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After being attacked as “impeachable” by Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich., a frequent critic of the president, President Donald Trump lashed back Sunday via Twitter, calling out the “lightweight,” “loser” critic for political opportunism that “plays right into” resistant Democrats’ hands.

Trump started:

“Never a fan of @justinamash, a total lightweight who opposes me and some of our great Republican ideas and policies just for the sake of getting his name out there through controversy. If he actually read the biased Mueller Report, ‘composed’ by 18 Angry Dems who hated Trump,….”

Then concluded:

“….he would see that it was nevertheless strong on NO COLLUSION and, ultimately, NO OBSTRUCTION…Anyway, how do you Obstruct when there is no crime and, in fact, the crimes were committed by the other side? Justin is a loser who sadly plays right into our opponents hands!”

Rep. Amash had tweeted Saturday about his “principal conclusions” of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report, listing at No. 2 “President Trump has engaged in impeachable conduct.”

Amash’s position on impeachment might not truly move Congress. While House Democrats might have the votes to send the impeachment proceedings to the Senate, Amash’s vote does not count there. Still, House Democrats have been hesitant on moves for impeachment because of potentially riling up President Trump’s voter base before the 2020 presidential election.

Source: NewsMax Politics

FILE PHOTO: India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi waves towards his supporters during a roadshow in Varanasi
FILE PHOTO: India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi waves towards his supporters during a roadshow in Varanasi, India, April 25, 2019. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi/File Photo

May 19, 2019

NEW DELHI (Reuters) – Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling alliance is likely to win a majority in parliament after a mammoth general election that ended on Sunday, two exit polls showed.

Modi’s National Democratic Alliance (NDA) is projected to win 287 seats in the 545-member lower house of parliament followed by 128 for the Congress party-led opposition alliance, CVoter exit poll said.

To rule a party needs the support of 272 lawmakers. Votes are to be counted on Thursday. Exit polls have a mixed record in a country with an electorate of 900 million people.

According to another poll released by Times Now television Modi’s alliance is likely to get 306 seats, a clear majority.

(Reporting by Aftab Ahmed and Devjyot Ghoshal; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani)

Source: OANN

Austria's Chancellor Kurz meets Austrian President Van der Bellen, in Vienna
Austria’s Chancellor Sebastian Kurz and Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen attend a news conference, in Vienna, Austria, May 19, 2019. REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger

May 19, 2019

VIENNA (Reuters) – Austria’s president on Sunday recommended a new election be held in early September, saying he wanted to restore trust in the government after a video scandal led to the resignation of the vice chancellor.

Chancellor Sebastian Kurz pulled the plug on the coalition and called for a snap election on Saturday after his deputy, Heinz-Christian Strache, the leader of the far-right Freedom Party, quit over a video showed him discussing fixing state contracts in return for favors.

It is most important that Austrians are given the chance of a new start to rebuild trust in its government, President Alexander van der Bellen said in a statement at his Hofburg residence in Vienna.

“This new beginning should take place quickly, as quickly as the provisions of the Federal Constitution permit, so I plead for elections… in September, if possible at the beginning of September,” the president said.

Strache has described the video sting as a “targeted political assassination” and said it never led to any money changing hands. He insisted the only crime that took place was illegally videotaping a private dinner party.

Van der Bellen and Kurz said at their joint news conference that stability was a main priority for them for the coming months.

Kurz repeated that he saw the snap elections as the only way to solve the crisis. “The new elections were a necessity, not a wish,” he said.

The make up of a caretaker government remained unclear a day after the 18-month-old coalition of conservatives and the far right collapsed.

(Reporting by Kirsti Knolle; Editing by Alison Williams)

Source: OANN

Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz addresses the media in Vienna
FILE PHOTO: Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz addresses the media in Vienna, Austria, May 18, 2019. REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger

May 19, 2019

VIENNA (Reuters) – Austria’s chancellor and president will discuss a date on Sunday for an early parliamentary election and the makeup of a caretaker government, after a video sting brought down the leader of the far-right junior partners in the ruling coalition.

Chancellor Sebastian Kurz pulled the plug on his coalition and called for a snap election after his deputy, the leader of the far-right Freedom Party, quit over a video showing him discussing fixing state contracts in return for favors.

Heinz-Christian Strache, who was filmed speaking to a woman who posed as the niece of a Russian oligarch, accepted that the video was “catastrophic” but denied having broken the law and said no money changed hands.

