Kenya in Upheaval as Supreme Court Delays Hearing on Holding Presidential Polls

Supporters of Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta shout in front of the Supreme Court in Nairobi, Kenya, October 25, 2017. (Reuters)
Supporters of Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta shout in front of the Supreme Court in Nairobi, Kenya, October 25, 2017. (Reuters)
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Kenya in Upheaval as Supreme Court Delays Hearing on Holding Presidential Polls

Supporters of Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta shout in front of the Supreme Court in Nairobi, Kenya, October 25, 2017. (Reuters)
Supporters of Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta shout in front of the Supreme Court in Nairobi, Kenya, October 25, 2017. (Reuters)

The Supreme Court in Kenya was forced on Wednesday to delay a last-minute hearing on holding presidential elections due to a lack of quorum when some judges failed to attend the session.

That meant the court lacked a quorum to hear the petition to delay the vote. “The honorable the deputy chief justice, the deputy president of the Supreme Court is not in a position to come to court,” Chief Justice David Maraga said.

Maraga said one judge was unwell, another was abroad and unable to return in time, and another judge was unable to come to court after her bodyguard was shot and injured on Tuesday night.

The petition filed by three Kenyans including a human rights activist sought to postpone the repeat presidential election and argued that not enough has been done to ensure the process is free, fair and credible. The opposition and some observers have called for the re-run of the election to be delayed after opposition leader Raila Odinga withdrew from the race.

The polls were scheduled for Thursday, but its preparations have been marred by administrative confusion. Only the Supreme Court has the power to delay presidential elections.

The development has plunged Kenya deeper into a political crisis, which has taken on a violent turn.

A lawyer for the election board said the Supreme Court statement meant the elections, which Odinga is boycotting, would proceed.

“It means elections are on tomorrow. There is no order stopping the election,” lawyer Paul Muite told Kenyan television station Citizen TV.

Protesters lit bonfires on the roads of Kisumu, the western city that is an Odinga stronghold, within minutes of the court announcement, a Reuters witness said.

The governor of Kisumu county, said people would be justified in rebellion if the vote went ahead on Thursday. Odinga had urged his supporters to boycott the elections.

“If the government subverts the sovereign will of the people ... then people are entitled to rebel against this government,” Anyang Nyong‘o told reporters.

The Supreme Court annulled an August ballot, in which by President Uhuru Kenyatta was declared the winner over Odinga, due to procedural irregularities.

Odinga, who leads the National Super Alliance, had challenged the results claiming hackers had infiltrated the electoral commission's computer system and had manipulated the vote.

He explained that he is boycotting the polls because the electoral commission has not implemented adequate reforms to guarantee credible elections.

The electoral commission chairman has said that he cannot guarantee elections that are credible and a member of the electoral board resigned and left the country, saying she feared for her safety.

Kenya police meanwhile said they will not allow the National Super Alliance to hold its final rally at the capital's Freedom Park ahead of their boycott.

Nairobi police chief Japheth Koome said the opposition did not have authorization from the county government to use the park. Odinga was to speak to his supporters at the park.



270 Prominent Civil, Political Activists Boycott Elections in Iran

A woman passes in front of an electoral campaign billboard in Qom (AFP)
A woman passes in front of an electoral campaign billboard in Qom (AFP)
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270 Prominent Civil, Political Activists Boycott Elections in Iran

A woman passes in front of an electoral campaign billboard in Qom (AFP)
A woman passes in front of an electoral campaign billboard in Qom (AFP)

