Iraqi parliament approves new election law, deadlock over PM remains

An Iraqi student shouts slogans during ongoing anti-government protests, in Basra, Iraq, December 24, 2019. (Reuters)
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Updated 24 December 2019

Iraqi parliament approves new election law, deadlock over PM remains

  • Mass protests have gripped Iraq since Oct. 1 and protesters, most of them young, are demanding an overhaul of a political system
  • The new election law passed by parliament will allow voters to elect individual lawmakers

BAGHDAD: Iraq’s parliament approved on Tuesday a new electoral law, a key demand of protesters to make elections fairer, but political deadlock is still holding up the selection of an interim prime minister.
Mass protests have gripped Iraq since Oct. 1 and protesters, most of them young, are demanding an overhaul of a political system they see as profoundly corrupt and keeping most Iraqis in poverty. More than 450 people have been killed.
“In the name of Iraq, and in the name of the Iraqi people, in the name of the martyrs, in the name of all those who sacrificed, in the name of the displaced, the law has been approved,” Council of Representatives Speaker Mohammed Al-Halbousi said after the vote.
The new election law passed by parliament will allow voters to elect individual lawmakers instead of choosing from party lists, and have each member of parliament represent a specific electoral district instead of groups of legislators representing entire provinces.
Protesters have demanded not just a new electoral law, but also the removal of the entire political class and an independent prime minister with no party affiliation.
Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi resigned last month under pressure from the street demonstrations, but has remained in office in a caretaker capacity. The constitutional deadline to name a replacement expired on Thursday.


Egypt, UAE resume first Qatar flights since 2017

Updated 18 January 2021

Egypt, UAE resume first Qatar flights since 2017

  • An EgyptAir flight took off from Doha to Cairo, making it the first commercial flight in three and a half years between both countries
  • It was followed shortly after by the arrival of an Air Arabia flight from Sharjah in the UAE

DOHA: The first direct flights since 2017 between Qatar and its former rivals Egypt and the UAE took to the skies on Monday, following the end of a regional crisis.
Egypt and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) joined Saudi Arabia and Bahrain in cutting ties with Qatar in June 2017, accusing it of being too close to Iran and of backing Islamic extremists, charges Doha denies.
The quartet agreed to heal the rift at a Gulf summit on January 5 in Saudi Arabia, after a flurry of diplomatic activity by outgoing US President Donald Trump’s administration.
The first commercial flight from Qatar to Egypt in three and a half years, an EgyptAir service to Cairo, took off from windswept Doha airport.
It was followed shortly after by the arrival of an Air Arabia flight from Sharjah in the UAE.
The resumption of flights from Doha to Cairo will simplify travel for the large contingent of Egyptians living in Qatar.
As many as 300,000 Egyptians call Qatar home, according to official statistics, but many were unable to travel home during the crisis.
In May 2020, frustrated Egyptians protested outside the compound housing Egypt’s then-empty embassy.
Following the demonstration, 18 repatriation flights operated via neutral Oman to comply with Cairo’s ban on direct air traffic.
A Qatar Airways plane was due to also make the trip to Cairo later Monday.
Flights between Doha and Saudi Arabia, which has also opened its land border to Qatar, resumed on January 11.
The row complicated regional travel, divided families and raised costs faced by Qatari businesses.
Mustafa Ahmed, 38, an Egyptian technical engineer, said he was “very happy.”
“With direct flights, life will be easier, especially for families and children, avoiding the torment of changing airports and planes and waiting for hours for transit flights,” he told AFP.
Egyptians in Qatar work in a number of sectors including education, health care and engineering.
Thousands of Qatar’s majority-expatriate workforce, however, have lost their jobs as a result of a downturn caused by the coronavirus epidemic.