In a developing story, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who is seeking to extend his two decades in power, on Friday formally set the country’s parliamentary and presidential elections for May 14, a month earlier than scheduled despite last month’s devastating earthquake.
The elections could be the country’s most significant vote in decades. It will determine whether the country will take a more democratic path or continue on the increasingly authoritarian course set by the strongman politician.
Erdogan has ruled over Turkiye since 2003 — first as prime minister and as president since 2014 — but this year’s elections could be his most challenging. The country is struggling with a troubled economy, soaring inflation and the aftermath of the powerful earthquake that killed more than 46,000 people and left hundreds of thousands of people across 11 Turkish provinces sheltering in tents or temporary accommodations.
The local population has criticised his government’s response to the earthquake and accused it of failing to prepare the earthquake-prone country for a disaster in waiting. Experts have pointed at lax enforcement of building codes as a major reason why the earthquake was so deadly.
Earlier this week, Turkiye’s disparate opposition parties, including nationalists, Islamists and conservatives, ended a month of uncertainty that had frustrated supporters of the anti-Erdogan bloc and nominated a joint candidate to run against Erdogan. The six opposition parties, which have pledged to roll back the erosion of rights and freedoms, united behind Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the 74-year-old leader of the centre-left, secularist Republican People’s Party, or CHP.
“May our decision to renew the elections be beneficial for our country, our nation, the Turkish Grand National Assembly and our political parties,” Erdogan said after putting his signature on a decision confirming the election date. The Supreme Electoral Council will now determine the electoral calendar. A runoff presidential election would be held on May 28 if none of the candidates secure more than 50 percent of the vote.
The presidential and parliamentary elections were scheduled to be held on June 18, but the government moved them forward to avoid coinciding with the Hajj pilgrimage, a university entrance exam and the start of the summer vacation season.
In a historic event, Xi Jinping was handed a third term as Chinese president, capping a rise that has seen him become the country's most powerful leader in generations. The appointment by China's rubber-stamp parliament comes after Xi locked in another five years as head of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in October.
Xi has weathered widespread protests over his zero-Covid policy and the deaths of countless people after its abandonment. Those issues have been avoided at this week's National People's Congress (NPC), a carefully choreographed event that is also set to appoint Xi ally Li Qiang as the new premier.
Recently, delegates handed Xi a third term as China's president and re-elected him as head of the country's Central Military Commission in a unanimous vote.
Japan will cease to exist if it can't slow a fall in its birth rate that threatens to wreck the social safety net and economy, according to an adviser to Prime Minister Fumio Kishida.
"If we go on like this, the country will disappear," Masako Mori said in an interview in Tokyo after Japan announced on Feb. 28 the number of babies born last year slumped to a record low.
"It's the people who have to live through the process of disappearance who will face enormous harm. It's a terrible disease that will afflict those children," she added.
Last year, about twice as many people died as were born in Japan, with fewer than 800,000 births and about 1.58 million deaths. An alarmed Kishida has vowed to double spending on children and families in a bid to control the slide, which is progressing even faster than forecast.
The population has fallen to 124.6 million from a peak of just over 128 million reached in 2008, and the pace of decline is increasing. Meanwhile the proportion of people 65 or over rose to more than 29% last year. While South Korea has a lower fertility rate, Japan's population is shrinking faster.
In escalating troubles, the Honorary Consulate of India in Australia’s Brisbane city was targeted by Khalistani supporters who raised the Khalistan flag at the office, the latest in a series of radical activities against the Indian community in the country, according to a media report on Friday.
The incident came days after External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar visited the country and emphasised the need for vigilance against “radical activities” targeting the Indian community in Australia.
According to The Australia Today portal, the Honorary Consulate of India located on Swann Road in the Taringa suburb of Brisbane was targeted by Khalistan supporters on the night of February 21.
Honorary Consul of India in Brisbane Archana Singh found the Khalistan flag attached to the office when she arrived on February 22, the report said. Singh immediately notified the Queensland Police, which on arrival confiscated the flag and swept the Honorary Consulate of India to clear of any immediate threat.
“Police are surveilling the area to keep us safe. We have Strong faith in police authority,” Singh told The Australia Today. The incident comes following the vandalism of three Hindu temples in Australia by Khalistani supporters.
The US administration is deeply concerned that the loans being given by China to India's immediate neighbourhood - Pakistan and Sri Lanka - may be used for coercive leverage, a senior State Department official has said. "Concerning Chinese loans to countries in India's immediate neighbourhood (Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal), we are deeply concerned that loans may be used for coercive leverage," Donald Lu, Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia, told reporters ahead of the India trip of Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
The top American diplomat is travelling to New Delhi on a three-day official visit from March 1 to 3. Mr Lu said that the US is talking to countries in the region comprising India to take their own decisions and not feel compelled by any outside partner.
Oil-hungry India, the world's third-largest crude importer after China and the US, has been snapping discounted Russian oil after many Western countries shunned it as a means of punishing Moscow for its invasion of Ukraine.
It is not our business, the German Ambassador said Wednesday on India buying discounted oil from Russia, weeks after the US said it was "comfortable" with New Delhi's approach on Russian oil purchase. "I have made it clear time and again that India buying oil from Russia is none of our business basically that's something that the Indian government decides and if you get it at a very very low price, you know I cannot blame India for buying it," said Philipp Ackermann, German Ambassador to India.
It makes business sense for India to buy cheap oil, then the choice must be left to them.
