The United States said Friday it would exit a landmark Cold War nuclear missile treaty due to purported violations by Russia, which has warned of a new arms race in Europe.
Washington says a new Russian medium-range missile system breaches the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, although US officials also have an eye on China as the 1987 pact restricts the United States but not the rising Asian power.
President Donald Trump said the United States was suspending its obligations under the INF treaty as of Saturday and starting a process to withdraw in six months.
Brokered by US president Ronald Reagan with last Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, the treaty ended a superpower buildup of warheads that had frightened Europeans, banning ground-launched missiles with a range of 500 to 5,500 kilometers (around 300 to 3,400 miles).
“The United States has fully adhered to the INF treaty for more than 30 years, but we will not remain constrained by its terms while Russia misrepresents its actions,” Trump said in a statement.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the United States, which formally announced its concerns two months ago, had raised the alleged treaty violation with Russia more than 30 times.
“Russia’s violation puts millions of Europeans and Americans at greater risk, it aims to put the United States at a military disadvantage and it undercuts the chances of moving our bilateral relationship in a better direction,” Pompeo said.
But Pompeo said the United States was still willing to talk to Russia in hopes that it comes into compliance.
Trump, speaking later to reporters, said he would like to “get everybody in a big and beautiful room and do a new treaty,” but in the meantime, the United States “can’t be put at a disadvantage.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has sought a warm relationship with Trump but is widely reviled by the US establishment, has declared that the US withdrawal would set off a new arms race
Egypt’s parliament approves extended presidential tenure
Egypt’s parliament has overwhelmingly approved proposed constitutional changes that would allow Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi to potentially stay in office until 2034.
The changes, which must be approved by a referendum to enter into force, would also further authority of the Armed Forces in “maintaining the foundations of the civil state.”
Egypts parliament, which has 596 members, saw 485 votes in favor of the changes. The body is largely made up of supporters of the president. According to The Associated Press, the amendments will be submitted to a committee to finalize the language, then parliament will vote again.
Egyptian human rights groups are expressing alarm. Eleven groups signed a statementsaying that the amendments “effectively serve to destroy the constitutional separation of powers, concentrating all authority into the presidents hands and solidifying his authoritarian rule.”
In 2013, then-Defense Minister El-Sissi led a coup against Egypts first democratically elected president, Mohammed Morsi, following mass popular protests against him. Morsi, who hails from the Muslim Brotherhood, was in office for one polarizing year.
Since then, el-Sissi has launched an unprecedented crackdown on dissent, and rights groups say he has jailed tens of thousands of his political opponents (though he deniesthat Egypt has any political prisoners). He was elected to a second term in 2018, in a race where “six potential candidates were either jailed or dropped out,” as NPRs Jane Arraf reported.
According to Egypts constitution, passed in 2014 after the coup, this term should be his last.
“The President of the Republic shall be elected for a period of four calendar years,” the constitution currently reads. “The President may only be reelected once.”
The amendments would also strengthen the presidents power over the judiciary. For example, it would allow him to appoint the head of the Supreme Constitutional Court, the prosecutor general, and other senior position.
Proponents of the changes say they are necessary for Egypts stability.
According to Mada Masr, earlier this month as the proposed amendments were submitted, parliamentary speaker Ali Abdel Aal said: “We are not restricting any of the freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution, and we are not touching the principle of equality between Egyptians in regards to rights and obligations. …These amendments serve the Egyptian people and the higher interests of the state.”
But for opponents, such as the human rights groups, its another nail in the coffin for Egyptian hopes for democracy following the 2011 ouster of dictator Hosni Mubarak.
“Not only do these individually-tailored provisions flout fundamental legal precepts, they also upend the peaceful rotation of power championed by the Egyptian people in 2011 to prevent another decades-long dictatorial rule similar to that of former President Hosni Mubarak, toppled after 30 years in power,” the groups said.
