Lebanon's ruling parties announce candidates for parliamentary elections – Arab News

BEIRUT: Lebanese parties have been rushing to submit their candidacies for the upcoming parliamentary elections to the Ministry of Interior with the deadline for registration, March 15, soon approaching.
Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, 84, submitted his candidacy application for another four-year parliamentary session, alongside ruling party members.
Applications were previously limited to independent candidates and representatives of the civil movement.
The number of registered candidates jumped to nearly 100 as of Wednesday evening, with expectations for more candidacies soon.
On May 15, voters will vote for their 128 MPs, which will be preceded by civil servants who are working on the elections voting on May 12.
On May 6 and 8, Lebanese voters living abroad will cast their votes.
The cost of holding the elections is estimated at $15.5 million.
The electoral battle will kick-off in earnest in April when registration for the lists under which the candidates will run begins.
Political jostling and heightened engagement is expected once alliances unravel and the battle to prevent the ruling parties from gaining parliamentary majority starts.
Around 3,970,000 voters will partake in the upcoming elections, including some 225,000 voters living abroad, most of whom are expected to vote for representatives from the Oct. 17, 2019 revolution.
Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah announced some of the party’s candidates on Wednesday evening, with some “young generation candidates” adding to the crop of currently sitting MPs.
The Amal Movement is expected to announce the names of its candidates in the coming days. According to leaked information, Berri will retain a sizable portion of the current MPs, especially those who are being prosecuted for crimes surrounding the Beirut port explosion.
Secretary-General of the Arab Socialist Baath Party Ali Hijazi submitted his candidacy to run in the Baalbek-Hermel district.
This party is considered an extension of the Baath Party in Syria. Hijazi was recently elected as secretary-general, and he is considered an ally of Hezbollah and the Syrian regime.
The Lebanese Forces Party continues to announce the names of its candidates in party festivals, while the Free Patriotic Movement is working to finalize its candidates’ list. Meanwhile, the Progressive Socialist Party is yet to announce its candidates, with party head Walid Jumblatt quoted as saying that political conditions are not suitable to make any changes in his parliamentary bloc.
Small parties are awaiting news of agreements and understandings between major powers to determine their place in the electoral lists.
Hezbollah is seeking to consolidate its alliance with the Amal Movement in all electoral districts and is also hoping to ally with the FPM in every district where it can convince its voters to support the movement.
However, confusion still prevails on the Sunni scene, as the head of the Future Movement, Saad Hariri, announced his withdrawal from political life and asked party members not to run for the upcoming elections under the movement’s name.
Some Future Movement supporters vowed to boycott the elections, while others demanded that the movement resumes its work and does not leave the political arena to Hezbollah and its allies.
Several traditional political leaders in the Sunni community announced that they would not run for elections, including former Prime Minister Tammam Salam, while former Prime Minister Fouad Siniora insisted on not boycotting the elections.
A source from the Future Movement told Arab News: “Some believe we need to remain outside the system since neither our presence nor our absence can make a difference; the proof is how Hariri was stabbed in the back by all ruling parties.
“In addition, Hezbollah would have no Sunni cover for any of its figures if we boycott the elections.”
The source added: “Others think that boycotting the elections would allow other parties to disrupt Sunni political unity.
“We need to have a limited number of candidates and we must vote extensively and effectively.
“They insist that since Hariri never asked us to boycott the elections, we should not make such hasty decisions, especially since most of the state institutions are not yet constitutionally controlled by Hezbollah.
“We must stop talking about treason, this is what serves Lebanon best.”
A source in Dar Al-Fatwa, the country’s highest Sunni religious authority, expressed concern that Sunni votes could end up dispersed amid this confusion.
“We have concerns about Sunni religious parties succeeding in filling the void, especially if they do not adhere to the logic of the state and tend to adopt the logic of militias,” they told Arab News on condition of anonymity.
Civil society candidates were among the first to submit their candidacies, albeit timidly.
However, this civil movement, with all its groups, has not yet finalized its candidacies or broadcast which districts it plans to fight the ruling parties.
