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Iran’s presidential candidates clash amid disqualification row | Elections News



Tehran, Iran – Seven candidates qualified to run in Iran’s June 18 presidential election have gone head-to-head in a televised debate, as controversy over the disqualification of other hopefuls persists.

Saturday’s three-hour event focused on the economy, which has taken a big hit in the past three years under United States sanctions and is characterised by rampant inflation and high unemployment. Two more debates are due to be held on Tuesday and next Saturday.

The first session was held without any moderation. Instead, the state television presenter picked out numbered balls from glass containers indicating what randomly selected question was to be asked to which candidate, who then had three minutes to offer their response.

But much of the debate was spent almost completely ignoring the questions – from tax evasion to budget deficit management to big bank debtors – as candidates attacked each other and discussed work they deemed is necessary to shore up the economy.

In the second round, each candidate – seated six feet apart behind podiums – was given four minutes to defend themselves against others. This was followed by participants laying out their economic plans in more detail during four-minute speeches. Their microphones were cut off the second their time ran out.


Judiciary chief Ebrahim Raisi, who is considered to be by far the frontrunner in the upcoming polls, seemed to be at the centre of attention.

Technocrat former central bank chief Abdolnasser Hemmati and reformist former vice president Mohsen Mehralizadeh were the only ones to criticise conservative Raisi.

The remaining four conservative and hardline candidates – senior security official Saeed Jalili; secretary of the Expediency Council, Mohsen Rezaei; and lawmakers Alireza Zakani and Amir Hossein Ghazizadeh Hashemi – did not take issue with Raisi, instead attacking their reformist opponents and the current government.

This led to Hemmati claiming that other candidates are only covering for Raisi, an allegation they strongly rejected.

‘Restless position syndrome’

Mehralizadeh said he respected Raisi’s studies in the seminaries, but argued he was not well-equipped to run a country of more than 82 million people as he had completed only six grades of traditional education and had zero executive economic leadership experience.

He also joked that Raisi was suffering from “acute restless position syndrome” as he transitioned from spending most of his career as a judge to becoming the head of the powerful Astan Quds Razavi religious organisation in Mashhad, running unsuccessfully for president in 2017 and then becoming judiciary chief in 2019.

“What guarantee is there that you won’t abandon the president’s office for a higher one?” Mehralizadeh asked, alluding to widespread assumptions that Raisi will become the next supreme leader when 82-year-old Ayatollah Ali Khamenei passes away.

In response, Raisi said criticising him would not solve the country’s problems. He said he had zero ambition for position and power, adding he was only answering public calls.

Meanwhile, Hemmati, who had said he wished to represent the “silent majority” of Iranians in the election and has tried to distance himself from the economic legacy of outgoing President Hassan Rouhani, constantly came under attack by opponents who tried to portray him as part of the problem in relation to the country’s economic woes.

A printing house worker prepares presidential election posters in Tehran, Iran [Majid Asgaripour/WANA/REUTERS]

Taking out a rial banknote, four-time presidential candidate Rezaei said he knew from decades ago that the embattled national currency would be significantly devalued. He called the Rouhani administration one of the worst since the 1979 revolution, and said “the train of the revolution has turned into a scooter”.

The former commander-in-chief of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), who was criticised by Hemmati for previously suggesting Iran could earn money by taking American citizens hostage, directly threatened the former central banker with prosecution and jail for his role in the handling of the economy. This led Hemmati to ask judiciary chief Raisi to guarantee he would not go to jail.

Hemmati also criticised Rezaei and other hardliners for stalling remaining bills to complete Iran’s financial transparency action plan with the Financial Action Task Force, and said he was sorry that many Iranians, especially women, had no representative among the presidential candidates.

Supreme leader defied on disqualifications

The bickering among candidates came a day after Khamenei said the constitutional vetting body known as the Guardian Council – six members of which are directly appointed by him with the other six appointed by the judiciary chief – made an error in assessing candidates.

Without naming candidates, the supreme leader said a number of them were “wronged” and disqualified based on false information and “demanded” that corrections be made.

