News Brief: Ala. Election Draws Near, Court Rules On Kenya's Election

Nov 20, 2017
Originally published on November 20, 2017 3:14 am
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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

More Republicans are opposing Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore - opposing him, but they're still not entirely sure if they can vote for a Democrat.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Right. So the state's biggest newspapers have now turned against Moore. All three of them ran editorials over the weekend discouraging Alabama Republicans from voting for the GOP Senate candidate. We should note the papers are all owned by the same company. This is the Alabama Media Group.

The editorials called on voters to stand for decency and to reject Moore, who's been accused of sexual misconduct by several women. He has denied this time and again. But Republican Senator Susan Collins told CNN she isn't buying it and she hopes the voters of Alabama do not elect him.

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SUSAN COLLINS: I read his explanation. I listened to his radio interview. And I did not find his denials to be convincing at all. So from my perspective, these are credible allegations against him.

MARTIN: As for President Trump, the White House budget director, Mick Mulvaney, told NBC that the president doesn't know who to believe.

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MICK MULVANEY: He thinks that the voters of Alabama should decide. I think that's probably the most commonsense way to look at it.

INSKEEP: OK. Let's talk about this with NPR congressional correspondent Susan Davis, who's in our studios once again.

Good morning, Sue.

SUSAN DAVIS, BYLINE: Good morning, Steve.

INSKEEP: OK. That Republicans would be uncomfortable with Roy Moore is not news. But what are these papers saying that Alabama voters who are Republicans should do?

DAVIS: They're essentially taking an anybody-but-Roy-Moore position. I think they recognize that most of their voters are very conservative and have said, if you cannot stomach voting for a Democrat - which is Doug Jones - write in another candidate, although I would note that a write-in in this instance is essentially a vote for Doug Jones who is the Democrat in that race.

INSKEEP: Oh, because it takes a vote away from Roy Moore.

DAVIS: Exactly. And there is no other option. This is still a binary choice of an election

INSKEEP: Still a binary choice - but with that binary choice, aren't Alabama state Republicans sticking behind him? There was a steering committee of some kind last week that put out a statement saying we're still with Roy Moore. We can't abide electing a Democrat who might vote on Supreme Court justices and so forth.

DAVIS: This is a good example of the disconnect between sort of Washington Republicans and state Republicans. The Alabama Republican Party has not abandoned him. The governor of Alabama, Kay Ivey, has said she will vote for him. The congressional delegation in the House has stood by him, although the senior senator Richard Shelby has not.

And I would note you can also argue that these newspaper endorsements going against Roy Moore might help his cause among these same conservatives...

INSKEEP: More of the establishment is...

DAVIS: ...Who look at the media the same way they look at the establishment in Washington.

INSKEEP: OK. So that's Roy Moore. And then there's Al Franken, the Minnesota senator who faced his own accusation and acknowledged wrongdoing last week. What kind of response has there been in his home state of Minnesota?

DAVIS: Well, he's actually staying in Washington for the Thanksgiving break. His spokeswoman told that to the Minnesota Star Tribune. They said his family - he's going to spend the holiday doing some reflecting with his family but said he will not resign from the Senate. The next question of course is, will the Senate Ethics Committee investigate Senator Franken, as he has called on them to do?

INSKEEP: And if there's an investigation - I mean, there's some people who are asking - is that a real investigation? What's to investigate? Is that just putting this off to allow some time to think about it? What's going on there, really?

DAVIS: It's a good question, and it raises a really difficult question, which is - can you sort of prosecute - or not prosecute but investigate and punish someone for something they did before they were in elected office?

INSKEEP: Sue, thanks very much.

DAVIS: You're welcome.

INSKEEP: That's NPR's Susan Davis this morning.

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INSKEEP: OK. Now let's turn to Kenya, where there is a supreme court decision that affects who gets to lead the country.

MARTIN: Yeah, the Kenyan Supreme Court threw out challenges to the recent repeat election of President Uhuru Kenyatta. Opposition to Kenyatta's election had been widespread and deadly, killing dozens of people. This is since the initial vote was held back in August.

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MARTIN: More than 30 people were killed just this past weekend alone.

INSKEEP: And that sound that we're hearing is the sound of the phone line from East Africa on which NPR's Eyder Peralta is going to talk with us.

Eyder, where are you?

EYDER PERALTA, BYLINE: So I am in front of the supreme court right now. And there's a big celebration going on, people who are supporters Uhuru Kenyatta. And they're singing, and they're using drums. And they're extremely happy that their president has gotten this opportunity to reclaim what they say is a second victory.

INSKEEP: OK. So there are people in favor of the president there. I guess if you went elsewhere in the country, you would find people against. What was the case against Uhuru Kenyatta allowing him to take the oath again?

PERALTA: So the court didn't tell us. The court basically said they dismissed two petitions against the elections, and they did not give a reason why.

