Turkey’s former economy tsar challenges Erdogan with new party

Turkey’s former economy tsar challenges Erdogan with new party
In this March 1, 2020 file photo, Ali Babacan attends funerals for a Turkish soldier killed in Syria, in Ankara, Turkey. (AP)
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Updated 10 March 2020

Turkey’s former economy tsar challenges Erdogan with new party

Turkey’s former economy tsar challenges Erdogan with new party
  • Babacan’s criticisms of the AKP and Erdogan are also focusing on economic mismanagement, the dangers of “one man rule” and the country’s poor economic indicators since the 2018 currency crisis, which has greatly diminished the party’s electoral support

ANKARA: After resigning from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) in July 2019, Ali Babacan, a former deputy prime minister in charge of the economy, filed an official request to the Interior Ministry to establish his new party on Monday.
The launch event of the party will be in Ankara on Wednesday.
Turkey’s new party Democracy and Advance Party (DEVA), which faces a mighty challenge ahead, has a thought-provoking list of founding members, a more technocratic tone with many young members, and combines conservative and secular figures around broad goals.
A former close ally of Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, 53-year-old Babacan has had the support of former President Abdullah Gul during the preparations for establishing the party. However, Gul did not join the party.
The party’s founders’ list comprises people with a high educational profile, mainly with masters’ and PhD degrees, from different business sectors and academia.
Senior figures from the armed forces as well as former ministers from the AKP rule and from Turkish Airlines also drew public attention.
Babacan supports a fully democratic parliamentary system, which Turkey left three years ago for a transit to the presidential system.
During an interview broadcast live on Turkey’s Fox TV on Monday morning, Babacan said that Turkey needed a “fresh start” and urged reforms to strengthen the rule of law, human rights and democracy in the country.
“Nearly 20 years have passed (since the AKP was established). Turkey has changed and sadly the political party of which I was a member began to do things very contrary to its founding principles,” he said.
“There is a great need to create a more prosperous and livable Turkey and this is impossible with the current political order. There is nothing independent in the country, not even the judiciary,” he said.
Babacan’s criticisms of the AKP and Erdogan are also focusing on economic mismanagement, the dangers of “one man rule” and the country’s poor economic indicators since the 2018 currency crisis, which has greatly diminished the party’s electoral support.
In an interview last November, the former minister criticized the fact that “some investors come to Turkey for short-term investments, for two of three months, but refrain from a long-term one” because of the lack of “judicial predictability.”
Babacan was the leading figure behind the Turkish economic boom between 2009 and 2015, and was appreciated by foreign investors at the time.
He also hailed Turkey’s ties with the Arab world during his ministerial term.

FASTFACT

Ali Babacan was the leading figure during Turkey’s IMF-backed economic reforms in the early 2000s, before being appointed as chief negotiator with the EU in 2005 during the country’s candidacy process.

He mainly represented the AKP’s liberal faction, with his views in favor of sustaining Turkey’s Western alignment.
Babacan was the leading figure during Turkey’s IMF-backed economic reforms in the early 2000s, before being appointed as chief negotiator with the EU in 2005 during the country’s candidacy process.
In December, Turkey’s former Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu also launched his breakaway Future Party from the ruling AKP.
According to Berk Esen, a political analyst from Bilkent University in Ankara, with the launch of Babacan’s party the more centrist group that had played a major rule in government during the AKP’s first three terms is finally exiting the ruling party.
“This may prove to be a bigger blow to Erdogan than the defection of Davutoglu’s group earlier this year since Babacan has been hailed by many as a very successful technocrat who led the Turkish economy through several years of impressive growth,” he told Arab News.
Last week, Ankara-based pollster Metropoll published a report showing that Erdogan’s approval in Turkey had fallen to 41.1 percent, down from 48 percent in October during the launch of a military operation in northeast Syria.
The same poll company also released another survey last month, showing that support for Davutoglu’s party remains at 1.2 percent, while for Babacan’s new party support is at 0.8 percent. The same poll revealed that public support for the AKP had decreased to 40 percent from 42.6 percent since the 2018 general election.
“Although Davutoglu had an early start, Babacan does not carry heavy political baggage and can appeal both to centrist voters and business circles at the same time. After the party’s founding, Babacan should change the public debate by discussing Turkey’s economic problems,” said political analyst Esen.
According to Esen, Babacan has followed a balanced course so far between being a critic of Erdogan’s monopolization of power and appealing to conservative and centrist voters.
“In active politics, however, he needs to be ready to take on Erdogan directly if he is going to have any chance of appealing
to mass voters and returning Turkey to a parliamentary system,” he said.


