The POMED Wire

Energy Subsidy Cuts Spark Protests in Yemen

People burn tyres during a protest against fuel price hikes in Sanaa

Photo Credit: Reuters

Following a Yemeni government subsidy cut that nearly doubled the prices of petrol and diesel, protests erupted that were broken up by the army, killing one woman. She “was killed as the army fired into the air in an attempt to break up a demonstration near the presidential palace” according to witnesses.

Petrol prices were raised by 60 percent and diesel by 95 percent. Nearly a third of state revenue was spent on energy subsidies in 2013, and the International Monetary Fund “is pressing for subsidies to be slashed” as a condition of a $560 million loan that Yemen is seeking. According to a Reuters interview with Yemen’s finance minister in May, the deal was expected to be finalized this July.

In addition to pressure from the IMF, the subsidy cut is likely partially motivated by Yemen’s lowered oil output. The government’s crude oil exports were “down nearly 40 percent from a year earlier” due to “frequent militant attacks on oil pipelines [that] have badly hurt Yemen’s export earnings.” The resulting “ serious fuel shortage” has been “angering the public,” and some ”analysts argue that some of the money freed up by the subsidy reform could be …

36 NGOs Send Letter to Kerry on Iraq

kerry maliki

Photo Credit: NBC News

Thirty-six NGOs sent a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry, expressing “grave concerns about the deepening human rights and humanitarian crisis in Iraq,” and calling “for a stronger response from the United States, including a clear, long-term strategy for addressing what could become a protracted situation.” The letter notes that according to the United Nations Refugee Agency, “1.2 million people have been displaced by fighting in western and northern Iraq this year.” Contributing to the instability are “abuses by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and other armed groups,” resulting in reports of human rights violations, and “IDPs being prevented from reaching safer areas.”

The letter suggests that while the Iraqi government “has an obligation to do all it can to support displaced and vulnerable populations within its borders…The U.S. can play an influential role in pressing the [Government of Iraq] to live up to that obligation” by supporting civil society and encouraging collaboration with the Kurds. The letter cites a number of “positive developments,” including an “unprecedented” $500 million contribution from the Saudi government to the UN Strategic Response Plan.

The letter then offers a series of recommendations. First a …

IRI Tunisia Election Observers Report Failings, Some Successes of Process

7.2 Registration

Photo Credit: Jacob Jaffe/Tunisia Live

The International Republican Institute (IRI) released its first in a series of updates from the organization’s elections observation mission for the October 26, 2014 legislative elections in Tunisia.

IRI found a “prevailing mood… of apathy and general disaffection due to frustration with the performance of transitional government” while also noting a last minute jump in registration, a subset of citizens enthusiastic to vote, and some effective elections board (ISIE) activity in facilitating SMS registration and promoting registration in electronic media.

The report demonstrates a steady increase in the pace of registration, even as overall registration numbers fell “well short” of the ISIE’s original goal of 2.5 million. Voter registration from the first 26 days more than doubled in the following eight days. Daily voter registration was about 7,000 in early July, 31,000 on July 17, and 93,000 on July 22, the initial registration deadline. IRI attributed the rise in registration numbers to “the independent election commission’s efforts to raise awareness of registration through the media.” Approximately 58 percent of registrants used SMS registration, and “about 45 percent of those newly registered are under the age of 30.”

Around the time of the report’s publication, the …

POMED Notes: Tunisia’s Political Prospects

Atlantic-Council

Image Credit: Atlantic Council

On Wednesday July 30, 2014, the Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East hosted an event on “Tunisia’s Political Prospects.” The discussion featured Duncan Pickard, Nonresident Fellow at the Rafiki Hariri Center, and Fatima Hadji, Program Officer for the Maghreb at the National Endowment for Democracy. The conversation was moderated by Karim Mezram, Senior Fellow at the Rafik Hariri Center.

For the full notes continue reading or click here for the PDF.

Duncan Pickard spoke first, describing the political process in Tunisia as being in a “formative stage,” with implementation of the newly drafted constitution still in progress. The constitution outlines a timeline for upcoming elections: parliamentary elections to take place in October, followed by presidential elections consisting of an initial one then a run-off. In the new constitution, Pickard explains that the prime minister and the president are “significantly different,” however each possess strong powers in system that Pickard labels “dual executive.” Parliamentary powers, too, were bolstered in the new constitution, because the National Constituent Assembly (NCA) now has the power to override presidential vetoes. In all, the PM, president, and parliament are three important components of the new constitution.…

Senator Sends Letter to John Kerry on Detained Journalists in Iran

 

Rezaian

Photo Credit: The Guardian

Senator Bob Casey Jr. (D-PA), sent a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry expressing alarm over the “reports that an American journalist, Jason Rezaian, was detained in Tehran last week with his wife and two others.” Noting that press freedom in Iran has not had a secure record, Casey suggests that “this move clearly demonstrates that the Iranian regime’s efforts to stifle dissent are not limited to local publications.”

Casey continues to specifically praise  U.S-Iranian Washington Post journalist Jason Rezaian’s work as offering “insight into one of the most repressive governments in the world.” Sponsored by Senator Casey, S. R. 447 on global press freedom recently passed the senate, and notes Iran as being in the ”top five countries with the highest numbers of journalists in prison.” Casey concludes by asking Kerry to “undertake every diplomatic effort to ensure that the Iranian regime does not unjustly punish [Rezaian] and his colleagues for their reporting.”

Elsewhere the editorial board of the Washington Post have since called on the Iranian government to “free Jason and his colleagues immediately” and publicly questioned whether “Rouhani’s professed policy of ‘constructive engagement’ is still in effect.” Post editors ask “why …

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