Algeria’s president calls for dissolution of parliament, elections

Algeria’s president calls for dissolution of parliament, elections
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Updated 19 February 2021

Algeria’s president calls for dissolution of parliament, elections

Algeria’s president calls for dissolution of parliament, elections
  • Tebboune said he will also carry out a government reshuffle and issued a pardon for dozens of jailed activists
  • The government has struggled to stem renewed Hirak protests

ALGIERS: Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune on Thursday called for the dissolution of parliament and early legislative elections as the North African nation struggles with health, political and economic crises.
In an address to the nation, Tebboune said he will also carry out a government reshuffle and issued a pardon for dozens of jailed activists of the “Hirak” protest movement.
The government has struggled to stem renewed Hirak protests.
“I have decided to dissolved the National Popular Assembly and call for elections,” Tebboune said, in a speech broadcast on state television.
Tebboune, who has previously expressed dissatisfaction with the cabinet of Prime Minister Abdelaziz Djerad, said the government reshuffle would take place “within 48 hours at most.”
Algeria’s government is facing multiple challenges as the coronavirus pandemic adds to the woes of an oil-dependent economy.
He also announced an amnesty for dozens of jailed members of the Hirak, which swept former strongman Abdelaziz Bouteflika from power in 2019.
“The blessed Hirak has saved Algeria,” he said, announcing a “presidential pardon” to around 55 to 60 people, who he said would return to their homes “tomorrow.”
Around 70 people are currently in prison over their links with the Hirak movement or other peaceful opposition political activity, according to the CNLD prisoners’ support group.
The unprecedented Hirak movement, which demanded a sweeping overhaul of the ruling system in place since Algeria’s independence from France in 1962, only suspended rallies in March last year amid COVID-19 restrictions.
But recent weeks have seen renewed demonstrations in the build-up to the February 22 anniversary of the first nation-wide protests, particularly in the traditionally restive region of Kabylie.
On Tuesday, thousands of Algerian rallied in the northern town of Kherrata, where the first major protest erupted in 2019 against Bouteflika’s bid for a fifth presidential term.
Among them was Karim Tabbou, a prominent Hirak figure who was given a one-year suspended sentence in December for “undermining national security.”
Tabbou told the crowd that “the last bell has tolled for this corrupt system,” as expressed “hope to build a new Algeria: human rights, freedoms and the rule of law.”
Tebboune’s speech to the nation had been highly anticipated, and coincided with a national day paying tribute to the “martyrs” of the 1954-1962 war of independence against French colonial rule.
He was elected on record low turnout in a December 2019 poll boycotted by the Hirak, spent a total of three months in Germany since October, receiving treatment for COVID-19.
But he returned home last Friday after undergoing surgery to his foot, following post-COVID complications.
Over the weekend he held consultations with several political parties, including the opposition, in preparation for local and legislative elections by the end of the year.
On Thursday, Tebboune said he wanted to “open his doors to young people.”


Help build solid basis for Libyan elections and don’t fixate on dates, Security Council told

Help build solid basis for Libyan elections and don’t fixate on dates, Security Council told
Updated 15 sec ago

Help build solid basis for Libyan elections and don’t fixate on dates, Security Council told

Help build solid basis for Libyan elections and don’t fixate on dates, Security Council told
  • Lawyer and activist Elham Saudi condemned “weak” vetting that resulted in candidates implicated in corruption and crimes against humanity being cleared to stand
  • US envoy highlighted concerns about deteriorating human rights situation in the country and continuing reports of violence and abuse targeting migrants, asylum seekers and refugees

NEW YORK: Mediators need to take into account the lessons learned in Libya in the past two years and focus on “creating milestones” for the country’s political transition, rather than fixating on the time frame involved, according to Elham Saudi, co-founder and director of Lawyers for Justice in Libya.

These milestones include an electoral law, a code for conducting elections, and a solid constitutional basis “that appropriately sequences presidential and legislative elections in line with the broader road map to complete (the) transition effectively,” he said.

Addressing the UN Security Council on Monday during its regular meeting about developments in Libya, Saudi said that when these steps are implemented, elections will naturally follow and will be “far easier to manage, protect and successfully deliver.”

Stephanie Williams, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’s special adviser on Libya, recently reiterated the importance of holding elections “in the shortest possible time frame.” She said this month that “it is possible, and needed, to have elections before the end of June.”

However, Saudi said that “focusing on the dates for the elections instead of a clear process to facilitate them risks once again compromising due process for the sake of perceived political expediency.”

Growing polarization among political powers in the country and disputes over key aspects of the electoral process — including shortcomings in the legal framework for the elections, contradictory court rulings on candidacies, and political and security concerns as cited by the High National commission for Elections — resulted in the postponement of the elections, which had been scheduled to take place on Dec. 24 last year.

