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new prime minister

Tony Abbott has been sworn in as Australia’s prime minister after his Liberal-National coalition ended six years of Labor government.

Tony Abbott, 55, took the oath at Government House in Canberra in front of Governor-General Quentin Bryce.

His conservative coalition won a comfortable lower house majority in the 7 September polls.

It plans to scrap a tax on carbon emissions introduced by Labor and further toughen asylum policy.

Ahead of Wednesday’s ceremony, Tony Abbott said his government would get to work immediately.

“Today is not just a ceremonial day, it’s an action day,” he said.

“The Australian people expect us to get straight down to business and that’s exactly what this government will do.”

The new ministers were also being sworn in during the day. His 19-member cabinet line-up has caused debate because it contains only one woman, new Foreign Minister Julie Bishop.

Tony Abbott, however, says his cabinet is “one of the most experienced incoming ministries in our history”.

The new prime minister said on Tuesday that the carbon tax would be his first task.

“As soon as I return to Parliament House from the swearing-in ceremony, I will instruct the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet to prepare the carbon tax repeal legislation,” he said in a statement.

Tony Abbott has been sworn in as Australia's prime minister

Tony Abbott has been sworn in as Australia’s prime minister

He says the carbon tax – which makes Australia’s biggest polluters pay for emissions over a certain amount – cost jobs and forced energy prices up.

Instead of the tax, he plans to introduce a “direct action” plan under which subsidies will be given to farmers and businesses to reduce their emissions.

The position of science minister and a fund providing loans for green technologies are to be scrapped. Two official bodies related to climate change are also expected to be closed, local reports say.

The moves that has prompted criticism from Australia’s chief scientist, Professor Ian Chubb. “These sorts of issues are not going away just because we ignore them,” he told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

The new prime minister also says tough new policies to end the flow of asylum-seekers arriving in Australia via Indonesia will come into effect today.

Under a Labor policy, all asylum-seekers arriving by boat are being sent to Papua New Guinea for processing and resettlement if found to be refugees.

Tony Abbott is maintaining this policy and has promised to “stop the boats” – turning them back to Indonesia where safe to do so, a policy over which Indonesia has voiced concern.

He is expected to place the deputy chief of the army in charge of combating people smugglers, and his government will also restrict refugees already in Australia to temporary protection visas which must be regularly renewed.

Rights groups have criticized both the previous and incoming governments’ policies on asylum.

But – with some votes still to be counted from the September 7 election – it appears that the coalition will not control the Senate, meaning it may struggle to pass key legislation.

It is expected that the new government will have to work with several minor parties to get bills passed in the upper house.

The Labor Party, meanwhile, is in the process of choosing a new leader, with both former deputy prime minister Anthony Albanese and powerbroker Bill Shorten vying to replace Kevin Rudd, who is stepping down.

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Newly appointed Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah has offered his resignation to President Mahmoud Abbas, government sources say.

It was not immediately clear whether Mahmoud Abbas had accepted the resignation. Sources say Rami Hamdallah quit in a disagreement over his authority.

An academic and political independent, Rami Hamdallah was sworn in on June 6.

Rami Hamdallah replaced Salam Fayyad who stepped down in April after a long-running dispute with President Mahmoud Abbas.

The new prime minister was given two deputies – one for political affairs and one for economic affairs – but resigned because of a “conflict over authority”, reports say.

If Rami Hamdallah’s resignation is accepted, it could leave a damaging gap as the Palestinian leadership grapples with a financial crisis and the US leads efforts to revive peace talks with Israel.

Rami Hamdallah’s cabinet had only met for the first time last week. It consisted mainly of members of the Fatah party, one of the two main Palestinian political factions, led by Mahmoud Abbas.

At the time, commentators observed that the new PM would have little room to manoeuvre in a government dominated by Fatah members.

Newly appointed Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah has offered his resignation to President Mahmoud Abbas

Newly appointed Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah has offered his resignation to President Mahmoud Abbas

The other main faction, Hamas, described the appointment of Rami Hamdallah as “illegal” because it was not a unity government formed as a result of a reconciliation agreement.

When he was appointed, Rami Hamdallah stated his administration would rule only for “a transitional period” until a unity government was formed.

His appointment filled a political vacuum in the Palestinian Authority, but now it appears it has opened up again – and that will be deeply troubling for President Mahmoud Abbas.

Before his appointment as prime minister, Rami Hamdallah had been known for his 15-year tenure as head of the al-Najah National University, and did not have a high profile as a politician.

There has been a deep rift between the two main Palestinian factions since 2007, when Hamas set up a rival government in Gaza after ousting Fatah in clashes.

The two factions are currently engaged in drawn-out reconciliation talks. Last month, officials on both sides announced plans to form a technocratic government by August that would then prepare for new elections.

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Enrico Letta appears set to become Italy’s new prime minister, after being asked by President Giorgio Napolitano to form a broad coalition government.

The appointment of Enrico Letta, currently deputy leader of the centre-left Democratic Party, could see the end of two months of parliamentary deadlock.

An inconclusive general election in February left the country in political limbo.

Enrico Letta, 46, said he would aim to change the course in Europe on austerity.