During a live TV speech on June 4, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei urged voters to turn out for this month’s presidential election [KHAMENEI.IR /AFP]

He was apparently referring to Ali Larijani, a three-time former parliament speaker and his current adviser, who could have been Raisi’s top competitor had he not been disqualified.

Sadeq Amoli Larijani, the disqualified candidate’s brother and a Guardian Council member, said in a statement that he had never found the body so “indefensible” in his 20 years there, and said intelligence agencies contributed to his brother’s disqualification by offering up false reports.

Hours after Khamenei’s speech, the council released a statement in which it said it would not change its votes – in essence disobeying a direct order by the supreme leader in an unprecedented move.

First Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri and a wide range of other reformist and pragmatist candidates were also disqualified by the council, leading to criticism that non-conservative hopefuls were purged.

Voter turnout is expected to be low in the face of widespread public disillusionment due to economic and social woes.

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Man Who Burnt Family Alive Arrested




A 45-year-old man in Rubanda district who allegedly locked his family in the house and set it ablaze has been arrested.

The suspect, Vian Armstrong over the weekend killed his wife and three children when the locked them in their house and torched it.

The incident happened in Habutobere Village, in in Muko sub county on Saturday night at around 10.30pm.

Police identified the deceased as Lovinah Muheki, 43, Edwin Tumworobere, 17, Westlife Akampumuriza, 15, and Mariakura Ekinamushabire, 5.

Locals told police that the couple had had long standing wrangles which prompted the man to marry a second wife.

On Saturday evening, the suspect was seen at a fuel station buying petrol. When he reached home, he locked the family inside the house and set it ablaze.

He also went to his immediate neighbor and hammered the doors shut to prevent them from coming to rescue his family.

Elly Maate the Kigezi regional Police spokesman says Armstrong he was arrested on Monday morning after he called a bodaboda cyclist to help him escape to another area.

The bodaboda cyclist informed the Police, who sent in a detective disguised as a bodaboda rider to the agreed pick up point, where the suspect was arrested.

“As security we applauded the bodaboda cyclist for working together with Police to have Armstrong arrested. We have him at Rubanda central police station as investigations carry on,” Maate said

The post Man Who Burnt Family Alive Arrested first appeared on ChimpReports.

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Judiciary’s former PS Kagole Kivumbi dies




RIP: Kagole Kivumbi appearing before MPs earlier

RIP: Kagole Kivumbi appearing before MPs earlier

The former permanent secretary to the Judiciary, Expedito Kagole Kivumbi is dead. A statement from the Judiciary senior communications officer, Solomon Muyita, shows that Kivumbi died on Sunday evening at Le Memorial Medical Services at Kitiko-Lubowa Kigo road where he was admitted a week ago.

“The Judiciary is working closely with the family to coordinate the funeral arrangements and they will be communicated subsequently,” wrote Muyita.

Asked what could have killed the deceased, Muyita said that he was not sure, but hastened to add that he had been briefed that he had breathing complications for the last seven days.

Muyita described the late Kagole as hardworking. “He was a hardworking person and quite passionate about work. He streamlined systems in the Judiciary. During his time, he would report to work on time and you could not hear that this or that has delayed or it is not there. He made several reforms we will greatly miss him,” Muyita said on phone.

The head of Public Service John Mitala sent Kagole on forced leave on July 26, 2019 for alleged mismanagement of more than Shs 34 billion. The decision to send him on forced leave stemmed from the Auditor General’s report on Judiciary for the financial year ending June 30 2019, indicating that the money in question was spent on various items without following proper procedures.

On December 15, 2020, the head of the High court civil division, justice Musa Ssekaana quashed Kagole’s forced leave, saying that it was illegal. It followed a successful application filed by his lawyer, Paul Mukiibi against the Attorney General where he argued that the law provides that one has to be interdicted for a few months to pave way for investigations, saying the law doesn’t provide for the forced leave.