Egypt welcomes Qatar invite

Egypt welcomes Qatar invite
Egypt's Minister of Foreign Affairs Sameh Shoukry. (AFP)
Updated 22 min 19 sec ago

Egypt welcomes Qatar invite

Egypt welcomes Qatar invite
  • Egypt is always striving for the best relationship with the Arab brothers,” Shoukry added

CAIRO: Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said Qatar’s invitation to President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi to visit Doha is appreciated, and a diplomatic approach will be taken to set the appropriate timing for it.
“We have strong institutions that monitor and take the necessary measures to protect Egyptian interests,” Shoukry told the local Sada Al-Balad satellite channel.
He stressed that all topics related to Egypt’s security and stability, including the issue of the Muslim Brotherhood, are being addressed, and that Qatar’s response to Cairo’s demands will be evaluated.
“We are proceeding positively in removing the effects of the boycott between Egypt and Qatar, and we are also dealing with all the issues that concern us. Egypt is always striving for the best relationship with the Arab brothers,” Shoukry added.


Drought-hit Jordan to build Red Sea desalination plant

Drought-hit Jordan to build Red Sea desalination plant
Updated 13 June 2021

Drought-hit Jordan to build Red Sea desalination plant

Drought-hit Jordan to build Red Sea desalination plant
  • The cost of the project is estimated at ‘around $1 billion’
  • Thirteen international consortiums have put in bids, and the government will chose five of them by July

AMMAN: Jordan said Sunday it plans to build a Red Sea desalination plant operating within five years, to provide the mostly-desert and drought-hit kingdom with critical drinking water.
The cost of the project is estimated at “around $1 billion,” ministry of water and irrigation spokesman Omar Salameh said, adding that the plant would be built in the Gulf of Aqaba, in southern Jordan.
The plant is expected to produce 250-300 million cubic meters of potable water per year, and should be ready for operation in 2025 or 2026, Salameh said.
“It will cover the need for drinking water (in Jordan) for the next two centuries,” he said, adding that the desalinated water would be piped from Aqaba on the Red Sea to the rest of the country.
Jordan is one of the world’s most water-deficient countries and experts say the country, home to 10 million people, is now in the grip of one of the most severe droughts in its history.
Thirteen international consortiums have put in bids, and the government will chose five of them by July, Salameh said.
Desalinating water is a major drain of energy, and the companies must suggest how to run the plant in Jordan, which does not have major oil reserves.
Last month Salameh said that Jordan needs about 1.3 billion cubic meters of water per year.
But the quantities available are around 850 to 900 million cubic meters, with the shortfall “due to low rainfall, global warming, population growth and successive refugee inflows,” he said.
This year, the reserves of key drinking water dams have reached critical levels, many now a third of their normal capacity.


Jordan’s former royal court chief charged in Prince Hamzah sedition case

Jordan’s former royal court chief charged in Prince Hamzah sedition case
Updated 13 June 2021

Jordan’s former royal court chief charged in Prince Hamzah sedition case

Jordan’s former royal court chief charged in Prince Hamzah sedition case
  • In the indictment, Awadallah and bin Zaid are charged with “attempting to undermine the regime”
  • On June 2, they were referred to the SSC, which looks into cases related to terrorism and state security

AMMAN: Jordan’s former royal court chief and another man will go on trial this week at the State Security Court (SSC) for their alleged roles in a plot to “destabilize the country.”

The country’s public prosecutor endorsed the charges against Sharif Hassan bin Zaid and Bassem Awadallah, the former royal court chief.

Both are accused of working with Prince Hamzah, the former crown prince.

In the indictment, a copy of which was seen by Arab News, Awadallah and bin Zaid are charged with “attempting to undermine the regime, and the country’s security and stability,” as well as “inciting sedition.”

On June 2, they were referred to the SSC, which looks into cases related to terrorism and state security. The court is expected to begin the trial next week.

Awadallah and bin Zaid were arrested on April 3 along with 15 other people suspected of involvement in the case, which also involved Prince Hamzah. Jordanian authorities said that Awadallah, bin Zaid and Prince Hamzah were attempting to destabilize Jordan in collaboration with “foreign entities.”

Prince Hamzah’s involvement was resolved within the framework of the Hashemite family upon directives from his half brother King Abdullah II. The Jordanian royal court published a letter signed by Prince Hamzah in which he vowed allegiance to King Abdullah and confirmed that he would act “always for His Majesty and his Crown Prince to help and support.”

The charge sheet into the sedition case said that there is enough evidence proving a “solid connection” between Prince Hamzah and the two suspects, Awadallah and bin Zaid.

It also said that bin Zaid recommended Awadallah to Prince Hamzah to help them gather external support in their plot to topple the regime and place Prince Hamzah on the throne.

The charges said that the three men regularly met at the home of Awadallah, who was reportedly “encouraging the prince to intensify his meetings with notables and tribal leaders.”

Prince Hamzah then moved to the so-called “open criticism stage,” and began attacking national institutions and accusing them of ineptitude, the indictment said.

The charges also claim that Prince Hamzah exploited a hospital tragedy to mobilize Jordanians and ignite public anger against the state.

Seven COVID-19 patients died in March in the New Salt Public Hospital, northwest of the capital Amman, when the hospital’s oxygen supply failed.

The incident triggered public anger, forcing Jordan’s health minister at the time, Nazir Obeidat, to step down.

The indictment contains a number of text messages that Awadallah, bin Zaid and Prince Hamzah sent to each other during March, days before the case became public.

