- Americans Head to the Polls Today in Historic Election
After the long, bitter, divisive and gruelling election campaigns, Americans will head to the polls tuesday in a historic election that will determine who leads the world’s only super power and largest economy for the next four years.
The battle between the Democratic Party’s candidate, Hillary Clinton, and the Republican candidate, Donald Trump, will be eagerly watched by the rest of the world waiting with baited breath for the outcome of the election.
No US election in recent history has generated as much interest around world like the 2016 election. Not even President Barack Obama’s historic candidacy in 2008 came close.
The campaigns of both candidates were charaterised by lewd and incendiary language, email scandals, WikiLeaks, racism, sexual harassment and misogyny, leaked questions ahead of debates, hyperbole and outright lies, unending Twitter posts even at 3 in the morning, a fractured Republican Party, Russian hacks of the Democratic Party’s emails, and a last-minute FBI intervention that may likely affect the outcome of the election.
Should former US Secretary of State, Mrs. Clinton, beat her rival in the election, she will make history as the first woman to lead the country.
But before she wins that accolade, the US electorate would have to decide in a keen contest that has gone to the wire against Trump, who nobody gave a chance of even winning the ticket of the Republican Party.
Monday, both candidates fought late into the night as they barnstormed across battleground states on the final full day of campaigning.
As Election Day approached, each candidate has a path to victory. However, according to CNN, Clinton was better positioned than Trump with a narrow lead in national polls and an advantage in many battleground states.
But her leads were far from dominant and a strong turnout for Trump tuesday, or a poor response from sections of her own coalition could open the way for the billionaire real estate tycoon to become president.
“I am here to ask you to vote for yourself, vote for your family, vote for your futures,” Clinton said at her first event of the day in Pittsburgh. “Vote on the issues that matter to you because they are on the ballot — not just my name and my opponent’s name.”
The latest CNN Poll of Polls gives Clinton a four-point lead over Trump, 46% to 42%. In most of the swing states that will decide, the race is tight. But if Clinton can cling on to most states that have voted Democratic in recent elections and add at most a couple of swing states, she will likely win the election.
But Democrats are worried about Trump’s strength in the Midwest — particularly in Michigan, which has not voted Republican since 1988. Trump has been making a strong push there amid narrowing polls.
Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway predicted monday that Trump will win Michigan, telling ABC’s “Good Morning America” that the campaign feels “really good” about the latest polling in upper Midwest states.
Clinton was in Michigan later monday. Robby Mook, her campaign manager, said the late move is more a function of the calendar and the lack of early voting there than a sign of genuine anxiety.
“Our strategy these last few days is to focus on the states where voting overwhelmingly happens on Election Day,” Mook said on CNN’s New Day. “Previously, as you’ve seen, we’ve been focused on states like Florida, Nevada, North Carolina, where the majority of the voting happens early.”
He continued: “So, this is really a reflection of the voting calendar. Donald Trump has been kind of running to each and every state it seems. So they have their strategy. But we have ours.”
Trump has little margin for error. He will need to win Ohio, North Carolina and Florida, where he is locked in margin-of-error races with Clinton, just to give him a chance to make the near perfect run through the remaining swing states that he needs to capture the presidency.
Democrats were particularly encouraged by indications of a surge of Hispanic voters in early voting in Florida and Nevada. But there were also warning signs for Clinton, with African-Americans not as large a proportion of the early voting electorate as they were for President Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012.
CNN’s most recent electoral map showed Clinton was projected to win 268 electoral votes from states that are solidly blue or leaning in her direction. Trump had 204 votes from states that are solidly in his column or leaning that way. A candidate needs 270 electoral votes to win the White House.
In the latest CNN Poll of Polls data in the swing states, Clinton led 45% to 43% in North Carolina, the rivals are tied at 45% in Florida, and Clinton led by five points in Pennsylvania, a state Trump hopes to turn red tuesday.
In New Hampshire, where the race moved towards Trump in the last week, Clinton was still up 44% to 41%. New Hampshire only has four electoral votes, but Trump’s path to 270 is so difficult that votes from smaller states could still be crucial for him.
The latest opinion poll, on Fox News monday also gave Clinton a four-point lead, double that of Friday.
The candidates’ schedules monday told the tale of the last day before voting starts. Clinton was in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Grand Rapids, Michigan, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and Raleigh, North Carolina.
In Pennsylvania, Clinton appeared alongside her husband former President Bill Clinton and President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, in a bid to ensure the heavy turnout among Philadelphia voters that could make it impossible for Trump to make up the deficit elsewhere in the state.
The event underlined the remarkable role the Obamas have played during the campaign in support of the current president’s former political rival — one that is unprecedented at least since Ronald Reagan campaigned for his chosen successor, George H.W. Bush, in 1988.
