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IEC welcomes rejection of president’s decree on electoral reforms

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(Last Updated On: June 13, 2016)

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The Independent Election Commission (IEC) has welcomed the decision of parliament for refusing to approve the president’s legislative decree on electoral reforms.

IEC announced of selecting a new chairman for the commission in the near future.

“Holding election seems very unlikely this year, but we will select the chairman of IEC in a internal election and then we will get ready to set the time of the upcoming election,” Aziz Bakhtyari, IEC commissioner said.

However, the presidential palace considered the rejection of president’s decree a meaningless delay for the electoral reforms.

President’s spokesman says that the National Unity Government (NUG) stands by its commitments for reforming the electoral system and the process will be tracked soon.

“In the light of the recent decision by the parliament, the government will continue efforts for holding the national councils and provincial councils elections. So it will follow the electoral process after forensic analysis and consultation with relevant agencies, political parties and civil institutions,” Muhammad Haroon Chakhansoori, president’s spokesman said.

The executive office has yet not reacted regarding this issue, but one day before the rejection of president’s decree, it warned of holding no election before reforming the electoral system.

The National Unity Government agreement is quite clear that “to ensure that future elections are fully credible, the electoral system (laws and institutions) requires fundamental changes” and “that the objective is to implement electoral reform before the parliamentary elections.”

It does not however spell out what these reforms should entail, other than that the president will appoint a special commission who will report to the CEO.

President Ghani and Chief Executive Officer Abdullah, in the September 2014 agreement, agreed to electoral reforms “to ensure that future elections are credible.”

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Private sector welcomes peace move which could bring enormous investment opportunities

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(Last Updated On: August 11, 2020)

Peace in Afghanistan would provide enormous opportunities for local and international businesses to invest in the country, in turn boosting the economy and aiding in its overall development. 

Afghan business owners and leaders in the private sector have said the war has created major obstacles for investors in the country over the past 19 years. 

Following President Ashraf Ghani’s decree, issued on Monday afternoon, to release the remaining 400 prisoners so as to pave the way for peace talks, the Afghanistan Chamber of Commerce and Investment (ACCI) urged all warring parties to seize the opportunity to bring about peace so as to improve the country’s dismal economic climate.

“We welcome the Loya Jirga’s decision to release Taliban prisoners, which could have a positive impact on the country’s economic growth,” said Khanjan Alokozai, an ACCI member said. 

Officials at the Afghanistan Chamber of Mines and Industries seconded this and said peace in Afghanistan would not only increase investment opportunities but also create much-needed jobs. 

“With the release of the prisoners, our hope is that dialogue between Afghans will begin, as this will increase investment in the country,” said Sakhi Ahmad Paiman, deputy director of the Chamber of Mines and Industries.

Ghani’s decree comes a day after the consultative Loya Jirga voted in favor of releasing the hardcore Taliban insurgents, as per the Doha agreement between the US and Taliban in February – which was one condition that needed to be fulfilled before intra-Afghan peace talks could start.

Meanwhile, economic experts are also optimistic about the opportunity for peace and for what is hoped will be the resultant economic growth in the country.

Hakimullah Siddiqui, an economist, said: “Both sides of the war must seize the opportunity to stabilize and grow the country economically, in order to increase economic opportunities.”

Other economists said peace would open up vast opportunities for investments in all sectors, including mining, agriculture, services, energy, and manufacturing. 

Talks are expected to officially begin on Sunday, in Doha, Qatar, between government and the Taliban.

The Afghan government’s negotiating team is expected to leave Kabul on Wednesday.

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Lebanese government quits amid fury over Beirut blast

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(Last Updated On: August 11, 2020)

Lebanon’s prime minister announced his government’s resignation on Monday, saying the huge explosion that devastated Beirut and triggered public outrage was the result of endemic corruption.

Last week’s detonation at a port warehouse of what authorities said was more than 2,000 tonnes of ammonium nitrate killed at least 163 people, injured more than 6,000 and destroyed swathes of the city, compounding months of political and economic meltdown.

“Today we follow the will of the people in their demand to hold accountable those responsible for the disaster that has been in hiding for seven years,” Prime Minister Hassan Diab said in a speech announcing the resignation.

He blamed the disaster on endemic corruption and said those responsible should be ashamed because their actions had led to a catastrophe “beyond description”.

“I said before that corruption is rooted in every lever of the state but I have discovered that corruption is greater than the state,” he said, pointing to a political elite for preventing change and saying his government faced a brick wall on reforms.