On March 13, Awadallah sent a WhatsApp message to bin Zaid that said: “It is time for H.” On the same date, Prince Hamzah wrote to bin Zaid: “There is another person saying ‘go ahead.’” The latter wrote back: “This (medical tragedy) is considered the spark.”

Before nationwide rallies planned for March, 24, prosecutors said that bin Zaid sent a text message to Prince Hamzah warning: “From now on, there should not be only words, but there should be a leadership.”

Activists affiliated with the United Jordanian Movement, Hirak called for the nationwide rally to commemorate the 10th anniversary of massive opposition protests in 2011 organized by the Youth of March 24 movement.

Bin Zaid sent another message to Prince Hamzah urging him to “seize the opportunity, maybe not today or tomorrow, but I’m sure not in June, for example. God be on your side.”

In another text message to Prince Hamzah, bin Zaid said: “Things are coming my friend and, as the man (Awadallah) said again last day, the thing will occur sooner than you think.”


Two thirds of eligible people in Dubai fully vaccinated against COVID-19

Two thirds of eligible people in Dubai fully vaccinated against COVID-19
Updated 13 June 2021

Two thirds of eligible people in Dubai fully vaccinated against COVID-19

Two thirds of eligible people in Dubai fully vaccinated against COVID-19
  • For six months the UAE has been running one of the world’s fastest vaccination campaigns against COVID-19

DUBAI: About two-thirds of people eligible for inoculation against COVID-19 have now received two doses of the vaccine in Dubai, the tourist and business hub of the United Arab Emirates, Dubai Health Authority (DHA) said.
Dubai is the most populous of the seven emirates that make up the UAE and has one of the world’s busiest airports.
For six months the UAE has been running one of the world’s fastest vaccination campaigns against COVID-19, initially using a vaccine developed by the China National Pharmaceutical Group (Sinopharm) and then adding the Pfizer/BioNTech and AstraZeneca shots and Russia’s Sputnik V.
DHA deputy director general Alawi Alsheikh Ali told Dubai Television late on Saturday that 83 percent of people aged over 16 — or about 2.3 million people — had now received at least one dose of a vaccine and that 64 percent had received two doses in the emirate.
The UAE recently said nearly 85 percent of its total eligible population had received at least one dose of a vaccine, without saying how many people had had both doses.
The UAE, which does not break down the number of cases by emirate, has seen a rise in the number of infections in the past month. It recorded 2,281 new cases on Saturday, bringing the total so far to around 596,000 cases. Daily cases peaked at almost 4,000 a day in early February.
DHA said 90 percent of the COVID-19 patients admitted to intensive care units in Dubai hospitals were unvaccinated, without specifying when that statistic was recorded.


Algerian parliamentary election results expected within days, authority says

Algerian parliamentary election results expected within days, authority says
Updated 13 June 2021

Algerian parliamentary election results expected within days, authority says

Algerian parliamentary election results expected within days, authority says

ALGIERS: The results of an Algerian parliamentary election in which fewer than a third of voters took part will be announced within a few days, the head of the voting authority said late on Saturday.
The ruling establishment has tried to use elections along with a crackdown on dissent as a way to end two years of political unrest, with Algeria facing a looming economic crisis.
Supporters of the “Hirak” mass protest movement said it showed the system lacked legitimacy. Two prominent journalists, Khaled Drareni and Ihsane El Kadi, and the opposition figure Karim Tabbou, were detained last week but released on Saturday.
Politicians said the turnout of 30.2 percent, the lowest ever officially recorded for a parliamentary election in Algeria, was “acceptable.”
“The election took place in good conditions. Voters were able to vote and choose the most suitable candidates to serve Algeria,” said election authority head Mohamed Chorfi on television.
The protests erupted in 2019 and unseated veteran President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, continuing weekly until the global pandemic struck a year later. After a year-long pause they resumed in February but police mostly quashed them last month.
Many Algerians believe real power rests with the military and security establishments who have dominated politics for decades, rather than with elected politicians.
“We have grown accustomed in the past to high turnout due to fraud,” said Arslan Chikhaoui, an Algerian analyst, saying the authorities had manipulated the results of elections before the Hirak protests to suggest greater enthusiasm.
After Bouteflika was forced to step down, President Abdelmadjid Tebboune was elected with a turnout of 40 percent. Last year he held a referendum on an amended constitution that gained only 25 percent of votes.
The old parties that traditionally dominated have been tarred with corruption and abuse scandals, giving space to independents and moderate Islamist parties that hope to gain a majority of seats in the new parliament.
Those that win a lot of seats are likely to be included in the next government.
During parliament’s coming five-year term, Algeria is likely to face a fiscal and economic crunch, after burning through four fifths of foreign currency reserves since 2013.
The government has maintained expensive social programs and the state’s central role in the economy despite plummeting oil and gas sales.
Reforms to strengthen the private sector contributed to corruption that fueled the Hirak. Spending cuts could trigger a new wave of protests against the ruling establishment.
Laws passed by the outgoing parliament to encourage foreign and private investment and strengthen the energy sector have so far had little effect.