Iraqi lawmakers ‘have no authority to delay election but are playing games’

Iraq's parliament in session. (AP file photo)
Updated 19 January 2018

Iraqi lawmakers ‘have no authority to delay election but are playing games’

BAGHDAD: Iraq’s Parliament failed on Thursday to back the request of Sunni and Kurdish parliamentary blocs to postpone the parliamentary and provincial elections, which are scheduled to be held in May, for six months.

The holding of the elections every four years is a constitutional entitlement that cannot be revoked or changed, and must be scheduled 45 days before the end of the legislative term.

The extension of the legislative period is important for most Sunni MPs who have lost influence in their regions to political and tribal figures who fought Daesh alongside the government under the umbrella of the Shiite-dominated paramilitary troops.

Kurdish blocs supported the demand to delay the election as they have lost control over the disputed areas since October after Baghdad launched a huge military campaign to drive back Kurdish forces.

Both sides have said that most of the Sunni areas are not eligible to participate in the elections due to the massive destruction caused by the insurgents and military operations launched by the Iraqi government to liberate areas seized by Daesh for almost three years, and the presence of millions of displaced people outside their areas.

The Union of Forces, which consists of most of the prominent Sunni parliamentary blocs, on Wednesday filed a formal request to Parliament to delay the elections for no less than a year “to work to create conditions in the cities devastated by the war on Daesh, reconstruct them and bring back the displaced people to their homes,” or “postpone the elections in the provinces seized by Daesh.”

Parliament on Thursday held a session to discuss the request in the presence of 260 of 325 lawmakers. In an attempt to free lawmakers from the domination of their blocs, Salim Al-Jabouri, the speaker and one of the biggest supporters of the postponement of elections, proposed to vote secretly on one option — a “yes or no for the secret vote on the postponement of elections.”

All the signs coming from inside Thursday’s session indicated that Al-Jubouri was about to succeed in postponing the election with the backing of more than 140 MPs who voted for the secret ballot, but the intervention of the heads of the Shiite blocs who called in their deputies to withdraw from the session to break the quorum, had blocked him.

“The number of attendees in the session was a big surprise for us. The stand of most Kurds and Sunnis (lawmakers) is known to us and we had no problem with this,” a senior Shiite lawmaker told Arab News on condition of anonymity.

“The problem was with some Shiite lawmakers and our Sunni and Kurdish allies who publicly say something and secretly do something else.

“Salim (Al-Joubori) was trying to give those (the opponents) a chance to vote secretly to delay the election,” he said.

According to the Iraqi constitution, the Cabinet in coordination with the Higher Electoral Commission is the only body authorized to determine the date of an election and the readiness to hold it.

“Even if Parliament voted in favor of delaying the elections, everyone can challenge this decision and veto it,” Arez Abdullah, the head of parliamentary bloc of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, told Arab News.

“The federal court will simply overturn Parliament’s decision. Whoever asks to delay the election must submit constitutional arguments that convince the federal court to face the veto,” Abdullah said.

The UN and the US have expressed their support for holding the elections planned by the Iraqi government on time.

“Postponing the elections would set a dangerous precedent, undermining the constitution and damaging Iraq’s long-term democratic development,” the US embassy said in a statement on Thursday.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Abadi, who as head of the Cabinet has the exclusive authority to delay the election, has been repeating that the government is ready to hold the election on its scheduled date of May 12.

“The election will be held as it was scheduled, (and) all the political rallying is meant to affect the election results,” Abadi told reporters on Tuesday.

“We are doing everything we can to guarantee the return of internally displaced people to their homes and have established a plan to meet that commitment.

“This will be achieved without any kind of pressure or coercion,” Abadi said.

US allocates $73m to UNRWA amid funding crisis

Updated 10 sec ago

US allocates $73m to UNRWA amid funding crisis

  • UNRWA requires between $170 and $190 million just to keep its services running until the end of the year

LONDON: US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield announced an additional $73 million in funding to the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, Jordan Press Agency reported on Sunday. 