The scandal is a blow for one of Europe’s most successful nationalist parties just a week before an election to the European parliament in which far-right groups anticipate record success across the continent.

Kurz, a conservative who has ruled with far-right junior partners for a year and a half, said the video was the last straw after a number of lesser scandals, and it was time for a new vote rather than an attempt to keep the coalition in office.

“Enough is enough,” Kurz said in a statement to the media on Saturday. President Alexander Van der Bellen, who has the authority to dismiss the government, also said he favored a snap election and would discuss details on Sunday.

Austria could set an election date as soon as the summer, according to national law, “but that could be difficult due to school holidays,” said Robert Stein, who heads the election desk at the interior ministry.

“The first possible Sunday after the school holidays would be September 15,” he said.

The makeup of any caretaker government until the snap election was also up for discussion.

Strache said on Saturday that Transport Minister Norbert Hofer, a former presidential candidate, would replace him as party leader. Kurz has not yet said whether he would accept Hofer as his deputy in government.

The Freedom Party’s leadership will meet on Saturday afternoon to discuss next steps and nominate Hofer as party chief, news wire APA said.

(Reporting by Kirsti Knolle; Editing by Peter Graff)

Source: OANN

Johnson & Johnson manufacturing plant is pictured in Penjerla on the outskirts of Hyderabad
FILE PHOTO: Johnson & Johnson manufacturing plant is pictured in Penjerla on the outskirts of Hyderabad, India April 16, 2019. REUTERS/Zeba Siddiqui

May 19, 2019

By Zeba Siddiqui and Aditya Kalra

PENJERLA/NEW DELHI, India (Reuters) – It was supposed to be Johnson & Johnson’s biggest manufacturing plant in India. It was to eventually employ at least 1,500 people and help bring development to a rural area near Hyderabad in southern India.

Yet, three years after the U.S. healthcare company completed construction of production facilities for cosmetics and baby products on the 47-acre site, they stand idle.

Two sources familiar with J&J’s operations in India and one state government official told Reuters production at the plant, at Penjerla in Telangana state, never began because of a slowing in the growth in demand for the products.

One of them said that demand didn’t rise as expected because of two shock policy moves by Prime Minister Narendra Modi: a late 2016 ban on then circulating high-value currency notes, and the nationwide introduction of a goods and services tax (GST) in 2017.

J&J spokespeople in its Mumbai operations in India and at its global headquarters in New Brunswick, New Jersey, declined to respond to a list of questions from Reuters.

Modi’s office did not respond to a call and an email with questions.

Aimed at rooting out corruption and streamlining the tax system, the double whammy of ‘demonetization’ and GST – were two of Modi’s signature policy moves. But instead of encouraging economic activity as intended, they did the opposite, at least in 2016-2018, by sapping consumer demand, according to some economists.

Many businesses, especially small and medium-sized enterprises, complained publicly – some in their financial statements – that they suffered a drop off in orders. The suspended J&J project stands as one of the most vivid examples of the impact on the broader investment picture.

In the first month after demonetization, some business surveys showed that sales of products such as shampoos and soap fell more than 20 percent.

Lack of jobs growth and a farm-income crisis because of low crop prices have hurt Modi in the current general election, according to several political strategists.

Still, Modi and his ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party are expected by many of the strategists to be in a position to get a second term – probably with support of some other parties – when votes are counted on Thursday, partly because of his strong stance on national security issues.

BIG INVESTMENTS, GREAT EXPECTATIONS

A range of Modi’s business policies, such as capping prices of medical devices, forcing tech companies to store more data locally and stricter e-commerce regulations have in the past two years hurt plans of American multinationals such as J&J, Mastercard, Amazon and Walmart-owned Flipkart.

The groundbreaking of the J&J facility in Penjerla, its third in the country, was carried out with much fanfare in 2014, attended by Telangana state’s Chief Minister Chandrashekar Rao, who hailed the foreign investment as a big win for local communities. A document dated April 2017 that lists products the company planned to make at the facility, submitted to the Telangana government and reviewed by Reuters, names baby oil, baby shampoo, baby lotion, baby hair oil, face wash and creams.

Shaukat Ali, running a tea shop under a bamboo stall on barren land outside the plant, said local workers check in routinely for possible vacancies at the J&J site, but nothing has come up in years.

