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.


US says Al Jazeera journalist likely shot by Israel but not intentionally

US says Al Jazeera journalist likely shot by Israel but not intentionally
Updated 5 sec ago

US says Al Jazeera journalist likely shot by Israel but not intentionally

US says Al Jazeera journalist likely shot by Israel but not intentionally
WASHINGTON: The United States said Monday that Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh was likely killed by gunfire from Israeli positions but that there was no reason to believe her death was intentional.
The State Department also said that the United States could not make a “definitive conclusion” on the origin of the bullet that killed her on May 11, which was handed over by the Palestinian Authority.

Lebanese PM criticizes Hezbollah over drone provocation

Lebanese PM criticizes Hezbollah over drone provocation
Updated 8 min 10 sec ago

Lebanese PM criticizes Hezbollah over drone provocation

Lebanese PM criticizes Hezbollah over drone provocation
  • The Israeli military said on Saturday said that it has shot down the three drones
  • Hezbollah issued a statement saying they were unarmed and were sent on a reconnaissance mission

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s caretaker prime minister on Monday criticized the militant group Hezbollah for sending three unmanned aircraft over an Israeli gas installation last week, saying it was an unnecessarily risky action.
Najib Mikati’s comment came two days after Hezbollah launched three drones over the Karish gas field in the Mediterranean Sea.
The Israeli military said on Saturday that it has shot down the three drones, before Hezbollah issued a statement saying they were unarmed and were sent on a reconnaissance mission. “The mission was accomplished and the message was received,” Hezbollah said.
Lebanon claims the Karish gas field is disputed territory under ongoing maritime border negotiations, whereas Israel says it lies within its internationally recognized economic waters.
“Lebanon believes that any actions outside the state’s framework and diplomatic context while negotiations are taking place is unacceptable and exposes it to unnecessary risks,” Foreign Minister Abdallah Bouhabib said, citing Mikati’s statement.
Israel and Hezbollah are bitter enemies that fought a monthlong war in the summer of 2006. Israel considers the group its most serious immediate threat, estimating it has some 150,000 rockets and missiles aimed at Israel.
The incident in the Karish gas field took place soon after US mediator Amos Hochstein recently visited Lebanese and Israeli officials, as talks were advancing.
Mikati on Saturday told reporters that Lebanon had received “encouraging information” regarding the border dispute, but refused to comment until after he receives a “written official response to the suggestions by the Lebanese side.”
Negotiations between Lebanon and Israel to determine their maritime borders commenced in October 2020, when the two sides held indirect US-mediated talks in southern Lebanon. Since taking over the mediation from late 2021, Hochstein has resorted to shuttle diplomacy with visits to both Beirut and Jerusalem.
The two countries, which have been officially at war since Israel’s creation in 1948, both claim some 860 square kilometers (330 square miles) of the Mediterranean Sea. Lebanon hopes to exploit offshore gas reserves as it grapples with the worst economic crisis in its modern history.


Egypt, Austria discuss security cooperation

Egypt, Austria discuss security cooperation
Updated 04 July 2022

Egypt, Austria discuss security cooperation

Egypt, Austria discuss security cooperation

CAIRO: Egypt’s Interior Minister Mahmoud Tawfiq met with his Austrian counterpart Gerhard Karner to discuss ways to enhance cooperation between their countries, and the latest developments in security issues of common interest.

Karner, heading a delegation of Austrian officials, said his visit to Egypt comes within the framework of close relations and continuous consultation between officials from the two countries.

He affirmed Austria’s interest in exchanging experiences with Egyptian security services, and his aspiration to strengthen channels of communication between the two sides in light of regional and international political and security challenges.

Tawfiq stressed his ministry’s keenness to build bridges of communication with Austrian security services in light of the friendly relations between the two countries, indicating his interest in strengthening cooperation mechanisms and exchanging experiences. 

He stressed the concerted efforts to combat terrorism, as well as cyber and organized crime, in all their forms.


Egyptian envoy, Fatah official hold talks

Egyptian envoy, Fatah official hold talks
Updated 04 July 2022

Egyptian envoy, Fatah official hold talks

Egyptian envoy, Fatah official hold talks
  • The issues discussed included Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, incursions into Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque, and settler violence

CAIRO: Tarek Tayel, head of Egypt’s mission in Ramallah, met with Jibril Rajoub, secretary of Fatah’s central committee, and discussed the latest political developments regarding Palestine.

The issues discussed included Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, incursions into Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque, and settler violence.

After the meeting, Tayel affirmed the continuation of Egyptian support for the Palestinian people at all levels, including peace efforts that guarantee the restoration of their rights, intra-Palestinian reconciliation, and reconstruction in the Gaza Strip.

He praised the efforts of Rajoub’s team to pay attention to youth activities and events, in light of his presidency of the Palestinian Olympic Committee.


UN rights mission finds ‘probable’ mass graves in Libya

UN rights mission finds ‘probable’ mass graves in Libya
Updated 04 July 2022

UN rights mission finds ‘probable’ mass graves in Libya

UN rights mission finds ‘probable’ mass graves in Libya
  • Militia run by seven brothers executed and imprisoned hundreds of people between 2016-2020
  • Surviving leaders of the Kaniyat are mostly believed to have fled to areas of eastern Libya

GENEVA: A UN-appointed mission to Libya said on Monday there are “probable mass graves” yet to be investigated, possibly as many as 100, in a town where hundreds of bodies have already been found and it urged Tripoli to continue searching.
The report to be submitted to the UN Human Rights Council this week details how a militia run by seven brothers executed and imprisoned hundreds of people between 2016-2020, sometimes keeping them in tiny oven-like structures called “the boxes” which were set alight during interrogations.
The evidence of kidnappings, murder and torture in Tarhouna by the independent Fact-Finding Mission represents one of the most egregious examples of human rights abuses in the turbulent period since long-ruling Muammar Qaddafi’s ousting in 2011.
Among the victims were the disabled as well as women and children, the 51-page report said.
Based on the testimonies of residents and two site visits, the mission found “reasonable grounds” that the Kaniyat militia committed crimes against humanity. It identified four commanders who participated directly in them.
Already, Libyan authorities have recovered 247 bodies in mass and individual grave sites in the Tarhouna area in Western Libya. Many were still handcuffed and blindfolded.
The mission used satellite imagery showing signs of soil disturbances among other evidence to identify three new likely sites. But there could be many more, it said, citing an existing grave known as ‘The Landfill’ where just a tiny fraction of the site has been investigated.
“According to insider knowledge, there might still be up to 100 as of yet undiscovered mass graves,” the report said.
It is not immediately clear how the findings will reflect on Libyan authorities. Libya’s diplomatic mission in Geneva did not respond for a request for comment.
At one stage, the Kaniyat was aligned with the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord but later with the eastern Libyan National Army led by commander Khalifa Haftar that tried, unsuccessfully, to overthrow the National Accord administration. The militia no longer holds authority in Tarhouna. The surviving leaders of the Kaniyat are mostly believed to have fled to areas of eastern Libya under Haftar’s control.
In its conclusions, the FFM calls on Libyan authorities to continue searching for the graves. It also urges them to establish a special tribunal to prosecute international crimes.
However, the report refers to difficulties with cooperation in the past. Diplomats and UN sources told Reuters that Libya had in the past expressed reservations about continuing the mission, which expires this month.
A resolution is currently before the Geneva-based council to keep investigations going for another nine months, which is less than some had hoped for. A decision is expected this week.