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Opposition challenges Montenegro’s ruling party in tight election | Montenegro News

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Montenegro’s pro-West party could be knocked from power for the first time in 30 years after a tight election gave a slight edge to opposition camps, results showed on Monday.

The Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS), led by President Milo Djukanovic, is still the biggest party after winning just over one-third of the vote, according to official results, but it was their worst performance since independence.

If their main pro-Serb rivals join forces with two other opposition blocs, DPS could be overthrown in the Adriatic nation of 620,000 people.

The DPS has never lost an election, with Djukanovic leading Montenegro since the collapse of Yugoslavia in the 1990s to independence from Serbia and more recently into NATO and towards the EU.

But this year the party faced a stiff challenge from an emboldened right-wing and pro-Serb camp that wants closer links with Belgrade and Moscow.

Seat projections by election monitor CeMI gave the three main opposition parties 41 seats in the 81-member assembly.

A period of intense and competitive coalition talks are expected to follow, with Djukanovic, in his role as president, responsible for handing down the first mandate.

Montenegro ruling party neck and neck with opposition: Exit poll

In addition to long-running frustrations at a government accused of corruption and state capture, analysts attributed DPS’s weak showing to a law that sparked intense controversy with the Serbian Orthodox Church (SPC) and has dominated political debate for months.

Passed in late 2019, the religion law opened a path for hundreds of SPC-run monasteries in Montenegro to become state property.

This ignited huge anti-government protests, led by priests and backed by the pro-Serb opposition who accuse Djukanovic of trying to erase their heritage.

While Montenegro declared independence from Serbia in 2006, a third of its population identify as Serb and the SPC remains its largest religious institution, making debates around identity highly sensitive.

Throughout the church dispute, Djukanovic has sought to present himself as the guardian of Montenegrin nationhood, saying it was threatened by Serb nationalist forces.

Speaking at the party’s headquarters late on Sunday, he underlined that DPS had the “strongest” finish in the poll and that the “struggle for the majority is still on”.

But Zdravko Krivokapic, leader of the main pro-Serb alliance, announced triumphantly that “the regime has fallen”.

Opposition celebrates

Supporters celebrated on Sunday night in the streets of the capital Podgorica, circling with cars, setting off fireworks and gathering in front of the main Orthodox church.

Leaders of the other main opposition parties were also ecstatic, with Dritan Abazovic from the liberal Black on White party declaring that the “Mafia will no longer rule Montenegro”.

The DPS, led by President Milo Djukanovic, is still the biggest party [Risto Bozovic/AP]

It remains to be seen if the opposition, who range from far-right Serb nationalists to a civic-minded liberal camp, can forge a working alliance.

Djukanovic, who is now serving his second term as president after four stints as premier, will not face election himself until 2023.

While he has won plaudits for making Montenegro a frontrunner in the Balkans on its path to joining the EU, Djukanovic’s critics accuse him of turning Montenegro into a personal fiefdom built on corruption and crime links.

The US-based Freedom House rights group recently downgraded Montenegro from a democracy to a “hybrid regime” under Djukanovic’s “strongman” rule.



Source – www.aljazeera.com

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‘Almost 180-degree turnaround’: More Black Americans open to jabs | Coronavirus pandemic News

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More Black people in the United States say they are open to receiving coronavirus vaccines, a new survey shows, an encouraging sign that one community leader described as “almost a 180-degree turnaround” from earlier in the pandemic.

According to the late March poll by the Associated Press news agency and NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, about 24 percent of Black people said they would probably or definitely not get vaccinated.

That is down from 41 percent in January, and is similar to the proportion of white people (26 percent) and Hispanic Americans (22 percent) who also say they do not plan to get jabs.

The findings come as US President Joe Biden’s administration works to speed up inoculations to try to outpace a recent rise in infections, after he promised that all adults would be eligible for a jab by April 19.

Public health experts had raised concerns about the need to ensure that Black and other communities of colour in the US, which have been particularly hard hit by the pandemic, had equitable access to vaccines.

Local leaders said vaccine hesitancy was fuelled in part by decades of institutional discrimination in healthcare and other public services.

Dr Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, told AP that attitudes among Black people have taken “almost a 180-degree turnaround” as outreach campaigns have worked to combat misinformation.

Benjamin said Black physicians, faith leaders and other organisers have helped get targeted messaging to the community “in a way that wasn’t preachy”.

“They didn’t tell people, ‘You need to get vaccinated because it’s your duty.’ They basically said, ‘Listen, you need to get vaccinated to protect yourself and your family,’” he said.

Mattie Pringle, a 57-year-old Black woman from South Carolina who previously had doubts about taking the vaccine, said she changed her mind after a member of her church urged her to reconsider. She got her first jab last week.

“I had to pray about it, and I felt better after that,” Pringle told AP.

Medical and public health experts have continued to urge people in the US to get vaccinated in an effort to slow the spread of the disease, which has killed more than 561,000 people across the country – the highest death rate in the world.

The US, which has reported over 31 million cases to date, has authorised three vaccines for emergency use: the Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson jabs.

So far, more than 178.8 million vaccine doses have been administered countrywide, while 68.2 million people are considered fully vaccinated, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Recent surveys have shown that more Americans in general say they intend to get vaccinated than previously did.

The Pew Research Center reported in early March that 19 percent of US adults said they had already received at least one dose, while another 50 percent said they probably or definitely would get vaccinated.

“Taken together, 69 percent of the public intends to get a vaccine – or already has – up significantly from 60 percent who said they planned to get vaccinated in November,” it said.