Election expert Walid Fakhreddine said: “There are a large number of candidates in all regions, especially those in which Hezbollah’s alliances prevail. Announcing candidacies was delayed in order to finish negotiations; this is not necessarily a bad thing.”
Fakhreddine stressed: “Candidacies have been delayed because the election law requires each candidate to pay 30 million Lebanese pounds ($20,000), nonrefundable should they choose to withdraw their candidacy.
“In addition, candidates are facing issues in opening bank accounts for electoral campaigns in accordance with the law, and work is underway to resolve this before March 15.”
LONDON: Former British Prime Minister Sir Tony Blair has admitted that he “may have been wrong” about the decision to invade Iraq and Afghanistan but remained steadfast in his view that he thought it was “the right thing” to do.
In conversation with the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, as part of the BBC’s “The Archbishop Interviews” series, Blair provided a defense of his decision to invade Iraq and Afghanistan in support of former US President George W. Bush.
“People often say over Iraq or Afghanistan that I took the wrong decision, but you’ve got to do what you think is right,” the 68-year-old said.
He added: “Whether you are right or not is another matter. In those really big decisions, you don’t know what all the different component elements are, and you’ve got to follow, in the end, your own instinct.”
He told Welby that he “may have been wrong” but reaffirmed that he thought it was the right thing to do.
Blair’s comments come after he was appointed a knight companion of the Most Noble Order of the Garter, the most senior chivalric honor in Britain, which is offered solely by the monarch, in the New Year’s Honors list.  
More than 1 million people have signed a petition online calling for the honor to be rescinded, with the organizer claiming that “Tony Blair caused irreparable damage to both the constitution of the United Kingdom and to the very fabric of the nation’s society.”
The petition specifically refers to his actions in the Middle East, writing: “He was personally responsible for causing the death of countless innocent civilian lives and servicemen in various conflicts. For this alone he should be held accountable for war crimes.”
It added: “Tony Blair is the least deserving person of any public honour, particularly anything awarded by Her Majesty the Queen.”
CAIRO: A standoff between two rival governments in Libya threatens to undermine the peace secured by the 2020 ceasefire agreement, Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit has warned.
He said Libya “could return to the difficult stage it witnessed before the agreement.”
It comes after the Libyan House of Representatives swore in a new rival government headed by Fathi Bashagha. The existing Government of National Unity, headed by Abdu Hamid Dbeibah, rejected the voting process through which the Bashagha government obtained confidence.
An official source in the organization’s general secretariat said Aboul Gheit “once again appeals to all Libyan representatives to work seriously and responsibly towards creating the necessary security, political and legal conditions for holding national elections at the earliest possible opportunity, in order to fulfill the wishes of the Libyan voters.”
Aboul Gheit added: “The conditions in Libya today have become more than ever a reason for holding elections, renewing the legitimacy of Libyan institutions and ending the transitional stages that were prolonged in a way that made them lose their effectiveness in achieving the goals for which they were founded.”
The Arab League source said Aboul Gheit stressed the importance of a political process that would put the country on the path of stability and construction, noting “the league’s permanent readiness to support any serious Libyan effort that secures consensus on a clear, practical and scheduled political road map with specific periods of time.”
Libyan elections were scheduled for Dec. 24 last year, but were postponed to a later date.
CAIRO: The Egyptian government has announced that it will pay for flights to transport Ukrainian tourists who have been stranded in Egypt to neighboring countries in Europe.
According to Yevvin Gubiev, deputy head of the Ukrainian diplomatic mission in Egypt, there are some 20,000 Ukrainian tourists in winter resorts on the Red Sea coast who are stranded due to the war.
Gubiev said that most of them are located in Sharm El-Sheikh and Hurghada on the Red Sea, with some tourists in the Marsa Alam resort in the south of the country. 
The Egyptian government revealed yesterday evening that: “So far, about 4,000 Ukrainian tourists have been transported, and flights are continuing to operate to ease the suffering of Ukrainian tourists.” 
