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Former Credit Suisse CEO Tidjane Thiam elected to lead Ivory Coast opposition

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Former Credit Suisse CEO Tidjane Thiam elected to lead Ivory Coast opposition

Ivorian-French banker Tidjane Thiam was Friday elected leader of the main opposition Democratic Party of Ivory Coast, a victory which puts him in position to contest the next presidential election in 2025.

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Thiam, a former boss of banking giant Credit Suisse, won very comfortably with 96.5 percent of the vote against 3.2 percent for his rival Jean-Marc Yace, the mayor of a commune in the economic hub Abidjan, according to the results announced late Friday.

“It is with great humility that I accept the responsibility that you have decided to entrust to me,” Thiam said.

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More than 6,000 delegates took part in the vote at a party congress in the capital Yamoussoukro.

Thiam was the favourite and had the support of a large majority of the party’s lawmakers.

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With this election, the Democratic Party (PDCI) hopes to rejuvenate its image following the death of its former leader Henri Konan Bedie, in early August at the age of 89.

It was once the sole legal party in Ivory Coast and ruled for decades following the country’s 1960 independence from France, but lost power after a 1999 coup.

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At 61, Thiam is a relatively young top political figure in the West African nation and is returning after more than 20 years abroad.

“Our new president will have to put us back in working order. He will have to give more responsibilities to the young people of the party,” said interim party president Philippe Cowppli-Bony, 91.

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“We have been treated too much as a party of old people. It’s positive to see two young candidates, it’s nice,” said Ohoueu Assi, a congressman from Guiglo in the west.

The party, which is eyeing a return to power in two years, also proposed supporting Thiam’s nomination for the 2025 race.

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“2025 will be a crucial electoral year for our party, we must be ready,” Thiam said.

“If Thiam is our candidate, which I hope, we will have the capacity to return to power,” said Cyprien Koffi, a delegate from San Pedro in the southwest.

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“He can breathe new life into it.”

Once an ally of President Alassane Ouattara, in power since 2011, the PDCI regained its place in the opposition in 2018 and boycotted the last presidential election.

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More than two decades after leaving Ivory Coast following the 1999 coup, Thiam returns after a high-profile business career.

In 1982 he was the first Ivorian to pass the entrance exam for the Ecole Polytechnique in Paris, from which he graduated two years later before an initial career as an engineer.

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He then spent a few years with consulting firm McKinsey before being tapped by the powers that be in Ivory Coast.

An early career as a government minister was interrupted in 1999 when a coup toppled president Bedie and the PDCI has not regained power since.

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He then went into the private sector abroad, first with insurance firm Aviva and then as CEO of Prudential before becoming head of Credit Suisse in 2015.

After leading a restructuring of the bank, his initially praised strategy was criticised after three consecutive years of losses and a fall in its share price.

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He stepped down in 2020 after a corporate espionage scandal at the bank, which he denied involvement in.

Thiam is also a great-nephew of Ivory Coast’s long-serving first president, and PDCI founder, Felix Houphouet-Boigny.

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(AFP)

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Russia bars pro-peace candidate from presidential poll

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Russia bars pro-peace candidate from presidential poll

A Russian politician calling for peace in Ukraine hit a roadblock in her campaign Saturday, when Russia’s Central Election Commission refused to accept her initial nomination by a group of supporters, citing errors in the documents submitted.

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Former legislator Yekaterina Duntsova is calling for peace in Ukraine and hopes to challenge President Vladimir Putin, promoting her vision of a “humane” Russia “that’s peaceful, friendly and ready to cooperate with everyone on the principle of respect.”

“On Dec. 23, the Central Election Commission refused to register my initiative group,” Duntsova wrote on the Telegram messaging app.

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According to a Telegram channel close to Duntsova’s campaign, the commission found 100 errors in her nomination papers, including mistakes in the spelling of names.

“You are a young woman, you still have everything ahead of you. Any minus can always be turned into a plus,” the head of Russia’s Central Election Commission, Ella Pamfilova, said at the commission meeting, addressing Duntsova.

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Duntsova said that she would appeal the decision in Russia’s Supreme Court, and appealed to the leaders of the Yabloko (Apple) political party to nominate her as a candidate, as she said she would be unable to convene a second meeting of supporters.

Also on Saturday, Russian state media said that Yabloko party founder and leader Grigory Yavlinsky would not run for the presidency, citing the party’s press service. Speaking in a live interview on YouTube, once Duntsova’s appeal to Yabloko became known, Yavlinsky said that he “didn’t know” whether the party would consider her application.

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Duntsova took her first steps toward candidate status Sunday, when her run was endorsed by 500 supporters as required by Russian election law, and presented documents Wednesday to Russia’s Central Election Commission to register her nomination.

Communist Party supports Putin nomination

A number of Russian parties also announced which candidates they would be backing in the presidential election next March – which incumbent President Vladimir Putin is all but certain to win.

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The Russian Communist Party, the second largest party in the lower house of Parliament, the State Duma, announced after a secret ballot that it would support the nomination of Duma deputy Nikolai Kharitonov. As party leader Sergei Mironov previously said it would do, the Just Russia – For Truth party formally announced that it was supporting Putin’s nomination for the presidency.

Parties represented in the Duma do put forward candidates to run against Putin, but they represent only token opposition and are generally sympathetic to his agenda.

