Profile: Soumaila Cisse | Mali News

Soumaila Cisse, 68, is a native of Timbuktu, Mali’s northern region, which is famous for its historic sites but which has also been rocked by political violence.

A software engineer by training, Cisse was born in a small city near Timbuktu called Nianfuke. He was a top presidency official and served as a minister for much of the 1990s, including a stint in charge of the finance portfolio.

Cisse has earned respect as an economist although he has faced accusations of mismanagement and was accused of corruption by the military officials who seized power in the March 2012 coup.

His public pronouncements and his participation in a broad anti-coup coalition, the United Front for the Defence of the Republic and Democracy (FDR), led to him being attacked by soldiers loyal to Captain Amadou Sanogo, the leader of the March 2012 coup.

He was badly wounded as the men stormed his home in the capital Bamako on April 17, and fled to France, convalescing between Paris and Senegal for several months before returning to Mali.

A no-nonsense enforcer in the regime of ex-head-of-state Alpha Oumar Konare and a former president of the Commission of the West African Economic and Monetary Union (CWAEMU), Cisse has called for a “clearing of the junta” from the political scene.

He was beaten in the 2002 presidential election by Toure. In 2013, he was defeated by a large margin in the second round by President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita.

As he approaches Sunday’s vote, he is trying again to garner votes to defeat President Keita with vague buzzwords like “change” and “new hope”, but does not explain how he is planning to achieve those goals.

Earlier this week, Cisse’s campaign team was attacked by gunmen in the northern city of Timbuktu. According to local reports, cars, phones and personal belongings of Cisse’s team were damaged or stolen.

Cisse’s origins

Cisse comes from the town of Niafunke in the Timbuktu region, part of the vast northern desert occupied for nearly 10 months by an al-Qaeda-linked group, but he has been married since 1978 to Astan Traore, who comes from a prominent family in the south.

He was a high-flying student, graduating with a science degree from the University of Dakar in 1972, before enrolling at the University of Montpellier in southern France, where he obtained a master’s in computational methods applied to management.

After his studies, he worked in France for major corporations including IBM, aluminium conglomerate Pechiney and the domestic airline Air Inter, before returning to Mali in 1984 to join the Malian Company for Textile Development (CMDT).

When Alpha Oumar Konare was elected as president in 1994, he appointed Cisse as his secretary-general of the presidency and then, finance minister.

Cisse held this position until 2000, when he was made cabinet member for public works, the environment and town and country planning – a sweeping portfolio which earned him the nickname “super minister”.

Seven things Pakistan’s election results reveal | Pakistan News

Islamabad, Pakistan  With election results from at least 267 of Pakistan’s 272 National Assembly constituencies now in, we can begin to make some sense of what has been a historic vote in the South Asian country, seeing Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) emerging as the single largest party in parliament for the first time ever.

The PTI has broken the duopoly held by the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) for decades.

Pakistan has also been directly ruled by the military for roughly half of its 70-year history.

Here are some key takeways from Wednesday’s vote:

1. The PTI rode a wave of support across the country

Khan’s PTI will almost certainly form the next government, even though it is just short of the 137 seats needed to take an outright majority on its own. With smaller parties and independents winning at least 45 seats, it should not be difficult for the PTI to form alliances and elect Khan as prime minister.

The PTI’s victory was built on the back of two major wins. First, it was able to wrest much of southern and northern Punjab from the outgoing PML-N, breaking the party’s vote bank in its political heartland.

Second, it was able to hold on to most of its seats in the northwestern province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), which has historically always voted out its incumbent party. The PTI won the most seats in KP in 2013, but holding on to them represented a historic first.

2. Was the vote free and fair?

The outgoing PML-N and other parties that underperformed, unsurprisingly, say it was not, but the Election Commission of Pakistan is standing by the results, saying any complaints should be filed with accompanying evidence.






WATCH: Pakistan election: What you need to know (5:10)

The opposition’s complaints seem to centre on the vote counting process, with at least six political parties alleging their representatives were not allowed to witness the counting process, as mandated by law, and that the final counts were not properly documented.

FAFEN, an independent Pakistani election observer network, noted in at least 35 constituencies, the winning margin was less than the number of votes rejected by electoral officials, often a red flag for possible manipulation. The number was similar in 2013.

The EU’s observer mission in Pakistan said while there were positive changes to Pakistan’s legal framework for elections, the polls were “overshadowed by restrictions on freedom of expression and unequal campaign opportunities”.