Ambassador Nader Saad, the official spokesman for the Presidency of the Egyptian Cabinet, said: “This comes within the framework of Egypt’s keenness to provide possible aspects of care for nationals of foreign countries coming to Egypt for tourism purposes, and in light of the current events regarding the Russian-Ukrainian crisis, the Egyptian government continues to provide the necessary assistance and support for Ukrainian tourists, for whom periods of tourism programs in Egypt have ended.”
He added that “the aspects of support provided by the Egyptian government are represented in extending the period of stay of Ukrainian tourists whose period of stay in Egypt has expired in the same hotels they reside in, and the cost of accommodation has been taken care of.”
The official spokesman said: “It was also agreed to operate flights from EgyptAir and Air Cairo to transport Ukrainian tourists to Ukraine’s neighboring countries, provided that the Egyptian state bears the cost of the flights.”
The Chamber of Hotel Establishments in Egypt shared a memo to all Egyptian hotels immediately after the start of Russian military operations in Ukraine, obligating them to provide free accommodation for Russian and Ukrainian tourists whose visit programs to Egypt have ended until the conditions for their departure are arranged.
Egypt receives hundreds of thousands of Russian and Ukrainian tourists annually in its hotels overlooking the Red Sea.
The Ukrainian Embassy in Cairo had earlier addressed the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the necessity of using Egyptian civil or military planes to transport Ukrainian tourists to neighboring countries that are ready to receive them.
In its letter, the embassy expressed its gratitude for the government’s decision to extend the stay of Ukrainian tourists in Egyptian hotels for free.
CAIRO: For the first time in Egypt’s history, a female judge, Radwa Helmy, sat on the podium of the State Council on Saturday, after many years of demands to enable women to work in the judiciary.
Since its establishment in 1946, the Egyptian administrative court has not seen a single female judge on its platforms, with the council rejecting the appointment of women. This continued until the issuance of the first republican decision appointing 98 female judges on Oct. 3, 2021. Judge Helmy was the first to sit on the podium.
In a press conference, Helmy expressed pride in her “great responsibility” and thanked Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi for his historic decision, which she said was “an essential part of supporting every Egyptian woman.”
In a phone call to Arab News, Helmy delivered a message to Egyptian girls: “Do not abandon your dreams. The world is changing, and it is necessary to work on self-development, which will open doors to distinguished titles and show the ingenuity and capabilities of women.”
There are 1,980 female judges in the Administrative Prosecution Authority, representing 43 percent of the members of the body, and 670 women in the State Lawsuits Authority, representing 20 percent ​​of its members, according to a census by Egyptian media.
The late Tahani Al-Jabali was appointed to the Constitutional Court in 2003, and she remained in this position for nearly 10 years before she was dismissed after the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohamed Morsi took power in Egypt in mid-2012.
In media statements, the Egyptian Minister of Justice, Counselor Omar Marwan, conveyed his appreciation to those who contributed to the efforts to see female judges on the judiciary podium, expecting that next year would witness the presence of female members in the various court formations.
Maya Morsi, head of the National Council for Women, confirmed in a statement that March 5 “has become a new historic day in the lives of Egyptian women.”
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Representative Mohammed Sultan, a member of the Human Rights Committee in the Egyptian House of Representatives, told Arab News that having female judges on the judiciary podium is a major historic event.
“Since President El-Sisi assumed power, Egyptian women have enjoyed many achievements and have had the support of decisions and laws that have empowered them in various fields,” he added.
Representative Mohamed Abdel Aziz, member of the Coordination of Egyptian Youth Parties, considered the move a victory for Egyptian women after a long struggle.
In exclusive statements to Arab News, he pointed out that this victory came at the direction of President El-Sisi and is in line with Article 11 of Egypt’s constitution, which “guarantees women the right to assume public and senior management positions in the state and to be appointed to judicial bodies and authorities without discrimination against them.”
Magda Mostafa, who occupies one of the leading positions in the Egyptian Ministry of Education, said that appointing women as judges is a victory for Egyptian women.
“Every day, the Egyptian woman proves her competence,” she told Arab News.