Ex PM Imran Khan today appeared before the Lahore High Court which granted him protective bail in a case linked to violent protests outside the election commission, amidst high drama inside the court premises where hundreds of his supporters converged to show solidarity with him. Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf activists staged a violent protest after 70-year-old Khan was disqualified by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) in the prohibited funding case last year.
Justice Tariq Saleem Sheikh had directed Khan to appear before the court for a hearing of his protective bail petition in the case. A court official told PTI that a two-member bench of LHC led by Justice Ali Baqar Najafi granted the protective bail to the PTI chairman till March 3.
Imran Khan appeared before the court and told him that he wanted to appear before it last week but doctors had advised him to rest as his leg wound would heal in over two weeks. He also said he always respected the courts as he is an upholder of justice. He said 'justice' is also included in his party's name," the official said.
HC Justice Najafi appreciated Khan for submitting to the law. The judge granted him protective bail till March 3 and refrained police and any other agency from arresting him.
Kim's North Korea confirmed that it had test-fired an intercontinental ballistic missile as a warning to Washington and Seoul, saying the successful "surprise" drill demonstrated Pyongyang's "capacity of fatal nuclear counterattack".
Leader Kim Jong Un ordered the "sudden launching drill" at 8 am Saturday (2300 GMT) and a Hwasong-15 missile -- a weapon first tested by the North in 2017 -- was fired from Pyongyang airport that afternoon, the official KCNA reported.
South Korea's military said it detected an ICBM launch at 17:22 (0822 GMT) Saturday, which Japan said flew for 66 minutes before splashing down in its Exclusive Economic Zone, with their analysis indicating it was capable of hitting the mainland United States.
PIO Republican leader Nikki Haley has said that like the erstwhile Soviet Union, Communist China will also end up on the "ash heap of history," as she issued a stern warning to Beijing in her first public appearance as a 2024 White House hopeful.
Haley, 51, is the two-term Governor of South Carolina and the former US Ambassador to the United Nations made the statement amidst the war of words between the US and China over the recent downing of a suspected Chinese surveillance balloon over American airspace.
Her formal declaration means she will be the first contender to join the contest against her former 76-year-old boss Donald Trump, who announced his third bid for the White House late last year.
In a surprise move, former US ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley announced today that she is running for president in 2024, challenging fellow Republican candidate Donald Trump by proposing a "new generation" of leadership in Washington.
"I'm Nikki Haley and I'm running for president," the 51-year-old former governor of South Carolina and the child of Indian immigrants said in a video statement.
"It's time for a new generation of leadership -- to rediscover fiscal responsibility, secure our border, and strengthen our country, our pride and our purpose," she said in the video shot in Bamberg, the South Carolina town of her birth.
A disaster of the century
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday conceded "shortcomings" after criticism of his government's response to the massive earthquake that has killed over 15,000 people in Turkey and Syria. The sprawling scale of the disaster that flattened thousands of buildings, trapping an unknown number of people, has swamped relief operations already hampered by freezing weather.
Survivors have been left to scramble for food and shelter -- and in some cases watch helplessly as their relatives called for rescue, and eventually went silent under the debris.
Lessons to learn
The recent earthquake that struck Turkey serves as a reminder of the importance of disaster preparedness and the consequences of neglecting to implement measures that can mitigate the impact of such events. Here are some lessons that densely populated countries can draw from this tragedy:
Importance of proper building construction: The earthquake highlighted the importance of building construction that is earthquake-resistant. Buildings that are not constructed to withstand earthquakes can quickly collapse, resulting in massive casualties. This underscores the need for building codes and regulations to be enforced to ensure that all structures are built to a high standard of safety.
Emergency response preparedness: The earthquake serves as a reminder of the importance of having a well-equipped and trained emergency response team. The speed with which emergency services arrive at the scene of a disaster can mean the difference between life and death for many people. In densely populated areas, it is critical for emergency services to be able to quickly and effectively respond to disasters.
Evacuation and shelter planning: The earthquake highlights the importance of having an evacuation and shelter plan in place. In densely populated areas, it is critical for residents to know what to do in the event of an earthquake and where to go for safety. This requires the creation of evacuation routes and the identification of safe locations for residents to seek shelter.
Community education and awareness: Communities must be made aware of the risks posed by earthquakes and the steps they can take to prepare for such events. This includes education on how to react during an earthquake, such as "Drop, Cover, and Hold On," and information on the importance of disaster preparedness.
Investment in technology and early warning systems: In densely populated areas, investment in technology and early warning systems can save lives by providing advance warning of an impending earthquake. This can give people time to evacuate or take cover, reducing the number of casualties.
Risk assessment and mitigation planning: Governments must assess the risks posed by earthquakes in densely populated areas and implement mitigation measures. This includes the reinforcement of critical infrastructure, such as bridges and highways, and the retrofitting of buildings to make them more earthquake-resistant.
Collaboration and coordination: In the aftermath of a disaster, collaboration and coordination between various government agencies and the private sector are crucial. This includes the coordination of emergency response efforts and the provision of aid and assistance to those affected by the disaster.
In conclusion, the earthquake in Turkey serves as a powerful reminder of the importance of disaster preparedness and the consequences of neglecting to implement measures that can mitigate the impact of such events. Densely populated countries must take these lessons to heart and take the necessary steps to protect their residents from the dangers posed by earthquakes. This includes investing in technology and early warning systems, ensuring that buildings are constructed to a high standard of safety, and preparing evacuation and shelter plans.