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Algeria's powerful army chief dies at pivotal point in political crisis – The Globe and Mail

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Algeria’s army chief Lieutenant-General Ahmed Gaed Salah attends newly elected Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune’s swearing-in ceremony, in Algiers, Algeria, on Dec. 19, 2019.

RAMZI BOUDINA/Reuters

Algeria’s powerful army chief Lieutenant-General Ahmed Gaed Salah, who was instrumental in bringing down long-time president Abdelaziz Bouteflika, has died of a heart attack, state media reported on Monday.

The 79-year-old’s death comes at a time of mass protests across Africa’s largest country, with many Algerians demanding that the ruling elite relinquish power and the influential military step back from politics.

Gaed Salah’s departure may not signify major changes to Algeria’s economic and political policies, however, with the country’s senior generals united over the handling of the protests.

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“The army hierarchy is unified and it will move on after Gaed Salah as it did before him. Algeria’s army is a single block, not under the influence of one general but with consensus as its engine,” said a retired general who asked not to be named.

President Abdelmadjid Tebboune announced a three-day mourning period and said the head of land forces, General Said Chengriha, would take over as acting chief of staff of the military.

Gaed Salah’s death comes less than a week after Tebboune was inaugurated following an election that the army had pushed for as the only way to resolve the crisis over the mass protests. Demonstrators opposed the vote and official figures showed only 40 per cent of the electorate cast ballots.

The authorities have so far rejected any systematic attempt to crush the protests with violence, allowing them to continue each week but stepping up the police presence in recent months and detaining many demonstrators.

“He kept his promise to save the blood of Algerians during a tough period,” Islam Benatia, a prominent figure in the protest movement, said on Facebook.

‘CIVILIAN, NOT MILITARY STATE’

The army’s central role in Algerian politics was underlined last week when Tebboune’s first act after being sworn in was to embrace Gaed Salah and present him with an order of merit.

Weeks after mass protests erupted early this year, Gaed Salah’s televised speech urging president Bouteflika to quit swiftly led to the veteran leader’s resignation.

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The army then backed a series of arrests of Bouteflika allies and senior businessmen in an anti-corruption campaign that was widely seen as a purge of the military’s rivals within the ruling system.

But it was not enough to appease the protesters, many of whom had begun calling for Gaed Salah’s resignation. One constant chant throughout the protests has been for “A civilian state, not a military state.”

The army has been central to Algerian politics since it won independence from France in 1962 following a guerrilla war against the colonial power. Most of the country’s leaders since that period, including Gaed Salah and the new acting army chief Chengriha, have been veterans of that struggle.

ALGERIA’S MOST POWERFUL FIGURE

Gaed Salah received military training in the Soviet Union and became head of Algeria’s land forces in 1994, early in the civil war between the state and Islamist insurgents that killed 200,000 people.

Bouteflika appointed him army chief a decade later. In the past 15 years he consolidated the military’s power in the ruling elite, helping Bouteflika face down the once-dominant intelligence service.

As Bouteflika and his allies were ousted this year, the army’s central role became more pronounced and Gaed Salah emerged as the most powerful figure in the country.

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He pushed hard for this month’s election to replace Bouteflika, a vote that the protesters rejected as a charade designed to keep the ruling elite in place, but was seen by the army as necessary to restore constitutional rule.

“Thank God we have a president now. Imagine what would have happened if there was no president,” said another retired general.

Gaed Salah’s funeral will take place on Tuesday, a day on which students have been staging weekly protests for much of the year.

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Coincidence and condolence: Dying together in politics – Fort McMurray Today

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Bader Ginsburg, therefore, is the Kennedy to Turner’s Lewis and Huxley. She is the Diana to his Mother Teresa

Late U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Former Prime Minister of Canada John Turner are pictured here.

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John Turner, a former Prime Minister of Canada, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a lifetime Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, both died on Friday night.

Dying accidentally together like this has created many historical odd couples, such as John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, the second and third American Presidents, who both died with a poignant flourish for the calendar on July 4, Independence Day, 1826.