At the local pollution control board office, the member secretary Satyanarayana Reddy said the J&J plant had all the required approvals and he was not sure why it hadn’t started production.

“It is unusual for such a big plant to stay idle for so long,” he said. “But there is no problem from our side.”

Chandrasekhar Babu, an additional director at the Telangana industries department, said a J&J company official told him the plant hadn’t started due to lack of demand.

GST and demonetization were two key reasons the plan didn’t kick off, one of the sources said, adding that lack of consumer demand since then dented company’s plans.

The second source familiar with J&J’s plans said the company miscalculated Indian market demand.

On a recent visit by a Reuters reporter to the J&J plant, plush, furnished conference rooms and cubicles sat inactive; M. Sairam, who said he was the site manager, told Reuters production areas with machines were idle too.

PLANNED FURTHER EXPANSION

Local officials had hoped the initial J&J plant would be only the beginning. After the groundbreaking in 2014, Pradeep Chandra, who was Telangana’s special chief secretary of industries, told Business Today magazine that “based on the extent of land (J&J) have acquired we believe that they are looking at much larger expansion here.”

Local media reports at the time said the J&J facility would employ some 1,500 people.

A J&J official, who was not identified by name, was reported subsequently in December 2016 in India’s Business Standard assaying that the $85 million plant would be operational by 2018 after it had overcome procedural delays. The official was quoted as saying the company had earmarked an additional $100 million for expansion.

Vikas Srivastava, the managing director of J&J Consumer(India), who was at the 2014 groundbreaking, did not respond to calls for comment.

Reuters also talked to two workers outside a sprawling Procter & Gamble facility making detergents and diapers, which is next to the J&J plant. They said they were part of the P&G plant’s production team and the plant had been running below capacity.

A P&G spokesperson denied that, saying the plant was “operating at full capacity in line with our business plans”. “India is a priority market for P&G globally and in recent quarters, P&G’s business in India has registered strong double-digit growth consistently,” the company said.

The weak rural economy, where most Indians work, has also hurt growth in sales of basic items such as detergents and shampoo in the past year.

Hindustan Unilever Ltd, an industry bellwether that would compete with the likes of J&J and P&G in some categories, said its volume growth shrank to 7 percent in the quarter ended March 31, down from double-digit growth in the previous five quarters.

The company warned that the daily consumer goods segment in India was “recession resistant … not recession proof.”

(Reporting by Zeba Siddiqui and Aditya Kalra; Editing by Martin Howell)

Source: OANN

A reclaimer places coal in stockpiles at the coal port in Newcastle
FILE PHOTO: A reclaimer places coal in stockpiles at the coal port in Newcastle, Australia, June 6, 2012. REUTERS/Daniel Munoz/File Photo

May 19, 2019

By Sonali Paul

MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Australia’s re-elected Prime Minister Scott Morrison once brandished a lump of coal in parliament, crying, “This is coal – don’t be afraid!” His surprise win in what some dubbed the ‘climate election’ may have stunned the country, but voters should know what comes next in energy policy – big coal.

Battered by extended droughts, damaging floods, and more bushfires, Australian voters had been expected to hand a mandate to the Labor party to pursue its ambitious targets for renewable energy and carbon emissions cuts.

Instead, Saturday’s election left them on course to re-elect the Liberal-led center-right coalition headed by Morrison, a devout Pentecostal churchgoer who thanked fellow worshippers for his win at a Sydney church early on Sunday.

The same coalition government last year scrapped a bipartisan national energy plan and dumped then-prime minister Malcolm Turnbull because he was viewed as anti-coal.

Power companies and big energy users, who last year rallied behind the national energy plan to end a decade of policy flip-flops, said on Sunday they wanted to work with the coalition anew to find ways to cut energy bills and boost power and gas supply.

“We just need this chaotic environment to stop and give us some real direction,” said Andrew Richards, chief executive of the Energy Users Association of Australia, which represents many of the country’s largest industrial energy users.

The country’s power producers – led by AGL Energy, Origin Energy and EnergyAustralia, owned by Hong Kong’s CLP Holdings – want the government to set long-term goals to give them the confidence to invest an estimated A$25 billion ($17 billion) needed for new power supply.

“Customers are looking to energy companies and the government to get bills down and secure our energy supplies,” said EnergyAustralia Managing Director Catherine Tanna.