While Diab’s move attempted to respond to popular anger about the blast, it also plunged Lebanese politics deeper into turmoil and may further hamper already-stalled talks with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on a financial rescue plan.

The talks, launched in May, were put on hold due to inaction on reforms and a row between the government, banks and politicians over the scale of vast financial losses.

President Michel Aoun accepted the resignation and asked Diab’s government – formed in January with the backing of Iran’s powerful Hezbollah group and its allies – to stay as a caretaker until a new cabinet is formed, a televised announcement said.

At the White House, US President Donald Trump said the explosion had triggered what he called “a revolution,” but did not comment further.

Ahead of Diab’s announcement, demonstrations broke out for a third day in central Beirut, with some protesters hurling rocks at security forces guarding an entrance leading to the parliament building, who responded with tear gas.

For many ordinary Lebanese, the explosion was the last straw in a protracted crisis over the collapse of the economy, corruption, waste and dysfunctional governance, and they have taken to the streets demanding root-and-branch change.

“The entire regime needs to change. It will make no difference if there is a new government,” Joe Haddad, a Beirut engineer, told Reuters. “We need quick elections.”

The system of government requires Aoun to consult with parliamentary blocs on who should be the next prime minister, and he is obliged to designate the candidate with the greatest level of support among parliamentarians.

Forming a government amid factional rifts has been daunting in the past. Now with growing public discontent with the ruling elite over the blast and a crushing financial crisis, it could be difficult to find a candidate willing to be prime minister.

After former premier Saad Hariri stepped down in October last year amid anti-government protests over perceived corruption and mismanagement, it took more than two months to form Diab’s government.

Diab’s cabinet was under severe pressure to step down. Some ministers had already resigned over the weekend and Monday while others, including the finance minister, were set to follow suit, ministerial and political sources said.

Diab said on Saturday he would request early parliamentary elections.

Aoun has said explosive material was stored unsafely for years at the port. In later comments, he said the investigation would consider whether the cause was external interference as well as negligence or an accident.

The cabinet decided to refer the investigation of the blast to the judicial council, the highest legal authority whose rulings cannot be appealed, a ministerial source and state news agency NNA said. The council usually handles top security cases.

Lebanese, meanwhile, are struggling to come to terms with the scale of losses after the blast wrecked entire areas.

“The economy was already a disaster and now I have no way of making money again,” said Eli Abi Hanna, whose house and car repair shop were destroyed. 

“It was easier to make money during the civil war. The politicians and the economic disaster have ruined everything.”

The Lebanese army said on Monday that another five bodies were pulled from the rubble, raising the death toll to 163. Search and rescue operations continued.

Anti-government protests in the past two days have been the biggest since October, when angry demonstrations spread over an economic crisis rooted in pervasive graft, mismanagement and high-level unaccountability.

An international donor conference on Sunday raised pledges worth nearly 253 million euros ($298 million) for immediate humanitarian relief, but foreign countries are demanding transparency over how the aid is used.

Some Lebanese doubt change is possible in a country where sectarian politicians have dominated since the 1975-90 conflict.

“It won’t work, it’s just the same people. It’s a mafia,” said Antoinette Baaklini, an employee of an electricity company that was demolished in the blast.

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Stoltenberg says NATO ‘adjusting’ its presence to support Afghan peace process

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(Last Updated On: August 11, 2020)

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg on Tuesday said he welcomes the planned peace talks between the government and the Taliban and said NATO is adjusting its presence to support the peace initiative. 

Taking to Twitter, Stoltenberg said: “I spoke to President Ashraf Ghani and Dr Abdullah (Abdullah) to welcome the upcoming start of intra-Afghan talks. All parties should seize this historic moment for peace. NATO stand with Afghanistan in the fight against terrorism, as we adjust our presence to support the peace process.

This comes after Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on Monday signed a decree to release the final 400 prisoners in order to pave the way for intra-Afghan peace talks.

The Presidential Palace (ARG) confirmed on Monday evening on Twitter that the decree had been signed at a ceremony attended by senior Afghan leaders.

Ghani said on Sunday, after the Loya Jirga’s resolution on the prisoner issue had been issued, that he would respect the decision of the Jirga and release the prisoners – some of whom have been accused of having masterminded some of the deadliest attacks in the country over the past 19 years.

Government sources said Monday that the Afghan peace negotiating team would leave Kabul on Wednesday for Doha, Qatar, and that talks with the Taliban would likely start on Sunday.

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