Sometimes one death eclipses the other in the public’s capacity for mourning, as when Mother Teresa passed almost unnoticed a few days after Princess Diana in 1997. Likewise, Farrah Fawcett died of cancer on the morning of June 25, 2009, and was the big celebrity news of the day until TMZ reported in the afternoon that Michael Jackson also died that day.

Some death partnerships seem to elevate each other in solidarity with a common cause. The civil rights leader, statesman and “conscience of Congress” John Lewis died on July 17 this year, the same day as the preacher C.T. Vivian, who was also a civil rights leader going back to the inner circle of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Others are schoolkid legends or viral factoids that are not quite true, like Miguel de Cervantes and William Shakespeare, who did technically both die on April 23, 1616, but in different countries, Spain and England, which were using different calendars, so in fact they died 10 days apart.

Some simultaneous exits are curious coincidences, like Signe Anderson and Paul Kantner who both died on Jan. 28, 2016, 50 years after she left the psychedelic rock band Jefferson Airplane, which they co-founded.

Some death partnerships seem to elevate each other in solidarity with a common cause

Others seem not to be coincidences at all, but somehow causally related as expressions of intense emotional intimacy, as in the occasional married couple who make headlines for dying sweetly together in ripe old age, or the parents of former star CFL quarterback Doug Flutie, Dick and Joan, who had heart attacks in short sequence on Nov. 18, 2015.

Some just seem ominous. On the day John F. Kennedy was assassinated, Nov. 22, 1963, C.S. Lewis died of ill health in Oxford, and Aldous Huxley died of cancer in Los Angeles, tripping on LSD.

Few such death partnerships carry the political heft of the latest one between Bader Ginsburg and Turner.

The main contrast is how differently they matter to the wider public. Turner’s death casts the mind back to the past. Bader Ginsburg’s death does the same, but it also inspires urgent thoughts of the future.

Turner’s death has been treated in Canada as an opportunity to reflect on history, on the Liberal Party’s changing fortunes. Former prime ministers are under a newly critical eye. No one gets the saintly treatment any more, even in death. But Turner is someone who can be mourned at ease. He was not prime minister very long, less than three months in 1984. He had not been in the news lately, and had seemed frail in public appearances.

His death is an opportunity to appreciate a unique life of leadership, but it will not disrupt Canadian politics.

Bader Ginsburg, on the other hand, has set off a tumult by dying because her vacant seat on the top court hands an opportunity to President Donald Trump to replace her.

They have become footnotes to each other’s obituaries

“My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed,” she dictated to her granddaughter Clara Spera a few days before she died.

Trump and Senate Leader Mitch McConnell indicated over the weekend they intend to ensure that wish does not come true — Trump by nominating a replacement judge in the next month, and McConnell by speeding a confirmation vote.

Mourning Bader Ginsburg, therefore, has a sense of political urgency that mourning Turner does not.

Her death is not merely an opportunity to reflect on her role as the liberal grandee of the court, famous for her consensus building with conservatives like her friend the late Antonin Scalia, and credited by progressives with securing important votes on deeply divisive issues such as abortion and same-sex marriage.

Rather, it is bound up in a presidential election both sides describe as the all-or-nothing struggle for America’s soul.

This sense of historical import came through in the impromptu singing of Amazing Grace by mourners on the steps of the Supreme Court, a Christian hymn for a Jewish judge in a distinctively American irony. Moments like this illustrate how different America can be from Canada, where judicial appointments are not unto death, let alone so nakedly politicized.

Bader Ginsburg, therefore, is the Kennedy to Turner’s Lewis and Huxley. She is the Diana to his Mother Teresa, coming chronologically first and to far greater hoopla. They have become — like the filmmaker Orson Welles and the actor Yul Brynner who both died on Oct. 10, 1985 — footnotes to each other’s obituaries.

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Mitch McConnell is the apex predator of U.S. politics – The Washington Post

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Howard Fineman is an NBC News analyst and a RealClearPolitics contributing correspondent.

