Lebanon parliamentary elections: Voting marred by disputes, low turnout

Special Lebanon parliamentary elections: Voting marred by disputes, low turnout
Supporters of the Lebanese Forces party rally in the Lebanon's northern coastal city of Batroun as they await results following parliamentary elections, Lebanon on May 15, 2022. (AFP)
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Updated 16 May 2022

Lebanon parliamentary elections: Voting marred by disputes, low turnout

Lebanon parliamentary elections: Voting marred by disputes, low turnout
  • Poll observers subjected to pressure, threats and exclusion

BEIRUT: The Lebanese public headed to polling booths on Sunday to elect a new parliament against the backdrop of an economic meltdown that is transforming the country.

The armed forces were deployed on roads leading to polling stations.

Arab and foreign observers moved between polling stations to oversee the electoral process but refused to make any declarations, noting that their observations will be included in a report.

The Lebanese Association for Democratic Elections registered dozens of violations, such as delegates being placed under “pressure and harassment,” and threats of expulsion.

The association criticized “the deputy registrars’ failure to carry out their tasks, which results in the cancellation of votes.”

The Supervisory Commission for Elections noted “hundreds of irregularities resulting from breaches of electoral silence.”

Irregularities were also noted by the Association for Democratic Elections. It accused “candidates and politicians, including President Michel Aoun,” of breaches.

Aoun and his wife cast their votes in his hometown in the southern suburbs of Beirut.

He urged voters to avoid being “impartial in a matter as important as choosing the ruling system.”

Politicians and clergymen, some accompanied by their children, cast their votes in front of the cameras in casual clothing.

Tensions reached a peak on Lebanon’s long electoral day in the final hours before polls closed, especially in areas with a strong Hezbollah presence.

The town of Fneidiq in Akkar witnessed several violent clashes and confrontations, prompting calls for the rapid intervention of the Lebanese Army and Internal Security Forces.

Despite the severe polarization that preceded the elections, the turnout was about 25.6 percent by 3 p.m. across Lebanon, according to figures from the Ministry of Interior.

The highest turnout was recorded in Jbeil–Kesserwan, where it reached 42 percent.

However, it did not exceed 22 percent in the Beirut II district, 17 percent in the Beirut I district and 12 percent in Tripoli.

Voters are electing 128 new parliamentary deputies. In some competitive regions, voters were divided due to many competing lists, particularly in Beirut and the north.

The turnout was high in places where party electoral machines were active and effective.

Parties and some electoral institutions invited a large portion of the public to cast early votes, but asked others to vote in the afternoon before the sealing of ballot boxes at 7 p.m., after studying voters’ orientations during the day.

These tactical practices also included offering money to voters.

An officer in one of the electoral machines of one of the lists of change in Beirut told Arab News that “Hezbollah, the Amal Movement and the Association of Islamic Charitable Projects (Al-Ahbash) are more organized than others.”

Based on Arab News’ observations in Beirut, delegates of some lists were completely absent in some of the polling stations, while delegates of party lists were present.

Sunni voters in Beirut stepped back from their boycott in light of the decision by Saad Hariri — former prime minister and head of the Future Movement — to suspend his political activity.

One voter, Neamat Naoum, told Arab News: “I had to vote and not boycott. I voted for the interest of others. In previous elections, I used to vote for Saad Hariri and before him, for his father. But Saad bargained a lot and conceded, and the mafias are now controlling us.”

She added: “Why did he do that? We are not against him but we are looking forward to the future. I hope those I voted for are better. I don’t know.”

Bilal Haykal, who was accompanied by his son Yehia to the Khalid bin Al-Walid polling station in the Beirut II district, said that at first, he decided to boycott the election entirely.

“However, when Dar Al-Fatwa called on people to cast their votes, I decided to exercise my constitutional right. I voted for the candidates calling for change after studying their resumes,” he added.

“I don’t want to vote for Hezbollah and its allies, so they won’t control the country’s decisions, knowing that in politics, there is no black and white. That’s how the country is.”

The number of voters in the Beirut II district reached about 370,000. They casted votes to elect 11 deputies out of 118 candidates distributed between 10 complete and incomplete competing lists.