More than 270 Iranian civil and political activists issued a statement confirming their boycott of the legislative elections, scheduled for Friday, accusing the authorities of "engineering" and "staging" the polls.
Iran’s upcoming elections are the first since the outbreak of the protests that shook the country at the end of 2022, following the death of the young woman, Mahsa Amini, days after the morality police arrested her.
Experts expect the voter turnout to be low, reaching its lowest level since the establishment of Iran in 1979.
The activists' statement, including former officials and representatives, stated that the elections "reached a more deplorable situation, even compared to the previous elections."
Calls to boycott the elections increased after the Guardian Council rejected the requests of prominent reformist candidates.
The "deadlock of reforms" points to a deepening crisis within the country's political landscape, added the statement.
It noted that public participation in the elections declined sharply, and most parties of the reformist movement withdrew from the process.
The statement pointed out that voting is one of the basic rights and a source of legitimacy for any democratic system, stressing that the elections lack objectivity.
"The failed politics of participation and presence in the elections, in any case, and at any cost, has never succeeded, as evidenced by repeated trials and bitter historical experiences in recent decades," read the statement.
"Without a genuine revival of the electoral institution, real participation and presence will not occur," added the statement.
Emphasizing the dire state of Iran's current electoral institution, the activists outlined a series of prerequisites for holding genuine, fair, and healthy elections.
They indicated that since those conditions aren't present in the upcoming elections, they "deem it necessary not to participate”, describing them as “engineered against the public's sovereignty”.

 

 


Israel Files Report with International Court of Justice on its Measures in Gaza

A woman holding a child mourns her baby girl who was killed in an Israeli airstrike in Rafah, southern Gaza Strip, Palestine, Dec. 1, 2023. (AFP) 
A woman holding a child mourns her baby girl who was killed in an Israeli airstrike in Rafah, southern Gaza Strip, Palestine, Dec. 1, 2023. (AFP) 
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Israel Files Report with International Court of Justice on its Measures in Gaza

A woman holding a child mourns her baby girl who was killed in an Israeli airstrike in Rafah, southern Gaza Strip, Palestine, Dec. 1, 2023. (AFP) 
A woman holding a child mourns her baby girl who was killed in an Israeli airstrike in Rafah, southern Gaza Strip, Palestine, Dec. 1, 2023. (AFP) 

Israel filed on Monday a report with the International Court of Justice about measures taken to comply with an interim ruling that called on it to avoid Gaza war actions that might amount to genocide, an Israeli official said.

The official did not provide details about the report, which was filed hours before the deadline for its submission.

Last month the UN’s top court ordered Israel to refrain from any acts that could fall under the Genocide Convention and to ensure its troops commit no genocidal acts against Palestinians after South Africa accused Israel of state-led genocide. Israel and its Western allies described the allegation as baseless.

In its ruling, the court said Israel specifically had to prevent and punish any public incitements to commit genocide against Palestinians in Gaza and to preserve evidence related to any allegations of genocide there.

It also said it must take measures to improve the humanitarian situation for Palestinian civilians in the enclave.

A final ruling in the case in The Hague could take years.

The latest Gaza war was triggered by an Oct. 7 Hamas-led attack on southern Israeli communities that Israel says left 1,200 killed and 253 taken hostage.

In the months since, Palestinian authorities say Israel has killed nearly 30,000 people in blockaded Gaza, displaced most of its 2.3 million people, caused widespread hunger and disease, and laid waste to much of the territory.


US Airman Dies after Setting Himself Ablaze Outside Israeli Embassy

26 February 2024, US, Washington: Activists gather outside the Israeli Embassy in Washington, holding a vigil to honour Aaron Bushnell, the 25-year-old serviceman who self-immolated in protest of Israel. Photo: Natascha Tahabsem/ZUMA Press Wire/dpa
26 February 2024, US, Washington: Activists gather outside the Israeli Embassy in Washington, holding a vigil to honour Aaron Bushnell, the 25-year-old serviceman who self-immolated in protest of Israel. Photo: Natascha Tahabsem/ZUMA Press Wire/dpa
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US Airman Dies after Setting Himself Ablaze Outside Israeli Embassy

26 February 2024, US, Washington: Activists gather outside the Israeli Embassy in Washington, holding a vigil to honour Aaron Bushnell, the 25-year-old serviceman who self-immolated in protest of Israel. Photo: Natascha Tahabsem/ZUMA Press Wire/dpa
26 February 2024, US, Washington: Activists gather outside the Israeli Embassy in Washington, holding a vigil to honour Aaron Bushnell, the 25-year-old serviceman who self-immolated in protest of Israel. Photo: Natascha Tahabsem/ZUMA Press Wire/dpa