When Minnesota Democrat Al Franken was in the Senate, the only way he could even briefly befriend Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky was to compliment the Republican leader on a speech. One day, after McConnell had given what passed for heartfelt remarks in praise of Senate spouses, Franken approached him to say it was a “lovely speech.” A comedian in an earlier life, Franken then proceeded to kid him on the square. “Mitch, I have to say, I really like your speeches better when they aren’t in the service of evil.”

“I like the evil ones better,” McConnell replied, with a thin smile.

No joke. At 78, after a half-century in politics, Addison Mitchell McConnell Jr. now stands at the precipice of what most Republicans only a generation or two ago would have said was impossible: conservative domination of the Supreme Court.

For McConnell, this is a personal triumph worthy of the history books. But history may record it differently. It seems probable that McConnell’s epitaph will note instead that no one since the Southern segregationists of the 1940s and 1950s did more to cripple the proper functioning of all three branches of government, not to mention faith in the very idea of one America.

Historian Rick Perlstein has long described this chapter in the American story as “Nixonland,” a jagged terrain of White racial fear and populist resentment of the federal authority that began in the mid-1960s. But while GOP presidents from Richard Nixon to Donald Trump have tilled that soil when it suited their purposes, McConnell has been, over the years, its most constant gardener, mixing arcane, cynically hypocritical legislative procedure and judicial appointments to turn emotion into lasting policy.

He has jammed hundreds of conservative judges onto the federal bench, making it younger, Whiter and more male — and far more partisan — in the process. In concert with the Federalist Society, McConnell is transforming the federal judiciary from sometimes-defenders of the poor, immigrants and people of color into the Praetorian Guard of corporations, the wealthy, and those whose cultural and racial privileges make them, at best, oblivious to their collective responsibility to all Americans. At the same time, McConnell is standing in the schoolhouse door of dozens if not hundreds of pieces of needed legislation, rendering the “world’s greatest deliberative body” an empty pantomime of itself.

And if he succeeds in forcing another pliable justice onto the Supreme Court, he may prove responsible for undercutting whatever legitimacy a possibly disputed presidential election might have if, as many suspect, it must be settled by that court. One reason to move fast and give the court a 6-3 conservative majority? To take the relatively independent (and therefore unreliable) Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. out of the equation.

McConnell has been around so long people think they know him. But they don’t, and that is by design. When you are the apex predator of U.S. politics, you don’t really care what anyone thinks. In Kentucky, where I worked for six years as McConnell was beginning his rise, he is not so much loved as endured. People talk about him like the rainy Ohio River Valley weather: It’s a pain, but it waters the crops. He retains an iron grip on state politics, has been elected statewide six times and is likely to win a seventh term in November. Democrats are pouring millions into defeating him. It’s not a great bet.

McConnell, reduced to his essence, is a state party chairman on steroids. His eye for detail, and his feral sense of approaching threats, is total. In the summer of 1968, working for a U.S. Senate candidate that year, he traveled the state from Pikeville to Paducah with another young Republican, Jon Yarmuth, now the Democratic member of the U.S. House representing Louisville. After work, as they hunkered down at yet another rural motel, Yarmuth would suggest that they go out for a drink. Mitch would have none of it. “What he wanted to do was sit in the room,” Yarmuth recalled, “and read every report and statistic about the county.”

His granular focus on local matters derives in part from the fact that McConnell isn’t Kentucky-bred. He was born in North Alabama and spent his childhood there and in Georgia before moving to Louisville as a teen. He and his family lived in the city’s South End, where newcomers from the Deep South settled in a city whose moneyed ruling class saw itself as tweed-clad country cousins of the Eastern elite. McConnell absorbed the middle-class resentments of his neighborhood.

From boyhood on, he pursued every title he could find: high school student council president; college student president, law school bar association president, state president of the Ripon Society and so on, up the ziggurat of perches and entitlements, all the way to Senate majority leader.

