began to take sides. 

Their respective arguments used the standard, divisive rhetoric that has come to characterise much of the political debate in the United States over the last few years. For instance, some on the right slammed the California Senator for being “ultra-left“, while Democrat-leaning writers celebrated Harris for being the first African-American and Asian-American candidate to form part of a major party ticket. 

What is illustrative in these comments is not their substance, but how they reveal the deep degree of partisan polarisation that currently exists in the US political system.

At first glance, the partisan divide may seem counterproductive to resolving some of the country’s most pressing political problems.  

The reality may be different, however, as polarisation could help electoral campaigns forge coalitions. In fact, we are already seeing these dynamics play out in Biden’s campaign.

A quick view of the political landscape shows that few issues escape the US’s bitter partisan divide.

The position that one takes when it comes to long-standing debates concerning abortion or gun rights, for instance, is usually a clear indicator of party loyalty. Even now, as the coronavirus spreads throughout the country, Democrats and Republicans are split on whether or not to wear face masks in public. Meanwhile, important legislative matters, such as how to reform the police, or whether it is necessary to provide relief to the millions who have lost their jobs due to the pandemic shuttering businesses, have stalled as the two major political parties in the US cannot find common ground.

For many around the world, the idea that two parties dominate the US political system most likely seems bizarre.

With many countries in Latin America and Europe featuring many different political parties that field candidates in elections, why do just two parties govern in the US?  

The answer is the country’s electoral system.  

Specifically, it is the US’s “first past the post” – or “winner gets all” – system of electing candidates.

The way that this kind of system operates is simple. Basically, in any electoral district – whether a county, state, or even at the national level – the candidate who receives the most votes wins the election. Those who come in second, or third, go home with nothing.  

Other kinds of electoral systems with proportional representation rules allocate seats differently.   

In countries with this kind of system, parties that place second or third in elections still receive representation in government, but just not as many seats as the party that earns the most votes. This provides an incentive for small parties to run candidates in elections, even though they may not win outright. This is also why countries such as the United Kingdom, with an electoral system similar to the one in the US, features just a few electorally viable political parties, while in Germany there are many.  

The fact that there are two principal parties in the US has been true for decades. What has changed is the degree of polarisation, which has grown over the years. Research documents this increase, finding the potential causes behind it in many places – from the increased use of social media, to the rising level of economic inequality.  

While the fact of American polarisation may lead some to think it would turn voters off, the partisan divide is actually helping Biden’s campaign in terms of building coalitions and bringing in new voters. 

The reason is simple: with two parties to chose from, voters must either decide to support Biden or current President Donald Trump. Not only are there just two choices, but the divisions are so deep that the options are as clear as day for voters.

What adds to the political landscape is the high level of disapproval that Trump has received for his (mis)handling of the coronavirus pandemic.  

Still, turning anti-Trump sentiment into votes for Biden is not automatic.  

Part of the reason is that Biden securing the nomination as the Democrat Party’s standard-bearer did not excite the progressive wing of the party. Moreover, it appears that the former vice president’s success can be chalked up more to Trump’s dismal handling of the pandemic than to any kind of innovative campaign strategy.

Forming coalitions is where Biden has been trying to make up for this excitement gap. Concretely, we are seeing this unfold in how some who were previously aligned with the campaign of the democratic socialist from Vermont – Senator Bernie Sanders – have helped form a unity coalition with the Biden campaign.  

Meanwhile, some who have been campaigning against racial injustice of late have called out Biden for not moving enough on the issue of police reform. Such concerns led Cardi B, the rapper, to sit down with Biden to talk about issues and get the word out to young people on the need to vote.

Biden’s campaign needs to continue such conversations to reach out to voters, especially young people.  But in more than words, his campaign could also engage the more liberal sections of the American left in the form of concrete policy proposals, perhaps even addressing Biden’s own flawed past with respect to criminal justice and mass incarceration.  

Whether or not such actions would bear electoral fruit is unknown. It is risky, but that is the reality of politics, especially now as the coronavirus pandemic has created such uncertainty in the US system.  

It is also the nature of the political landscape that partisan polarisation has created, where people may not agree on every issue, but need to find enough common cause to unite behind one of the campaigns of the dominant parties. What everyone needs to recognise is that getting people to vote in this context is a two-way street. As much as people of all stripes on the left are being asked to come together behind Biden, the candidate also needs to give them something concrete to follow. 

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.  

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Charles Mbire gains $1.2 million as stake in MTN Uganda rises above $51 million



Ugandan businessman and MTN Uganda Chairman Charles Mbire has seen the market value of his stake in MTN Uganda surge above $51 million in just two days, as the share price in the leading teleco company increased by a single digit.

The single-digit bump in the share price caused the market value of Mbire’s stake to gain UGX4.42 billion ($1.24 million) in less than two days.

The million-dollar increase in the value of his stake came after Uganda’s largest telecom company delivered the country’s largest-ever IPO through the listing of 22.4 billion ordinary shares on the Uganda Securities Exchange (USE).

Upon completing the largest IPO in Uganda’s history, MTN Uganda raised a record UGX535 billion ($150.4 million) from the applications that it received for a total of 2.9 billion shares, including incentive shares.

As of press time, Dec. 7, shares in the company were trading at UGX204.95 ($0.0574), down six basis points from their opening price this morning.

Data gathered by Billionaires.Africa revealed that since the telecom company registered its shares on the Ugandan bourse on Mon., Dec. 6, its share price has increased by 2.5 percent from UGX200 ($0.056) to UGX204.95 ($0.0574) as of the time of writing, as retail investors sustained buying interest long after the public offering.

