Reformists surge in Lebanon polls

The results in Lebanon indicate a fragmented and polarized parliament divided between pro- and anti-Hezbollah lawmakers. (Reuters)
The results in Lebanon indicate a fragmented and polarized parliament divided between pro- and anti-Hezbollah lawmakers. (Reuters)
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Updated 17 May 2022

Reformists surge in Lebanon polls

Reformists surge in Lebanon polls
  • The outcome signaled a shift in a country devastated by an ongoing financial crisis and soaring poverty
  • The new house is expected to elect a new speaker amid the absence of parliamentary consensus to reelect standing speaker Nabih Berri

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s militant Hezbollah group and its allies lost their parliamentary majority while independents achieved surprise breakthroughs, final elections results showed Tuesday.

The results indicate a fragmented and polarized parliament divided between pro- and anti-Hezbollah lawmakers who will likely find it difficult to work together.

The outcome signaled a shift in a country devastated by an ongoing financial crisis and soaring poverty.

New reformist faces who entered the legislative race on the values of a 2019 anti-establishment uprising made a stronger showing than many had predicted.

Saudi Ambassador to Lebanon Waleed Al-Bukhari tweeted that the result “proves the inevitability that the logic of the state will win against the absurd excesses of the statelet disrupting political life and stability in Lebanon.”

In the words of a political observer, “neither Hezbollah nor the Free Patriotic Movement is controlling parliament.”

On May 22, the term of the new parliament begins and Prime Minister Najib Mikati’s Cabinet will become a caretaker government.

The new house is expected to elect a new speaker amid the absence of parliamentary consensus to reelect standing speaker Nabih Berri, who has held the position since 1992.

Beirut witnessed on Tuesday morning the burning of a “Revolution Fist” that was set up in the Martyrs’ Square as a symbol of popular protest against the ruling class.

Moreover, the exchange rate of the US dollar against the Lebanese pound on the black market surpassed 30,000 Lebanese pounds for the first time after the elections.

The presidential palace announced that President Michel Aoun was transferred to Hotel-Dieu de France hospital in Beirut “to undergo some medical tests and X-rays.” They reassured the public that Aoun “will leave the hospital in the next few hours when the tests are done.”

The elected parliament does not resemble any of the six previously elected parliaments since the Taif Agreement in 1989. According to political observers, “it reflects the political turmoil the country is going through.”

The loss of several veteran political figures was remarkable in the election. Minister of Information Ziad Makkari said that those forces and figures “should reconsider the work they’ve done for their people.”

He added: “We hope that the forces of change that have reached the parliament seriously contribute to the rise of the country because it can’t endure any longer.”

Remarkably, Hezbollah and its allies won a total of 59 seats out of 128. The group’s allies include the Amal Movement, the Free Patriotic Movement, the Tachnag party and Al-Ahbash Association, along with Jihad Al-Samad, Farid Al-Khazen and Hassan Mourad.

The Amal Movement, headed by Nabih Berri, won 15 Shiite seats, most of which are occupied by current deputies, including two who were charged in the Beirut port explosion case.

Hezbollah won 13 Shiite seats, including current deputies and two new ones.

One Shiite and two Sunni deputies allied with Hezbollah also won.

The Lebanese Forces won 20 seats, including one Sunni deputy who was running on a list supported by the party.

The Free Patriotic Movement won 18 seats.

The Progressive Socialist Party, headed by Walid Jumblatt, won nine seats.

The Lebanese Phalangist Party won five seats, including an Armenian deputy.

The Independence Movement won two seats.

The Marada Movement won two seats, while Al-Ahbash won two seats — one in Beirut and one in Tripoli.

The Islamic Group won one seat.

Camille Dory Chamoun from the National Liberal Party won one seat. The party announced on Tuesday that “they will be part of the bloc that includes the Lebanese Forces and their allies.”

The elections also witnessed the victories — mostly in the north — of six former members of the Future Movement who left the party following former Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s decision to suspend his political activity.

Eleven independent candidates won, including some fiercely opposed to Hezbollah, such as Achraf Rifi in Tripoli and Fouad Makhzoumi in Beirut.

Fifteen deputies from civil society and the 2019 revolution won, including doctors, engineers, scientists, lawyers, businessmen and academicians. Their victory breaks the monopoly of the conventional political parties and reflects voters’ revolt against their traditional leaders.

The winners include Rami Fanj, candidate for the Sunni seat in Tripoli. He ousted deputy Faisal Karami, who comes from a veteran political family.