Saudi reminded members of the Security Council that “accountability is a prerequisite to political progress. Poorly defined and fundamentally weak vetting criteria applied to candidates applying for elections resulted in individuals implicated in corruption or crimes against humanity and human rights violations, including persons who have been indicted by the ICC (International Criminal Court), being accepted as candidates.”

Following the postponement of polling in December, Libya’s House of Representatives established a “road map committee” to develop a new path toward national elections. The committee will present its first report for debate on Tuesday in Tripoli.

Rosemary DiCarlo, the UN’s under-secretary-general for political and peacebuilding affairs, welcomed what she described as renewed efforts by Libya’s Presidency Council to advance national reconciliation but lamented the political uncertainty in the run-up to the elections. which she said has “negatively impacted the overall security situation, including in Tripoli, resulting in shifting alliances among armed groups affiliated with certain presidential candidates.”

She expressed concern about the human rights situation in Libya, citing “incidents of elections-related violence and attacks based on political affiliation, as well as threats and violence against members of the judiciary involved in proceedings on eligibility of electoral candidates, and against journalists, activists and individuals expressing political views.”

DiCarlo added: “Such incidents are an obstacle to creating a conducive environment for free, fair, peaceful and credible elections.”

Taher El-Sonni, Libya’s permanent representative to the UN, told the Security Council that while some people had been surprised by the postponement of elections, it had been widely expected.

“In light of the crisis of trust and the absence of a constitution for the country, or a consensual constitutional rule as advocated by most political forces now, it will be very difficult to conduct these elections successfully because the elections are supposed to be a means of political participation and not a means of predominance and exclusion, and a means to support stability and not an end in itself that may open the way for a new conflict,” he said.

El-Sonni called on the UN to offer more “serious and effective” support to the electoral process and send teams to assess the requirements on the ground.

“This would be a clear message to all about the seriousness of the international community in achieving elections that everyone aspires to, without questioning it or its results,” he said.

The Libyan envoy invited the council to “actively contribute” to the processes of national reconciliation and transitional justice, “two concomitant and essential tracks that have unfortunately been lost during the past years, although they are the main basis for the success of any political solution that leads to the stability of the country.”

He also once again called on the African Union to support his country’s efforts in this area.

Ambassador Jeffrey DeLaurentis, senior advisor for special political affairs to the US mission at the UN, said it is time for the wishes of the millions of Libyans who have registered to vote to be respected.

“It is time to move beyond backroom deals between a small circle of powerful individuals backed by armed groups, carving up spoils and protecting their positions,” he said “The Libyan people are ready to decide their own future.

“Those vying to lead Libya must see that the Libyan people will only accept leadership empowered by elections and that they will only tolerate so much delay.”

Like many other ambassadors at the meeting, DeLaurentis also addressed the migrant crisis and reports of violence and abuses directed at migrants, asylum seekers and refugees in Libya.

“Libyan authorities must close illicit detention centers, end arbitrary detention practices and permit unhindered humanitarian access to affected populations,” he said.


Coalition in Yemen begins military operations in Sanaa

Coalition in Yemen begins military operations in Sanaa
Updated 9 min 35 sec ago

Coalition in Yemen begins military operations in Sanaa

Coalition in Yemen begins military operations in Sanaa
  • More than 50 Houthis killed in operations targeting Marib and Al-Bayda

RIYADH: The Coalition to Restore Legitimacy in Yemen said on Monday that it had began “military operations” against “legitimate targets” in the capital, Sanaa, Saudi state TV reported.
The coalition said the operation is in response to threats and out of military necessity to protect civilians from hostile attacks.
The Iran-backed Houthi militia launched missiles toward Saudi Arabia and the UAE earlier on Monday, sparking widespread condemnation from the international community.
Meanwhile, the coalition said it carried out 14 operations targeting the Houthi militia in Marib and Al-Bayda during the past 24 hours, killing more than 50 fighters and destroying nine military vehicles.


‘Horror scenes’ in Syrian refugee camps amid ‘extremely cold winter’: UN official

‘Horror scenes’ in Syrian refugee camps amid ‘extremely cold winter’: UN official
Updated 24 January 2022

‘Horror scenes’ in Syrian refugee camps amid ‘extremely cold winter’: UN official

‘Horror scenes’ in Syrian refugee camps amid ‘extremely cold winter’: UN official
  • ‘No one should have to live in these conditions,’ Mark Cutts tells briefing attended by Arab News
  • Nearly 3m people internally displaced in northern Syria, most of them women and children

LONDON: Brutal winter conditions in northern Syria have ushered in mass-scale suffering for 2.8 million internally displaced persons, a top UN humanitarian official warned on Monday.