The increase in the company’s share price caused the market value of Mbire’s 3.98-percent stake to rise from UGX178.45 billion ($49.96 million) to UGX182.86 billion ($51.2 million).

In less than two days, his stake gained more than UGX4.42 billion ($1.24 million).

In a statement after the successful listing of MTN Uganda’s shares, Mbire said the IPO shows the confidence that Ugandans and other investors have in the company, its brand and strategic intent.

“We commend all the regulators for their support in our work to become a USE-listed company and to comply in a timely manner with the listing provisions of the national telecommunications operators’ license,” he said.

Steady but sure-MBIRE who is the biggest investor on Ugandas Stock exchange with stocks valued at more than $55 million is laughing all the way to the bank after MTN declared the latest dividend payout.He has steadily grown his business empire which is believed to be more that $350 million (debt free).

Steady but sure-MBIRE who is the biggest investor on Ugandas Stock exchange with stocks valued at more than $55 million is laughing all the way to the bank after MTN declared the latest dividend payout.He has steadily grown his business empire which is believed to be more that $350. ( debt free).

He is into communications-revenue assurance-cement-distribution-oil services-real estate-oil exploration and logistics.

Source: Billionaires Africa

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2-year-old dies at Arua hospital as nurse demands Shs 210,000 bribe




A two-year-old child died at Arua Regional Referral hospital after a nurse, Paul Wamala demanded a bribe amounting to Shs 210,000 before carrying out an operation. 

The incident happened on Saturday, after Aron Nabil, a two-year-old child was referred to the hospital for an operation after he was diagnosed with intestinal obstruction, a medical emergency caused by a blockage that keeps food or liquid from passing through the small intestine or large intestine.

According to the relatives of the child, Wamala allegedly asked them to initially give him Shs 30,000 to buy medicines to commence the procedure. He however returned shortly asking for an additional Shs 180,000 from the relatives.

Emily Adiru, a resident of Osu cell, in Bazar Ward, Central Division, and a relative of the child says although they paid money to Wamala, he abandoned the child without carrying out the operation. According to Adiru, Wamala later refunded Shs 200,000 through mobile money, after she threatened to report him to the police.

“They told us this boy needs an operation which was supposed to be done in the morning on Sunday at around 7 am. They took him inside there, some doctor came from the theatre, he called one of us and said, we should pay Shs 70,000 for buying medicine to start the operation. We paid the Shs 30,000 [but] after paying the Shs 30,000, after some minutes, the same man came and opened the door and called us again, and told us we should pay another Shs 100,000. We also paid the Shs 100,000 and we thought it is finished. We were outside there waiting for our patient to come out [but] then this man came back again and said we should pay another Shs 80,000,” said Adiru.

Although the operation was later carried out after a 7-hour delay, the child didn’t make it, and relatives attribute the death to negligence. Miria Ahmed, a concerned resident wonders why such incidents have persisted at the facility which is supposed to service the citizens.

“Is the problem the hospital, is it the management or it is the human resource that is the problem in the hospital? A small child like this you demand Shs 210,000 for the operation? Well, if the money was taken and the operation is done, I would say anything bad but this money was taken and the small boy was abandoned in the theatre,” she said. 

When contacted Wamala refused to comment on the allegations. Dr Gilbert Aniku, the acting hospital director says that the hospital will issue an official statement later since consultations about the matter are ongoing.

Arua City resident district commissioner, Alice Akello has condemned the actions of the nurse saying she has ordered his arrest so as to set an example to the rest. The case has been reported to Arua regional referral hospital police post under SD reference No:05/30/05/2022.

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Mexican president’s Mayan Train dealt new legal setback | Tourism News




Activists say the planned tourist train will harm the wildlife and natural features of the Yucatan Peninsula.

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has been dealt the latest setback to an ambitious plan to create a tourist train to connect the country’s southern Yucatan Peninsula.

On Monday, a judge indefinitely suspended construction on a portion of the project, known as the Mayan Train, saying the plans currently do not comply “with the proceedings of the environmental impact evaluation”.

The ruling follows a legal challenge by activists who said they were concerned the 60km (37 mile) portion of the train that would connect the resorts of Playa del Carmen and Tulum would adversely affect the area’s wildlife, as well as its caves and water-filled sinkholes known as cenotes.

The original plan for the disputed section was for an overpass over a highway, but the route was modified early this year to go through jungle at ground level.

The federal judge cited the “imminent danger” of causing “irreversible damage” to ecosystems, according to one of the plaintiffs, the non-governmental group Defending the Right to a Healthy Environment. In a statement, the group said that authorities had failed to carry out the necessary environmental impact studies before starting construction of the section.

Lopez Obrador had announced the ambitious project in 2018, with construction beginning in 2020. The roughly 1,500km (930 mile) cargo and passenger rail loop was presented as a cornerstone of a wider plan to develop the poorer states and remote towns throughout the about 181,000sq km (70,000sq mile) Yucatan Peninsula.

The railway is set to connect Caribbean beach resorts with Mayan archaeological ruins, with authorities aiming to complete the project by the end of 2023. The plan is estimated to cost about $16bn.

The project has split communities across the region, with some welcoming the economic development and connectivity it would bring. Others, including some local Indigenous communities, have challenged the project, saying it could not only disrupt the migratory routes of endangered species, including jaguars, tapirs and ocelots, but could also potentially damage centuries-old Mayan archaeological sites.

The National Fund for the Promotion of Tourism, the government agency overseeing the project, has said that it expects to “overcome” the latest challenge and that work should continue after an environmental impact statement is finalised. It said the Environment Ministry was currently reviewing its environmental application for the project.

For his part, Lopez Obrador has insisted the railway will not have a significant environmental effect and has accused activists of being infiltrated by “impostors”.

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