An active-duty member of the US Air Force has died after he set himself ablaze outside the Israeli Embassy in Washington, D.C., while declaring that he “will no longer be complicit in genocide."
The 25-year-old airman, Aaron Bushnell, of San Antonio, Texas, died from his injuries, the Metropolitan Police Department said Monday.
Bushnell had walked up to the embassy shortly before 1 p.m. Sunday and began livestreaming on the video streaming platform Twitch, a person familiar with the matter told The Associated Press. Law enforcement officials believe he set his phone down and then doused himself in accelerant and ignited the flames. At one point, he said he “will no longer be complicit in genocide,” the person said. The video was later removed from the platform, but law enforcement officials have obtained and reviewed a copy.

The person was not authorized to publicly discuss details of the ongoing investigation and spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity.

Investigators believe Bushnell had been staying at a Travelodge in Silver Spring, Maryland, which was searched Monday by federal agents, a law enforcement official said. That official was not authorized to disclose details of the investigation publicly and also spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity.

In a statement Monday, the Air Force said, “The individual involved in yesterday’s incident succumbed to his injuries and passed away last night.”
Later Monday, the Air Force said Bushnell was a cyber defense operations specialist with the 531st Intelligence Support Squadron at Joint Base San Antonio. He had served on active duty since May 2020.

Col. Celina Noyes, commander the 70th Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Wing, said: “When a tragedy like this occurs, every member of the Air Force feels it. We extend our deepest sympathies to the family and friends of Senior Airman Bushnell."

Demonstrators held a vigil for Bushnell outside the Israeli embassy Monday night.


Hungary’s Parliament Approves Sweden's NATO Accession

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban addresses lawmakers before the vote on Monday. (AP)
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban addresses lawmakers before the vote on Monday. (AP)
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Hungary’s Parliament Approves Sweden's NATO Accession

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban addresses lawmakers before the vote on Monday. (AP)
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban addresses lawmakers before the vote on Monday. (AP)

Hungary’s parliament approved on Monday Sweden’s NATO membership bid, removing the last hurdle for the military alliance’s expansion driven by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

In Hungary's parliament on Monday, 188 voted in favor and six against, with five abstaining.

Sweden welcomed the move, saying: “Today is a historic day.”

The vote on Monday removed the final membership hurdle for Sweden’s bid to join the alliance following lengthy delays from rightwing nationalist Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban and negotiations with Türkiye, which had approved the Scandinavian country's integration into NATO last month.

Addressing lawmakers before the vote on Monday, Orban welcomed the recent visit of his Swedish counterpart Ulf Kristersson to Budapest.

“Sweden’s entry into NATO will strengthen Hungary’s security,” he said, calling Kristersson’s visit an essential step toward building “a fair and respectful relationship between the two countries.”

Orban had repeatedly said he supported Swedish membership in principle, however, he kept prolonging the process, asking Stockholm to stop “vilifying” the Hungarian government.

Relations between both countries improved in recent weeks, particularly after Kristersson’s visit on Friday when the Hungarian leader announced that the two officials had clarified their mutual good intentions.

Hungary also signed a deal to acquire four Swedish-made fighter jets, expanding its fleet of 14 Jas-39 Gripen fighters.

32nd member

The protocols for approving Sweden's entry into NATO, and which requires unanimous support among all 31 members, was on hold since May 2022.

Sweden, along with neighboring Finland, applied to join the alliance just a few months after the start of Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

By announcing plans to join NATO, the two countries undid decades of military neutrality that lasted through two world wars and the simmering conflict of the Cold War.

For months, Hungary’s nationalist government had delayed holding a vote on Sweden’s membership, each time with a different excuse.

In Hungary’s delay, some experts saw a strategy to wring concessions from Brussels to unlock billions of euros in frozen funds.

Others argued it underlined Orban’s close ties with the presidents of Russia and Türkiye.

For Mate Szalai, an analyst at Venice’s Ca’ Foscari University, Orban was simply playing to his domestic audience.