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The Civic Initiative party – which is not represented in the Duma – is expected to back the nomination of independent candidate Boris Nadezhdin, who is known for campaigning against Russia’s actions in Ukraine. He has the support of a contingent of soldiers’ wives, unhappy with their husbands’ long deployments.

Meanwhile, Russian state media reported that volunteers from Putin’s campaign headquarters, together with branches of the United Russia party and a political coalition called the People’s Front, began collecting signatures in support of his candidacy as an independent.

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Putin submitted his nomination papers to the Central Election Commission on Monday. Under Russian law, independent candidates must be nominated by at least 500 supporters, and must also gather at least 300,000 signatures of support from 40 regions or more.

Pamfilova said Saturday that there were 29 applicants for candidacy in the election.

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Though it is normal for an opposition candidate to run against Putin – broadcaster Ksenia Sobchak, for example, was a liberal challenger in the 2018 presidential election – the tight control that he has established during 24 years in power makes his reelection in March all but assured. Prominent critics who could challenge him are either in prison or living abroad, and most independent media have been banned.

Earlier this month, the Duma set March 15-17 as the dates for the 2024 presidential election, moving Putin a step closer to a fifth term in office.

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(AP)

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Argentinian protest organisers will have to cover security costs, government says

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Argentinian protest organisers will have to cover security costs, government says

The organizers of the first protest against Argentine President Javier Milei’s government will have to cough up tens of thousands of dollars to cover the cost of security forces deployed to the demonstration, the government’s spokesman said Friday.

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Thousands turned out for the march on Wednesday to oppose Milei’s austerity measures and commemorate the deadly 2001 protests that followed the country’s economic meltdown.

Spokesman Manuel Adorni said a heavy deployment of police, paramilitary officers and anti-riot forces, cost 60 million pesos ($73,000 at the official exchange rate).

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“The bill will be sent to the social movements” who will “bear the responsibility of the cost which should not fall on citizens.”

Organizers had criticized the heavy show of security as an attempt at provocation.

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“This reminds me of the dictatorship” of 1976 to 1983, said Eduardo Belliboni, leader of the leftist movement Polo Obrero.

The security operation was supervised from police headquarters by the right-wing president’s Security Minister Patricia Bullrich, televised images showed.

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Milei’s government has sought to clamp down on hundreds of annual traffic-clogging demonstrations in the capital, also threatening to withdraw social assistance from those who block roads.

(AFP)

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Two held after France grounds Nicaragua-bound plane over suspected ‘human trafficking’

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Two held after France grounds Nicaragua-bound plane over suspected ‘human trafficking’

French police were questioning two men Friday a day after officials grounded a Nicaragua-bound plane carrying more than 300 Indian passengers over suspected “human trafficking,” prosecutors said.

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The Airbus A340 had flown in from the United Arab Emirates on Thursday, landing at Vatry airport in eastern France for a technical stopover.

It was held by French authorities after an anonymous tip-off that it was carrying passengers “likely to be victims of human trafficking,” the Paris prosecutors office told AFP. The two men in custody were among the passengers.

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“Identity checks are being carried on the 303 passengers and on the cabin crew,” said the prosecutor’s office. They were also checking the conditions in which the passengers were being transported and the purpose of their journey.

A source close to the case said that minors were among the passengers.

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The national anti-organised crime unit JUNALCO is leading the investigation, said prosecutors.

According to a source familiar with the case, the passengers might have planned to travel to Central America in order to attempt illegal entry into the United States or Canada.

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After landing in France, they were first kept on the aircraft, but then let out and given individual beds in the terminal building.

They were set to remain at the airport overnight Friday, local authorities said.

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The Indian embassy in France said in a statement on X, formerly Twitter, that the authorities in Paris had informed them of the situation.

French authorities informed us of a plane w/ 303 people, mostly Indian origin, from Dubai to Nicaragua detained on a technical halt at a French airport. Embassy team has reached & obtained consular access. We are investigating the situation, also ensuring wellbeing of passengers.

— India in France (@IndiaembFrance) December 22, 2023

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“Embassy team has reached & obtained consular access,” it added. “We are investigating the situation, also ensuring wellbeing of passengers.”

On Friday, police and gendarmes cordoned off the entire airport and white tarpaulin sheets covered the bay windows of the airport’s arrivals hall, an AFP journalist at the scene noted.

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Airline ‘has done nothing wrong’ 

The prefecture in the north-eastern department of Marne said the A340, operated by Romanian company Legend Airlines, “remained grounded on the tarmac at Vatry airport following its landing” on Thursday.

Legend Air has a small fleet of four aircraft, according to the Flightradar website.

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The plane had been due to refuel and was carrying 303 Indian nationals who had probably been working in the UAE, it said.

Liliana Bakayoko, who said she was a lawyer for the airline, told AFP the company believed it had done nothing wrong, had committed no offence “and is at the disposal of the French authorities”.

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But the airline would take legal action if the prosecutors file charges, she added.

The Vatry airport, located 150 kilometres (90 miles) east of Paris, serves mostly budget airlines.

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Border police can initially hold a foreign national for up to four days if they land in France and are prevented from travelling on to their intended destination.

French law allows for that period to be extended to eight days if a judge approves it, then another eight days in exceptional circumstances, up to a maximum of 26 days.

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Human trafficking carries a potential sentence of up to 20 years in France.

(AFP)

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