The POMED Wire

Secretary Kerry Congratulates Outcome of Tunisian Presidential Elections

Tunisia Photo credit: Reuters

Beji Caid Essebsi, an 88-year-old former speaker of parliament under the government of fallen Tunisian dictator Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, has won the country’s first free presidential election. According to Tunisia’s electoral commission, Essebsi obtained 55 percent of the vote, beating his rival, incumbent Moncef Marzouki, who won only 44 percent of the vote in Sunday’s run-off election. Election officials estimated turnout at around 59 percent, down from the nearly 70 percent turnout in the previous round of elections. Essebsi’s victory consolidates the dominance of secular forces in Tunisia’s elected institutions, what with his Nida Tunis party beating the Islamist Ennahda party for the most seats in October’s parliamentary elections.

Secretary John Kerry congratulated Essebsi on his win and called Tunisia a “shining example to the region and the world of what can be achieved through dedication to democracy, consensus, and an inclusive political process.” Vowing continued support of Tunisia, he further praised the year’s presidential and parliamentary elections as “laying the groundwork for a more stable, prosperous, and democratic future for the country.”

The presidential elections, seen as the final step in Tunisia’s four-year democratic transition, were mired by violence early in the …

Yemen’s Parliament Approves New Government

Yemen Photo credit: Al Jazeera

Yemen’s 301-seat parliament approved the government of Prime Minister Khaled Bahah in a vote of confidence on Thursday, freeing it to tackle major challenges facing the country. The verdict came just two days after loyalists of ousted president Ali Abdullah Saleh blocked an attempt to hold a vote, in protest against the authorities’ decision to close their party’s offices in the southern city of Aden. That same day, Shiite Houthi militiamen barred Yemen’s new army chief from entering the defense ministry and accused President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi of “promoting corruption.” The Houthis, who took control of the capital Sanaa in September, demanded that they be allowed to oversee state resources. A senior aide to the president said that the Houthis’ accusations and demands indicate they are plotting to bring down President Hadi’s administration and “complete their takeover of the state.”

In response to the events, President Hadi ordered the withdrawal of security forces from the headquarters of the General People’s Congress (GPC) party, which forms the majority of the parliament. The government also promised not to implement a United Nations Security Council resolution that imposes financial sanctions on Saleh on the accusation that he worked …

Gezi Park Protesters Face Life Sentences

Turkey - DHA Photo Photo credit: DHA Photo

Thirty-five soccer fans who participated in Turkey’s Gezi Park anti-government protests last year are on trial in Istanbul’s Caglayan Courthouse. The individuals, who belong to the Besiktas’ football fan group Carsi, are facing charges of “attempting to overthrow the government.” They will be sentenced to life in prison if convicted. The accused received an outpouring of support from crowds surrounding the courthouse on Tuesday chanting: “Carsi is conscience and cannot be judged.”

Lawmakers from the opposition group Republican People’s Party (CHP) attending the trial said the charges were “politically motivated” and expressed concern that the proceedings were political. Emma Sinclair-Webb, a senior researcher at Human Rights Watch said that charging the soccer club fans “as enemies of the state for joining a public protests is a ludicrous travesty.” She continued: “The indictment contains no evidence to support the coup attempt charges and should never have come to court.”

The start of the trial comes just two days after police detained 27 people, including the editor of Turkey’s largest-selling newspaper and several other prominent figures. The new suspects are accused of forming an illegal organization to seize control of the state. The suspects are followers of …

Michele Dunne Denied Entry to Egypt

michele-dunnePhoto Credit: PBS

Egyptian authorities briefly detained Michele Dunne, a senior associate at the Middle East program of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and former diplomat, and barred her from entering the country upon her arrival to the Cairo airport. Dunne was traveling to Cairo to attend a conference organized by the Egyptian Council for Foreign Affairs.

Dunne told the New York Times that she was held in the airport for about six hours before being put on a flight home. When she asked a security official why she was being held, the officer replied, “No reason, but, Madame, you cannot access Egypt anymore.” The New York Times reported that this is the first time in decades that Egypt has denied entrance to the country to a Western scholar. Last August, the Egyptian government turned away a delegation of officials from Human Rights Watch, who planned to release a report critical of the Abdel Fattah al-Sisi regime’s crackdown on Islamist protesters in 2013.

The Egyptian Foreign Ministry said Dunne failed to properly complete her visa application. Dunne was denied entry to Egypt just a day before the U.S. Congress approved a 2015 spending bill which included provisions which …

Omnibus Includes National Security Waiver on Aid for Egypt

capitol_hillImage Credit: iStockphoto

The new Omnibus bill introduced to Congress yesterday gives the Secretary of State the option to waive conditions placed on economic and military aid to Egypt for national security reasons, a feature absent from last year’s bill. Paragraph 6(A) of section 7041 dealing with appropriations for aid to Egypt states that the $725 Million in military aid not reserved for military training or counter-terrorism operations in the Sinai can only be delivered if the Secretary of State certifies to the Appropriations Committee that Egypt has met a number of democratic standards, including holding free and fair parliamentary elections, providing detainees with due process of law, conducting credible investigations and prosecutions on those guilty of ordering and implementing excessive force against protesters, and releasing American citizens held on political charges. Subparagraph B, however, allows the Secretary of State to waive these requirements, provided he submit a report to the Committee on Appropriations testifying to the fact that it is in the interest of American national security to deliver the aid regardless of the progress on conditions.

The Editorial Board from the Washington Post noted that “the provision keeps human-rights conditions on the aid to that brutal dictatorship but …

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