Top News: Cabinet Approves Draft Presidential Elections Law

During its first meeting, the new cabinet approved the draft law regulating presidential elections after review of the legislation by the State Council.


Mehleb pledges little to calm labor unrest
Seeking to quell months of labor protests over pay and corruption allegations, newly appointed Prime Minister Ibrahim Mehleb visited the country’s largest textile company in the city of Mahalla on Wednesday, promising workers they would receive their overdue bonuses within the week. Mehleb also said the state would provide the 22,000 workers employed at Misr Spinning and Weaving Company with the new minimum wage. However, he also denounced their strikes and called for “a minimum level of productivity.” Aside from reiterating plans to link productivity to pay, Mehleb promised no drastic changes. Filled with nationalistic rhetoric, his speech promised there would be “no room for privatization.” [Mada Masr, 3/5/2014]

Cabinet approves draft presidential elections law
During its first meeting, the new cabinet approved the draft law regulating presidential elections after review of the legislation by the State Council. The cabinet also agreed to amend certain provisions of the Political Rights Law No. 73 of 1956, and refer the amendment to the State Council’s legislative committee to take action in preparation for adoption and approval by interim-President Adly Mansour. The cabinet also approved the use of a computerized mechanism to read national ID cards for potential use in registration and voting in upcoming elections to streamline the process. [EGYNews (Arabic), Aswat Masriya (Arabic), Shorouk (Arabic), 3/6/2014]


Al-Jazeera journalists trial postponed to March 24
Cairo Criminal Court adjourned Wednesday the trial of twenty Al-Jazeera journalists, including four foreigners to March 24, to listen to more witnesses. The defendants will remain in detention. During the session, one defendant, Suhaib Seed, told the court he was subjected to psychological and physical tortured in the national security headquarters while waiting to be questioned by the prosecution. The prosecution refused to document the torture. Egyptian-Canadian journalist Mohamed Fahmy addressed the court, saying he works as a journalist and is from a conservative and patriotic family in Port Said. He appeared with his arm in a sling and asked for the court to release him for treatment for the injury, which he said he suffered before being arrested. Speaking to the BBC’s Arabic channel outside the court, the brother of defendant Peter Greste, Andrew Greste claimed that he has been unable to visit his brother, who is being held in a three-by-four-meter-cell along with his two colleagues. [Ahram Online, AP, 3/5/2014]

Morsi presidential palace trial postponed to March 15
An Egyptian court has adjourned the trial of ousted President Mohamed Morsi and other Muslim Brotherhood leaders, over violent clashes by the presidential palace, to March 15, to respond to Essam al-Erian’s request to change the head judge whom he has accused of conflict of interest. Erian has requested that Judge Ahmed Aboul Fotouh be changed because he expressed his personal views on the trial and the group in a television interview. The Shubra al-Kheima criminal court also postponed the trial of Brotherhood Supreme Guide Mohamed Badie and forty-eight other Brotherhood leaders to March 11 on charges related to inciting violence in Qalyubeya. [Aswat Masriya, Egypt Independent, Mada Masr, Ahram Online, EGYNews (Arabic), 3/6/2014]

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Egypt: Government has spent 40 percent of economic stimulus plan
Egypt’s government has spent 40 percent of the amount allocated for the implementation of its economic stimulus plan, according to Minister of Planning and International Cooperation Ashraf al-Araby. On 10 February, the government announced that it had expended 30 percent of the stimulus package’s first tranche. [DNE, 3/5/2014]

Egyptian finance ministry paid EGP 17 million out of EGP 10 billion for minimum wage
The Ministry of Finance disbursed EGP 17 million of the allocated EGP 10 billion to apply minimum wage until the end of current fiscal year on June 30. The various authorities’ failure to implement the decision to apply minimum wage is attributed to the difficulty in completing the calculations required, as not enough studies took place before the decision was made. [Cairo Post, 3/5/2014]

Also of Interest:

  • Egypt lifts ban on brokerage firms trading foreign stocks | Reuters
  • Egypt stocks up with investors confident on positive news | Ahram Online
  • British companies visit Egypt to study investment prospects | DNE