PTI chief Khan – who himself alleged widespread rigging in 2013 – has said his party will fully cooperate with any investigations into the electoral process.

3. With MQM in disarray, megapolis Karachi votes for change

For the last 35 years, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), an ethnic Muhajir party, has ruled Pakistan’s largest city of Karachi with an iron first. Since late 2013, however, a paramilitary operation has targeted the party’s alleged criminal enterprises, jailing dozens of workers and leaders.

The operation finally led to the factionalisation of the party, with chief Altaf Hussain, who lives in exile in London, unable to maintain control.

As a result, 2018 saw an open fight for the city of Karachi for the first time in decades, and the results were clear: the PTI swept 14 of the city’s 21 seats, beating major MQM leaders along the way. It even managed to beat PPP chief Bilawal Bhutto Zardari in his party’s historic stronghold of the Lyari neighbourhood.

4. Mixed bag for Pakistan’s far-right parties

This election was a mixed bag for Pakistan’s far-right parties, with the newly emerged Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) firmly establishing itself as the dominant hardline Barelvi Sunni Muslim party, but others failing to make an impact.

The TLP won two provincial assembly seats in Sindh province, but, crucially, emerged as the third-placed party in a number of national constituencies across the country, regularly registering more than 10,000 votes, and going as high as 42,000 in some urban constituencies.

The Ahle Sunnat Wal Jammat, an alleged political front for the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi armed group, and the Milli Muslim League, the alleged political front for the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba armed group, both fared badly at both the provincial and national levels, however.

5. The army was in control of the polling process

Pakistan’s military deployed more than 371,000 soldiers for the 2018 elections, more than it has ever done before, and the results showed.

Each of the country’s 85,000 polling stations was secured by army personnel, with civilian law enforcement and, in some cases, electoral officials, relegated to a supporting role.

Entry to the polling stations was strictly controlled, and in several instances media workers reported being disallowed from entering – despite having proper accreditation – by military personnel.

The army says it played “no direct role” in the polling process, and it only ensured security and the sanctity of the ballot process. Opponents allege it intervened directly in vote counts.

The EU’s observer mission did not pass judgment on the issue, but did note “during counting, security personnel recorded and transmitted the results, giving the impression of a parallel tabulation”.

6. Who were the major losers from this election?

Depending on how you look at it, the PPP – a party that has ruled Pakistan on four occasions since the party’s inception in the 1970s – either failed miserably and has now been relegated to third-party status in Pakistan, or overperformed expectations by holding on to its base in Sindh and picking up a few seats in southern Punjab province and elsewhere. The jury is out on this one.

What is clear is the religious right, represented by the Jamiat Ulema Islam-Fazl (JUI-F), Jamaat-e-Islami (JI), and others largely failed at the polls, winning just 13 seats nationwide.

The MQM’s loss of its political base in Karachi is a major blow to the party, and the failure of even the breakaway Pak Sarzameen Party (PSP) to win a single national seat also suggests politics may be changing in Pakistan’s largest city.

Finally, the Awami National Party (ANP), a Pashtun nationalist party in northwestern KP province, only managed to win a single seat, cementing its decline since ruling the province from 2008-13.

7. Will this election give Pakistan political stability?

So far, only the JUI-F has called for widespread protests against the results, with the PML-N still formulating a way forward. The PPP appears to have accepted the results, with reservations.

The PTI’s fairly clear mandate at the centre means the coalition-building process should be relatively straightforward, with the party also expected to lead KP’s provincial government. In Sindh, the PPP is expected to form the provincial government, while in Balochistan, the provincial government will likely be led by the Balochistan Awami Party (BAP).

The key to stability, however, will lie in who leads the provincial government in Punjab, the country’s most populous province.

The PML-N and PTI are neck and neck in the province, with 127 and 123 seats, respectively, and both are vying to form a government.

If the PML-N is successful in holding on to a province it has governed for more than a decade, it may set up political confrontation with the PTI at the centre.

Asad Hashim is Al Jazeera’s digital correspondent in Pakistan. He tweets @AsadHashim






WATCH: What role does Pakistan’s military play in politics? (25:00)

Imran Khan’s Party Begins Coalition Talks As Rivals Plan Protests

Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party (PTI) won 115 seats in Wednesday’s ballot.

