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Turkey tests Russian-made S-400 defence system: Reports

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Tests of the advanced air defence system could stoke tensions between Turkey and the United States.

A missile has been fired into the sky on Turkey’s Black Sea coast where the military was expected to test its Russian-made S-400 defence systems, according to a video seen by Reuters.

The video, taken in the coastal city of Sinop on Friday, showed a narrow column of smoke headed high into the blue sky.

Turkey was widely expected to test the system this week, after issuing notices warning vessels and aircraft to avoid the area in the Black Sea.

A Haber television, an outlet close to the Turkish government, also reported the test on its website. Other Turkish media carried similar reports.

Turkey’s defence ministry said it would neither deny nor confirm missile tests.

Tests of the S-400s could stoke tensions between Turkey and the United States, which sharply opposed Ankara’s purchase of the weapons from Moscow on grounds they compromise shared NATO defence systems.

Washington reacted last year by suspending Turkey from its F-35 jet programme and has threatened sanctions.

On Friday, the US State Department warned of “potential serious consequences” for its security relationship with Turkey if it activates the system.

“If confirmed, we would condemn in the strongest terms the S-400 test missile launch as incompatible with Turkey’s responsibilities as a NATO ally and strategic partner of the United States,” State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said in a statement.

Defence analyst Turan Oguz told Reuters that a preliminary assessment of the colour, intensity, angle and route of the smoke in the video coincided with S-400 missiles. The angle of the column suggested the target “must not be too high,” he added.

Last year the Turkish military conducted radar tests of the surface-to-air defence system, which is among the world’s most advanced and can spot and track incoming aircraft at medium and long ranges.

In August, a Hellenic Air Force F-16 was targeted with the S-400’s radar when returning from a multinational military exercise, with Turkey being sharply rebuked for its actions against a fellow NATO ally.

Turkey signed the S-400 deal with Russia in 2017. Deliveries of the first four missile batteries, worth $2.5bn, began in July last year.

Turkey had initially said the S-400 would be operational in April but it has since delayed activating the system.

During a visit to Turkey earlier this month, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg reiterated that the Russian-made S-400 system cannot be integrated into the NATO air and missile defence system.

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World

Egypt votes for new ‘rubber-stamp’ parliament

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Egyptians are voting to elect a new parliament which critics say will just replicate a “rubber-stamp” body in place since 2015 under hardline President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.

In the second national elections this year, the country will be electing 568 seats out of 596 in the lower house of parliament from Saturday.

The remaining deputies will be appointed by the army general-turned-president el-Sisi, whose government has over the years silenced any serious political opposition to its rule.

More than 4,500 candidates are running as independents and on lists of party alliances. They are widely seen as backers of el-Sissi, who
has been governing Egypt since 2014.

Final results are not expected until mid-December.

Giant billboards have sprung up across the bustling capital, Cairo and elsewhere ahead of the vote that takes place on Saturday and Sunday.

And some candidates are campaigning online and have released video clips with songs to draw support.

But many of those running also stood for election five years ago in a political landscape marked by the presence of dozens of parties with little weight and influence on the ground.

The 2015 parliament was the first to come into office after the army, led by el-Sisi, deposed former leader Mohamed Morsi following widespread protests against the country’s first democratically elected civilian president.

In August, Egypt held elections for the newly restored 300-seat Senate in muted upper house elections marked by low voter turnout [File: Mohamed el-Shahed/AFP]

“Parliament has become an apparatus attached to the executive authority with no real legislative authority,” said Hassan Nafaa, a political science professor at Cairo University.

“It has almost never questioned any of the government’s policies or carried out any of the functions that parliaments normally do.”

‘Facade’

Most of the candidates are fielded by a pro-government coalition led by the Mostakbal Watan party, or the “Nation’s Future Party”.

It includes top businessmen and public figures and has grown since 2014 to be one of the dominant political forces.

Earlier this week, its leader Abdelwahab Abdelrazek was named head of the Senate.

The October vote is the second to be held amid the COVID-19 pandemic which has so far infected more than 105,000 people and killed nearly 6,200 in the country.

In August, Egypt held elections for the newly restored 300-seat Senate in muted upper house elections marked by low voter turnout of about 14 percent.

The reinstatement of the upper house – which was abolished after Morsi’s removal – was among the constitutional amendments that Egyptians overwhelmingly voted for last year.

Other amendments included potentially extending el-Sisi’s rule until 2030, boosting his control over the judiciary and granting the army even greater influence in political life.

“The return of Senate was unnecessary, and parliament only serves as a facade of a legislative authority in Egypt,” said Saeed Sadiq, a professor of political sociology at Nile University.

He said he expected few among the the country’s 63 million eligible voters would cast their ballots this weekend.