“We’re extremely concerned about the situation there,” Mark Cutts, the UN’s deputy regional humanitarian coordinator for Syria, said in a briefing attended by Arab News.

The IDPs, he added, are “some of the most vulnerable people in the world,” the majority of them living in temporary camps and tents.

“During this extremely cold weather, we’ve seen some real horror scenes in the last few days — about 1,000 tents have either collapsed completely or been very badly damaged as a result of heavy snow,” said Cutts, adding that temperatures have dropped to as low as -7 degrees centigrade.

About 100,000 people have been affected by the heavy snow, while 150,000 more have been affected by freezing conditions and heavy rain.

“These are people who’ve been through a lot in the past few years. They’ve fled from one place to another. The bombs have followed them. Many of the hospitals and schools in northwest Syria have been destroyed in the 10 years of war,” said Cutts, adding that what he and his team are seeing in camps now is a “real disaster zone.”

He said: “Our humanitarian workers have been pulling people out from under their collapsed tents … They’ve been clearing snow from tents with their bare hands.”

Children, the elderly and the disabled are suffering the most from the conditions, added Cutts, who appealed to the international community to “do more, to recognize the scale of the crisis, to help us get these people out of tents and into safer, more dignified temporary shelter.”

In a final plea, he said: “It’s absolutely unacceptable that you’ve got 1.7 million people living in camps in these appalling conditions — most of them are women and children and elderly people.

“These civilians are stranded in a warzone, and now, on top of that, they’re dealing with temperatures below zero. No one should have to live in these conditions.”


Iran: ‘Possible’ to agree on prisoners, nuclear deal

Iran: ‘Possible’ to agree on prisoners, nuclear deal
Updated 24 January 2022

Iran: ‘Possible’ to agree on prisoners, nuclear deal

Iran: ‘Possible’ to agree on prisoners, nuclear deal

TEHRAN: Tehran on Monday said it is “possible” to reach an agreement on the two issues of Iran-US prisoners’ release and the Vienna talks to restore the 2015 nuclear deal.

“They are two different paths, but if the other party (the US) has the determination, there is the possibility that we reach a reliable and lasting agreement in both of them in the shortest time,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said during his weekly press conference.

Khatibzadeh’s comments came in reaction to remarks made by the US envoy for Iran, Robert Malley, who on Sunday said it is unlikely that Washington would strike an agreement unless Tehran releases four US citizens.

BACKGROUND

The four US citizens held in Iran are Iranian-American businessman Siamak Namazi, 50, and his father Baquer, 85, as well as environmentalist Morad Tahbaz, 66, and businessman Emad Sharqi, 57.

“Iran has not accepted any precondition from day one of the negotiations,” Khatibzadeh said.

He added that “the negotiations are complicated enough, and should not get more complex with complicated remarks.”


Kuwait refers two army officers to prosecution over suspected corruption in Eurofighter deal

Kuwait refers two army officers to prosecution over suspected corruption in Eurofighter deal
Updated 24 January 2022

Kuwait refers two army officers to prosecution over suspected corruption in Eurofighter deal

Kuwait refers two army officers to prosecution over suspected corruption in Eurofighter deal
  • A major general and colonel in Kuwait's army would face prosecutors over their alleged misuse of public funds
  • Kuwait ordered 28 Eurofighter Typhoon jets in 2016 under a contract valued at some $8.7 billion

LONDON: Kuwait has referred two senior army officers to the public prosecutor over suspected corruption related to a deal to buy Eurofighter Typhoon jets, the state anti-corruption body on Monday.
Kuwait received last month its first two Eurofighter Typhoons as part of an order for a total of 28 aircraft that will be delivered to the Kuwait Air Force.
“Investigations show that the defendants committed several violations that caused serious damage to public money by paying inflation bills to the manufacturer that exceeded the total value agreed upon in the main contract ... without prior permission from the relevant authorities,” the Kuwait Anti Corruption Authority (Nazaha) said in a statement.
The authority said it had received a report from the minister of defense on the ministry’s contract to purchase the aircraft, which was marred by special remarks in the inflation clause.
“The investigations revealed that the defendant committed several violations that caused serious damage to public money by issuing inflation-related bills to the manufacturer that exceeded the total value agreed upon in the main contract,” the statement said.
It added that the exchange process took place without prior permission from the concerned authorities in the defense and finance ministries, and without a documentary credit for that exchange, which affected the schedule of payments allocated to the said contract.
Nazaha said that a major general and colonel in Kuwait’s army would face prosecutors over their alleged misuse of public funds.
The authorities thanked an unnamed whistleblower for helping the government obtain information about the misuse of funds and said efforts to collect and examine evidence continued.
(With Reuters and AP)