“Orban wanted to go as far as he could without causing serious problems to the trans-Atlantic community while proving that Hungary is a power to be reckoned with,” he told AFP.

Many of his acts are intended to provoke Europe, Szalai added.


Iran Seeks to End Mandate of the Fact-Finding Mission

Iran's Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian with UN Sec-Gen Antonio Guterres (Iran's Foreign Ministry)
Iran's Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian with UN Sec-Gen Antonio Guterres (Iran's Foreign Ministry)
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Iran Seeks to End Mandate of the Fact-Finding Mission

Iran's Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian with UN Sec-Gen Antonio Guterres (Iran's Foreign Ministry)
Iran's Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian with UN Sec-Gen Antonio Guterres (Iran's Foreign Ministry)

Iranian officials launched a diplomatic campaign on the sidelines of the UN Human Rights Council meetings in Geneva to end the mission of the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran.
Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian wanted to ensure that a new Rapporteur would not be assigned after the current UN official, Javaid Rehman.
He also aimed to end the mandate of the Fact-Finding Mission for Iran, which the Human Rights Council approved to investigate repression of the massive protests in Iran.
The FM accused Western countries of applying "double standards," noting that they condemn Iranian repression but do not care enough about human rights violations against Muslims in the Gaza Strip.
In November 2022, Germany succeeded in passing a decision to launch an independent probe into the deadly campaign that resulted in the death of 500 demonstrators and the arrest of more than 20,000, according to human rights organizations.
German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock urgently called for extending the mandate of the UN experts investigating human rights in Iran.
During her participation in the spring session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva on Monday, Baerbock addressed the Iranian government, saying, "I want to be crystal clear to those who claim that calling out violations is an interference in internal affairs: Human rights aren't something western, northern, eastern or southern. They are universal."
She explained that the Fact-Finding Mission established by this Council has investigated the repression, the violence, and the crimes committed in Iran since the beginning of the protests.
"It is collecting and preserving the evidence. It is giving the victims –women, girls – a voice."
The German government is requesting support to extend the mission's mandate so that it can finish its job, Baerbock said.
The mission is expected to present its report, which will likely be discussed on March 15.
Western officials believe it is currently challenging to discuss this issue within the Human Rights Council, as the focus is on the situation in Gaza.
- Fact-finding mission
In his speech at the Human Rights Council, Amirabdollahian condemned the formation of the fact-finding mission after the death of Mahsa Amini.
He referred to the calls for investigating the death of Amini, while no serious action has been taken at the international level to stop the killing of thousands of innocent women and children in Gaza.
The United Nations General Assembly elects the 47 member states to serve a three-year term on the Human Rights Council.
The Council's decisions, such as extending the mandate of human rights experts, are put to vote before the end of the session, which will continue until April 5.
Earlier this month, Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights Nada al-Nashif visited Tehran and held discussions behind closed doors with Iranian officials.
Activists and human rights groups in Iran criticized Nashif's visit to Tehran.
Iranian human rights activist Ladan Boroumand called ambassadors to boycott Amirabdollahian's speech.
- Gaza war
Activists expressed concerns about officials' attempts to exploit the Gaza war to end the mission of the UN Rapporteur, which began in 2011.
The Iranian authorities did not grant the Special Rapporteur permission to visit Tehran.
During an interview with Voice of America, Rehman said that the authorities fear he will expose them.
Earlier this month, the Special Rapporteur said that the Israel-Hamas war has emboldened "repression" inside the country, noting that Iran was responding to a loss of credibility after mass protests set off by the September 2022 death of Amini.
On the summit's sidelines, the Iranian FM met with the head of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Mirjana Spoljaric Egger.
Iranian agencies quoted him as saying: "Leaders of the Palestinian factions are considering democratic ways and a political deal among all Palestinian groups and movements to run the post-war Gaza. Supporting this approach is supporting a democratic approach."
Also in Geneva, Amirabdollahian held talks with his Jordanian counterpart, Ayman Safadi.
The Jordanian Foreign Ministry stated on the "X" platform that the meeting focused on efforts to stop the Israeli aggression against Gaza and prevent further escalation in the region.
The two ministers also discussed the situation in Syria, especially the danger of drug smuggling from Syria to Jordan.
Safadi stressed that his country is determined to take all necessary steps to end drug smuggling.