Gaza-bound activists denied entry to Cairo
Dozens of Gaza-bound female activists have protested at Cairo airport after they were barred from entering the country. Among the participants from the US-based anti-war group Code Pink’s delegation are US, French and Belgian citizens. The delegation of fifty-eight activists arrived in Cairo on Thursday morning from Paris and planned to travel to the blockaded Palestinian enclave through the Egyptian Rafah border crossing, state news agency MENA reported. “Only fifteen of the fifty-eight women have been barred from leaving the airport. Six have left and the others refused to enter the country in solidarity with their banned colleagues,” an airport security official told MENA. At least eleven women later left on flights to Paris, Brussels and Frankfurt after the French consul asked the French nationals to leave, Al-Ahram Arabic news website reported. Al-Ahram also later reported that at least seven women, from Italy and France, have been deported. Hamas condemned Egypt’s stance, saying that it “harms Egypt’s reputation and its people.” Egypt has deported thirteen international activists this week, including Northern Irish Nobel Laureate and peace activist Mairead Maguire, and held up others who had been planning to visit Gaza.  [Ahram Online, Aswat Masriya, AP, Egypt Independent, Mada Masr, Shorouk (Arabic), 3/6/2014]

Also of Interest:

  • NCHR to issue full Raba’a report on March 9 | EGYNews (Arabic)
  • Egyptian footballer suspended and fined over ‘Sisi’ gesture | Ahram Online
  • Al-Azhar calls for banning movie embodying Prophet Noah | Egypt Independent
  • Morsi’s supporters call for fresh protests on Friday | Aswat Masriya (Arabic)
  • Postal workers strike enters eleventh day | Shorouk (Arabic)


Police leader critical of NCHR Raba’a report
Major General Abdel Fattah Othman, Assistant Minister of Interior for Public Relations denied that the ministry had specified twenty-five minutes to break up the sit-in of supporters of toppled President Mohamed Morsi at Raba’a al-Adaweya Square on August 14 last year. Othman added in a phone-in with a program on CBC Channel Wednesday: “The sit-in dispersal plan was clear and we discussed the breakup measures with rights activists in accordance with legal measures.” Salah Salem, a member of Raba’a al-Adaweya fact-finding committee, said the report which was announced by the National Council for Human Rights, on Wednesday, was prepared by a credible and impartial party. [Egypt Independent, 3/6/2014]

Also of Interest:

  • Unidentified assailants set police officer’s car on fire | Egypt Independent
  • 150 arrested on charges related to storming of Kerdasa police station  | SIS


Qatar ‘will not bow to pressure to alter foreign policy’
Qatar will not bow to demands from three Gulf states to alter its foreign policy, sources close to its government said, suggesting Doha is unlikely to abandon support for Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood and Syrian Islamists.”Qatar will not let go of its foreign policy, no matter what the pressures are. This is a matter of principles which we will stick to, no matter the price,” a source close to the Qatari government said. The source also suggested Qatar would not stop its practice of playing host to members of the Muslim Brotherhood, including Youssef al-Qaradawi, an influential Sunni cleric and a vocal critic of authorities in Saudi Arabia and the UAE. [Reuters, 3/6/2014]

Egypt Navy strikes €1 billion tentative agreement for 4 French corvettes: Report
French newspaper La Tribune has revealed that Egyptian Navy Forces have struck a tentative agreement worth €1 billion with French Naval Defence Company DCNS to purchase four Gowind corvettes, three of which will be manufactured in Egypt. According to La Tribune, the four corvettes weigh 2,400 tonnes and are equipped with surface-to-air VL Mica and sea-sea Exocet missiles. [Ahram Online, 3/6/2014]

Also of Interest:

  • Ex-irrigation minister believes Egypt not proactive enough on Ethiopian dam risks | Ahram Online
  • Egypt lobbies Germany to ease travel advisory: minister | Egypt Independent
  • Egypt UN delegation rejects politicization of humanitarian aid to Syria | Shorouk (Arabic)