Iraq begins manual recount of votes from disputed election

Counting started in the northern oil-producing province of Kirkuk and at least six other provinces were expected to follow suit in coming days. Above, electoral officers inspect ballot boxes at a warehouse. (Reuters)
Updated 03 July 2018
0

Iraq begins manual recount of votes from disputed election

KIRKUK, Iraq: Iraqi authorities began recounting votes from May’s disputed parliamentary election on Tuesday, officials said, a step toward forming a new government after weeks of delays.
Counting started in the northern oil-producing province of Kirkuk, an election commission source there said, and at least six other provinces were expected to follow suit in coming days.
Parliament ordered a full recount earlier in June after a government report concluded there were widespread violations.
That kicked off a politically fraught process as leaders of political blocs got embroiled in negotiations over the formation of the next government.
A panel of judges overseeing the recount later limited its scope, ruling that it would only cover suspect ballots flagged in formal complaints or official reports on fraud.
Overseas votes cast in Iran, Turkey, Britain, Lebanon, Jordan, the United States and Germany will also be recounted, the panel added.
Representatives from the United Nations and foreign embassies will attend the process, as will local and international observers.
One person was killed and 20 wounded in Kirkuk on Sunday when a suicide car bomb went off near a storage site housing ballot boxes. Police sources said the warehouse was not damaged.


Retired Lebanese soldiers in tense standoff with army during benefit cuts protest

Updated 41 min 42 sec ago
0

Retired Lebanese soldiers in tense standoff with army during benefit cuts protest

  • Dressed in military uniforms, large numbers of veterans attempted to force their way through barricades set up to stop demonstrators reaching the city’s parliament building where a final vote on a controversial draft austerity budget was taking place
  • The meeting to vote on the 2019 draft budget came after a marathon three days of discussions

BEIRUT: Retired Lebanese soldiers on Friday came close to clashing with the country’s army when weeks of protests over planned benefit cuts reached boiling point in the capital Beirut.
Dressed in military uniforms, large numbers of veterans attempted to force their way through barricades set up to stop demonstrators reaching the city’s parliament building where a final vote on a controversial draft austerity budget was taking place.
A military source told Arab News that the Lebanese army leadership had decided to block access to Najma Square, in Beirut’s Central District, where Parliament members were sitting.
But former soldiers, joined by the parents of army martyrs and activists from the Sabaa and Communist parties, surrounded the building in nearby streets before attempting to push through barbed wire, concrete and metal barriers erected by the Lebanese army and the Internal Security Forces.
The protesters, waving Lebanese and army flags, got as far as the entrance to Maarad Street, on which Parliament is located, putting them in direct confrontation with the Lebanese troops.
Ten brigades of reinforcements were drafted in to help push back the veterans before protest leaders eased tensions by calling for a retreat to a nearby square to avoid any further clashes.
The meeting to vote on the 2019 draft budget came after a marathon three days of discussions. Before entering the parliamentary session, Lebanese Minister of Defense Elias Bou Saab said that “misleading the retired soldiers” would be “harmful to the image and demands of the protesters” and called on them to carry out “peaceful demonstrations.” He added that there had been mixed and confused messages regarding benefit cuts.
However, retired Brig. Gen. Georges Nader had vowed that protesters would not back off until the vote on their benefits was dropped.
Discussing the protests in Parliament, Samy Gemayel, president of the Phalange party, objected to the reduction in the army budget, to which Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri said: “This has been concluded on the bases of an understanding with the army and the military establishment.”
MP Paula Yacoubian said that “retired soldiers are trying to storm Parliament,” to which Berri said: “Those who want to storm Parliament have not yet been born.”
The row had centered on a controversial article concerning amendments to the country’s income tax act, and Lebanese Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil insisted on defending it. He said: “It does not cost the retired soldiers, for instance, more than 3,000 Lebanese pounds ($2) per month. This amount rises to 400,000 pounds for brigadiers.” He added: “Which country in the world gives a retiree 85 percent of his salary?”
After a meeting between the minister and Nader in Parliament, the retired brigadier general went out to reassure the veterans that cuts from their salaries in respect of medicine and income tax would be reduced. Less intense protests continued for more than three hours before Parliament approved the relevant article in the budget.
Meanwhile, Berri had started the Parliament session by reading a resignation submitted by Hezbollah MP Nawaf Musawi.