Greece Takes the Helm in EU Naval Mission in the Red Sea 

Greek Defense Minister Nikos Dendias visits the Greek frigate Hydra, set to depart in the coming days, after Greek government approved the country's participation in the EU naval mission in the Red Sea, at Salamina naval base, Greece, February 26, 2024. (Defense Ministry/Handout via Reuters)
Greek Defense Minister Nikos Dendias visits the Greek frigate Hydra, set to depart in the coming days, after Greek government approved the country's participation in the EU naval mission in the Red Sea, at Salamina naval base, Greece, February 26, 2024. (Defense Ministry/Handout via Reuters)
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Greece Takes the Helm in EU Naval Mission in the Red Sea 

Greek Defense Minister Nikos Dendias visits the Greek frigate Hydra, set to depart in the coming days, after Greek government approved the country's participation in the EU naval mission in the Red Sea, at Salamina naval base, Greece, February 26, 2024. (Defense Ministry/Handout via Reuters)
Greek Defense Minister Nikos Dendias visits the Greek frigate Hydra, set to depart in the coming days, after Greek government approved the country's participation in the EU naval mission in the Red Sea, at Salamina naval base, Greece, February 26, 2024. (Defense Ministry/Handout via Reuters)

Greece Monday formally agreed to participate in and lead a European Union maritime security operation in the Red Sea to protect commercial shipping from attacks by the Iran-backed Houthi militias in Yemen.

A security committee headed by Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis ordered the participation of a Greek frigate in the Aspides operation – named from the Greek word for “shield” – that was launched last week.

The mission will be run from a military base in Larissa, in central Greece, under the command of Greek navy Cdre. Vasilios Griparis.

Greece, a major commercial shipping power, has been directly affected by the Houthi attacks. The port of Piraeus, near Athens, reported a 12.7% drop in activity at its container terminal in January, on an annual basis.

“We all understand that participation in this operation involves risks, significant risks,” Defense Minister Nikos Dendias said Monday while on a visit to the navy frigate Hydra at a naval base near Athens.

The frigate departed on the mission late Monday.

“Greece, as a maritime power with a leading role in global shipping, attaches great importance to the need to safeguard the freedom of navigation, as well as the life of Greek seafarers,” Dendias said.

Germany, Italy and France will also provide warships for the mission, joining the Hydra, while Italy will assume tactical command, according to Greek officials.

German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius visited the German Navy frigate Hessen, that is taking part in Aspides, while on a trip to the Greek island of Crete last week. The vessel has since sailed southward to the Red Sea, German authorities said.

Officials in Athens have described the Aspides mission as defensive, adding that Greece would not take part in US-led attacks against Houthi military targets in Yemen.

The Houthis say their attacks on commercial ships with drones and missiles are a response to Israel’s offensive in Gaza against Hamas which began in October.

At a parliamentary committee hearing last week, Dendias said keeping the lines of maritime trade open was an “existential necessity for Greece.”

“We do not take a position on the Houthi issue,” Dendias told lawmakers at the hearing. “But we do challenge the right of anyone to fire at our ships, at European ships, and at ships that sail the region and come to our ports.”


Russian-Installed Officials Claim Moscow Forces Destroy First US-Supplied Abrams Tank in Ukraine

 A Ukrainian soldier looks out of a shelter at the frontline in the Donetsk region, Ukraine, Sunday, Feb. 25, 2024. (AP)
A Ukrainian soldier looks out of a shelter at the frontline in the Donetsk region, Ukraine, Sunday, Feb. 25, 2024. (AP)
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Russian-Installed Officials Claim Moscow Forces Destroy First US-Supplied Abrams Tank in Ukraine

 A Ukrainian soldier looks out of a shelter at the frontline in the Donetsk region, Ukraine, Sunday, Feb. 25, 2024. (AP)
A Ukrainian soldier looks out of a shelter at the frontline in the Donetsk region, Ukraine, Sunday, Feb. 25, 2024. (AP)

Russian-installed officials said on Monday that Moscow's forces had for the first time destroyed a US-supplied Abrams tank in Ukraine, a battlefield claim that drew approving comment from the Kremlin.

