Yemen PM prepares to flee Aden as separatists advance

Yemen’s Prime Minister Ahmed Obaid Bin Daghar is reported to be on the verge of fleeing to Saudi Arabia. (Reuters)
Updated 30 January 2018

Yemen PM prepares to flee Aden as separatists advance

SANAA, Yemen: Yemen’s Prime Minister Ahmed Obaid Bin Daghar was preparing to flee to Saudi Arabia on Tuesday after separatists backed by the United Arab Emirates seized the area around the presidential palace in the southern city of Aden in fierce battles, security officials said.
A Saudi-led coalition that includes the UAE has been battling rebels in northern Yemen for nearly three years on behalf of President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi’s government. But despite having a common enemy, the UAE and Hadi have been locked in a long-running power struggle, which boiled over on Sunday as clashes erupted across the government’s seat of power.
Elsewhere in Yemen, Al-Qaeda militants attacked a checkpoint in the southern Shabwa province, killing at least 12 soldiers in an area where Yemeni troops had claimed victory against the extremist group. The militants claimed the attack in a statement circulated on social media, saying it was in retaliation for abuses by US and UAE-backed forces.
The security officials said fighters loyal to the so-called Southern Transitional Council fought all way to the gates of the palace in central Aden, forcing Hadi’s troops to abandon their positions. The officials said Hadi’s prime minister and several Cabinet members would leave Yemen imminently for Riyadh, where Hadi is already based.
Saudi troops who have been guarding the palace for months stopped the separatists at the gate, preventing them from entering. A senior government official told The Associated Press that Prime Minister Ahmed Obaid Bin Daghar and several ministers remain inside. The official declined to say whether the prime minister was to leave Aden. All officials spoke on condition of anonymity under regulations.
In the northern district of Dar Saad, witnesses said coalition jets bombed a military camp of Hadi’s forces before separatists took control of it. Brig. Gen. Mahran Al-Qubati told the AP that his forces respected a cease-fire announced by the coalition earlier in the day but the separatists used the truce to attack his base using Emirati armored vehicles.
Col. Turki Al-Malki, the coalition spokesman, declined to comment on the bombing. “I am not able to discuss the details of an ongoing operation,” he told the AP.
The fighting had subsided by midday, when checkpoints run by both sides could be seen across the city.
The fighting in Aden erupted on Sunday, when a deadline issued by the separatists for the government to resign expired. Hadi, who has been in Saudi Arabia for most of the war, has described the separatists’ action as a “coup.” The violence has killed at least 36 people and wounded 185 since Sunday, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross.
It has also exposed deep divisions within the Saudi-led alliance against the Iran-backed rebels, known as Houthis, who control much of northern Yemen, including the capital, Sanaa. The war has been locked in a bloody stalemate for the last three years, with more than 10,000 people killed and some 2 million displaced by the fighting.
The UAE has viewed Hadi with suspicion because of his alliance with the Yemeni branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, a pan-Arab political movement that the Emirates and some other Arab states view as a terrorist organization. Over the past year, the UAE has trained and armed its own forces in Yemen, including the separatists, in a direct challenge to Hadi. Saudi Arabia has thus far avoided taking sides.
The US State Department has expressed concern and called on all parties to “refrain from escalation and further bloodshed.” Washington backs the Saudi-led coalition.
“We also call for dialogue among all parties in Aden to reach a political solution,” the statement said. “The Yemeni people are already facing a dire humanitarian crisis. Additional divisions and violence within Yemen will only increase their suffering.”
In the attack in Shabwa, the militants hit a checkpoint guarded by the so-called Shabwa Elite Force, which has also been trained by the UAE, near the southern city of Ataq, the provincial capital.
Tribesmen in the area say the attack started with a mortar round fired at the checkpoint, followed by heavy gunfire.
Tribesman Youssef Al-Khalifi, who lives nearby, said he helped carry the bodies of the wounded to a hospital but that only one survived. Al-Khalifi said the attackers had destroyed a building next to the checkpoint where some of the guards were sleeping and that he helped retrieve some of the bodies from under the rubble.
The UAE-trained Shabwa force was deployed to the region last year and later declared victory over Al-Qaeda’s branch in Yemen, which had used Shabwa as a safe haven.

Turkey’s rulers plot law changes to block breakaway parties’ power grab

Updated 28 May 2020

Turkey’s rulers plot law changes to block breakaway parties’ power grab

  • President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s AKP is working on a plan to stop parliamentary deputies from transferring to other parties

ANKARA: Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) is looking at ways to change electoral laws in order to block challenges to power from two new breakaway political parties.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s AKP and its nationalist coalition partner the MHP are working on a plan to stop parliamentary deputies from transferring to other parties — a move that has fueled rumors of an imminent snap election in the country.

Under Turkish election rules, political parties must settle their organization procedures in at least half of the nation’s cities and hold their first convention six months ahead of an election date.

Any political party with 20 lawmakers in Turkey’s parliament is entitled to take part in elections and be eligible for financial aid from the treasury for the electoral process.

The leader of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), Kemal Kilicdaroglu, has hinted at the possibility of transferring some CHP lawmakers to the newly founded parties to secure their participation in elections.

Turkey’s ex-premier, Ahmet Davutoglu, and the country’s former economy czar, Ali Babacan, both longtime allies of Erdogan, recently left the AKP to establish their own opposition groups, and have come under pressure from the AKP and MHP to leave their parties out of the race.

Babacan has been critical of Erdogan’s move away from a parliamentary system of governance in Turkey to one providing the president with wide-ranging powers without any strong checks and balances.

“The AKP is abolishing what it built with its own hands. The reputation and the economy of the country is in ruins. The number of competent people has declined in the ruling party. Decisions are being taken without consultations and inside a family,” Babacan said in a recent interview.

He also claimed that AKP officials were competing against each other for personal financial gain.

Babacan, a founding member of the AKP, was highly respected among foreign investors during his time running the economy. He resigned from the party last year over “deep differences” to set up his DEVA grouping on March 9 with a diverse team of former AKP officials and liberal figures.

Berk Esen, a political analyst from Ankara’s Bilkent University, believes Babacan’s recent statements have angered Erdogan.

“As a technocrat, Babacan gains respect from secular circles as well as the international community, which Erdogan clearly lacks. Despite being in office for 13 years, Babacan has not been tainted by corruption allegations and is known as the chief architect of Turkey’s rapid economic growth during the AKP’s first two terms,” he told Arab News.

“The legislation that the AKP-MHP coalition is working on may prevent deputy transfer only in case early elections are scheduled for the fall. Otherwise, the newly established parties will most likely build their organizations across the country and become viable for elections by summer, if not the spring of 2021.”

If Davutoglu and Babacan were successful in capturing disillusioned voters, they could prevent the ruling coalition getting the 51 percent of votes needed to secure a parliamentary majority.