The Lebanese Association for Democratic Elections said that “pro-Hezbollah chants in front of and inside Lycee Abdel Kader polling station in Beirut affected the turnout.”

In the Beirut I district, about 135,000 people voted to elect eight deputies.

Voting in the district was viewed as an avenue to retaliate against the ruling class, since the area was hardest hit by the Beirut port explosion two years ago.

Many voters publicly said that “they will not reelect their killers.”

Thirty-nine candidates competed in the district, where the competition was mainly between the Free Patriotic Movement, the Lebanese Forces and the Phalanges Party.

In Tripoli, 11 lists competed for eight parliamentary seats. The number of voters reached 438,254.

In Jbeil, people showed up to polling booths to elect two Maronite deputies and a Shiite deputy among 21 candidates.

The competition mainly focused on the potential for a Hezbollah-affiliated deputy or a Shiite deputy in opposition to the party.

Dr. Mahmoud Awad, a candidate on the Lebanese Forces list, was physical assaulted, according to a statement by his party.

“Members of Hezbollah harassed the Lebanese Forces’ delegates in one of the stations, resulting in the intervention of the Army Forces and the removal of the aggressors and the delegates from the center,” the statement said.

Lebanese Forces delegates were subjected to harassment in Jezzine by members of Hezbollah and the Amal Movement, including inside a polling station.


UAE sends three planes of medical aid to Afghanistan

UAE sends three planes of medical aid to Afghanistan
Updated 02 July 2022

UAE sends three planes of medical aid to Afghanistan

UAE sends three planes of medical aid to Afghanistan
  • The dispatched field hospital includes 75 beds and two operating rooms

The UAE has sent three planes of medical supplies, including a 1,000 square-meter-field hospital, to aid the injured of Afghanistan's earthquake that killed over 1,000 people and wounded scores more, Emirates new agency (WAM) reported on Saturday.
The dispatched hospital includes 75 beds and two operating rooms equipped with medical supplies and devices, the WAM statement read.
The planes also carried 16 metric tonnes of equipment and a medical team to operate the hospital and provide urgent medical services.
The UAE earlier established an air bridge to transport aid in the wake of the disaster.
The relief efforts come as Afghan authorities reported a shortage of food, shelter and medical supplies for the victims of the country’s deadliest earthquake in decades.

Last week, the country dispatched a plane carrying 30 tons of urgent food supplies to Afghanistan as aid continued to pour in from different parts of the world.


Egypt seeks to attract more Italian tourists

Egypt seeks to attract more Italian tourists
Updated 02 July 2022

Egypt seeks to attract more Italian tourists

Egypt seeks to attract more Italian tourists
  • Minister holds talks with tourism chief during visit to Rome

CAIRO: Khaled El-Anany, Egyptian Minister of Tourism and Antiquities, has held talks with Ivana Jelinic, president of the Federation of Italian Tourism Companies, as part of efforts to attract more Italian tourists to Egypt.

The meeting was held at the Egyptian Embassy in Rome during El-Anany’s visit to the Italian capital.

Egypt’s plans to attract more tourists from various markets, including Italy, were reviewed at the meeting, which also discussed organizing a number of introductory visits for leading Italian tour operators and media representatives.

These visits will include Sharm El-Sheikh and other tourist cities in South Sinai in preparation for the coming winter season.

Joint advertising campaigns in Italy were also discussed, amid a growing interest among Italians in Egyptian cities and tourist destinations.

 


Shiite cleric shot, wounded in central Iran

Shiite cleric shot, wounded in central Iran
Updated 02 July 2022

Shiite cleric shot, wounded in central Iran

Shiite cleric shot, wounded in central Iran
  • Mohsen Akhavan was targeted in the city of Isfahan
  • He was returning home after leading the morning prayer when the attack occurred