Earlier in the day, Obama was in Ann Arbor, Michigan — another sign of how seriously the Democrats are taking the state. “The choice that you make when you step into the voting booth, it really could not be clearer,” Obama said. “Donald Trump is temperamentally unfit to be commander in chief.”
A race that has been full of surprises took another lurch Sunday, when FBI Director James Comey said newly discovered emails being reviewed by the bureau had not changed his conclusion that the former secretary of state should not be charged over her use of private email server.
Comey’s last minute move was a boost for Clinton, but may have come too late to repair the damage to her campaign wrought by a week of controversy and speculation about the email probe.
After Clinton’s latest reprieve from Comey, she adopted a more optimistic message Sunday than she had previously employed in the final week of the campaign, when she was under withering attack over the email saga.
After she was introduced to a crowd in Cleveland by NBA star, Lebron James, she told the crowd that she would always be there for Americans.
“I don’t know your dreams, I don’t know your struggles, but I want so much to convey to you I will be on your side,” Clinton said. “I will fight for you, fight for your family. I want us to do all we can to help you get ahead and stay ahead and my vision is very different from my opponents.”
Trump has adopted a scattershot strategy in the final days, travelling between swing states he needs to win, like Florida, and turf that had been considered solidly Democratic, like Pennsylvania, Michigan and Minnesota.
He was in Sarasota, Florida, Raleigh, North Carolina, Scranton, Pennsylvania, Manchester, New Hampshire yesterday and ended his day with a rally in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Trump shrugged off Comey’s move on Sunday, vowing that the American people would “deliver justice at the ballot box”.
“Hillary Clinton is guilty. She knows it, the FBI knows it, the people know it,” he said at a huge rally at Sterling Heights, Michigan.
If Trump could somehow peel away Michigan or Pennsylvania from Clinton’s column, he could hedge against a possible loss to Clinton from among the trio of Florida, North Carolina and Ohio. If he wins those three states and a big blue state, he could be on the way to the presidency.
Meanwhile, his campaign team monday sought to allay negative views expressed overseas towards their candidate.
Trump’s campaign manager told the BBC such antipathy “doesn’t reflect why Donald Trump is running and who he would be on the global stage”.
She also attacked Clinton’s “unremarkable to chequered” record as secretary of state.
Ms. Conway said negative attitudes overseas “does bother me” but defended Trump’s “America First” stance.
Trump “does say America First and he means it”, she said, spelling out the reasons – stopping the loss of American jobs overseas, making sure all partners, including NATO, pay their fair share and renegotiating trade deals that are bad for the US.
Ms. Conway also responded to a jibe from President Obama that Trump could not be trusted with US nuclear codes.
2023 Voter’s Registration Will Be Online, Biometric To Be Captured Physically- INEC
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) yesterday unfolded plans to allow online filing during the continuous voter registration for the 2023 general election.
The National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee of INEC, Mr. Festus Okoye, however, said only the biometric would be captured physically by INEC officials.
But the commission suffered another setback yesterday as arsonists torched its office in Ohafia Local Government Area of Abia State.
Okoye, during a stakeholders’ meeting on expanding voter access to polling units in Kano yesterday, said: “On June 28, the voter registration exercise for those above 18 years and those who have not registered before will commence with two new innovations. Those versatile with computer can register online and only visit a registration centre to capture their biometrics.”
Okoye stated that the online registration would be introduced to reduce crowd at registration centres in line with COVID-19 protocols.
The commission called on citizens, especially those willing to contest elections, whose voter cards have been defaced, whose names were wrongly spelt or addresses and locations wrongly captured to present themselves for authentication or correction.
INEC also called for valid data of all those with disabilities or physical challenges to be captured during the continuous registration for proper projections ahead of the 2023 general election.
INEC also warned political parties and politicians who have started campaigning to desist from doing so.
Okoye said: “There is a ban on political campaigns which has not been lifted yet. And I find it necessary to draw your attention for you to understand the legal implication of violating this ban.
“I have listened to comments on radio stations, which are capable of heating the polity. Media organisations should avoid providing platforms for such comments. The media should try to curtail such tensions.
“Political parties, politicians and their supporters should understand there is a legal framework for campaigns and it has not commenced yet.”
No Plans To Relocate AFRICOM HQ To Nigeria Or Any Part Of Africa- U.S. Replies Buhari
The United States has said there is no plan to relocate its Africa Command from its current base in Germany to Nigeria or any other part of Africa despite the worsening state of insecurity in the region.
The US gave the response barely two weeks after President Muhammadu Buhari appealed to the US government to consider relocating AFRICOM to Africa to assist Nigeria and other adjoining countries to combat worsening terrorism, banditry and other security crises.
The President made the plea in a virtual meeting with the US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, on April 27.
