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22 Oct
2019

Emperor Naruhito enthroned during frantic year for Japan

JAPAN (WNF) - Emperor Naruhito is formally enthroned in a ceremony attended by dignitaries from nearly 200 countries. The enthronement – and the banquets and festivities that follow – fall about midpoint in Japan’s long sojourn under an international spotlight.
He succeeded his father, Akihito, on May 1, during a brief ceremony in which he was handed the three sacred relics known as the Imperial Regalia. Consisting of a sword, a mirror and a jewel, the relics are said to be housed in three sacred sites spread around the nation.

Naruhito is 126th in the world’s oldest hereditary monarchy, believed to stretch back more than 2,600 years.

Scores of events linked to the abdication of one emperor and the succession of another unfold in the months preceding the enthronement. Naruhito’s enthronement is likely to be at least as much of a draw as his father’s. Some 2,500 guests attended the Nov 1990 event, including seven members of royal families, 46 presidents and 11 prime ministers.

Japan also will be in the international spotlight in 2019 for a host of non-accession events: local and Diet Upper House elections, the G20 summit and concurrent ministerial meetings which will be held in eight different cities, and the Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD), which brings many African leaders and ministers to Japan. TICAD 2013 brought 39 leaders from 51 participating countries to Japan. At the same time, the country will be hosting the Rugby World Cup and continuing preparations for the 2020 Olympics.

The challenge lies in handling the arrangements and security for so many visitors with a limited pool of employees. In 2017, Japan Forward’s Foreign Ministry sources foresaw a “2019 Problem.” According to the publication in Dec 2017, the entire Ministry is involved in the scramble for human resources, with a plan to establish a special secretariat and recall ministry staff from consulates and embassies to help with the effort. #23058 Published: 04/01/2019

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23 Oct
2019

Botswana holds general election with its reputation on the line

BOTSWANA (WNF) - Diamond-rich Botswana elects its National Assembly, the body that chooses the country’s president after the vote, with the country’s reputation and the long reign of the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) in jeopardy. Sluggish economic growth and high youth unemployment have given the opposition a big foothold, along with the fight over elephants and hunting.
The BDP has held the presidency and a majority of the 63 National Assembly seats since independence in 1966. During that time the country has won an international reputation as an African economic and political success story and a bastion of conservation.

In Mar 2019 the World Bank noted high levels of income inequality and high unemployment, particularly youth unemployment in the country. It also lauded the orderly transfer of power to Mokgweetsi Eric Masisi at the end of Ian Khama’s second term as president in Apr 2018.

Khama and his hand-picked successor are at odds. Masisi took office vowing to diversify the economy away from diamonds. He targeted tourism, Botswana’s second largest source of foreign income after diamond mining. He also changed several key policies adopted by Khama, one of which was the 2014 ban on elephant hunting and culling in Botswana, home to a third of Africa’s elephants.

Khama, whose father led the southern African country to independence, quit the ruling party in May. He accused Masisi of becoming an autocrat and threatening the country's reputation as a beacon of stability in a troubled continent.

Khama leads a BDP splinter group, the Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF). An opposition coalition Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) brings the BPF together with three other parties. If it holds together until the election, the country could see its first change of government since independence from Britain in 1966.

Reporting on the elephant issue in Feb 2019, the BBC noted that the massive animals can be very destructive when they encroach onto farmland and move though villages – destroying crops and sometimes killing people. The broadcaster pointed out that the government has to balance lifting the hunting ban to win rural votes against the impact it may have on Botswana’s international reputation as a luxury safari destination and as a beacon for conservation.