The ambassador said that the funding would help supply food to needy families, provide healthcare for children and pregnant women, assist students in furthering their education, and support people affected by the conflict through mental health services.

It will also provide emergency humanitarian assistance to residents of Jenin and Ain Al-Hilweh Palestinian refugee camps, both of which have suffered from recent violence. 

Earlier on Thursday, on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, UNRWA Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini said the funding crisis for Palestinian refugees in Jordan and other host countries has created an “absolutely unbearable” situation that could soon approach a tipping point. 

Lazzarini said that the agency required between $170 and $190 million just to keep its activities in Jordan, Lebanon, Gaza and elsewhere running until the end of the year. 

Jordan’s King Abdullah II told the UNGA in New York on Tuesday that the world must not abandon Palestinian refugees to the forces of despair. 

“In Jordan, where refugees make up over a third of our 11 million population, cuts have already thrown the lives of hundreds of thousands of refugees into uncertainty. The impact of such humanitarian shortfalls is never limited to a country or region,” the king said.

Despite several UN member states pledging Thursday to boost their contributions to UNRWA, the agency still only has the means to provide services until October.

Kuwait, China sign 7 agreements for major construction work

Updated 6 min 51 sec ago

Kuwait, China sign 7 agreements for major construction work

  • Projects include completion of port, renewable energy, low-carbon recycling, water treatment schemes

LONDON: Kuwait and China have signed seven memorandums of understanding on large-scale construction projects, Kuwait News Agency reported on Sunday.

The agreements were signed during Kuwaiti Crown Prince Sheikh Mishal Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah’s visit to Hangzhou at the invitation of Chinese President Xi Jinping to attend the opening ceremony of the 19th Asian Games.

It was the crown prince’s second meeting with Xi since the Gulf Cooperation Council-China Summit for Cooperation and Development in December in Saudi Arabia.

Kuwaiti Deputy Prime Minister Saad Al-Barrak described the visit as “very important,” with the government working to update its 2035 vision.

The first agreement is for completion of Mubarak Al-Kabeer Port.

“Around 50 percent of the first phase of Mubarak Al-Kabeer Port is complete, and we seek to finalize the first phase in order to launch and operate the port as swiftly as possible,” Al-Barrak said.

“China excels in construction and other domains like management and operation of the port, so we have signed the MoU and will continue the talks on execution.”

Other agreements were signed for projects including renewable energy, creation of a low-carbon recycling green system, water treatment station infrastructure, and economic and free zones.

Jassem Al-Ostad, Kuwait’s minister of electricity, water and renewable energy, said the crown prince gave instructions to build renewable energy stations in order to supply clean and affordable energy, while also honoring Kuwait’s commitment to the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Another MoU outlines the development of advanced housing cities in Kuwait as part of the government plans to offer housing care for citizens.

During the visit, Sheikh Mishal and Xi discussed ways to expand bilateral relations.

Xi said that Kuwait was the first Gulf country to establish relations with Beijing in 1971, and that the Kuwait Fund was instrumental in providing loans to China in the 1980s.

The crown prince also met with Huawei executives to strengthen Kuwait’s partnership with the company in information technology and communication services.

UAE FM meets UN secretary general on sidelines of UNGA assembly

Updated 24 September 2023

UAE FM meets UN secretary general on sidelines of UNGA assembly

  • Discussions focused on partnerships in humanitarian aid, renewable energy, climate action

LONDON: UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al-Nahyan met UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on the sidelines of the 78th Session of the UN General Assembly in New York, Emirates News Agency reported.

Discussions focused on UAE-UN partnerships in a variety of sectors, including humanitarian aid, renewable energy, climate action and sustainable development.

Sheikh Abdullah and Guterres reviewed the outcomes of the UAE’s membership of the UN Security Council from 2022 to 2023, as well as its contributions to international peace and security, and humanitarian response operations and initiatives aimed at tackling global challenges.