“We have an opportunity now to reset our relationships and recommit to working toward a clear, stable and long-term energy policy,” she said in comments emailed to Reuters after Saturday’s election.

At Origin Energy, Chief Executive Officer Frank Calabria said in emailed comments he would be looking for appropriate policy that would allow the company to invest in a pumped hydro project and gas exploration in the Northern Territory.

DIVISIVE DEBATE

Australia has endured years of divisive debate on energy policy, with attacks by the Liberal-led coalition on Labor’s “carbon tax” policy helping to bring down the government of then-leader Julia Gillard in 2013.

Despite top companies, from global miner BHP Group to Australia’s biggest independent gas producer Woodside Petroleum, calling for the country to put a price on carbon emissions, the Liberal-led coalition killed the carbon price mechanism in 2014.

Its own attempts to fashion a bipartisan national energy policy foundered amid fierce opposition from coal supporters and climate skeptics on its right-wing.

Its policy now is focused on driving down power prices and beefing up power supply. For the moment that includes underwriting one new coal-fired power plant and providing A$1.38 billion toward a A$4 billion energy storage expansion at state-owned hydropower scheme Snowy Hydro, designed to back up wind and solar power..

While the coalition stuck to an official target to cut carbon emissions by 26-28% from 2005 levels by 2030, the United Nations warned last year Australia was unlikely to meet this goal.

The opposition Labor party campaigned on more aggressive targets, aiming to cut carbon emissions by 45 percent by 2030 and reach 50 percent renewable power by 2030. The re-elected Liberal-led coalition has no renewable energy target beyond 2020.

ADANI JOBS = VOTES FOR COALITION

In the election, stopping a coal mine in the northern state of Queensland proposed by Indian conglomerate Adani Enterprises was the catchword for inner city voters in the south pressing for tough action on climate change.

Labor, torn between its traditional union base and its urban environmentally conscious supporters, made no commitments on the Adani mine. The move backfired in the mining heartland of Queensland, where voters with jobs in mind handed the Liberal-led coalition crucial seats in the election.

Adani’s mining chief Lucas Dow was not available on Sunday to comment on whether the election outcome might speed up approvals for the long delayed mine.

“There is now a clear mandate for resources projects that have lawful approvals to proceed, such as the Adani coal mine,” the Minerals Council of Australia’s chief executive Tania Constable said in a statement on Sunday.

Energy users and the power industry, however, see the transition to cleaner energy as inevitable, with states pushing ambitious targets out of line with the national government.

At the same time, Australia, the world’s second-largest exporter of coal for power, faces falling demand for coal as its biggest customers – Japan, South Korea, China, Taiwan and India – are shifting toward cleaner energy, said Tim Buckley, a director at the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis.

“I would expect the coalition to fight a rearguard action that will slow the transition, but they can’t stall it,” he said.

(Reporting by Sonali Paul; Editing by Richard Pullin and Kenneth Maxwell)

Source: OANN

Prime Minister Scott Morrison speaks to the media as he arrives at the Horizon Church in Sutherland in Sydney
Prime Minister Scott Morrison speaks to the media as he arrives at the Horizon Church in Sutherland in Sydney, Australia, May 19, 2019. AAP Image/Joel Carrett/via REUTERS

May 19, 2019

By Colin Packham

SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison may have won more than just another three years in office for his conservative coalition government.

By winning what was seen as an unwinnable election, the unexpected leader has cemented his authority over the Liberal Party, giving him the muscle to end a decade of instability that has seen a revolving door of prime ministers.

It was a stunning personal victory for Morrison, who largely flew solo during campaign as senior ministers stayed close to home to defend seats thought to be at risk.

“It was a one-man show. There will be much written about this in the years to come,” Haydon Manning, a professor of political science at Flinders University, told Reuters. “He delivered the victory against the odds.”

Morrison became prime minister as a compromise candidate after a right-wing faction ousted Malcolm Turnbull as Liberal Party leader last August.

The resulting Liberal-National coalition was behind in every opinion poll – including an exit poll on Saturday – since Morrison took over, with voters angry at Turnbull’s ouster and frustrated by a perceived lack of action over climate change and a dearth of fresh polices.

But Morrison on Saturday defied those odds, securing re-election in what he described as a miracle. The coalition is on course to win a third term either with the support of independents or through an outright majority.

