People head to polls
The nation goes to the polls today, with a record 346 candidates vying for 52 seats in the impoverished country’s often chaotic parliament. The archipelago of more than 80 islands has changed prime ministers five times since it last held a general election in 2008, after a series of no-confidence motions and legal challenges to parliamentary votes. While accurate polling data is unavailable, incumbent President Sato Kilman is expected to struggle to form a new coalition government at a time of widespread voter dissatisfaction about high unemployment and lack of economic growth. Given the fluid political allegiances and horse trading that follows elections in the nation of 240,000, it could be days or even weeks before a winner emerges. Voting booths open at 9am today.
Salafists attack booze stalls
Clashes broke out between alcohol sellers and hardline Salafi Muslims in Tunis, a security official said on Sunday, wounding a police commander in the latest illustration of religious tensions in the home of the Arab Spring. On Saturday night, a group of hardline Salafi Muslims attacked alcohol vendors in their small shops, a security official said. Police intervened to stop the violence. “Commander Wissam Ben Sliman was injured last night in clashes after Salafis attacked alcohol sellers in the Dawar Hicher [area],” said Sami Gnaoui, a member of the National Guard syndicate. “They attacked him with a knife in the neck. He is now in hospital in critical condition.” Last month, dozens of Salafi Muslims attacked a hotel in Sidi Bouzid, the birthplace of the country’s revolution, because it was serving alcohol.
Coup leader arrested
The soldier who led a failed coup attempt last week was arrested, armed forces spokesman Dahaba Na Walna said on Sunday. Pansau Ntchama was arrested on Saturday outside the capital, Bissau. Walna said that former army chief of staff Lieutenant General Zamora Induta was also behind the Oct. 21 coup attempt. Ntchama was a commando and Induta’s bodyguard before the ex-army chief fled the country in the last coup in April. Ntchama had sought exile in Portugal after allegedly carrying out the 2009 assassination of the former president. The government last week said that Ntchama traveled from Portugal to Gambia, then to Angola to pick up arms, before carrying out the attack. Gunmen led by Ntchama attacked a military base near the airport in Bissau and six soldiers were killed in the clash. At least four were working with Ntchama. The army fought back and the coup failed. No elected leader has been able to complete a term in the 38 years since the nation won independence from Portugal.
Noda warns of debt bill
The day-to-day functions of the government will seize up unless deadlocked politicians pass a new debt financing bill, Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda warned yesterday. “If the current situation continues, bread-and-butter administrative services would stall to the extent that it will have a great impact on people’s lives,” he told parliament. Noda warned that without agreement from his opponents on a bill to allow the government to issue new bonds to cover its spending, large parts of public life will grind to a halt. A bill to expand the amount of money that Japan can borrow has fallen foul of politicking, with the opposition refusing to co-operate until Noda sets a date for elections.