Reuters could not immediately verify a video published on social media that purported to show an Abrams on fire.

"From the very beginning, our soldiers said that these tanks would burn just like others," state news agency RIA quoted Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov as saying. He was referring to previous instances where Russia says it has destroyed Western weaponry in Ukraine.

The United States began supplying the Abrams to Ukrainian forces last September.


French Court Hands Down Prison Sentences over 2018 Terrorist Attack

Palace of Justice in Paris. (viral photo)
Palace of Justice in Paris. (viral photo)
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French Court Hands Down Prison Sentences over 2018 Terrorist Attack

Palace of Justice in Paris. (viral photo)
Palace of Justice in Paris. (viral photo)

A Parisian court handed down sentences to six men and one woman, ranging from six months to four years behind bars, nearly six years following the terrorist attack in southern France that claimed the lives of four individuals.

On Friday, the French judiciary pronounced these sentences in connection with the assault for which ISIS asserted responsibility, a harrowing event that unfolded in 2018 in the southwest of France.

The attack resulted in the deaths of four individuals, while the assailant, a radicalized young man, was fatally shot by police.

On the morning of March 23, 2018, Redouane Lakdim, a 25-year-old with a history of drug dealing and radicalization, carried out a heinous attack in southwestern France. He first targeted a gathering place for gay individuals, fatally shooting one and injuring another.

Lakdim then proceeded to a supermarket in Trebes, where he killed a 50-year-old butcher and another customer. Brandishing a pistol, Lakdim shouted "Allahu Akbar!" and claimed allegiance to ISIS.

He took an employee hostage, demanding contact with the gendarmerie forces and referencing French military actions in Syria. Lieutenant Colonel Arnaud Beltrame, aged 44, heroically offered himself as a substitute hostage.

Despite being seriously injured, Beltrame succumbed to his wounds in the hospital. Lakdim was subsequently killed in the confrontation.

The courtroom spotlight fell particularly on Marine Pequeño, the extremist girlfriend of the assailant. She received a five-year prison term, with two years suspended, effectively sparing her immediate return to incarceration.

However, this sentence fell significantly short of the eleven years sought by the National Anti-Terrorism Prosecutor's Office.

Samir Manna, aged 28, faced severe scrutiny as well, as the prosecution pushed for a ten-year sentence, branding him as the accomplice who facilitated the purchase of the knife used in the fatal attack on Beltrame.

Surprisingly, Manna was sentenced to a mere three years behind bars. He is set to walk free after spending five and a half years in pretrial detention. Throughout the proceedings, Manna vehemently denied any knowledge of the extremist intentions of his friend, emphasizing his lack of involvement in radical activities.

The court delivered its harshest judgment against the girlfriend of the attacker, aged 18, sentencing her to eighteen years in prison. This severe sentence was attributed to her complicity in concealing the assailant's plans from authorities.

However, reports from Le Parisien suggest that authorities believe the young woman has renounced extremist beliefs.

Meanwhile, other defendants faced convictions for their inadvertent support of the attacker, such as accompanying him to procure weapons, unaware of his true intentions


Conservatives Unite in Tehran to Maintain Parliamentary Control

Iranians pass by a booth displaying campaign posters on Saturday (AFP)
Iranians pass by a booth displaying campaign posters on Saturday (AFP)
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Conservatives Unite in Tehran to Maintain Parliamentary Control

Iranians pass by a booth displaying campaign posters on Saturday (AFP)
Iranians pass by a booth displaying campaign posters on Saturday (AFP)

Key factions within the Iranian conservative camp have agreed on a joint list for the upcoming legislative elections in Tehran. This agreement comes amidst efforts by authorities to encourage voter turnout.

Government sources reported on Sunday that the “Popular Front of Islamic Revolution Forces” political alliance, led by current parliament speaker Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf, and the hardline “Front of Islamic Revolution Stability,” have agreed on a unified list of candidates.