The postponement of Nigeria’s elections will have major human and economic impact – Yomi Kazeem
On a day they expected to be voting for the president, frustrated Nigerians are having to change their plans.
Hours before voting was due to begin today, the country’s electoral commission, INEC, announced its decision to delay the polls by a week. Given the timing of the announcement (around 2.30 am local time), millions of eligible voters—especially those without access to the internet and social media—only found out when they woke up this morning (Feb. 16). There have been reports of some people getting in line early to vote only to be told the election had been canceled.
The presidential and national assembly elections will now be held a week later on Saturday Feb. 23. State governorship and legislative elections have also been postponed to Mar. 9, they were originally slated for Mar. 2.
For its part, INEC has not revealed the financial cost of a delay and has blamed the delay on logistical difficulties even though it has had four years to prepare and is backed with a $522 million budget.
But for ordinary citizens, the impact of a one-week delay will likely be disruptive and in some cases, very costly.
As Nigerians can only vote in polling units where they were initially registered, elections in Nigeria usually involve making painstaking and expensive travel plans. People who have moved homes, changed jobs or left the country have to go back to their old polling units to vote.
There have already been reports of Nigerians flying in from Europe, the US and Asia, likely on tight itineraries, just to vote. Within the country, traveling to different states and regions to vote has become common.
Schools have also planned their operations around INEC’s earlier schedule with students sent home. Nigeria’s struggling economy will also be impacted with several businesses shuttering operations in anticipation of the elections. A postponement now means doing it all over again.
The delay will impact turnout among Nigeria’s 84 million registered voters ”in a big way,” says Stanley Azuakola, director at Civic Monitor, a social enterprise. Come next week, many voters will likely be unable—or unwilling—to redo travel plans allowing them to vote. That poses a major problem in a country that has recently struggled with voter turnout: after a six-week delay before the 2015 presidential elections, only 33.5% of eligible voters eventually cast a ballot at the polls.
The postponement of the election has been met with anger and frustration among Nigerians especially as INEC’s late announcement suggests a lack of consideration for its impact on citizens. Indeed, in the commission’s official statement announcing its “difficult decision,” there was no apology or acknowledgment of the impact the delay could have on voters and the country especially after the commission repeatedly claimed there would be no possible delay right up the 12 hours before its announcement.
In fact, INEC’s decision endangered the lives of thousands of young Nigerians it had signed up as ad-hoc staff for the elections. Across the country, these young Nigerians were left ”unprotected, without security and welfare” through the night at polling units, Favour, a INEC ad-hoc staff working in Lagos said.
It’s also unclear how the postponement will affect international election observation missions already in the country. The United Nations, ECOWAS, the European Union as well as the United States’ International Republican Institute (IRI) and the National Democratic Institute (NDI) all have election observers already on ground.
But the possibility of having fewer observers when the elections are eventually held will “affect the credibility of the polls,” Azuakola says. “We have seen over time how important these observers are. The most objective viewpoints about the elections comes from them once voting starts.”
Atiku regards postponed election as means to disenfranchise Nigerians
The Peoples Democratic Party presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, on Saturday accused President Muhammadu Buhari of plotting to disenfranchise Nigerians, by postponing the general elections.
Mr Abubakar, however, urged Nigerians to exercise patience and not be provoked before the new dates announced for the exercise.
Mahmood Yakubu, chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, announced at about 2:40 a.m. Saturday that the election had been postponed, barely hours after Nigerians were set to hit the polling units.
The elections would now hold on new dates scheduled as February 23 for presidential and National Assembly elections and March 9 for governorship and state assemblies elections.
Mr Yakubu said the announcement came hours after a string of strategic meetings were held by top INEC officials to review preparedness for the exercise. It was concluded that a rash of logistics challenges that arose on Friday informed the postponement.
Ekiti, Niger and Taraba States were identified as some of the states that faced glitches of distribution of voting materials that would be difficult to resolve in time for the elections Saturday morning, thereby forcing the postponement.
