Iran FM visits Lebanon, offers support for new government

Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, left, poses for a picture with Hezbollah lawmaker Ali Ammar, center, and Lebanese Minister of State Parliamentary Affairs Mahmoud Qmati, right, on his arrival at Rafik Hariri Airport, in Beirut, Lebanon, Sunday, Feb. 10, 2019. (AP)
Updated 10 February 2019

Iran FM visits Lebanon, offers support for new government

  • Zarif spoke to reporters Sunday at Beirut’s airport shortly after his arrival in the Lebanese capital
  • Lebanon formed a new government last week headed by Prime Minister Saad Hariri

BEIRUT: Iran’s foreign minister offered his country’s military assistance to the US-backed Lebanese army on Sunday, saying Iran is ready to cooperate in all sectors should the Lebanese government want it.
Mohammad Javad Zarif spoke to reporters Sunday at Beirut’s airport shortly after his arrival in the Lebanese capital for a two-day official visit.
“We are always ready (to support Lebanon militarily) and we have announced that on many occasions. This tendency does exist in Iran, but we are waiting for this desire to be there on the Lebanese side,” he said.
The comments came a few days after the leader of the Iran-backed Hezbollah group urged Lebanon’s government to accept anti-aircraft weapons from Iran to confront Israeli warplanes. He also said Iran was ready to provide Lebanon with electricity and medicine.
The United States, which lists Hezbollah as an armed terrorist group, backs the Lebanese army through a program that aims to strengthen the military as the sole military force defending the country.
Lebanon formed a new government last week headed by Prime Minister Saad Hariri, after a nine-month vacuum that exacerbated the country’s economic woes. Hezbollah has three ministers in the new government, reflecting the gains made by the powerful group in parliament elections held in May last year. The group named the health minister, marking the first time it controls a ministry with a large budget.
Zarif was met at the airport by Hezbollah lawmakers. In his comments, he congratulated Lebanese politicians and said Iran is ready to support the government in any way possible.
Zarif is scheduled to meet with the Lebanese president, prime minister and foreign minister on Monday.


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.