Islamist-backed candidate becomes first woman mayor of Tunis

Souad Abderrahim, 54, flashes the V-sign after being elected as mayor of the Tunisian capital, Tunis. Souad Abderrahim of the Ennahdha party won the post in the second round of voting by the municipal council; the first time a woman holds the post. (AP)
Updated 03 July 2018
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Islamist-backed candidate becomes first woman mayor of Tunis

TUNIS: Islamist-backed candidate Souad Abderrahim defeated a city official who served under ousted despot Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali on Tuesday to become the first woman mayor of the Tunisian capital.
“I dedicate this victory to all Tunisian women,” Abderrahim said. “My first task will be to improve the face of Tunis.”
Deteriorating waste disposal services have blighted the capital since Ben Ali’s 2011 overthrow in the first of that year’s Arab Spring uprisings.
The 53-year-old manager of a pharmaceutical firm, known for her trouser suits and blow-drys, has risen to the fore as one of the new faces of veteran Islamist party Ennahdha as it seeks to modernize its image.
Although she is a member of the party’s politburo, she stood as an independent in the May 6 municipal election, in which she headed the Ennahdha list.
With 21 seats out of 60, the list emerged as the largest on the city council but well short of a majority.
Municipal elections in Tunisia were marked by low turnout by a public facing ongoing economic hardship and frustrated with political elites.
Across the country independent lists took the highest number of seats, winning 32.9 percent nationwide.
Abderrahim was elected mayor in a second round of voting by councillors which was boycotted by left-wing and centrist parties who refused to support the candidates of either of the main parties.
She defeated Kamel Idir, candidate of the Nidaa Tounes party of President Beji Caid Essebsi, by 26 votes to 22.
An activist during her university years, Abderrahim sat within the Ennahdha bloc of a new constituent assembly between 2011 and 2014.
During that time she caused controversy for her criticism of single mothers, before disappearing from the political scene until the May municipal elections.
The new mayor rejected the “Islamist” label, asserting she wanted to work with all parties.
“We have chosen transparency as a slogan,” Abderrahim said.
The Ennahdha party in 2016 acknowledged the separation of religion and politics, describing itself as “democratic Muslim.”
As municipal councils are being formed across Tunisia, observers say the proportion of female mayors could be relatively high.
According to the country’s electoral commission (ISIE), women made up 47 percent of those elected in the recent local polls.


Terror funding has ‘new face,’ warns Saudi Arabia's attorney general

Updated 13 min 28 sec ago
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Terror funding has ‘new face,’ warns Saudi Arabia's attorney general

  • Financial crimes a rising threat to global economy, MENA forum told

JEDDAH: The changing dynamics of terror financing and money laundering posed a growing problem for countries and organizations seeking to halt their spread, a regional conference in Cairo was warned.

Saudi Arabia's Attorney General Sheikh Saud bin Abdullah Al-Mua’jab told the first Middle East and North Africa conference on countering terrorism that new forms of transnational terror funding and money laundering demanded greater cooperation between states and organizations.

The conference, organized by the Egyptian Public Prosecution Office, aims to bolster international unity in the face of the escalating threat of terrorist financing and money laundering operations.

“Saudi Arabia has spared no effort in combating these two crimes,” Al-Mua’jab said.

He said money laundering and terror financing are at the “forefront of global criminal phenomena,” and often complemented each other.

“One of the most important steps the world has taken through its international and regional systems is to engage in initiatives and agreements to combat terrorism financing and money laundering as the artery of the criminal body that strikes the global economy,” he said.

“Saudi Arabia is a key partner in the international coalition against the so-called Daesh terrorist organization and leads, together with the US and Italy, the Counter Daesh Finance Group. It has also implemented laws and procedures aimed at combating money laundering and terrorist financing,” he said.

Al-Mua’jab said the September 2018 report of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) on Saudi Arabia had praised the Kingdom’s commitment to the recommendations of the group.

“Saudi Arabia has spared no effort in combating these two crimes,” he said. “It was one of the first countries in the world to be affected by terrorist acts. Its experience of combating the crimes has been exemplary.”

He said measures taken by the Kingdom included the 2017 “Law of Combating Crime and its Financing,” regulation of charities and the establishment of a standing committee to investigate money laundering.

The Kingdom’s Public Prosecution Office recently released a manual outlining steps to counter money laundering, including measures for seizure and confiscation, tracking of funds and details of international cooperation. 

The Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority has also issued a guidebook for Saudi banks to combat money laundering. 

A recent Saudi Cabinet meeting outlined strategic objectives for reducing the risks of the two crimes, he said.