Ssekaana agreed with the applicant, saying Kagole’s forced leave ought to have had a timeline arguing that the indefinite forced leave was illegal and unreasonable. According to the Judiciary PRO Jameson Karemani, the process was yet to be concluded before Kagole resume work. Pius Bigirimana was earlier transferred from the Gender ministry to replace Kagole.

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Israel: Bennett’s win and Netanyahu’s ‘dangerous’ defeat | Benjamin Netanyahu News




With a vote in favour of a new coalition led by Naftali Bennett, the Israeli parliament ushered in the end of an era.

After 12 years, Benjamin Netanyahu finds himself in the opposition.

However, questions over the new government’s fragility remain. The same applies to Netanyahu, who is unlikely to merely disappear into irrelevance, even though he will have to balance his aspirations for a return and his legal issues simultaneously.

The margin for error was rather narrow, but the new coalition obtained the required votes. Sixty of the 120 Knesset members voted in favour of the new government (one abstained), led by Bennett from the Yamina party and Yair Lapid from Yesh Atid.

According to the coalition agreement, which includes rotation of the prime minister post, Bennett will remain in office until August 2023 before Lapid succeeds.

The new government consists of eight parties, which range from the left to the far right. In addition, for the first time a Palestinian party, the United Arab List (Hebrew acronym Ra’am), is also a member of a government coalition.

The ideological differences are accordingly enormous in the new government, which primarily came together for one reason, Yaniv Voller, senior lecturer in Politics of the Middle East at the University of Kent, told Al Jazeera.

“The coalition was born for one main purpose – to bring Netanyahu’s rule to an end. Members of the coalition share one thing in common: the belief that Netanyahu has corrupted Israel’s political system,” said Voller.

However, with only one purpose in common, future disagreements appear inevitable. “Otherwise, this is a very loose coalition of different ideologies that at one point are bound to clash with each other,” he added.

‘Healing government’?

This raises the obvious question of how the coalition aims to overcome its ideological differences, particularly considering that Bennett leans further to the right on various issues than his predecessor.

Voller said he believes that on specific issues, progress could nonetheless be made.

“Leaders of the coalition parties have described this as a ‘healing government’, whose main goal is to cure the country of Netanyahu’s divisive policies. At least in the first few months, they will more likely focus on issues that there is less controversy surrounding them – restoring public trust in state institutions; mending relations between the government and the Supreme Court; dealing with the rising crime rates in Arab society; dealing with the post-pandemic economic crisis.”

However, in other areas, the apparent diametrically opposed views could become a critical encumbrance.

“When it comes to the more controversial issues, especially concerning the conflict with the Palestinians, I believe that they will have to reach a de facto understanding. Perhaps greater freedom of voting, assuming that on such issues Likud [party] would have no choice but supporting the coalition’s right-wing,” said Voller, adding that the latter is highly speculative at this stage.

In his speech on Sunday, Bennett confirmed his proclivity for unity in lieu of division as he is acutely aware that compromises from all parties involved are required to be successful.

Addressing the conflict with Hamas and relations with the Palestinian Authority will hence be far from being a priority for now.

“I estimate that at least in its first months, the new government will try to sideline the conflict, to deal with domestic issues and de-escalate tensions within Israel, and to delay the unavoidable clash within the coalition,” said Voller.

He sees two scenarios in particular that could make or break the fragile coalition regarding this topic.

“One scenario is that Bennet, to prove that he is not a puppet of his left-wing partners, will advance a more hardline approach toward the Palestinian question, and particularly the settlement question.”

“A more optimistic scenario is one in which the coalition, to preserve some stability, will simply try to maintain the existing status quo and avoid actions that lead to escalation,” said Voller.

However, a paradigm shift towards lasting peace will remain inconceivable, Voller predicted. “I do not see this government signing a conclusive peace agreement with the Palestinians.”

‘Netanyahu’s ploys’

After 12 years of Netanyahu and four elections in two years, Israelis will now hope for some degree of stability within its government. However, past years have shown that one should not have high expectations, and the new coalition will not change this sentiment, Voller argued.

“The coalition is mainly preoccupied with avoiding going for another round of elections. In the short-term, success would be surviving for at least a year or two, stabilising the economy, and avoiding another round of fighting.”

