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Slovak Prime Minister Igor Matovic Resigns



Slovak Prime Minister Igor Matovic Resigns

Due to heavy criticism of his decision to buy Russian vaccines and of his handling of the coronavirus pandemic in general, Slovak Prime Minister Igor Matovic resigned on Tuesday.

President Zuzana Caputova nominated Finance Minister Eduard Heger to replace him at a ceremony involving all three politicians in the capital Bratislava that was broadcast live on Slovak television.

“When one year takes ten years of your life … It was an honour and thank you,” Matovic wrote on Facebook before the ceremony.

As it battles one of the highest Covid death rates in the world, Slovakia has been stuck in a political crisis ever since Matovic staged a press conference in front of a delivery of Sputnik V vaccines on March 1.

READ ALSO: Amnesty Appoints Global Human Rights Expert Callamard New Secretary-General

Matovic, a former businessman in the publishing industry, came to power last year after beating the governing populists on an anti-corruption platform.
While supporters viewed him as a maverick with a knack for self-promotion, critics accuse Matovic of being an unpredictable, attention-seeking control freak.

He has said he would like to stay on in the cabinet as the new finance minister but some coalition allies want him to be out of the government entirely.
During the pandemic in Slovakia, an ex-communist and a eurozone country of 5.4 million people, Matovic’s critics have accused him of poor communication and political missteps.

But his decision to buy Sputnik V vaccines has proved particularly divisive, with the former foreign minister Ivan Korcok calling the jabs “a hybrid war tool”.

Heger, like Matovic a former businessman and member of the OLaNO party, is seen as a political pragmatist.

Bratislava-based political analyst Pavol Babos said he was “less emotive” than Matovic but still loyal to him.

However, analysts say his deeply held Christian views could create tensions with liberals in the coalition.

The 44-year-old will now have to build consensus within the four-party grouping in the coming days before seeking the approval of parliament in a confidence vote.

He is expected to introduce his nominees for the new government to Caputova later on Tuesday.

According to local media, most of the ministers serving in the current cabinet are expected to return, including those who resigned in the past few weeks as the political crisis escalated.

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French Schools Send Home Schoolgirls For Wearing Muslim Dress Abayas



French President Emmanuel Macron

French schools sent dozens of girls home for refusing to remove their abayas – an over-garment from the shoulders to the feet worn by Muslim women – on the first day of the school year, a government minister said on Tuesday.

Defying a ban on the Muslim dress, nearly 300 girls showed up on Monday morning wearing an abaya, education secretary Gabriel Attal told the BFM broadcaster.

The Daily Mail quoted Attal as saying that most agreed to change out of the dress, but 67 refused and were sent home.

The government announced last month it was banning the abaya in schools, saying it broke the rules on secularism in education that have already seen Muslim headscarves banned on the grounds they constitute a display of religious affiliation.

The move gladdened the political Right but the hard-Left argued it represented an affront to civil liberties.

French schools sent dozens of girls home for refusing to remove their abayas – an over-garment from the shoulders to the feet worn by Muslim women – on the first day of the school year, a government minister said on Tuesday.

Announcing the ban last month, Attal said at the time: ‘When you walk into a classroom, you shouldn’t be able to identify the pupils’ religion just by looking at them. I have decided that the abaya can no longer be worn in schools.’

Attal said the girls refused entry were given a letter addressed to their families saying that ‘secularism is not a constraint, it is a liberty’.

If they showed up at school again wearing the dress there would be a ‘new dialogue’, the minister said.

On Monday evening, president Emmanuel Macron defended the controversial measure, saying there was a ‘minority’ in France who ‘hijack a religion and challenge the republic and secularism’, leading to the ‘worst consequences’ such as the murder three years ago of teacher Samuel Paty for showing Mohammed caricatures during a civics education class.

‘We cannot act as if the terrorist attack, the murder of Samuel Paty, had not happened,’ he said in an interview with Youtube channel HugoDecrypte.

An association representing Muslims has filed a motion with the State Council, France’s highest court for complaints against state authorities, for an injunction against the ban on the abaya and the qamis, its equivalent dress for men.

The Action for the Rights of Muslims (ADM) motion is to be examined later on Tuesday.

Abdallah Zekri, vice-president of the French Council for Muslim Worship, said last month the abaya ‘has never been a religious symbol’ and should not be banned.

He said the ban was yet another example of politicians using dress favoured by women and girls to attack some five million Muslims living in France.

‘I think the minister could have asked the opinion of religious leaders,’ said Zerkri.

‘For me, the abaya is not a religious dress, it is a form of fashion.

‘If you go to some stores, you find abayas. It’s a long and loose dress at the same time. It has nothing to do with religion.’

A law introduced in March 2004 banned ‘the wearing of signs or outfits by which students ostensibly show a religious affiliation’ in schools.

This includes large Christian crosses, Jewish kippas and Islamic headscarves.

Unlike headscarves, abayas occupied a grey area and had faced no outright ban until now.

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Gabon’s BREAKING:Military Leader Sworn In As President



Gen. Brice Clotaire Oligui Nguema

Gabon ‘s new military leader was sworn in as the head of state Monday less than a week after ousting the president whose family had ruled the Central African nation for more than five decades.

Gen. Brice Clotaire Oligui Nguema, took the oath in the presidential palace in front of a packed, boisterous room of government officials, military and local leaders in Gabon’s capital, Libreville. Oligui is a cousin of the ousted President Ali Bongo Ondimba, served as a bodyguard to his late father and is head of the republican guard, an elite military unit.

Speaking to applause and standing ovations Monday, Oligui said the military had seized power without bloodshed and promised to return power to the people by organizing free, transparent and credible elections.

“With the new government, made up of experienced people, we’re going to give everyone a chance to hope,” he said.


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BREAKING: Gabonese Military Officers Sack President



President Ali Bongo

Senior Gabonese military officers appeared on national television to announce they have taken power.

The group of 12 officers made the announcement shortly after Gabon’s election body reported early on Wednesday morning that President Ali Bongo had won a third term in office.

After observing “irresponsible, unpredictable governance resulting in a continuing deterioration in social cohesion that risks leading the country into chaos… we have decided to defend peace by putting an end to the current regime”, one of the soldiers said, speaking on the Gabon 24 TV channel.

There was no immediate comment from the Gabon government, the Reuters news agency reported.

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