The meeting discussed the UAE’s preparations for hosting the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in November in Dubai.

Sheikh Abdullah said that the UAE recognized the need to expedite the global response to climate change to achieve peace and security, and that the country looked forward to leveraging climate challenges into opportunities that drove sustainable and economic development.

The two officials also addressed developments in the Middle East, exchanged views on a number of regional and global issues of mutual interest, as well as challenges to international peace and security.

Guterres thanked the UAE for its strengthened engagement with the UN and its hosting of COP28.

The meeting was attended by several UAE officials, including Reem bint Ibrahim Al-Hashimy, minister of state for international cooperation, Lana Zaki Nusseibeh, permanent representative to the UN, Mohamed Issa Abu Shehab, deputy permanent representative to the UN, and Majid Al Suwaidi, special representative of COP28.


All 120 workers rescued after Nile cruise ship accident in Egypt

Nile cruise ships and feluccas are moored off the river bank of Egypt’s southern city of Luxor. (File/AFP)
Updated 24 September 2023

All 120 workers rescued after Nile cruise ship accident in Egypt

  • There were no guests on board the ship, which was heading to Luxor Governorate in the south of Egypt

CAIRO: All 120 workers on board a Nile cruise ship that partially sank after it collided with a bridge have been rescued. 

The collision caused a hole in the lower right side of the Tivoli Nile ship in Minya Governorate in Upper Egypt, officials said.

There were no guests on board the ship, which was heading to Luxor Governorate in the south of Egypt.

The Public Prosecution is investigating the incident.

Authorities said they were working with the company that owns the floating hotel, while Mohammed Amer, head of the Department of Hotel Establishments, Shops, and Tourist Activities at the ministry, said the ship’s tourism operating license expired last May and had not been renewed.

It was recently at a workshop in Helwan, south of Cairo, for necessary repairs and maintenance work to allow it to operate during the upcoming winter season, starting next month.

Amer said that, after completing all maintenance work, the management of the vessel obtained a passage permit from Cairo to Luxor for the necessary inspections by Ministry of Tourism officials to renew its license in preparation for the start of October.

The River Transport Authority said that it granted a temporary permit for the ship to leave the repair shop to its own berth on Aug. 23 until it obtained the rest of the necessary licenses from the other relevant authorities.

Jordan, UK delegations review bilateral cooperation

Updated 24 September 2023

Jordan, UK delegations review bilateral cooperation

  • Jordanian MPs advocated for increasing British investment in Jordan, medical tourism promotion

LONDON: The Jordanian-British Parliamentary Friendship Association met a UK delegation of Conservative MPs on Sunday in Amman to discuss opportunities for cooperation between the two countries, Jordan News Agency reported.

Dina Bashir, the association’s president, emphasized the strength of Jordanian-British relations, which she attributed to the country’s respective leaderships.

Bashir underscored Jordan’s commitment to political, economic and administrative modernization under the leadership of King Abdullah II, with the goal of improving Jordanians’ lives in a range of sectors.

Bashir expressed Jordan’s position on the Palestinian cause while applauding the king’s efforts to resolve the conflict on local, regional and international levels. She also emphasized the importance of Jordanian custodianship over Islamic and Christian holy sites in Jerusalem in sustaining the historical coexistence of Muslims and Christians.

Highlighting Jordan’s long-standing tradition of welcoming refugees, Bashir noted the influx of Syrian refugees and its impact on the host country’s infrastructure. She urged the international community to fulfill its responsibilities toward Jordan so it could continue to play its humanitarian role.

Bashir campaigned for the expansion and marketing of Jordanian products in the UK, as well as boosting economic and tourism collaboration.

Several Jordanian MPs also advocated for increasing British investment in Jordan, medical tourism promotion, and British tourists visiting the country.

The UK delegation highlighted the need to strengthen bilateral ties in the economic, commercial, agricultural and tourism sectors. They also acknowledged Jordan’s critical role in the refugee crisis as well as its efforts to ensure regional security and stability.