Nigerians online expressed severe disappointment in INEC’s eleventh-hour decision, with many criticising the umpire for displaying incompetence since it had four years to prepare for the exercise.
Mr Abubakar’s statement followed the reaction of Mr Buhari’s campaign office, which blamed the PDP for the postponement and called on Nigerians to support INEC in rejecting alleged opposition plots to compromise the commission.
“This postponement is obviously a case of the hand of Esau but the voice of Jacob. By instigating this postponement,” Mr Abubakar said in a Saturday morning statement to PREMIUM TIMES.
“The Buhari administration hopes to disenfranchise the Nigerian electorate in order to ensure that turn out is low on the rescheduled date. Nigerians must frustrate their plans by coming out in even greater numbers on Saturday, 23 February and Saturday, 9 March respectively,” the former vice-president added.
Read his initial reaction in full below:
Election Postponement: Remain Peaceful In Face of Provocation
Yola, Nigeria, 16 Feb 2019: Dear citizens of the Federal Republic of Nigeria,
As you know, the Independent National Electoral Commission has announced a postponement of the elections until 23 February and 9 March respectively.
The Buhari administration has had more than enough time and money to prepare for these elections and the Nigerian people were poised and ready to perform their civic responsibility by voting in the elections earlier scheduled for Saturday, 16 February, 2019.
This postponement is obviously a case of the hand of Esau but the voice of Jacob. By instigating this postponement, the Buhari administration hopes to disenfranchise the Nigerian electorate in order to ensure that turn out is low on the rescheduled date. Nigerians must frustrate their plans by coming out in even greater numbers on Saturday, 23 February and Saturday, 9 March respectively.
Knowing that the Nigerian people are determined to reject them, they are desperate and will do anything in their power to avoid their rejection by the Nigerian people.
Their plan is to provoke the public, hoping for a negative reaction, and then use that as an excuse for further anti-democratic acts.
As such, I call on all Nigerians to be patient. We have tolerated the maladministration of this government for four years. We can extend our tolerance a few more days and give them our verdict via our votes.
Maintain the peace and be law abiding. Do not react to this provocation with anger, violence or any action that might be exploited by those who do not want this election to hold. Remain calm. We will overcome this. You can postpone an election, but you cannot postpone destiny.
Please come out to vote on Saturday, 23 February and Saturday, 9 March respectively. Frustrate those who do not want this election to hold by coming out in very large numbers. That is the best antidote to their plans.
May God bless you and may God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Presidential Candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party & Vice President of Nigeria, 1999-2007.
INEC postpone presidential election, give reasons
The Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, has postponed to February 23rd, the General election earlier scheduled for Saturday, February 16th, 2019.
INEC chairman, Professor Mahmood Yakubu, while briefing newsmen at the commission’s headquarters, announced that continuing with the election as earlier scheduled for today, 16th February, 2019, was no longer feasible.
According to him,“Following a careful review of the implementation of its logistics and operational plan, and the determination to conduct free, fair, and credible elections, the commission came to the conclusion that proceeding with the elections as scheduled is no longer feasible.”
He therefore announced that the presidential and National Assembly elections had been moved to February 23, 2019. He also said that the governorship and state assembly elections have also been moved by one week to March 9, 2019.
According to him, “consequently, the Commission has decided to reschedule the Presidential and National Assembly Elections to Saturday, 23rd February 2019. Furthermore, the Governorship, State House of Assembly and Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Area Council Elections is rescheduled to Saturday 9th March 2019.
This will afford the Commission the opportunity to address identified challenges in order to maintain the quality of our elections.
“This was a difficult decision for the Commission to take, but necessary for the successful delivery of the elections and the consolidation of our democracy.
“The Commission will meet key stakeholders to update them on this development at 2pm on Saturday, 16th February 2019 at the Abuja international Conference Centre”, he added.”