Iraqi premier calls election, bans armed factions from contesting

Iraqi forces and Popular Mobilization Forces advance toward the city of Al-Qaim as they fight against Daesh on Wednesday. (AFP)
Updated 02 November 2017
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Iraqi premier calls election, bans armed factions from contesting

BAGHDAD: Iraq will hold a parliamentary election on May 15 next year and political parties with armed wings will not be allowed to take part, Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi said on Wednesday.
“The Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), as a part of the Iraqi security system, have no right to practice politics,” Al-Abadi said. “So, as a military institution, they will not participate in the election. Political parties should give up their armed wings, or they will be prevented from taking part.”
The PMF is a government body established in June 2014 to cover all the armed factions fighting Daesh alongside the Iraqi government. It consists of more than 10,000 volunteers from all Iraqi sects, ethnicities and minorities, but its majority is Shiite and Iranian-backed Shiite paramilitary forces form its backbone. Al-Abadi’s announcement is aimed at isolating these troops from their original armed factions.
The prime minister began a campaign some months ago to restructure the PMF units, merge many of them with the regular army units, dissolve many battalions and form new brigades of fighters from different armed factions, prevent the use of the names of irregular factions, and prohibit the use of any militia marks, banners or pictures.
However, most registered Shiite, Sunni, Kurd, Turkmen, Christian and Yazidi political parties in Iraq have armed wings, and most of them are a part of the PMF.
Al-Abadi’s announcement will have an effect on those parties.
“Practically all the political parties have volunteers within the Popular Mobilization. It is not fair to punish the politicians who fought Daesh,” Kareem Al-Nuri, a PMF commander and a senior leader of the Badr Organization, one of the most influential Shiite armed factions, told Arab News.
“Yes, the participation of the security or military officials under their official title is prohibited in the constitution, but if they resign or participate as politicians, there will be no problem.
“But the PMF is a part of the Iraqi security forces. Its fighters submit to military laws and standards. And yes, they will not participate the election as they are soldiers.”
The decision on the election date needs to be approved by Parliament and the president at least 90 days in advance before it can be confirmed. Iraq has 18 parliamentary constituencies, each electing between seven and 34 deputies according to demographics.
The last election took place in April 2014, when the State of Law alliance of former Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki won most of the votes but fell short of an overall majority. Al-Maliki ceded power to Al-Abadi that August.
On the ground on Wednesday, federal officers accused the Kurdistan Regional Government of reneging on agreements with Baghdad to hand over border crossings. They warned that fighting may resume unless the Kurds reconsidered their position.


Israel gives Bedouin villagers until end of month to leave

Updated 23 September 2018
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Israel gives Bedouin villagers until end of month to leave

  • Israel’s supreme court on September 5 rejected appeals against demolition, allowing authorities to move ahead
  • ‘No one will leave. We will have to be expelled by force’

JERUSALEM: Israeli authorities issued a notice to residents of a Bedouin village in a strategic spot in the occupied West Bank on Sunday informing them they have until the end of the month to leave.
The fate of Khan Al-Ahmar has drawn international concern, with European countries calling on Israel not to move ahead with plans to demolish it.
Israel’s supreme court on September 5 rejected appeals against demolition, allowing authorities to move ahead.
Israel says the village was built without the proper permits, though it is extremely difficult for Palestinians to receive such permission in that part of the West Bank.
The notice given to the some 200 residents of Khan Al-Ahmar on Sunday says they have until the end of the month to demolish the village themselves.
“Pursuant to a supreme court ruling, residents of Khan Al-Ahmar received a notice today requiring them to demolish all the structures on the site by October 1st, 2018,” a statement from the Israeli defense ministry unit that oversees civilian affairs in the West Bank said.
It did not say what will happen if they refuse to do so. Village residents vowed not to leave despite the notice.
“No one will leave. We will have to be expelled by force,” said village spokesman Eid Abu Khamis, adding that a residents’ meeting would be held later on the issue.
“If the Israeli army comes to demolish, it will only be by force.”
The village is located in a strategic spot east of Jerusalem, near Israeli settlements and along a road leading to the Dead Sea.
There have been warnings that continued settlement building in the area would eventually divide the West Bank in two, dealing a death blow to any remaining hopes of a two-state solution.
Israeli authorities have offered alternative sites for Khan Al-Ahmar residents, but villagers say the first was near a rubbish dump and the latest close to a sewage treatment plant.