TEHRAN: A Shiite cleric in central Iran was injured on Saturday morning after an assailant on a motorcycle shot at him, Iranian state media said.
Mohsen Akhavan, who holds the clerical rank of hojatoleslam, was targeted in the city of Isfahan, according to the website of state broadcaster IRIB.
Akhavan, who was the imam of a mosque in the city, was returning home after leading the morning prayer when the attack occurred, IRIB reported.
The report added that the cleric, who had earlier been working at the Isfahan Islamic seminary, was “not seriously injured” and was being treated in hospital.
In early April, a Sunni extremist of Uzbek origin stabbed two Shiite clerics to death and injured a third in the courtyard of the main shrine of the northeastern holy city of Mashhad.
Abdolatif Moradi, 21, was hanged on June 20 in the same city after being convicted over the attack, according to the judicial authority.
Moradi “was accused of moharebeh (’war against God’, in Persian) using a weapon to terrorize the population in the shrine and even outside it,” judicial authorities said.
The attack in Mashhad came days after two Sunni clerics were shot dead outside a seminary in the northern Iranian town of Gonbad-e Kavus.
The three suspects in that case, also Sunnis, were arrested in late April but were said to have “no connection with terrorist groups,” state media reported at the time.


Iranian-flagged tanker in Greece tugged to Piraeus port

Iranian-flagged tanker in Greece tugged to Piraeus port
Updated 02 July 2022

Iranian-flagged tanker in Greece tugged to Piraeus port

Iranian-flagged tanker in Greece tugged to Piraeus port
  • For over two months Iranian-flagged Lana has been anchored off the Greek island of Evia

ATHENS: An Iranian-flagged tanker seized by Greece in April, part of whose cargo was confiscated by the United States, was being towed to the port of Piraeus on Saturday, Greek coast guard officials said, after Greek authorities approved its release.
For over two months the Iranian-flagged Lana, formerly Pegas, has been anchored off the Greek island of Evia in a diplomatic impasse which has strained Athens’ relations with Tehran amid growing tensions between Iran and the United States.
“It left Karystos at 0630 am (0330 GMT) and is expected to reach Piraeus around 1000 pm,” one official said.
Greek authorities in April impounded Lana and its oil cargo with 19 Russian crew members on board near the coast of Evia, due to sanctions following a legal action by the United States.
The ship was later released due to complications regarding its ownership, but part of the Iranian oil cargo had already been transferred to another ship, Ice Energy, which was hired by the United States and is moored off Piraeus port.
The removal of oil from the Lana prompted Iranian forces last month to seize two Greek tankers in the Arabian Gulf and sail them back to Iran after Tehran warned it would take “punitive action” against Athens.
Following an appeal by an Iranian company on June 7, a Greek judicial panel overturned the initial court order that allowed the confiscation of the cargo on behalf of the United States.
That decision has cleared the way for Lana to retrieve the cargo that was transferred to Ice Energy.
Until last week however Lana, which still has engine problems, was being detained by another company due to debts owed for towing services. It was officially released after the amount owed was paid off, legal sources told Reuters.


Israeli strike on Syria wounds two civilians: ministry

Israeli strike on Syria wounds two civilians: ministry
Updated 02 July 2022

Israeli strike on Syria wounds two civilians: ministry

Israeli strike on Syria wounds two civilians: ministry
  • Israel has carried out hundreds of air strikes in Syria since the 2011 civil war
  • Last month Israeli strikes on Damascus International Airport rendered its runways unusable for weeks

An Israeli strike on Syria’s western coast wounded two civilians on Saturday, the Syrian defense ministry said.
“The Israeli enemy carried out an air strike” at about 6:30 am near the town of Al-Hamidiyah, the ministry said in a statement, identifying the locations hit as poultry farms, without elaborating.
The strike was conducted from the Mediterranean Sea, west of Lebanon’s northern city of Tripoli, and “led to the injury of two civilians, including a woman,” the statement said.
Since the civil war broke out in Syria in 2011, Israel has carried out hundreds of air strikes against its northern neighbor.
The raids have targeted Syrian government troops as well as allied Iran-backed forces and fighters from the Lebanese Shiite militant group Hezbollah.
Last month Israeli strikes on Damascus International Airport rendered its runways unusable for weeks.
Besides the extensive damage caused to civilian and military runways, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights war monitor said the strikes had targeted nearby warehouses used as weapons depots by Iran and Hezbollah.
The Syrian war has claimed the lives of nearly half a million people and forced around half of the country’s pre-war population from their homes.