New Tunisia president sworn in after upstart poll win

Tunisia’s new President Kais Saied was a conservative academic with no previous political experience who won the overwhelming support of younger voters in an October 13 runoff. (AFP)
Updated 23 October 2019

New Tunisia president sworn in after upstart poll win

  • Saied was sworn in before members of the constituent assembly and other top state bodies
  • After sweeping 72.71 percent of the vote in this month's runoff, Saied has won a clear mandate to fight corruption and promote social justice

TUNIS: Tunisia's new President Kais Saied took the oath of office on Wednesday after his surprise election victory over champions of the political establishment.
Saied, a conservative academic with no previous political experience who won the overwhelming support of younger voters in an October 13 runoff, was sworn in before members of the constituent assembly and other top state bodies.
The poll followed the death in July of Beji Caid Essebsi, Tunisia's first president freely elected by universal suffrage.
After sweeping 72.71 percent of the vote in this month's runoff, Saied has won a clear mandate to fight corruption and promote social justice, even though his role focuses on security and diplomacy.
A constitutional law professor whose rigid and austere demeanour earned him the nickname "Robocop", Saied has no real experience in foreign policy.
Tunis, which currently chairs the Arab League, could renew diplomatic ties with Syria, severed since 2012, and play a role in the return of the war-torn country to the bloc.
Saied has made strong statements against Israel, considering any ties with the Jewish state to be "high treason" - an Arab nationalist position that earned him praise among supporters.
While the security situation has significantly improved since a series of high-profile attacks on tourists in 2015, Tunisia has maintained a state of emergency for four years, with assaults against security forces persisting.
On June 27, a suicide attack killed two people in the heart of the capital Tunis, reviving the spectre of violence.
During the campaign debate, Saied said a key to fighting terrorism was education, arguing that improving primary education would "immunise" youth against extremism.
Another significant task he will face is reforming the police force, which was a cog in the dictatorship toppled by the Arab Spring revolt of 2011 and which continues to be accused of human rights abuses.


Iraqi protesters block commercial ports, split capital

Updated 19 November 2019

Iraqi protesters block commercial ports, split capital

  • Iraqi civilians are increasingly relying on boats to ferry them across the Tigris River as ongoing standoffs shut key bridges in Baghdad
  • The Jumhuriya, Sinak and Ahrar bridges connect both sides of the city by passing over the river

BAGHDAD: Anti-government protesters blocked access to a second major commercial port in southern Iraq on Tuesday, as bridge closures effectively split the capital in half, causing citizens to rely on boats for transport to reach the other side of the city.
Since anti-government protests began Oct. 1, at least 320 people have been killed and thousands wounded in Baghdad and the mostly Shiite southern provinces. Demonstrators have taken to the streets in the tens of thousands over what they say is widespread corruption, lack of job opportunities and poor basic services, despite the country’s oil wealth.
Security forces have used live ammunition, tear gas and stun guns to repel protesters, tactics that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Monday would be punished with sanctions.
“We will not stand idle while the corrupt officials make the Iraqi people suffer. Today, I am affirming the United States will use our legal authorities to sanction corrupt individuals that are stealing Iraqis’ wealth and those killing and wounding peaceful protesters,” he said in remarks to reporters in Washington.
“Like the Iraqi people taking to the streets today, our sanctions will not discriminate between religious sect or ethnicity,” he added. “They will simply target those who do wrong to the Iraqi people, no matter who they are.”
Over a dozen protesters blocked the main entrance to Khor Al-Zubair port, halting trade activity as oil tankers and other trucks carrying goods were unable to enter or exit. The port imports commercial goods and materials as well as refined oil products.
Crude from Qayara oil field in Ninewa province, in northern Iraq, is also exported from the port.
Khor Al-Zubair is the second largest port in the country. Protesters had burned tires and cut access to the main Gulf commercial port in Umm Qasr on Monday and continued to block roads Tuesday.
Iraqi civilians are increasingly relying on boats to ferry them across the Tigris River as ongoing standoffs between demonstrators and Iraqi security forces on three key bridges has shut main thoroughfares connecting east and west Baghdad.
The Jumhuriya, Sinak and Ahrar bridges, which have been partially occupied by protesters following days of deadly clashes, connect both sides of the city by passing over the Tigris River. The blockages have left Iraqis who must make the daily commute for work, school and other day-to-day activities with no choice but to rely on river boats.
“After the bridges were cut, all the pressure is on us here,” said Hasan Lilo, a boat owner in the capital. “We offer a reasonable transportation means that helps the people.”