The POMED Wire

After Two-Year Gap, Aoun Becomes Lebanon’s New President

After more than two years of delay, Lebanon’s Parliament elected Michael Aoun, a former chief in the national army, as the country’s next president on October 31. The office was left vacant after the Michel Suleiman’s term ended in May 2014, and it took more than 45 attempts to elect a President since Suleiman left office. The parliamentary vote took four rounds, after Auon failed to reach a majority in the first round, and the following two rounds received more votes than members in Parliament. In the fourth and final round, Auon received 83 votes, passing the threshold needed in the 128-person Parliament. Aoun has since tapped Saad al-Hariri as prime minister and tasked him with forming a new government.

The United States Department of State released a press statement congratulating “the people of Lebanon on the election of President Michel Aoun, in accordance with Lebanon’s constitution. This is a moment of opportunity, as Lebanon emerges from years of political impasse, to restore government functions and build a more stable and prosperous future for all Lebanese citizens.” The statement went on further to urge the Lebanese government to “uphold international obligations.”

Last week, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif became

Morocco Prepares for October Parliamentary Elections

Morocco is preparing to hold parliamentary elections on October 7, marking its second parliamentary election since 2011. Approximately thirty political parties are participating, including Morocco’s ruling Islamist Justice and Development Party (PJD). In 2011, the PJD won 27 percent of the vote with 107 out of 395 seats, and formed a coalition with two secular parties. Since the elections, the PJD’s secretary general, Abdelilah Benkirane, has held the position of prime minister.

The royally-backed Authenticity and Modernity Party (PAM), PJD’s main rival, is also a contender in the upcoming elections. PAM, founded in 2008 by a royal advisor to King Mohamed VI, has been a close ally of the royal establishment. It recently presented itself as a potential alternative to PJD in last year’s local elections, winning 21 percent of all local seats, while PJD garnered only 15 percent. Despite PAM’s success, the results showed stark differences between rural and urban voting outcomes. PAM performed well in the rural areas of Morocco, while the PDJ received more votes in urban centers.

PJD’s current pre-election campaign has centered around a platform of combating corruption and promoting good governance. Benkirane issued a statement outlining the key features of PJD’s campaign …

Senators Introduce Bill to Block Saudi Arms Sale

In the wake of a $1.15 billion arms sale announced in August 2016, Senators Rand Paul (R-KY) and Chris Murphy (D-CT) introduced S.J.Res. 39, a joint resolution of disapproval to block the sale. Senators Al Franken (D-MN) and Mike Lee (R-UT) cosponsored the resolution. In a statement Paul said, “Saudi Arabia is an unreliable ally with a poor human rights record. We should not rush to sell them advanced arms and promote an arms race in the Middle East.” Murphy added that “in Yemen, this is not seen as a Saudi bombing campaign.This is seen as a U.S. bombing campaign.” As stated in the Arms Export Control Act of 1976, the Senate can force an up-or-down vote on the arms sale 10 days after the bill’s introduction. Notably, Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD) opposes the resolution, saying the bill’s goal was “not relevant” to the concerns over Saudi Arabia’s behavior in yemen, adding, “At this point, I don’t think it’s helpful to countermand the president.”

On August 29, sixty-four Members of Congress sent a bipartisan letter to the White House, stating, “Past Congressional concerns about Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen have not been addressed… This military campaign has had …

Syria Ceasefire Set to Begin despite Doubts

Photo Credit: AFP

On Monday, September 12, a 10-day ceasefire is set to begin in Syria, followed by joint U.S.-Russia air strikes on jihadist militants. Secretary of State John Kerry spoke with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Geneva, Switzerland, in the hopes that this plan would “reduce violence, ease suffering, and resume movement towards a negotiated peace and a political transition in Syria.”

This comes after an announcement that President Bashar al-Assad agreed to the terms of the deal, which was originally negotiated in June between the United States and Russia. Syrian opposition forces have voiced their concern over the terms of the deal, particularly over perceived benefits the Syrian government may reap. In a video statement translated by the BBC, Ali al-Omar of the rebel group Ahrar al-Sham lamented the hard-fought war many other rebels have endured, and that, “[We] cannot accept half solutions.”

The truce states that the Syrian government will stop its assault of particular opposition-controlled areas in the country. Once the ceasefire has passed, Foreign Minister Lavrov expressed an interest in resuming talks over the future of Syria, emphasizing that “the negotiations must be inclusive, with participation of all the sides in [Syria].”

The goal …

Notes on Tunisia’s New National Unity Government

Raouia Briki - August 31, 2016

 

On August 26, Tunisia’s Assembly of the Representatives of the People (ARP), or Parliament, approved Youssef Chahed as prime minister and confirmed his new government with 167 votes in favor, 22 votes against, five abstentions, and 23 no-shows (out of 217 total members of parliament). The vote brought to power Tunisia’s seventh prime minister and eleventh cabinet since the 2011 revolution.

The New Government: A Nidaa Tounes Prime Minister, More Diverse

Chahed’s government has 26 ministers, an increase of one over the cabinet of former Prime Minister Habib Essid, and 14 state secretaries (who have ministerial rank but do not lead a ministry). Essid, who took office in February 2015, was ousted by the ARP in a July 31 no-confidence vote. While Essid was a technocrat with no party affiliation, Chahed is from the Nidaa Tounes Party and was hand-picked by President Beji Caid Essebsi, founder of the party. The new Prime Minister is a 40-year-old expert in agricultural policies who served briefly as Minister of Local Administration in the Essid government and reportedly is close to the President’s family, both through marriage and through his ties to the President’s son, …

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