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Musings From Abroad

France president Macron battles far-right opponent Le Pen in run-off voting



France President Emmanuel Macron will know his fate of retaining his position as French voters begin casting their ballots Sunday for the presidential run-off between him and his far-right challenger, Marine Le Pen.

In the earlier round of voting on Saturday, Le Pen had come closest to claiming victory for the far-right for the first time but there was no clear winner, forcing a re-run.

Macron had gone into the election with a stable lead in opinion polls, an advantage he consolidated in the frenetic final days of campaigning, including a no-holds-barred performance in the pre-election debate, but his confidence was shaken by the close run Le Pen gave him which had forced another round of voting.

The electoral stakes are huge for both France and Europe, with Macron pledging reform and tighter EU integration, while Le Pen, who could be France’s first female president if she emerges victorious, insists the bloc should be modified in what opponents describe as “Frexit” by another name.

Macron has also opposed Le Pen’s plan to make it illegal to wear the Muslim headscarf in public, though her team has walked back the proposal ahead of the vote, saying it was no longer a “priority.”

The pair have also clashed on Russia, with Macron seeking to portray Le Pen as incapable of dealing with the invasion of Ukraine, due to a loan her party took from a Russian-Czech bank.

If he wins the run-off, Macron who got into power in 2017 as the youngest French President at the age of 39, would be the first president to win re-election in two decades since Jacques Chirac in 2002.

Independent polls have shown Macron with a lead of around 10 percentage points, a much closer outcome than in 2017, when the same two candidates faced off and Macron carried the day with 66% of the vote.

Musings From Abroad

US Vice President, Kamala Harris vows increased investment in Africa. Should China worry?



As part of development from her latest visit to Africa, the United States, Vice President Kamala Harris has announced that her country will increase investment in Africa and help spur economic growth.

Harris made the promise on Sunday that the United States as she aimed at offering a counter to the influence of rival China.

Harris said shortly after touching down in Ghana, the first destination in a trip that will include visits to Tanzania and Zambia that her visit was motivated by the US’s latest push to re-establish and deepen relations with Africa.

“On this trip, I intend to do work that is focused on increasing investments here on the continent and facilitating economic growth and opportunity,” Harris said.

In recent decades, China has invested heavily in Africa, including infrastructure and resource development, while Russian influence has increased as well, including the deployment of Wagner Group troops to assist governments in several countries.

The US is strengthening relations, in 2022 President Biden announced at US-Africa Business Forum, announced over $15 billion in two-way trade and investment commitments, deals, and partnerships that advance key priorities.

Uncle Sam later committed $55 billion over the next three years to Africa ahead of a U.S.-Africa summit in December. On a visit to Niger this month, Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced $150 million in new humanitarian aid for Africa’s Sahel region.

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Musings From Abroad

Italian PM fears delay in Tunisia’s aid fund might trigger migrants crisis in Europe



Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni warned that Europe risks seeing a huge wave of migrants arriving on its shores from North Africa if financial stability in Tunisia is not safeguarded.

United Nations data, at least 12,000 of those who have reached Italy this year set sail from Tunisia, against 1,300 in the same period of 2022.

Meloni told reporters following a summit of European Union leaders in Brussels, “maybe not everyone is aware of the need to preserve the financial stability in a country which has severe financial problems.”

“If we do not adequately address those problems we risk unleashing an unprecedented wave of migration.”

President Saed’s reign has gained wild criticism from local and international entities. Earlier in the week, Italian Foreign Minister, Antonio Tajani remarked on Sunday the IMF, the United States, and other international caution to stop bailout talks demanding Tunisia’s far-reaching reforms.

Tajani said Italy is worried that International Monetary Fund’s block on a $1.9 billion loan to Tunisia might lead to a new wave of migrants toward Europe. He also proposed to fellow EU foreign ministers on Monday to split the bailout funds into installments, with a first payment freed up immediately and later ones linked to progress on reforms.

Also, United States Assistant Secretary of State Barbara Leaf on Friday claimed that the president’s style of leadership has caused “enormous concern” over the country.

Since replacing the government of Hichem Mechichi in 2021, President Saed has also moved to rule by decree before writing a new constitution that he passed last year. He has sacked the government, suspended parliament, and seized a string of powers.

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