These days he pitches himself to historians as the heir to the godfather of distributed power, James Madison. McConnell has a point, in one sense. The contrapuntal effect of the federal courts is valuable, even indispensable; a piece of Newtonian balance that the founders knew was important. But McConnell is not interested in balance: He is interested only in total dominance, and in a bulwark against change, whatever the cost to the country.

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Why Supreme Court politics in 2020 look way different from 2016 or 2018 – CNN

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We don’t know what the ultimate effect of any Supreme Court battle will be on the 2020 election. Still, we can look at the playing board. It suggests the 2020 electoral calculus has fundamental differences with the electoral math of 2016 and 2018 when it comes to Supreme Court nominations.
Yesterday, I noted that more of former Vice President Joe Biden’s supporters have said the Supreme Court was important to their vote than Trump supporters. That’s very different from 2016, when Trump backers said the court was more important to their vote than Hillary Clinton backers.
The contrasts go deeper than that, however.
Trump often struggled with rallying the base in 2016. There were points in that cycle when he was receiving only about 75% of the Republican vote in polls. A Supreme Court nomination was the perfect way to get the base to support his cause.
Trump, though, has centered pretty much his entire presidency around appealing to his base. He’s done so, oftentimes, at the expense of bringing in more moderate voters to his cause. It’s paid off for Trump.
Republicans are backing Trump at very high numbers now. A NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist College poll out on Friday put Trump’s support at 94% among likely Republican voters. Our last CNN/SSRS poll showed that 99% of very conservative Republicans were supporting Trump.
In other words, Trump already has the base behind him in a way he didn’t at many times in 2016. Any more gains he could make with them would be very limited.
There are distinctions between the 2018 and 2020 Supreme Court nomination showdown as well.
You may recall Republicans picked up four Senate seats and lost two for a net gain of 2 in 2018. This came after Kavanaugh was nominated in late summer and confirmed early that fall.
It does seem like the Kavanaugh nomination was a boon to a number of Republican Senate candidates. Republicans knocked out Democratic senators in Indiana, Missouri and North Dakota. In all of those states, a majority of voters who said that Kavanaugh was a factor in their vote cast their ballots for the Republican Senate candidate. Those who said it wasn’t a factor either split their vote or a majority went for the Democratic nominee.
All of those seats were in states where Trump won by 19 points or more in 2016. That is, they were very red states.
The Kavanaugh hearing, if anything, rallied the Republican base in red states.
In the only purple state where Republicans defeated a Democratic senator (Bill Nelson in Florida), voters who said his vote against Kavanaugh was a factor in their decision were actually slightly more likely to back the Democratic nominee.
The 2018 House elections tell a similar story. Unlike in the Senate, where a limited number of seats is up every cycle, every House seat was up for election in 2018.
House Republicans were not helped by the Kavanaugh hearings.
Democrats’ advantage on the generic congressional ballot was in the high single digits before the Kavanaugh hearings and remained as such through the election. Democrats ended up with a net gain of 40 seats in the House.
The 2020 presidential race will be fought on, if anything, more favorable terrain than the 2018 House elections. Democrats don’t need to worry about winning a majority of congressional districts. They only need to win a majority of electoral votes.
Likewise, the 2020 Senate terrain is totally different. Only one of the seats Democrats are defending is in deep red territory. That Alabama seat was already in major danger of flipping prior to any Supreme Court battle.
Meanwhile, the Democrats’ easiest path to a Senate majority runs through purple states. Democrats’ easiest pickup opportunities are in Arizona (a state where the same Republican Senate candidate lost in 2018), Colorado and Maine. Biden is clearly ahead in the polls in all of these states.
The other two best pickup opportunities are in states where Trump is likely either up by a point or two (Iowa) or down by a point or two (North Carolina). In neither state is the Democratic Senate nominee running too far ahead of Biden.
The bottom line is that, while any estimates of what the upcoming Supreme Court fight means for the election are just guesses, 2016 and 2018 are not good road maps to understanding the dynamic in 2020. The situations are quite different.

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