They aim to maintain control over 30 constituencies in Tehran and its suburbs.

Ghalibaf, a former Revolutionary Guards commander, will lead the list alongside Morteza Aghatehrani, a hardline cleric and current member of parliament.

The joint list has been confirmed as final by both sides. There were discussions between the factions before reaching this agreement.

Despite earlier reports suggesting a change in Ghalibaf’s electoral district, he remains at the forefront of the conservative list in Tehran.

Some conservative figures have voiced concerns about the increasing number of electoral lists, which could boost the chances of independent or moderate-conservative aligned candidates.

Confirmation of Ghalibaf’s candidacy in Tehran came alongside news that a member of his team, Deputy Mohsen Dehnavi, had agreed to withdraw. This decision followed allegations of bribery involving an Iranian factory owner.

Efforts to encourage voter turnout have intensified amid concerns over public discontent and economic challenges due to US sanctions.

These elections follow widespread protests in 2022 after the death of Mahsa Amini during police custody over a veiling dispute.

President Ebrahim Raisi hopes for a robust parliament to support the people and government, while Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian sees every vote as a statement of Iran’s standing internationally.

Key players in the reformist camp are leaning towards staying out of the elections after their main candidates refused to run, demanding certain conditions be met first.

However, former conservative lawmaker Ali Motahari, with support from moderates, recently announced the formation of the “Voice of the People” electoral list, which includes some reformists, moderates, and independents.

Last week, prominent reformist activists criticized a statement signed by 110 reformist activists, some living outside Iran, urging participation in the elections.


Security Council ‘Perhaps Fatally’ Undermined by Gaza, Ukraine Deadlock, Says UN Chief

Dust and smoke from airstrikes engulf Palestinians walking along Al Rashid road after crossing from the northern Gaza Strip into the south of Gaza city, 25 February 2024. (EPA)
Dust and smoke from airstrikes engulf Palestinians walking along Al Rashid road after crossing from the northern Gaza Strip into the south of Gaza city, 25 February 2024. (EPA)
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Security Council ‘Perhaps Fatally’ Undermined by Gaza, Ukraine Deadlock, Says UN Chief

Dust and smoke from airstrikes engulf Palestinians walking along Al Rashid road after crossing from the northern Gaza Strip into the south of Gaza city, 25 February 2024. (EPA)
Dust and smoke from airstrikes engulf Palestinians walking along Al Rashid road after crossing from the northern Gaza Strip into the south of Gaza city, 25 February 2024. (EPA)

United Nations chief Antonio Guterres on Monday deplored how the UN Security Council had failed to respond adequately to the Israel-Hamas conflict in Gaza and Russia's invasion of Ukraine, saying the conflicts had "perhaps fatally" undermined its authority. 

Speaking at the opening of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, Guterres said the UN Security Council often found itself deadlocked and "unable to act on the most significant peace and security issues of our time". 

"The Council's lack of unity on Russia's invasion of Ukraine, and on Israel's military operations in Gaza following the horrific terror attacks by Hamas on 7 October, has severely – perhaps fatally – undermined its authority," he said. 

"The Council needs serious reform to its composition and working methods." 

The United States last week again vetoed a draft UN Security Council resolution blocking a demand for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire in Israel's offensive against Gaza. 

It was the third US veto of a draft resolution since the start of the current fighting on Oct. 7. 

An estimated 1.5 million Gazans are crammed in tents and other makeshift shelters in the town of Rafah on the border with Egypt, most of them having fled their homes further north to escape Israel's offensive. 

Guterres, who described Rafah as the core of the humanitarian aid operation in the Palestinian enclave, said a full-scale Israeli assault there would have devastating consequences. 

"An all-out Israeli offensive on the city would not only be terrifying for more than a million Palestinian civilians sheltering there; it would put the final nail in the coffin of our aid programs." 

The flow of aid entering Gaza from Egypt has dwindled, and a collapse in security has made it increasingly difficult to distribute the food that does get through, according to UN data and officials.