But as you mentioned, other parts of Kenya are burning. I mean, just, you know, a few miles from here, you have basically most of the slums here in Nairobi, where people are burning cars and, you know, they have looted some shops. And there's been a lot of death this past weekend. At least 31 people have been killed. So there's a lot of this country that is very unhappy.

INSKEEP: Just because we're continuing to hear the celebration - the whistles blowing, the drums beating - behind you there, Eyder, I'd like to ask - is that the support for the president genuine? Is there a large faction of the country that is with him as well as a large faction against him?

PERALTA: This is an evenly split country, if you believe the results of the first elections. The opposition will tell you otherwise. But, you know, about half of the people support the president. About half of the people support the opposition. And that's why getting out of this will be so tough for this country. Finding reconciliation somehow will be very tough.

And another thing that makes it tough is that the opposition leader has said that no matter what the court decided today, he would not accept the results and that he does not accept Uhuru Kenyatta as the legitimate president of Kenya.

INSKEEP: Americans who remember the disputed election of 2000 will recall how bitter and how difficult it can be to resolve this, even when a court does step in. So what is supposed to happen now, Eyder? Is the supreme court done? Do they look more deeply into these two different elections, both of which were disputed in different ways?

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UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Chanting unintelligibly).

PERALTA: This is the end. This is the end of the road. There are no more legal options for the opposition. But, you know, the opposition says they will take this to the streets. And that is problematic in a country that has seen a lot of political violence in the past.

INSKEEP: Eyder, give us one more vision of what you're seeing there.

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PERALTA: Right now I'm seeing a lot of people waving Kenyan flags, and they're using drums. And they're celebrating. You know, this has been a long three months here, and they think that it has finally come to an end. These are supporters of the president.

INSKEEP: OK. Some people celebrating, others definitely not - NPR's Eyder Peralta's is there to cover it all.

Thanks, Eyder.

PERALTA: Thank you, Steve.

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INSKEEP: More news from a troubled democracy - although certainly not as troubled. Angela Merkel's historic tenure as Germany's leader is in jeopardy and so is the stability that that country has seen during her 12 years in power.

MARTIN: Right, Steve. So Angela Merkel got a whole lot of political blowback because she opened Germany's borders at the height of the refugee crisis in Europe. That's important because she won despite that in...

INSKEEP: Yeah.

MARTIN: ...The election that happened past November.

INSKEEP: You were there to watch that.

MARTIN: Right. So that election wasn't as clear-cut, though, as Merkel and her party wanted it to be. They ended up losing support. And it forced them to try to form a coalition government with other parties, where it is today. Her effort to do that has failed.

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CHANCELLOR ANGELA MERKEL: (Speaking German).

MARTIN: That's Merkel talking this morning, telling reporters she is going to continue to lead Germany to the best of her abilities. The big question - how much longer, though, is she going to be able to lead at all?

INSKEEP: Let's ask NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson, who's based in Germany - who's covered this story for years.

Hi, Soraya.

SORAYA SARHADDI NELSON, BYLINE: Good morning, Steve.

INSKEEP: Rachel mentioned refugees. Is that really something that is dragging the chancellor down?

NELSON: Absolutely. I mean, this really caused her party to lose so much support during this past election. And it weakened her considerably during these coalition talks that went on for four weeks. They were just exploratory talks - mind you - to see whether these four divergent parties she needed in order to have a government basically - you know, whether they could even get together. And then this all fell apart, unfortunately, last night.

INSKEEP: We say, of course, unfortunately from Merkel's perspective. Perhaps there are others who are happier about this development. So if you're the chancellor of Germany, if you can't assemble a majority coalition, what are your options?

NELSON: Well, the options - I mean, first thing she has to do at this point is go talk to the German president and see what he advises and also - first of all, to see whether she can perhaps lead with a minority government, which means she would not have a majority of the MPs backing her in Parliament.

But she also needs to be elected chancellor. I mean, it's her party. The way it works here - it's a parliamentary system. And so the parties get elected, and then after that, it's the Parliament that decides who is the chancellor.

INSKEEP: Is it possible that they would just do a rerun - call another election?

NELSON: Yeah, that's a definite possibility now. And it's problematic at best because there are a lot of procedural things that have to happen for that to go forward. Plus, on top of that, there is a fear here that the right-wing populists, who are now the third-largest party in terms of vote-getters who are in Parliament - that they're going to gain more seats out of it - that people will be so frustrated with the fact that the mainstream parties couldn't pull it together that they might cast more votes for the right-wing populists.

INSKEEP: OK, Soraya, thanks for the update. Really appreciate it.

NELSON: You're welcome, Steve.

INSKEEP: That's NPR international correspondent Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson reporting on news from Germany, where Chancellor Angela Merkel has been unable to form a coalition government.

(SOUNDBITE OF THE AMERICAN DOLLAR'S "PARAGON") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.