Islamabad: 

Imran Khan’s party said it has begun talks with independents and small parties to form a coalition government after a resounding triumph in Pakistan’s general election, as rival parties planned protests over alleged vote rigging.

Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party (PTI) won 115 seats in Wednesday’s ballot, short of the 137 needed for a simple majority but a surprisingly strong showing that helped fuel suspicion of rigging.

The party has begun reaching out to potential coalition partners to form a government, according to spokesman Fawad Chaudhry, a task that analysts said should be straightforward.

“We have contacted small parties and independent members, they will soon meet party leaders in Islamabad,” Chaudhry announced late Friday, adding that the process was likely to take about 10 days.

Chaudhry’s comments followed an announcement by rival parties vowing to launch a protest “movement”, after foreign observers voiced concerns about the contest.

More than a dozen parties calling themselves the All Parties Conference (APC) promised to protest over the results.

However the group remained divided with some parties pledging to boycott joining the National Assembly and others calling for a new vote.

The outgoing Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz party announced its support for the group but stopped short of saying it would boycott the new parliament.

And the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), which was notably absent from the APC, said in a separate announcement that it rejected the results, but vowed to try to convince the other parties to participate in the parliamentary process.

The protests announcement late Friday came as the United States, the European Union and other observers voiced concerns over widespread claims that the powerful military had tried to fix the playing field in Khan’s favour.

Khan’s victory represents an end to decades of rotating leadership between the PML-N and the Pakistan PPP that was punctuated by periods of military rule.

The vote was meant to be a rare democratic transition in the Muslim country, which has been ruled by the powerful army for roughly half its history.

But it was marred by violence and allegations of military interference in the months leading up to the vote, with Khan seen as the beneficiary.

The former cricket star will face myriad challenges, including militant extremism, an economic crisis with speculation that Pakistan will have to seek a bailout from the International Monetary Fund, water shortages and a booming population.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

British Lawmakers Accuse Facebook of Failing to Aid Inquiry Into ‘Fake News’

LONDON — A closely watched British parliamentary committee examining Russia’s exploitation of social media to try to influence elections has called for sweeping new regulations on tech companies, and has accused Facebook of providing “disingenuous answers” to some questions while avoiding others “to the point of obstruction.”

A report from the House of Commons panel, which is investigating “fake news” on the internet, cited Facebook’s resistance to disclosing information as evidence of the need for more stringent rules to hold social media giants accountable for content.

“Facebook should not be in a position of marking its own homework,” the committee said, in a report scheduled for release on Sunday, arguing that Facebook’s resistance to providing information to Parliament “does not bode well for future transparency.”

The report is the latest indication that policymakers across Europe and North America are turning sharply more skeptical about the social media giants, once hailed as leaders of a revolution in free speech and human interaction.

The panel — the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee — collaborated with the Senate Intelligence Committee in Washington, which on Friday announced that it would hold its own hearing in the coming week on foreign influence operations over social media.

“The threat posed by this challenge is not just an American problem — it is one that confronts all free societies, and we need to work together to ensure we are protecting our democracy,” Senator Mark Warner of Virginia, the ranking Democrat on the Senate committee, said in an emailed statement.

The report and hearing come at a delicate moment for Facebook’s business, as a string of recent scandals involving the spread of misinformation or misuse of personal data are starting to damage the company’s growth in users and advertising. Facebook disclosed on Wednesday that its growth had slowed while it faced rising costs to try to repair its credibility, and the news pushed its stock down about 20 percent by the next day — shaving $120 billion off the value of the company.

Damian Collins, the chairman of the British parliamentary committee, said in a statement that he believed “what we have discovered so far is the tip of the iceberg,” calling this “a watershed moment in terms of people realizing they themselves are the product, not just the user of a free service.”

Facebook’s problems began to increase when American intelligence agencies concluded that Russians had used fake identities to spread propaganda over Facebook and other social media sites to try to influence the 2016 American presidential election.

That revelation was part of the impetus for the formation of the British parliamentary committee, which sought to determine whether Russia had applied similar efforts to sway the 2016 referendum on Britain’s exit from the European Union, known as Brexit.

Moscow has long sought to weaken the European Union, and the committee’s report cited research showing that in the six months before the referendum in June 2016, the Kremlin’s English-language outlets, Sputnik and Russia Today, published 261 articles supporting Britain’s withdrawal from the bloc. Those articles then somehow reached more users on Twitter than the content produced by the two main campaigns for Brexit.