After a decade of political turmoil that saw both Labor and the coalition depose several prime ministers, changes Morrison introduced last year mean that it is now very difficult for his party to remove him now that he has won an election.

ASPIRATION MESSAGE

The secret of Morrison’s success, lawmakers, election strategists and analysts say, was twofold.

First, he could see a path to victory through target areas such as the urban fringes of Queensland state, where he won enough seats to offset expected swings against the government in city-based seats.

And he was able to frame the ballot as a contest between him and Labor leader Bill Shorten, whose reform agenda was portrayed by the government as at odds with Australian aspirations.

“Morrison’s biggest asset was Bill Shorten. He made the election a personal contest and in the end, the people never liked or trusted Shorten,” John Hewson, former leader of Australia’s Liberal Party, told Reuters.

Hewson now shares a connection with Shorten: as Liberal leader in opposition in 1993, he similarly lost what was considered an unloseable election after releasing a detailed and comprehensive tax reform policy well ahead of the vote.

In this weekend’s election, Labor proposed removing two generous tax concessions enjoyed primarily by older, wealthy Australians. But rather than winning favor with younger voters, the policies become the target of Morrison’s campaign, fostering suspicion of Labor.

Morrison – who centered his campaign on his government’s economic credentials – used Labor’s tax proposals as evidence that the opposition was “coming after your money”.

A Labor strategist said the government successfully cobbled together a coalition of support among voters in urban fringes and rural townships.

“They won a lot of voters from older Australians with its attacks about a retirement tax. But we lost votes from younger people that we didn’t expect,” said the strategist, who declined to be named as he is not authorized to talk to the media. “We didn’t do enough to talk about jobs for these people in these regions.”

NEVER STOPPED CAMPAIGNING

Shortly after the first vote counts were released on Saturday evening, it was clear a shock was in the works.

Although Morrison’s support for the mining industry was expected to deliver victories in the north of Queensland, a state where coal is a major employer, victories in the outer suburbs in the south of the state belied exit polls.

On Saturday, Morrison embarked on a last-ditch visit to the southern island state of Tasmania before flying back to his Sydney electorate to vote. That bore fruit, with the government’s winning two seats in Tasmania from Labor that may help deliver an outright majority.

Morrison was also able to limit swings against the government in Victoria, seen as the major weak spot after a stinging rejection of the Liberal Party at state elections in November.

In rural areas, the National Party comfortably fended off what were expected to be strong challenges from independent candidates after the party had lost safe seats in state elections.

Throughout the campaign, Morrison continued to privately stress that a victory was possible, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said on Sunday. But he often seemed alone in that belief.

“I have to say, until it happened, I didn’t think it would happen,” Liberal Senator Arthur Sinodinos said on ABC TV late on Saturday night.

(Reporting by Colin Packham; Editing by John Mair and Gerry Doyle)

Source: OANN

A security personnel checks an identity card of a catholic nun from the Missionaries of Charity as she arrives to cast her vote at a polling station during the final phase of general election in Kolkata
A security personnel checks an identity card of a catholic nun from the Missionaries of Charity as she arrives to cast her vote at a polling station during the final phase of general election in Kolkata, India, May 19, 2019. REUTERS/Rupak De Chowdhuri

May 19, 2019

By Subrata Nag Choudhury

KOLKATA (Reuters) – Indians lined up to vote amid unprecedented security in the eastern state of West Bengal on Sunday as the final phase of a massive, staggered election got underway to decide whether Prime Minister Narendra Modi returns for a second term.

Around 900 million Indians are eligible to vote in the seven-phase election, with vote counting to begin on Thursday.

The grueling, 39-day poll began in the wake of aerial clashes and escalated tensions with neighboring Pakistan, which Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) used to focus its campaign on national security.

The main opposition Congress party and other regional blocs concentrated on the government’s economic mismanagement and inability to create jobs in their attempt to win voters.

However, the campaign turned increasingly personal and vitriolic in the final stages and clashes between rival groups marred polling in West Bengal.

India’s election commission suspended campaigning on Wednesday, a day early, after violence in the state’s capital, Kolkata.

Security was tight around voting stations in Kolkata and surrounding areas where people will cast their vote on Sunday. Around 57,000 policemen have been deployed and more than 400 quick response teams are on standby in case of any trouble, according to the chief electoral officer in Kolkata.

