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Seven Poll Workers Killed By Landmine As Niger Votes In Presidential Runoff

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NIAMEY: Seven poll workers were killed during Niger’s presidential vote on Sunday when their vehicle struck a landmine, an election official said, marring a day meant to usher in the country’s first democratic transition of power.

The West African country regularly suffers attacks by Islamist militants and had stepped up security to protect the poll, in which ruling party candidate Mohamed Bazoum is facing former president Mahamane Ousmane.

A vehicle belonging to the electoral commission (CENI) and carrying election workers to their polling stations hit a mine in the rural commune of Dargol in the southwest, said Harouna Mounkaila, the vice president of CENI’s local branch.

“They were leaving to drop off the ballot boxes and the members of the polling station,” Moukaila told Reuters. Three other workers were seriously wounded, he said.

Dargol is about 80 km (50 miles) from the border with Mali, a hotbed of militant activity. An attack on two villages near the border in January killed at least 100 civilians, the worst such incident in recent memory.

Niger’s twin security crises – one near its western border with Mali and Burkina Faso, where militants linked to al Qaeda and Islamic State operate, and the other along the southeastern border with Nigeria, where Boko Harm is active – were the dominant campaign issues.

CONTINUITY VERSUS CHANGE

In the first round on Dec. 27, ruling party candidate Bazoum, a former interior and foreign affairs minister, won 39.3% of the vote to Ousmane’s 17%. Bazoum then won the endorsements of the candidates who came third and fourth in the first round.

In the capital Niamey, the vote appeared to go smoothly. President Mahamadou Issoufou, who is stepping down after two five-year terms, hailed the historic nature of the election in a country that has seen four coups since independence from France in 1960.

Election workers began to count ballots shortly after polls closed at 7 p.m. (1800 GMT). Results are expected by Friday.

Earlier in the day, Bazoum had projected confidence.

“I hope that luck is on my side, but I have many reasons to believe it is indeed,” he said.

Bazoum, 61, has vowed to continue Issoufou’s policies. The 71-year-old Ousmane, Niger’s first democratically elected president, who was ousted in a 1996 military coup, has promised to bring change and tackle corruption.

“The vote is in every way between continuity and change,” said Mahamadou Harouna, a 30-year-old student who declined to say how he voted.

One of the world’s poorest nations, Niger has struggled with drought, floods, coronavirus and weak prices for its main export, uranium.

Ousmane has rejected the conventional wisdom that Bazoum is the favourite, alleging that the ruling party candidate’s first-round margin was due to fraud, without providing evidence.

“If the citizens ever notice fraud again, I fear the situation will be difficult to manage,” he said after voting.

Disclaimer: This post has been auto-published from an agency feed without any modifications to the text and has not been reviewed by an editor

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Congress attacks Modi government for reduction in unemployment rate

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So absorbed is Congress in attacking the Modi government that it seems that they have taken leave of their senses. Usually, an increase in the rate of unemployment sparks outrage among the opposition parties. However, the Congress party is outraged because there is a reduction in the unemployment rate in the country.

Earlier today, the official Twitter handle of the Congress party posted a tweet, questioning the BJP whether it thinks through the decisions or weighs the disastrous consequences its decisions might trigger. The question was regarding the lockdown imposed by PM Modi in the last week of March 2020 to stop the inexorable spread of the coronavirus.

“Does the BJP ever think through their decisions; ever think of the disastrous consequences it imposes on the nation?” the official Twitter handle of Congress tweeted.

However, what was intriguing is the infographic that was attached to attack the Modi government’s decision of imposing a lockdown in March 2020. Along with the tweet, the Congress Twitter handle attached an infographic that displayed the unemployment rate in April 2020 and May 2020.

The infographic showed that the unemployment rate in April 2020 was 23.53 per cent, and in the subsequent month, it dropped to 21.73 per cent. The unemployment rates in April and May were displayed with vertical bars, with the bar representing the unemployment rate in May significantly smaller than that of April 2020.

Despite the marked reduction in the unemployment rate in May 2020 as compared to April 2020 and the stark difference between the two bars representing the unemployment rates in the two months, the Congress party went on to question the PM for not thinking about the workforce before imposing an unplanned lockdown. The question was included in the infographic, alongside the vertical bars indicating the fall in the unemployment rate.

The Congress party seems to have a problem that despite the lockdown imposed in the country, the month of May 2020 witnessed a reduction in the unemployment rate as compared to April 2020. India had gone under lockdown from 22 March 2020 until the end of May 2020. It subsequently reopened in a phased manner, with necessary precautions and coronavirus guidelines in place.

Current unemployment figures are exceptionally low: CMIE report

While Congress continues ranting against the supposedly high unemployment rates, reports claim that unemployment in India in January 2021 is among the lowest in years. Ever since India emerged out of the coronavirus-induced lockdown, the employment generation has rebounded at a breakneck pace, with nearly 12 million people getting employed last month. The unemployment rate in January 2021 was down to 6.5 per cent from 9.1 per cent in December 2020.

According to the CMIE report, the total unemployed who were willing to work but did not have any employment in January 2021 was 40 million. The report stated that it is lowest in the last two years. Subsequently, after 12 million people were employed last month, the number of unemployed came down to 28 million.

“These are the unemployed who are willing to work and who are actively looking for employment. This is an exceptionally low number. On average, 33 million persons who were willing to work and were looking for work were unemployed in 2019-20. This is now down to less than 28 million,” the report said.

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