Yet the committee complained in its report that a lack of disclosure by the internet companies had thwarted its efforts to assess the extent of Russia’s potentially hidden efforts to use false identities or polarizing messages on social media sites to manipulate public opinion.

“Time and again, Facebook chose to avoid answering our written and oral questions,” the report noted.

“There has been a continual reluctance on the part of Facebook to conduct its own research on whether its organization has been used by Russia to influence others,” the report said, describing “a disconnect between the government’s expressed concerns about foreign interference in elections, and tech companies intractability in recognizing the issue.”

Officials at Facebook and Twitter, which were not immediately available for comment, have said that they cooperated fully with the committees, suggesting that British intelligence agencies failed to provide the kind of information about fake Russian accounts that enabled the companies to disclose more about the American case.

Most worrisome for the internet companies, however, are the committee’s recommendations to impose stricter regulations, disclosure requirements and penalties on the social media companies. The committee said the British government was expected to lay out proposals for a new regulation framework later this year. It not yet clear how much influence the committee’s recommendations may have on that process.

More or less since the advent of the internet, European and American lawmakers have treated the social media networks as passive platforms for content shared by users, and for that reason the laws have largely shielded the companies from liabilities for defamation, privacy violations, copyright infringement and other issues — protections that advocates for the companies say are essential to their business model.

In its recommendations, the committee urged an end to that impunity, arguing that the companies in fact have control and thus responsibility for their content.

“Social media companies cannot hide behind the claim of being merely a ‘platform,’ ” the report asserted. “That is not the case; they continually change what is and is not seen on their sites, based on algorithms and human intervention.”

Among other proposals, the committee called for the regulators who oversee television and radio to set standards for accuracy and impartiality on social media sites, for the establishment of a “working group of experts” to rate the credibility of websites or accounts “so that people can see at first glance the level of verification,” and for a new tax on internet companies that would pay for expanded oversight.

To address influence campaigns, the committee called for the mandatory public disclosure of the sponsors behind any online political advertisement or paid communication, as required in traditional news media outlets — an idea that was proposed in Congress as well.

The committee also noted that British law currently caps fines for election-law violations at a maximum of 20,000 British pounds, which would be almost meaningless for an internet giant. The committee suggested setting the maximum fine at a fixed percentage of a company’s revenue. For a company like Facebook, that could be a much more threatening punishment.

Super Saturday elections: final votes cast in Longman and Braddon – politics live | Australia news

It’s D-day, as the byelections in Longman, Braddon, Mayo, Fremantle and Perth are decided.

While the WA elections have been largely ignored, given the Liberal party decided not to challenge them, Queensland and Tasmania have received more than their fair share of attention.

Meanwhile, Mayo in South Australia, which was meant to be Georgina Downer’s entree into politics, has turned out to be a way bigger battle than the Liberal party was prepared for, with Centre Alliance Rebekha Sharkie expected to retain it.

Which means all eyes are on Longman and Braddon, where we have NO idea what will happen.

Not only are single seats notoriously difficult to poll, byelections usually make it impossible. The good burghers of Longman and Braddon are sick to death of the robocalls and phonecalls, surveys, journalists and politicians and their volunteers accosting them in the streets, shopping centres – and their homes – so getting an adequate picture of what is going on, is a pretty hard task.

Then throw in absenteeism – voter turnout at byelections is usually lower than usual – and people on holidays, and boom – it’s a recipe for a big ole mess.

But which way Longman and Braddon voters go will also determine what the next few months of politics looks like across the nation. If it goes against Labor, you can expect leadership tensions to boil over. If it goes against the government, you can expect any general election talk to be put off until next year.

So there is a lot riding on tonight. And that’s if we even get a result tonight!

But fear not – we will be with you until the counting stops. The early turnout for Longman and Braddon at pre-poll was pretty significant – there were six pre-poll booths in Longman alone – so if the government is ahead at the end of the night, that is very bad news for Labor, given postals usually go the conservative sides way.

And we also don’t know how One Nation votes will play out.

There’s a lot to take in tonight. So I hope you have your beverage of choice and are settled somewhere comfortable. You can reach me at @amyremeikis on Twitter, or in the comment section, and there will be some behind the scenes stuff at @pyjamapolitics on instagram. Katharine Murphy, Ben Raue and Ben Smee will also be making guest appearances.

Ready?

Let’s get into it.