Amitava Ganguly, an employee of a private power utility, said there was polarization along communal lines in West Bengal.

“I have never seen such an election before,” Ganguly said.

The BJP is attempting to make inroads into West Bengal, which has the third highest number of parliamentary seats among Indian states, to offset likely losses elsewhere but has met stiff opposition from the regional Trinamool Congress party.

More than 100 million Indians are eligible to vote in the final phase, covering 59 seats in 8 states. India’s parliament has a total of 545 seats, out of which the BJP won 272 in the previous general election in 2014 to secure a single-party majority for the first time in around three decades.

Neelanjan Sircar, a political science professor at Ashoka University near New Delhi, said opposition groups were looking to tap into anger against Modi and the BJP’s strong grassroots machinery that helped it win in 2014.

“To me, this election is very much a battle between voter accountability and party organization,” Sircar said.

The well-funded BJP dominated most of the campaign, allowing Modi to set the agenda.

His decision to bomb a purported militant training camp in Pakistan, soon after a suicide attack in the disputed Kashmir region killed 40 policemen, boosted his support.

The opposition lacked a strong counter punch but the drawn-out, seven-phase election still appeared to tighten. Congress and other regional parties sense an opportunity to oust Modi.

Nitin Anand, a 29-year-old first-time voter, stood in a line since 7 a.m. (0200 GMT) to vote in Salt Lake city near Kolkata, where voting was delayed when electronic polling machines malfunctioned.

“I will cast my vote on the issue of development,” Anand said.

(Additional reporting and writing by Devjyot Ghoshal; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani and Paul Tait)

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FILE PHOTO: Presidential candidate Alberto Fernandez of the Unidad Ciudadana party, smiles during a rally in Buenos Aires
FILE PHOTO: Presidential candidate Alberto Fernandez of the Unidad Ciudadana (Citizen Unit) party, smiles during a rally in Buenos Aires, Argentina August 9, 2017. Picture taken August 9, 2017. REUTERS/Agustin Marcarian

May 19, 2019

By Eliana Raszewski and Nicolás Misculin

BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) – After decades pulling political strings behind the scenes as a cabinet chief and strategist for Argentine presidents, Alberto Fernandez now aims to win the top job himself.

But rather than a power grab, the unexpected presidential bid announced on Saturday appears more a strategic maneuver orchestrated by his political patron, former President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, who is running as vice president.

Many had thought she would be the main challenger to incumbent President Mauricio Macri in the Oct. 27 election.

Putting Alberto Fernandez, a 60-year-old lawyer, at the top of the ticket is aimed at improving chances of victory for the Peronist party and in keeping with his long service as a mostly loyal party operative, analysts said.

Alberto Fernandez, a moderate Peronist seen in political circles as a consensus builder, will now need to unite a fractured opposition to take on center-right Macri whose popularity in the polls has tumbled amid economic crisis in South America’s No. 2 economy.

“Alberto Fernandez is a negotiator, pluralist, and dialogist,” said political analyst Ricardo Rouvier,

“It is a strategic decision of Cristina to make a final push to try to build a winning electoral alliance and show herself in a more moderate and softened way.”

Alberto Fernandez has worked for much of his political career alongside Cristina Fernandez and her late husband, Néstor Kirchner, who also held the presidency.

Well connected in the powerful Peronist movement, Alberto Fernandez helped an almost unknown Kirchner when he was governor of Santa Cruz province to expand his political support and take the presidency in 2003.

Kirchner made him chief of staff for his 2003-2007 term, and he continued in that role for the first months of Cristina Fernandez’s administration, which ran from 2007 to 2015.

Alberto Fernandez resigned in 2008 after the government suffered a legislative defeat in a confrontation with the powerful farming sector that kept the country and the markets in suspense for months.

He even became a harsh critic of Cristina Fernandez’s management and forged ties with other factions of Peronism at the time who were opposed to her ruling party.

“Alberto I’ve known for over 20 years and we’ve had also our differences,” Cristina Fernandez said in a video on social media announcing their joint bid.

However, in recent months Alberto Fernandez again became her main political negotiator, trying to help her generate support from the more moderate wing of the opposition.

That fell short with many concerned about Cristina Fernandez’s divisive style and the shadow of a corruption trial hanging over her. One trial is due to begin next week, though as a senator she currently has immunity from arrest.