Eight out of 155 women candidates were able to break the parliament’s overwhelming male dominance.

Three of these female winners were already deputies, including Inaya Ezzedine from the Amal Movement, Paula Yaacoubian, who resigned amid the 17 October revolution, and Sethrida Geagea of the Lebanese Forces.

The remaining women deputies are Nada Boustani, former minister of energy affiliated with the Free Patriotic Movement, Ghada Ayoub from the Lebanese Forces and Cynthia Zarazir, Najat Saliba and Halima Kaakour from the civil society movement.


Over 100 murders in Syria camp since Jan 2021: UN

Over 100 murders in Syria camp since Jan 2021: UN
Updated 58 min 28 sec ago

Over 100 murders in Syria camp since Jan 2021: UN

Over 100 murders in Syria camp since Jan 2021: UN
  • The Al-Hol camp is increasingly unsafe and the child detainees are being condemned to a life with no future
  • There have been "around 106 murders since January last year in the camp" and "many" of the victims were women, said the UN resident coordinator in Syria

GENEVA: More than 100 people, including many women, have been murdered in a Syrian camp in just 18 months, the UN said Tuesday, demanding countries repatriate their citizens.
The Al-Hol camp is increasingly unsafe and the child detainees are being condemned to a life with no future, said Imran Riza, the UN resident coordinator in Syria.
Al-Hol, in the Kurdish-controlled northeast, was meant as a temporary detention facility.
However, it still holds about 56,000 people, mostly Syrians and Iraqis, some of whom maintain links with the Daesh group, which seized swathes of Iraq and Syria in 2014.
The rest are citizens of other countries, including children and other relatives of Daesh fighters.
Some 94 percent of the detainees are women and children, Riza, who has visited Al-Hol a handful of times, told reporters in Geneva.
“It’s a very harsh place and it’s become an increasingly unsafe place,” he said.
There have been “around 106 murders since January last year in the camp” and “many” of the victims were women, he added.
“There’s a great deal of gender-based violence... There’s a lot of no-go areas.”
The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said violence was spiking in the camp, with another murder Tuesday — the seventh since June 11.
Out of 24 people murdered inside the camp this year, 16 were women, the Observatory added.
Riza said there were around 27,000 Iraqi detainees, 18-19,000 Syrians and around 12,000 third-country citizens.
While there have been some repatriations to Iraq, many other countries which “need to be accepting their people back” were refusing to do so.
“The majority of the population there are children. They are innocent. If you leave them in a place like Al-Hol, you’re essentially condemning them to not having a future.”
Riza said that when boys get to 12, 13 and 14, they are taken away from their families and put into a different center, where their future is one of radicalization and joining a militia.
“The only solution is emptying the camp,” he said.
Syria’s civil war erupted in 2011 after the violent repression of protests demanding regime change.
It quickly spiralled into a complex conflict that pulled in numerous actors, including militant groups and foreign powers. The war has left around half a million people dead and displaced millions.
Riza said the levels of need in Syria were unprecedented and increasing, with 14.6 million people requiring humanitarian assistance — up 1.2 million since 2021 and the highest since the civil war began.
Riza said the country was facing a “cascade of crises,” with the key factor now the economic decline dragging down socio-economic conditions.
“The impact on Syrians is devastating and families are increasingly pushed into destitution,” he said, with more than 90 percent of the population estimated to live below the poverty line.


Renewable energy in Middle East to reach 92 percent of region's targets by 2030: Report

Renewable energy in Middle East to reach 92 percent of region's targets by 2030: Report
Updated 28 June 2022

Renewable energy in Middle East to reach 92 percent of region's targets by 2030: Report

Renewable energy in Middle East to reach 92 percent of region's targets by 2030: Report
  • A GEM report found that Arab countries are constructing solar and wind energy plants with a predicted total capacity of 73.4 GW

LONDON: Renewable energy generation projects in the Arab countries will reach nearly 92 percent of the region's total targets by 2030, according to a Global Energy Monitor report published Tuesday.The Arab region currently produces more than 12 gigatonnes of wind and solar energy, the report said.

In 2013, the Arab League clean energy initiative pledged to increase the region's installed renewable power generation capacity from 12 gigatonnes to 80 gigatonnes by 2030.

The report found that Arab countries are constructing solar and wind energy plants with a total capacity of 73.4 gigatonnes, which is nearly five times the region's current renewable energy production.

These projects include 114 solar power plants and 45 wind power plants.