Other recent surveys show that attitudes towards vaccines are split along political lines. A survey at Monmouth University released last month found that 36 percent of Republicans said they would avoid the vaccine compared with just six percent of Democrats.

That prompted top US infectious disease expert, Dr Anthony Fauci, to call on former President Donald Trump to encourage his supporters to get vaccinated.

Meanwhile, experts are urging Americans to take whichever vaccine is available to protect themselves and avoid delays.

“When people come in, I always advise them to get the vaccine that’s available because you never know what vaccine is going to be available the next time,” Reham Awad, a pharmacy intern in the Chicago area, told Al Jazeera this week.



Source – www.aljazeera.com

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Erdogan urges end to Ukraine tension, offers Turkey’s support | Conflict News

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Turkish president says tensions between Kyiv and Moscow over Donbass conflict have to be resolved through dialogue.

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has called for the “worrying” developments in eastern Ukraine’s Donbass region to come to an end after meeting his Ukrainian counterpart in Istanbul, adding Turkey was ready to provide any necessary support.

Erdogan and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy held talks in Istanbul on Saturday amid tensions between Kyiv and Moscow over the long-running conflict in Donbass.

Speaking at a news conference alongside Zelenskyy, Erdogan said he hoped the conflict would be resolved peacefully, through dialogue based on diplomatic customs, in line with international laws and Ukraine’s territorial integrity.

“Our main goal is that the Black Sea continues to be a sea of peace, tranquility and cooperation,” Erdogan said.

Zelenskyy said the views of Kyiv and Ankara coincided regarding the threats in the region and as well as responses to those threats.

Erdogan stressed that Turkey’s cooperation with Ukraine in the defence industry, which was the main item on the meeting’s agenda, was not a move against any third countries.

Al Jazeera’s Sinem Koseoglu, reporting from Istanbul, said Ukraine was purchasing Turkey’s military drones.

She also said that “new generation drones will be equipped with the Ukrainian engines”.

Regional tensions

Zelenskyy’s visit to Turkey comes amid renewed tensions in eastern Ukraine, where Ukrainian forces and Russia-backed separatists have been fighting since 2014.

In a visit to troops there this week, Zelenskyy said breaches of a July truce were increasing.

Separatist authorities have also accused Ukrainian forces of violating the ceasefire.

Russia has reinforced its troops along the border and warned Ukraine against trying to retake control of the separatist-controlled territory.

Kyiv rejects that it is preparing for an offensive. The Russian military buildup has raised concerns in the United States and Europe.

The Turkish and Russian presidents spoke on the phone on Friday. Among the issues discussed was Ukraine.

The Kremlin said President Vladimir Putin expressed concern that Ukraine “recently resumed dangerous provocations on the contact line”.

Turkey is a NATO member. But Erdogan and Putin have forged a close personal relationship, sealing energy and trade deals.

They have also negotiated for opposing sides in conflicts, including Syria, Libya and Nagorno-Karabakh.

Erdogan’s office also said he would discuss with Zelenskyy the living conditions of Crimean Tatars, who have ethnic links to Turks. Moscow annexed the Crimean Peninsula in 2014.



Source – www.aljazeera.com

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Libya kicks off delayed COVID-19 vaccination drive | Coronavirus pandemic News

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Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah receives shot on live television, urges Libyans to register online for their own vaccinations.

Libya has launched its delayed COVID-19 vaccination drive, with Abdul Hamid Dbeibah, prime minister of the country’s new unity government, getting his shot on live television.

Officially, Libya has registered a total of about 167,000 coronavirus cases, including more than 2,800 deaths, out of a population of seven million. Its healthcare system has struggled to cope during the pandemic, strained by years of political turmoil and violence.

After the vaccination of Dbeibah on Saturday at the headquarters of Libya’s Centre for Disease Control on the outskirts of the capital, Tripoli, Health Minister Ali al-Zenati was next to receive a jab.

Libya has so far received 200,000 doses of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine, alongside more than 57,600 AstraZeneca shots, the latter delivered through the COVAX programme for lower and middle-income countries.

Dbeibah urged fellow citizens to register online for their own vaccinations. He has earmarked the vaccination campaign as a policy priority, alleging that the delivery of the shots was hindered by outgoing authorities.

“The arrival of vaccines has been delayed by political, not financial, considerations,” he said.

Dbeibah’s interim Government of National Unity was sworn in last month [Mahmud Turkia/AFP]

Dbeibah was selected earlier this year through a United Nations-sponsored Libyan dialogue to lead the country to national elections in December.

His government replaces two warring administrations based in Tripoli and the country’s east, the latter loyal to renegade military commander Khalifa Hafar. The rival authorities have given their backing to the new administration, adding to tentative hopes that Libya can exit a decade of crisis.

‘Better late than never’

The World Health Organization said on Thursday that two new variants of the coronavirus are present in Libya, which has lately been detecting about 1,000 new daily infections.

No lockdown measures are currently in place, and while masks are obligatory in public places, the measure is widely flouted.

“I feel sorry that the vaccine arrived late in Libya after thousands were infected. But better late than never,” shop owner Ali al-Hadi told Reuters news agency, adding that his wife had been sick with COVID-19 and recovered.

Many Libyans fear the vaccination campaign could be marred by political infighting or favouritism after years of unrest.

“We hope the health ministry will steer away from political conflicts so that services can reach patients,” said housewife Khawla Muhammad, 33.



Source – www.aljazeera.com

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