“Alberto is not an electoral politician; Alberto is an operator in the shadows,” said a Peronist source who knows him. Despite her lower rank on the ticket, Cristina Fernandez is a rock star politician who commands huge crowds.

That made it perhaps unsurprising that news broke not from the presidential hopeful but from Cristina Fernandez on social media, where she said she had “asked” him to lead the alliance.

“In what country or parallel dimension does the vice presidential candidate announce who will be the candidate for president?” asked one local journalist on Twitter.

Alberto Fernandez’s dialogue style seems however to already be bearing fruit. On Saturday, an important leader of another Peronist faction, Sergio Massa, said he was willing to negotiate an agreement with Cristina Fernandez’s wing.

Alberto Fernandez posted replies on Twitter to well-wishers, saying he would work to pull Argentina out of its crisis.

“I’m filled with joy at being able to work together to restore dignity to millions of Argentines that this government has plunged into marginality and poverty,” he wrote.

(Reporting by Eliana Raszewski and Nicolas Misculin; Writing by Adam Jourdan; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

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Australia's Prime Minister Scott Morrison with wife Jenny, children Abbey and Lily after winning the 2019 Federal Election, at the Federal Liberal Reception at the Sofitel-Wentworth hotel in Sydney
Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison with wife Jenny, children Abbey and Lily after winning the 2019 Federal Election, at the Federal Liberal Reception at the Sofitel-Wentworth hotel in Sydney, Australia, May 18, 2019. AAP Image/Dean Lewins/via REUTERS

May 19, 2019

By Lidia Kelly and Jonathan Barrett

MELBOURNE/SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australia’s conservative government celebrated on Sunday its surprise election victory that defied years of unfavorable opinion polls, with U.S. and Israeli leaders welcoming Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s return to office.

Australia’s Liberal-led coalition has won or is leading in 74 seats in its quest for a 76-seat majority, according to the Australian Electoral Commission, with three-quarters of votes counted.

The opposition Labor party has conceded defeat and Bill Shorten stepped down as its leader.

“Congratulations to Scott on a GREAT WIN,” U.S. President Donald Trump said on Twitter.

The White House said Trump and Morrison spoke by phone and “pledged to continue their close cooperation on shared priorities”.

Morrison told raucously cheering supporters late on Saturday, who just hours earlier had seemed resigned to defeat, that he had always believed in miracles.

The result drew comparisons with Republican Trump’s victory in 2016, when the real estate mogul defied polls to defeat Democratic rival Hillary Clinton by winning over the so-called silent majority.

Opinion polls in Australia had all pointed to a Labor victory ahead of Saturday’s vote. So strong was the expectation the government would fall that one betting agency even paid out bets on a Labor win days before the election.

Morrison, however, cast himself as the candidate who would work for aspirational voters and the tactic seemed to strike a chord.

A Pentecostal church-goer, Morrison took over as prime minister last year when he emerged as the unexpected winner of infighting within the Liberal party, the senior partner within the Liberal-National coalition.

It is still unclear whether the coalition can govern with an outright majority or will need to negotiate support from independents, with millions of early votes cast before polling day still to be counted.

Several seats in the 151-seat House of Representatives are still too close to call.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg, who fended off a tough contest from independent and Greens candidates in his Melbourne electorate, told Australian Broadcasting Corp. television on Sunday Morrison had led with energy and conviction.

“From the minute the starter’s gun was fired in this campaign, we knew we were behind, but we also knew we were in it,” Frydenberg said.

The government campaigned on a platform of tax cuts and stability, while Labor promised to reduce inequality through tax reform, higher wages, better public infrastructure and faster action on climate change.

Fitch Ratings said in a note the result would bring policy continuity, including the coalition’s pledge to start delivering budget surpluses next financial year.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also congratulated Morrison on Sunday.

“I know that under your leadership the great friendship between Australia and Israel will grow even stronger,” Netanyahu said on Twitter.

Australia formally recognized west Jerusalem as Israel’s capital late last year, reversing decades of Middle East policy and following Trump’s decision to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv.

Morrison, who was widely criticized for the decision, said at the time Australia would not move its embassy to Jerusalem immediately.

(Reporting by Lidia Kelly in MELBOURNE and Jonathan Barrett in SYDNEY; Additional reporting by Steve Holland and Timothy Gardner in WASHINGTON and Ari Rabinovitch in JERUSALEM; Editing by Paul Tait)

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