The report also said that Egypt produces the most renewable energy, with 3.5 gigatonnes, followed by the UAE with 2.6 gigatonnes, Morocco with 1.9 gigatonnes, Jordan with 1.7 gigatonnes, and Saudi Arabia with 0.78 gigatonnes.

The UAE leads the region in utility-scale solar energy generation, with 2.6 gigatonnes of capacity.

Egypt is the region's wind leader, with 1.6 gigatonnes of electricity generated by wind farms.Oman, Morocco, and Algeria, on the other hand, are pursuing more than 39.7 gigatonnes of potential solar and wind energy projects.

These countries are expected to top the list of renewable energy producers in the near future, the report concluded.


Indian Prime Minister arrives in Abu Dhabi for short visit

Indian Prime Minister arrives in Abu Dhabi for short visit
Updated 28 June 2022

Indian Prime Minister arrives in Abu Dhabi for short visit

Indian Prime Minister arrives in Abu Dhabi for short visit
  • During his visit, the prime minister expressed condolences on the death of former UAE President

ABU DHABI: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrived in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday after concluding his visit to Germany, where he attended the G7 Summit.

During his visit to the UAE, Modi expressed his condolences on the death of former UAE President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, who passed away last month.

"In a very special gesture, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan and members of the Royal family came all the way to the airport to meet PM Modi" said Ministry of External Affairs Spokesperon Arindam Bagchi.

At the airport, the leaders were seen hugging and greeting each other.

The prime minister also took the opportunity to congratulate Sheikh Mohammed on his election as the new President of the UAE, the Ministry of External Affairs said.

This was the prime minister’s first visit since the two countries signed a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement earlier this year.

India-UAE trade is valued at $59 billion, making the UAE India's third largest trading partner for the year 2019-20 after China and the US, according to the Indian foreign ministry.

The UAE is India's third largest export destination, with nearly $16 billion clocked in 2020-21.

The two countries also enjoy strong trade and cultural ties, with Indians making up 35 percent of the UAE’s 10 million population, the biggest expatriate community.


Jordan prime minister promises inquiry into deadly blast at Red Sea port

Jordan prime minister promises inquiry into deadly blast at Red Sea port
Updated 28 June 2022

Jordan prime minister promises inquiry into deadly blast at Red Sea port

Jordan prime minister promises inquiry into deadly blast at Red Sea port
  • A crane loading chlorine tanks onto a ship on Monday dropped one of them, causing an explosion of toxic yellow smoke

AQABA, Jordan: Jordan’s prime minister said Tuesday that he has instructed authorities to launch an investigation into the deadly blast the previous day at the Red Sea port of Aqaba that killed at least 13 people.
A crane loading chlorine tanks onto a ship on Monday dropped one of them, causing an explosion of toxic yellow smoke. Along with those killed, some 250 were sickened, authorities said.
Prime Minister Bisher Al-Khasawneh visited the site Tuesday and, citing civil defense and environmental authorities, said the gas concentration in the area had returned to normal. He said that most movement at the port has resumed, except for the exact site of the incident which was being cleaned and inspected.
Al-Khasawneh said “other nationalities” were among the dead, without elaborating. He said many of those in hospitals were being discharged.
Video carried on state TV showed the moment the tank exploded, sending dockworkers scrambling to escape the toxic cloud. Some 200 people were hospitalized.
The Public Security Directorate, which initially described it as a gas leak, said authorities sealed off the area after evacuating the injured and sent specialists in to address the situation.
State-run Jordan TV said 13 people were killed. Al-Mamlaka TV, another official outlet, said 199 were still being treated in hospitals. The Public Security Directorate said a total of 251 people were injured.
Aqaba is on the northern tip of the Red Sea, next to the Israeli city of Eilat, which is just across the border. Both are popular beach and diving destinations.
Eilat’s emergency services said in a statement that there was no impact on the city but that they were following the situation closely.


Kuwait suspends family, tourist visas until further notice

Kuwait suspends family, tourist visas until further notice
Updated 28 June 2022

Kuwait suspends family, tourist visas until further notice

Kuwait suspends family, tourist visas until further notice

DUBAI: Kuwait’s interior ministry said Tuesday that it has suspended issuing tourist visas for those wishing to visit the gulf state. 

“The interior ministry has announced that it has stopped issuing family and tourist visit visas from Monday until further notice,” read a statement on state-run news agency KUNA.

The decision comes in light of preparations for a new regulations to serve the interests and develop the process, it said.