Germany-based Africa Command (AFRICOM) is the US military headquarters that oversees its operations in Africa.
Buhari’s request followed a series of recent military casualties in Nigeria’s decade-long fight against Boko Haram terrorists, fresh expansion of the insurgents’ bases to Niger and Nasarawa States, and heavy waves of abductions and killings by bandits in the North.
Buhari said, “The security challenges in Nigeria remain of great concern to us and impacted more negatively, by existing complex negative pressures in the Sahel, Central and West Africa, as well as the Lake Chad Region.
“Compounded as the situation remains, Nigeria and her security forces remain resolutely committed to containing them and addressing their root causes.
“The support of important and strategic partners like the United States cannot be overstated as the consequences of insecurity will affect all nations, hence the imperative for concerted cooperation and collaboration of all nations to overcome these challenges.
“In this connection, and considering the growing security challenges in West and Central Africa, Gulf of Guinea, Lake Chad region and the Sahel, weighing heavily on Africa, it underscores the need for the United States to consider relocating AFRICOM headquarters from Stuttgart, Germany to Africa and near the Theatre of Operation.”
However, the US government on Thursday ruled out any plan to relocate AFRICOM from its current base in Germany to Nigeria or any part of Africa.
According to the United States Department of Defence’ Pentagon, previous studies have shown that the cost of relocating AFRICOM from Germany to Africa is very huge.
In an emailed response to The PUNCH, the Pentagon said although it would continue to value Nigeria and other countries in Africa as important partners, the American government would not consider relocating AFRICOM to any part of the African continent at the moment.
This newspaper had asked if the US would consider Nigeria’s request to relocate AFRICOM to the continent.
“It would be inappropriate to speculate on any future actions. However, at this time, moving this headquarters (AFRICOM HQ) to Africa is not part of any plans, but USAFRICOM’s commitment to their mission, our African and other partners, remains as strong today as when we launched this command more than a decade ago,” US Pentagon spokesperson, Ms. Cindi King, said.
King also ruled out any plan to consider Buhari’s request in an ongoing global US defence review.
She said, “Although there is an ongoing Global Posture Review, the relocation of Combatant Command headquarters is outside the scope of its assessment. In the case of AFRICOM, previous studies have concluded that the cost associated with the relocation of this headquarters is significant and likely to incur the expense of other engagement opportunities and activities that more directly benefit our valued African partners.
“We greatly value the partnership with Nigeria and appreciate President Buhari’s recognition of the United States’ positive contribution to African peace and security, as well as other regional partners that have made similar past pronouncements. The United States remains committed to continuing our close partnership with African countries and organisations to promote security and stability.”
It’s ‘near impossible’ for America to accept Buhari’s invitation –Campbell, ex-US ambassador
Meanwhile, a former United States Ambassador to Nigeria, John Campbell, has listed reasons why it is “unlikely or near impossible” for the US government to relocate AFRICOM from Stuttgart in Germany to Nigeria or any part of the continent.
He said aside from the fact that the cost of doing so is very huge, the Nigerian military had proved to be a difficult partner for the US over the years.
China Urges U.N. States Not to Attend Xinjiang Event Next Week
China has urged United Nations member states not to attend an event planned next week by Germany, the United States and Britain on the repression of Uyghur Muslims and other minorities in Xinjiang, according to a note seen by Reuters on Friday.
“It is a politically-motivated event,” China’s U.N. mission wrote in the note, dated Thursday. “We request your mission NOT to participate in this anti-China event.”
China charged that the organizers of the event, which also include several other European states along with Australia and Canada, use “human rights issues as a political tool to interfere in China’s internal affairs like Xinjiang, to create division and turbulence and disrupt China’s development.”
“They are obsessed with provoking confrontation with China,” the note said, adding that “the provocative event can only lead to more confrontation.”
The Chinese mission to the United Nations did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The ambassadors of the United States, Germany and Britain are due to address the virtual U.N. event on Wednesday, along with Human Rights Watch Executive Director Ken Roth and Amnesty International Secretary General Agnes Callamard.
The aim of the event is to “discuss how the U.N. system, member states and civil society can support and advocate for the human rights of members of ethnic Turkic communities in Xinjiang,” according to an invitation.
Western states and rights groups have accused authorities in Xinjiang of detaining and torturing Uyghurs in camps, which the United States has described as genocide. In January, Washington banned the import of cotton and tomato products from Xinjiang over allegations of forced labor.
Beijing denies the accusations and describes the camps as vocational training centers to combat religious extremism.
“Beijing has been trying for years to bully governments into silence but that strategy has failed miserably, as more and states step forward to voice horror and revulsion at China’s crimes against Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims,” Human Rights Watch U.N. director Louis Charbonneau said on Friday.
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