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China announces 7.6 percent rise in defence budget

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BEIJING — China on Saturday announced the country’s lowest defence budget increase in six years in the wake of rising economic gusts and last year’s massive drawdown of service people.

According to a budget report to the national legislature annual session, the government plans to raise the 2016 defence budget by 7.6 percent to 954 billion yuan (about $146 billion), Xinhua news agency reported.

Last year, defense spending was budgeted to rise 10.1 percent to 886.9 billion yuan. On Friday, the spokesperson for China’s parliament said the 2016 ascent would be around 7 to 8 percent.

Friday’s report neither offer further breakdown of the figure nor clarify the method of reasoning behind the abated growth, albeit some officials and military experts have pointed to slowing growth in the world’s second largest economy.

General Chen Zhou linked the forecast-beating slowdown with China’s “economic and social status quo” in an interview with Xinhua.

The cut of 300,000 service people announced by Chinese President Xi Jinping in September 2015 might also have helped drive down the defence budget growth figure.

The government put this year’s growth target between 6.5 and 7 percent, compared with last year’s “approximately 7 percent” goal.

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Maldives opposition legislator Ibrahim Mohamed Solih wins presidency

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MALE — Maldives opposition legislator Ibrahim Mohamed Solih has beaten incumbent Abdulla Yameen according to provisional results, the country’s Elections Commission says.

Results released by the Elections Commission showed Mr Solih securing 133,808 votes (58.3 percent) compared to the 95,526 for incumbent Abdulla Yameen. The voter turnout was over 88 per cent out of the 262,000-strong electorate.

The Maldives government has acknowledged the opposition’s victory after the vote on Sunday, a surprise defeat for President Abdulla Yameen who was widely expected to win.

There were no other candidates.

Mr Solih had the backing of a united opposition trying to oust Mr Yameen, but struggled for visibility with the electorate, with local media fearful of falling afoul of heavy-handed decrees and reporting restrictions.

“I call on Yameen to respect the will of the people and bring about a peaceful, smooth transfer of power,” Solih said on television, shortly after interim results from the country’s election commission.

“We have won this election with a comfortable majority,” Solih said.

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