Speaking from London, Wafik Moustafa, Chairman of the British Arab Network agreed that most people would not be taking part in the vote, explaining that the Egyptians had lost confidence in el-Sisi’s elections.

“People will be boycotting these elections because the parliament itself has no legislative power,” said Moustafa.

“It is a fake parliament that has never questioned the government,” he added.

Under el-Sisi authorities have cracked down on dissent, in a move which has ensnared journalists, online bloggers, lawyers and intellectuals.

Protests have been effectively banned under a restrictive 2013 law, and a state of emergency, which has been extended repeatedly, has been in place since 2017.

“The public space is only filled with movements, ideologies, and parties supportive of policies of the current ruling system,” said Nafaa.

“There is not a single sign showing that this climate allows for free and real elections.”

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Kapil Dev: Indian cricket legend recovering after heart surgery

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The 61-year-old suffered a heart attack but is now in a stable condition, hospital says.

Indian cricket legend Kapil Dev is “well on the road to recovery” after undergoing emergency cardiac surgery in New Delhi.

The 61-year-old, who led India to their first World Cup title in 1983, was rushed to a hospital in the capital after complaining of chest pain on Friday.

“Kapil Dev suffered a heart attack. He was evaluated and an emergency coronary angioplasty was performed in the middle of night,” said a hospital statement carried by the Press Trust of India news agency.

“Kapil Dev is stable now and he is expected to get discharged in a couple of days.”

In a brief statement on Instagram and Twitter, Dev thanked fans for their outpouring of support, but did not offer specifics on what had happened.

“Thank you everyone for all the love and concern. I am overwhelmed with the good wishes and well on the road to recovery,” he said.

The news triggered a flurry of comments on social media from cricketers and fans, with current Indian captain Virat Kohli wishing the once-feared all-rounder a speedy recovery.

“Please join me in sending prayers, strength and good wishes,” said Madan Lal, a bowler in the 1983 “Kapil’s Devils” side that stunned the West Indies in the World Cup final at Lord’s.

Dev took 687 Test and One-Day wickets and scored nearly 9,000 runs during a 16-year international career.

After retiring in 1994, he became a national team coach and selector.

In 2002, Dev was named “Indian Cricketer of the Century” by Wisden.

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Seychelles votes to elect president, parliament

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Voters go to polls amid economic downturn as restrictions on global travel bottom out the tourism industry.

Voters in Seychelles are casting their ballot on the main day of the presidential and parliamentary elections spanning three days.

On Saturday, polling stations opened at 7am local time (03:00 GMT) on Mahe, Praslin and La Digue, the three main islands of Seychelles, which are home to the majority of its 74,600 voters, with the rest living on the further-flung territory of the Indian Ocean nation.

Voting took place on Thursday and Friday on a few dozen of these outer islands, mainly for employees of hotels or the island management authority, who attended pop-up polling stations with election material carried by plane or boat.

Some on the main islands’ deemed essential workers, such as hospital and nursing staff, also voted on Thursday.

The opposition, narrowly defeated in the 2015 presidential election and buoyed by a landmark victory in a parliamentary poll a year later, is hoping for its first presidential win in the 40 years since the independence of Seychelles.

It is up against the incumbent Danny Faure, 58, who is running under the recently renamed United Seychelles governing party which has been in power since 1977.

The main opposition parties did not manage to unite and Faure – who was not elected but took over after his predecessor James Michel resigned – faces two challengers.

His main rival is the Anglican priest Wavel Ramkalawan, who is taking his sixth shot at the presidency and lost by only 193 votes to Michel in an unprecedented second round of voting in 2015.

He is the candidate of the Linyon Democratik Seselwa (Seychelles Democratic Alliance) opposition party, the majority party in parliament after winning 19 of 34 seats in the last election.

The other candidate is Alain St Ange, who was in the opposition before joining the government as tourism minister from 2012 to 2016, but switched back and is now running under the flag of a new party, One Seychelles.

The three-day election of Seychelles began on Thursday [Herbert Labrosse/Reuters]

Economic downturn

The campaign took place mainly over social media, with rallies banned due to the coronavirus which has battered the Seychellois economy.

Seychelles has recorded only 149 cases, mostly imported, but the pandemic has been a burning campaign issue as restrictions on global travel bottom out the tourism industry – a major earner for Seychelles and employer for many of its 98,000 people.

Visitor numbers have collapsed since March in the archipelago nation of 115 islands, normally a popular destination for honeymooners and paradise-seekers wanting fine sandy beaches and turquoise waters.

The economy has slowed significantly since the start of the pandemic and unemployment has risen from 4.8 to 6.3 percent, according to government figures.

While its average income is among the highest in Africa, the national statistics agency says about 40 percent of citizens live in poverty because of the high cost of living.

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