“European policies are too focused on austerity which is no longer enough,” he said, following the closed-door meeting with the president in Rome.

He also said he had accepted the post knowing that it was an enormous responsibility and that Italy’s political class “has lost all credibility”.

Enrico Letta must now form a cabinet that can win cross-party support and a vote of confidence in parliament, possibly this weekend.

Factions from across the political spectrum, including former PM Silvio Berlusconi’s right-wing People of Freedom Party (PDL), have indicated that they are ready to form a coalition under a figure like Enrico Letta.

However, Silvio Berlusconi’s party and the Democratic Party (PD) differ on a number of issues.

Enrico Letta appears set to become Italy's new prime minister, after being asked by President Giorgio Napolitano to form a broad coalition government

Enrico Letta appears set to become Italy’s new prime minister, after being asked by President Giorgio Napolitano to form a broad coalition government

PDL National Secretary Angelino Alfano warned that his group would not take part in a government unconditionally.

Enrico Letta, once a member of the former centre-right Christian Democrats, is seen as moderate of the left. His uncle, Gianni Letta, has been Silvio Berlusconi’s chief-of-staff for 10 years.

A broad political alliance would again make Silvio Berlusconi a major influence.

This awkward coming together of bitter rivals is seen as the only way to end the parliamentary stalemate and put an administration in place.

But it is a forced political marriage that may not last long.

Enrico Letta’s candidacy for prime minister came about after the PD leader, Pier Luigi Bersani, announced his resignation last week.

He had ruled out working with Silvio Berlusconi and faced a party rebellion over his choice for Italian president.

The third strongest political force to come out of February’s election, former comedian Beppe Grillo’s Five Star movement, could not be persuaded to join a coalition and is expected to be in opposition.

With the Italian economy still struggling, the new government will be expected to try to implement a limited range of economic and institutional reforms.

Among its priorities will be an effort to re-shape the current election law. The aim would be to ensure that future general elections would deliver more emphatic, clear-cut results.

Enrico Letta’s appointment follows the swearing-in on Monday of President Giorgio Napolitano, who berated his country’s feuding politicians.

Taking up an unprecedented second term, he told the assembled MPs that they had been guilty of a long series of failings and that their inability to implement key reforms had been “unforgivable”.

Giorgio Napolitano has threatened to resign if no administration is formed.

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Li Keqiang has been named as China’s new prime minister, placing him at the helm of the world’s second-largest economy.

Li Keqiang, who already holds the number two spot in the Communist Party, takes over from Wen Jiabao.

He was elected for a five-year term but, like his predecessor, would be expected to spend a decade in office.

On Thursday, Xi Jinping was confirmed by legislators as the new president, completing the transition of power from Hu Jintao.

Li Keqiang’s widely-signalled elevation was confirmed by 3,000 legislators at the National People’s Congress, the annual parliament session, in Beijing. He received 2,940 votes to three, with six abstentions.

As premier, Li Keqiang will oversee a large portfolio of domestic affairs, managing economic challenges, environmental woes and China’s urbanization drive.

The appointments seal the shift from one generation of leaders to the next. A raft of vice-premiers and state councillors will be named on Saturday, before the NPC closes on Sunday.

Li Keqiang has been named as China’s new prime minister, placing him at the helm of the world's second-largest economy

Li Keqiang has been named as China’s new prime minister, placing him at the helm of the world’s second-largest economy

Li Keqiang, 57, who is seen as close to outgoing leader Hu Jintao, speaks fluent English and has a PhD in economics.He has called for a more streamlined government, eliminating some ministries while boosting the size of others.

The son of a local official in Anhui province, Li Keqiang became China’s youngest provincial governor when he was tasked to run Henan.

But his time there was marked by a scandal involving the spread of HIV through contaminated blood.

Li Keqiang is expected to end the NPC with a press conference on Sunday, given by Wen Jiabao in the past.

On Thursday, Xi Jinping’s move was approved by 2,952 votes to one, with three abstentions.

Hours later, President Barack Obama called both to congratulate him and raise concerns over ongoing issues, including cyber hacking and North Korea.

“Both leaders agreed on the value of regular high-level engagement to expand co-operation and co-ordination,” a White House statement said.

Barack Obama is sending both Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew and Secretary of State John Kerry to Beijing in coming days, in an apparent bid to reach out to the new administration.

In an editorial, state-run Global Times said Xi Jinping and his colleagues needed to show powerful leadership to unite society.

“China cannot stop developing or fighting corruption. Social unity is the key to how China can stand against complex international affairs,” it said.

Meanwhile, prominent dissident Hu Jia said he was detained and beaten by police on Thursday after he criticized the election of Xi Jinping as fake.

The well-known AIDS activist said police also refused him treatment for injuries to his head and ribs.

He said authorities were also angry because he had arranged meetings with Liu Xia, wife of jailed Chinese Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo, who is under house arrest.

Li Keqiang:

  • Seen as one of the more reform-minded members of the new leadership
  • Started out as a manual laborer on a rural commune
  • Studied law at Peking University, where he became involved in student politics
  • Widely speculated that Li Keqiang was former President Hu Jintao’s preferred successor, but lost the top job to Xi Jinping

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