The poll will elect 57 national assembly and 490 local government representatives. #23028 Updated: 09/15/2019 WRITE THROUGH UPDATE SEP 15 TO INCLUDE ECONOMY SITUATION

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24 Oct
2019

The Louvre finally gets its turn with Leonardo da Vinci 500th death anniversary exhibit

FRANCE (WNF) - A year-long exhibition of the work of Leonardo da Vinci opens at the Louvre five months after the 500th anniversary of the death of the famed painter, scientist, engineer and inventor. The lag reflects the diplomatic tussle between France, where he died, and Italy, where he was born, over which country had the most right to lead the year-long frenzy of events to mark his passing.
The Louvre holds five of only 14 paintings attributed to Leonardo, and the museum sought several of the artist’s works from Italy. Agreement for the loan helped to seal the dispute and round out the Louvre show. The Leonardos from Italy are thought to include the famous drawing, Vitruvian Man, which is in Venice, as well as the unfinished painting, Saint Jerome in the Wilderness.

The museum is seizing the opportunity in this year of commemorations to gather as many of the artist’s paintings as possible around the five core works in its collections: The Virgin of the Rocks, La Belle Ferronnière, the Mona Lisa, Saint John the Baptist, and Saint Anne. The objective is to place them alongside a wide array of drawings, as well as a small but significant series of paintings and sculptures from the master’s circle.

The exhibition is the culmination of more than 10 years of work by the museum. It includes new scientific examinations of the Louvre’s paintings, and will paint the portrait of a man and an artist of extraordinary freedom.

Leonardo, born the illegitimate son of a notary in the Tuscan hill town of Vinci in 1452, spent his final years at the court of Francis I in the Loire, where he died on May 2, 1519. #23278 Published: 09/16/2019

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27 Oct
2019

General election to take Argentina to the left?

ARGENTINA (WNF) - Some 33 million Argentines will vote for a president, members of the national congress and most provincial governors in an election that appears likely to shift Argentina to the left. Voters are reported to be angry about the country’s deep recession, inflation and the austerity policies of the center-right incumbent president, Mauricio Macri.
The country’s deeply polarizing former president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner is running as vice president with a little-known center-left presidential candidate, Alberto Fernández. They won the primary election on Aug 11, and are on track to win in October. Despite her substantial legal troubles, she enjoys broad popular support because of the generous social spending during her administrations.

Reuters reported in June that Argentina’s economy contracted 5.8 per cent in the first quarter of 2019, following a tumultuous period where the country was rattled by a plunging peso currency and rampant inflation.

To win outright, a candidate must get at least 45 per cent of the vote, or 40 per cent while leading an opponent by at least 10 percentage points.

One third of the 72-seat Senate and half of the 257 Chamber of Deputies will be elected, with broad coalitions expected to form ahead of the vote. #23057 Updated: 09/15/2019 WRITE THROUGH UPDATE SEP 15 TO INCLUDE ALBERTO FERNANDEZ

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27 Oct
2019

Uruguay goes to the polls with country appearing to be veering to the right

URUGUAY (WNF) - A national surge in violence opens possibilities in the country’s presidential and legislative vote for the National Front, a center-right party that is promising a crackdown. The slowing in the mainly buoyant economy also might increase public appetite for change from the ruling leftist Broad Front. A referendum to decide on tough policies against crime will be held at the same time.
Former Montevideo mayor Daniel Martínez and Senator Luis Lacalle Pou, who won the nominations for the ruling Broad Front coalition and the National Party respectively in Jun 30 primaries, are the main contenders for the presidency. If no candidate receives more than 50 per cent of votes in the first round, the two leading candidates will compete in a run-off on Nov 24.

Thirty seats in the Senate are at play, and all 99 seats in the Chamber of Representatives. The Broad Front has a significant lead over the National Party in the both houses, with the Colorado Party far behind in third place.

Long famed for being a peaceful haven in South America, Uruguay is experiencing a surge of violence. Associated Press reports that homicides increased by 46 per cent in 2018, a rate higher than most South American nations and a record high for the small country of about 3.5 million people. Many Uruguayans have decided that drastic measures are in order.

The referendum on crime will propose amendments to the constitution that include creating a national guard and stiffer penalties for serious crimes.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) noted in February in its annual economic review that over the last decade and a half, Uruguay’s economy has been resilient – helping to reduce poverty and raise incomes to one of the highest levels in the region. The IMF cautioned that growth has moderated, and the country faces the challenges of low investment, declining employment, and an uncertain external climate. #23166 Published: 07/08/2019

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