Considering how the previous coalition ended along with the rotation agreement that was in place between Netanyahu and Benny Gantz, leader of the Blue and White party, sceptics could argue that Bennett, a protegee of Netanyahu, may attempt a similar move to avoid a rotation after two years in office.

However, Voller said that Bennett will not utilise such measures.

“Bennett has striven to portray himself as the opposite to Netanyahu, that is, as an honest politician, technocratic in nature, and committed to clean politics. Therefore, I doubt it that Bennett will resort to adopting Netanyahu’s ploys.”

Nonetheless, Bennett has other options at his disposal.

“If Bennett senses that the partnership is not working, he will dissolve the government and go for elections. Nevertheless, he will try to avoid this step as much as possible, for the sake of preserving political stability,” said Voller.

‘Seduce possible defectors’

Bennett’s success is Netanyahu’s defeat. No one ruled Israel’s fate longer than the man sometimes described as “King Bibi.”

To the final minutes, Netanyahu tried to prevent the formation of the government by accusing Bennett of election fraud and attempted to pressure Knesset members into defection – without success. In his speech on Sunday, Netanyahu said he was ready to go into the opposition until he could end this “dangerous government”.

He emphasised that he had returned from the opposition once before. However, whether he can facilitate yet another return is far from certain, said Simon Mabon, professor of International Politics at Lancaster University.

“The formation of a new government after such a long period of political and electoral instability suggests that the Israeli public has, on the whole, had enough of Netanyahu’s politics and vision for the future,” Mabon told Al Jazeera.

Nonetheless, Netanyahu’s track record suggests that one must not underestimate his talent to remain omnipresent, either.

“His survival across a tumultuous period in Israeli politics is a testament to his political acumen and a reflection of how popular his right-wing world view continues to be amongst some of the Israeli electorates,” said Mabon.

Netanyahu will hence not be a silent opposition. While his tactics to stop the coalition from taking power failed, he will continue to make attempts at sabotage, Mabon said.

“His quest to bring down the government plays out by trying to disrupt the fragile coalition between unlikely allies. In part, this comes through efforts to seduce possible defectors to the Likud way of thinking.”

One has thus not yet seen the political end of Benjamin Netanyahu. “King Bibi will continue to fight – his quest for power and ego points to that,” said Mabon.

‘Most dangerous potential’

However, with his departure, avoiding legal charges will be more challenging. As Mabon pointed out, the possibility of obtaining immunity from the Knesset and further delaying his corruption trial have now become unfavourable.

“There is precedent for erstwhile political leaders to be imprisoned after leaving office, after all,” said Mabon, referring to Ehud Olmert, who, after having served as Israel’s prime minister, was sentenced to prison for accepting bribes and obstruction of justice.

The trial against Netanyahu has already commenced, yet the court is far from a concluding stage, Amos Hacmun, partner at Tel Aviv-based Heskia-Hacmun Law Firm, told Al Jazeera.

“The trial against Netanyahu is currently in the phase where the prosecution presents its evidence, and its witnesses are subjected to cross-examination by the defence attorneys. The witnesses’ testimonies just started so that there are many more testimonies to collect before it will be concluded and the defence will have its turn to present its witnesses.”

Netanyahu has been indicted on three cases, known as 1000, 2000 and 4000, accusing him of bribery, fraud and breach of trust and involve accepting gifts in return for political favours.

Case 4000, in particular, could be serious for Netanyahu, said Hacmun.

“Being accused in any of those cases is dangerous. However, Case 4000 is probably the one with the most dangerous potential since beyond the criminal behaviour of which Netanyahu is accused, in Case 4000, the amounts involved and the extent of abuse of public resources seems to be by far more than the other cases.”

Whether or not Netanyahu could face jail remains nonetheless unclear at this stage.

“There are tonnes of evidence and endless hours of testimonies that need to be considered before one can deliver a serious opinion as to the expected result of the trial. However, if the trial will end in a conviction, then it would be more realistic to expect a sentence that includes jail time than not,” said Hacmun.

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