Iraqi PM signs election pact with PMU leaders

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Abadi. (AFP)
Updated 14 January 2018
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Iraqi PM signs election pact with PMU leaders

BAGHDAD: Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Abadi has signed an electoral pact with leaders of the Shiite-dominated Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) to jointly contest parliamentary and provincial elections in May.
Gaining PMU support is crucial for Abadi to win a comfortable parliamentary majority and form the next government.  
Abadi had been in coalition talks since Thursday with Al-Fattah Alliance, a group of the most powerful Shiite armed factions led by Hadi Al-Amiri, commander of the Badr Organization, in addition to the Iraqi Islamic Supreme Council and other political parties.
The result was the formation on Saturday of the Victory of Iraq Alliance, which will be led by Abadi, who will also head the electoral list in Baghdad. Al-Amiri will be head of the new electoral alliance’s central coordination committee.
“We intend to correct the political path and adopt professionalism and experience, away from  corruption,” the new coalition said.
Victory of Iraq brings together the most powerful political and armed Shiite factions who fought Daesh alongside the government under the umbrella of the PMU, its leaders said.
“We expect that this alliance will gain the trust of the Iraqi people. We hope it will draw the path for the next stage of Iraq’s progress,” Ali Al-Alaq, one of Abadi’s advisers and negotiators, told Arab News.  
Commanders and fighters registered on the PMU payroll are not allowed to run for election, but the 140,000 fighters, their families and their supporters represent a huge electoral base that all Iraqi politicians are keen to appeal to.
In return, the PMU leaders have been seeking guarantees that the next prime minister will not target them or threaten their existence.
“Abadi is the strongest nominee right now and his chances of staying in office as prime minister are high, so it is the best choice to ally with him,” a PMU commander told Arab News.
“We offered him votes and support and he offers us protection. Allying with him is in both our interests.”
Earlier on Saturday, senior politicians told Arab News that efforts by Sunni political groups to postpone Iraqi elections will fail because of the constitutional timetable.  
The Union of Forces, the largest Sunni parliamentary bloc, has demanded a delay in the elections for at least six months until the areas liberated from Daesh militants are cleared and reconstructed and displaced people return home.
“There are real justifications to postpone the election. Most displaced people have not come back home and they have been living in tents until today,” said Ahmed Al-Salmani, a member of the Union of Forces bloc.
“The infrastructure of most of the liberated towns and villages has not been restored, so people cannot go back home.”   
Almost a third of the Iraqi territories in the north and west parts of the country which dominated by Sunnis, had fallen into the hands of Daesh militant in the summer of 2014. Iraqi has declared the full liberation of its militants- seized lands and end of the three years’ war against Daesh last month.
Most of the liberated areas are widely impacted by the militancy and the military campaigns launched by the Iraqi government to liberate these areas. Around two million people are still displaced and cannot back home mainly due to the lack of security and the daily basic services in their towns.
Under the Iraqi constitution, the legislative period extends for four calendar years, starting with the first session. A new parliament should be elected 45 days before the end of the previous legislative period. The Iraqi Cabinet and the Higher Election Commission have agreed on May 12 as the date for both the parliamentary and provincial elections
“The date of elections is determined by the constitution and not by personal judgment,” Hussein Al-A’awad, a member of Al-Ahrar parliamentary bloc, told Arab News.
“Anyone who wants to delay the election has to prove that there are real obstacles and threats, and in that case, they have to sit and fix it. Otherwise, both sides have to go to the federal constitutional court.”
Sunday’s parliamentary session is expected to end the discussion with a vote on the date of the election.

 


UN, Palestinians launch humanitarian appeal after funding cuts

Updated 51 min 40 sec ago
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UN, Palestinians launch humanitarian appeal after funding cuts

  • The 2019 Humanitarian Response Plan outlined 203 projects to be carried out by 88 different groups
  • The plan prioritized 1.4 million Palestinians most in need of food, health care, shelter, water and sanitation

JERUSALEM: The United Nations and the Palestinian Authority on Monday appealed for $350 million in humanitarian relief for Palestinians next year, saying that they needed more but had to be realistic in the face of “record-low” funding.
The 2019 Humanitarian Response Plan outlined 203 projects to be carried out by 88 different groups, including UN agencies and non-governmental organizations.
The plan prioritized 1.4 million Palestinians most in need of food, health care, shelter, water and sanitation, said Jamie McGoldrick, the UN humanitarian coordinator in the Gaza Strip, West Bank and East Jerusalem.
“Humanitarian actors are facing unprecedented challenges, including record-low funding and a rise in attacks to delegitimize humanitarian action,” he said in a joint statement issued on Monday, ahead of the appeal’s launch in Ramallah in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
Although “much more assistance is needed,” McGoldrick said, the plan was “reflecting what we can realistically accomplish in this highly constrained context.”
Over the past year, the United States has slashed its funding to the Palestinians, including to the UN agency that provides services to 5 million Palestinian refugees.
The United States promised $365 million to the agency in 2018, but paid only a first instalment of $60 million before announcing in August that it would halt all future donations.
The move was widely seen as a means of pressuring the Palestinian leadership to enter peace negotiations with Israel.
The Palestinians want to establish a state in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem — territories that Israel captured and occupied in the 1967 Middle East war.
US-brokered peace talks between the sides collapsed in 2014 and a bid by US President Donald Trump to restart them has so far showed little progress.
Around 77 percent of the funds sought in the 2019 plan would go to Gaza, the appeal organizers said, because the densely populated coastal strip faced a “dire humanitarian situation” after years of an Israeli-led blockade, internal Palestinian political divisions and casualties from demonstrations and recurring hostilities.
“The humanitarian context in the oPt (Occupied Palestinian Territories) is still deteriorating due to the Israeli occupation violations in a time of lack of resources and declining funds because of the politicization of the humanitarian aid,” Palestinian Social Development Minister Ibrahim Al-Shaer said in the statement.