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Israel set for unprecedented third election amid political gridlock



Israel is heading towards an unprecedented third election in one year after both Benjamin Netanyahu and his centrist rival failed to form a government and were unable to agree a deal for a unity coalition.

As a midnight deadline passed, there was no last-minute deal between the two sides and MPs instead voted through a bill to send Israelis to the polls for a third time in 11 months on March 2, 2020.

By a vote of 94 in favour to none opposed, lawmakers approved a motion dissolving parliament and setting the new election date.

Mr Netanyahu and Benny Gantz, the leader of the centrist Blue & White party, blamed each other for what has become the worst stalemate in Israeli political history.

Mr Gantz said the prime minister was dragging the country into new elections to try to win a Right-wing majority which would grant him immunity from the criminal corruption charges he faces. He denies wrongdoing. 

“It now seems that we will be going into a third election cycle today because of Netanyahu’s attempt to obtain immunity,” Mr Gantz said. 

Mr Netanyahu said Mr Gantz and his allies had never seriously entered into negotiations on a unity government.

“It’s time that for one day, for the citizens of Israel, we sit and have a serious discussion about forming a broad unity government,” he said. 





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Finland’s Sanna Marin Set To Become World’s Youngest Sitting Prime Minister : NPR


Sanna Marin celebrates after winning her party’s prime minister nomination on Sunday. The 34-year-old will be Finland’s third female government head.

Vesa Moilanen/AP


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Vesa Moilanen/AP

Sanna Marin celebrates after winning her party’s prime minister nomination on Sunday. The 34-year-old will be Finland’s third female government head.

Vesa Moilanen/AP

Sanna Marin is set to become Finland’s third female prime minister — and its youngest — leading a coalition of four other parties, all headed by women.

At just 34, she will also stand out on the world stage by being the world’s youngest sitting prime minister.

Marin was nominated Sunday by her Social Democratic party after its leader, Antti Rinne, stepped down after losing the confidence among his coalition government over his handling of a postal strike.

Marin, a former transport and communications minister, will be the country’s third-ever female prime minister, according to NPR’s Rob Schmitz. However, she told reporters the focus shouldn’t be on her identity.

“She brushed away questions about her age and gender, saying she has never thought about either,” Schmitz says. “Instead, she told reporters, she thinks about the reasons she got into politics and the things for which her party has won the trust of the electorate.”

Finland’s Social Democrats have led the country’s left-wing coalition since earlier this year, but has faced strong opposition from the rising populist right-wing Finns Party, according to the Helsinki Times. Ahead of the party election, Marin promised to continue supporting welfare programs and an “equal and fairer society.”

A left-leaning progressive, Marin was first elected to Parliament in 2015. She wrote on her website that her party’s values of “equality, freedom and peace” appealed to her when she first involved herself in politics.

“For me, human rights, equality, or equality of people have never been questions of opinion but the basis of my moral conception,” she said. “I joined politics because I want to influence how society sees its citizens and their rights.”

Marin won the party’s nomination over Antti Lindtman, a 37-year-old Parliament member, by a vote of 32-29.

As prime minister, Marin would maintain an alliance between the Social Democrats and four other center-left parties — all of which have women in leading ministerial positions. Among the five leaders, four, including Marin, are under 35.

Once sworn in, Marin will be Finland’s youngest-ever head of state. However, she is not the youngest in world history. Conservative British politician William Pitt, for example, became prime minister at the age of 24 in 1783.

Finland currently holds the European Union’s rotating presidency, and members of parliament are likely to approve the new government ahead of an EU summit in Brussels Thursday.

Paolo Zialcita is an intern on NPR’s News Desk.





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Putin and Ukraine’s Zelensky set for Paris one-on-one: Kremlin


Moscow (AFP) – Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelensky are likely to have a one-on-one meeting during four-way summit talks in Paris next month, the Kremlin said Wednesday.

Putin and Zelensky plan to join French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel on December 9 for a summit aimed at resolving the five-year conflict in eastern Ukraine, where Moscow-backed separatists have carved out breakaway statelets.

Putin’s top foreign adviser Yury Ushakov said Wednesday that a separate meeting between the Russian and Ukrainian leaders was likely on the cards, too.

“It appears that a separate meeting will be held,” Ushakov said, Russian news agencies reported, while adding that the programme of the summit was still being finalised.

A Ukrainian diplomatic source, when asked about the possibility of the one-on-one, told AFP: “We still don’t know.”

Speaking to reporters in the Lithuanian capital Vilnius, Zelensky said he was ready for meetings with every state leader present at the Paris summit, if necessary.

The United States voiced solidarity with Ukraine and called on Russia to implement a 2015 plan that called both for a ceasefire and political resolution of the conflict.

“Our support for Ukraine’s sovereignty is unwavering, and we are committed to working with our Allies and partners to keep pressure on Russia to live up to its commitments,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement.

State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus praised the “prudent but difficult steps towards peace and reform” taken by Zelensky.

The 41-year-old former comedian came to power in May on the back of pledges to bring peace while regaining control of the breakaway regions.

But Zelensky has yet to meet with Putin, 67.

The encounter would attempt to end a conflict which saw pro-Moscow separatists declare unrecognised breakaway republics in the Ukrainian eastern regions of Donetsk and Lugansk and has left more than 13,000 dead since 2014.

Zelensky said in Vilnius he did not expect the war to end tomorrow.

“But as president of Ukraine, I want a clear understanding when and how we can stop this war,” he said.

Ukraine and its Western allies accuse Moscow of giving financial and military backing to separatists, which Russia denies.

The summit has been held up by numerous obstacles that highlight the difficulty of resolving the conflict.



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Alibaba shares set to rise 6.3% in Hong Kong debut



Alibaba Group’s Hong Kong shares are set to rise 6.3% in their debut after marking the city’s biggest share sale in nine years, Trend reports citing Reuters.

Alibaba has raised at least $11.3 billion from the secondary listing and could go as high as $12.9 billion if an over-allotment option is exercised.

The company sold the shares at HK$176, which was a 2.9% discount to the company’s closing price in New York last Tuesday. Each American Depository Receipt (ADR) represents eight Hong Kong shares.

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