Top News: Egypt’s Army Chief Sisi Seen Edging Closer to Presidential Bid

In Egypt, it no longer appears to be a question of if, but when army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi will declare his candidacy for president. For the second time in three days, local media reported on Monday that Sisi had finally made up his mind. 


Egypt’s army chief Sisi seen edging closer to presidential bid
In Egypt, it no longer appears to be a question of if, but when army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi will declare his candidacy for president. For the second time in three days, local media reported on Monday that Sisi had finally made up his mind. Speaking to Reuters on condition of anonymity, an official in the security services said Sisi was “most likely going to announce that he will run for the presidency”, adding: “The army in a recent meeting expressed its support for him to run.” Sources now say that the general is preparing a political platform that focuses on economic issues. Citing a number of political sources, the privately owned Al-Shorouk newspaper reports that Sisi is reading up on economic issues and has brought together experts to form several working groups. Responding to a local TV report saying Sisi would run, the army issued a statement on Saturday saying the military did not make declarations via anonymous sources and urging the media to show professionalism in its reporting. [Reuters, Mada Masr, 1/7/2014]

Also of interest:
President Mansour says Egypt will remain steadfast in combating terrorism | SIS, Tahrir (Arabic)
Strong Egypt condemns presidential decision to ease voting restrictions | Aswat Masriya (Arabic)
Ministry of Endowments warns against abusing its name for party purposes | Shorouk (Arabic)


Democracy International sends team to Egypt to observe constitutional referendum
US-based Democracy International will send a delegation to Egypt this month to observe the country’s constitutional referendum. The team, which will consist of eighty international observers, will be spread out in Egypt’s twenty-three governorates to monitor the voting process on the new constitution and the counting of ballots. The group is made up of elections experts and political and development experts from ten countries. The mission, which will account as the largest international observation team to watch the constitutional referendum, will be sent in response to an invitation from Egypt’s High Electoral Commission. [Aswat Masriya, Ahram Gate (Arabic), 1/7/2014]

Eight activists investigated for 2011 state security raid
Prosecutor-General Hisham Barakat accepted a complaint filed by attorney Essam Qandil and ordered the Cairo appeals prosecution to begin investigating eight activists on Monday. The complaint accused the activists of raiding the state security building, stealing documents among other accusations. The accused individuals include activist Mustafa al-Naggar, detained founder of April 6, Ahmed Maher, April 6 member and founder Abdel Rahman Ezz, Abdel Rahman Yusuf al-Qaradawi, Asmaa Mahfouz, and Mohamed Adel, among others. Members of April 6 are accused of raiding the state security building in 2011. Alleged leaked phone calls by the accused individuals, which were aired on television channel Al-Qahera Wal-Nas, serve as the primary evidence in the investigation. [DNE, 1/7/2014]

Also of Interest:
Abu Ismail trial postponed to April 5 | DNE
Morsi’s nephew faces trial for attempted murder | Mada Masr
Damietta prosecution investigates Freedom and Justice Party lawyer | Ahram Gate (Arabic)
The lawyers guild has not sent the name of Morsi’s defense until now | AMAY (Arabic)


Size of second Egypt stimulus to be determined
Momtaz al-Saeed, a member of the National Investment Bank, affirmed that the value of the second stimulus package has yet to be determined. There are two opinions about the second package, according to Saeed. The first is to make it worth EGP 30 billion, divided between EGP 20 billion as investment and EGP 10 billion to fund the minimum wage. The second opinion is to make the package worth EGP 20 billion, divided equally between investments and minimum wages. [Egypt Independent, 1/7/2014]

New minimum wage costs and allocations announced
The Ministry of Finance announced that 4.83 million workers will benefit from the new minimum wage, including about 1.55 million teachers and 46,400 medical personnel. The implementation of minimum wages for all other employees will cost a total of EGP 10 billion per year, in addition to a further EGP 6.20 and 1.77 billion per year for public sector teachers and employees at Al-Azhar University respectively. So far, the minimum wage only applies to the public sector, with no agreement yet with the private sector. Public workers comprise less than a quarter of the workforce. [DNE, 1/7/2014]

Also of Interest:
Stock market loses EGP 2 billion | Egypt Independent
Fourteen firms selected to compete for Suez Canal project | Mada Masr
Finance Ministry wants to formalize informal sector, but not clear how | Mada Masr
Egypt’s foreign reserve down by US$700 million in December | Egypt Independent
Egypt relaxes controls on Forex transfers | DNE
Trade deficit drops 33 percent in September 2013: CAPMAS | Ahram Online


Clashes continue at pro-Morsi protests a day before the Morsi trial resumes
Police in Giza’s Mohandiseen dispersed Tuesday a demonstration by supporters of deposed president Mohamed Morsi after clashes erupted between the two sides. Security forces fired tear gas at protesters after the latter reportedly set tires on fire and hurled stones at them, according to Al-Ahram‘s Arabic news website. On Monday, confrontations between pro-Muslim Brotherhood and pro-army students erupted where both sides chanted slogans against each other. The confrontations escalated with both sides hurling stones and using light weapons but the university guards quickly dispersed the clashes. Limited clashes were also seen between pro-Morsi protesters and security forces in Tanta, while in the Cairo suburb of Maadi, state daily Al-Ahram reported that pro-Morsi protesters set fire to a police car. The pro-Morsi National Alliance to Support Legitimacy has continued to push for protests, with renewed calls for protest on Wednesday, under the banner, “In Defense of the President,” coinciding with the second session in the Morsi trial, where he faces charges of killing protesters outside Cairo’s Ittihadiya presidential palace last December. Minister of Interior Mohamed Ibrahim, however, warned against rallies on the day of the trial, saying that police would deal “decisively” with any attempts to impede the trial. [Ahram Online, Tahrir (Arabic), Aswat Masriya, EGYNews (Arabic), Ahram Gate (Arabic), Aswat Masriya (Arabic), 1/7/2013]

Carter Center calls for Egypt to end crackdown on opponents
The US-based Carter Center says it is concerned about the political climate surrounding the upcoming constitutional referendum, referring to political polarization, a narrowed political space and the lack of an inclusive process in a statement released on Monday. “To increase the credibility of this process, the center recommends that Egyptian authorities reverse the crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood and other opposition activists and rescind the recently enacted protest law that severely restricts public gatherings and rallies, including for electoral campaigning,” the statement said. The center also called for the lifting of restrictions on Islamist media and the excessive use of violence by police. At the same it, it called on Egyptians to “refrain from acts of violence, incitement and intimidation.” With regards to the referendum on the constitution, the Carter Center called on the government to release transparent information about results and campaigning rules, as well as any planned responses should the referendum vote fail to pass by a majority. It also called for full access to the electoral process for all Egyptian observer groups and parties. The center will not be monitoring the overall process during the referendum, January 14 and 15, but is sending a small expert mission of 10 observers that will focus on broader legal and political issues surrounding the polls. [Mada Masr, Aswat Masriya (Arabic), 1/7/2014]

Also of Interest:
Dozens protest outside Qatari embassy calling for expulsion of ambassador | Egypt Independent, Ahram Online, Aswat Masriya (Arabic), AMAY (Arabic)
Egypt seizes hoard of antiquities | Ahram Online
Salafi Da’awa’s Borhamy says congratulating Copts on their festivals “haram” | Egypt Independent
Brotherhood students block road in front of Ain Shams University | Egypt Independent
Tanta Flax workers go on strike | Mada Masr
King Sobekhotep I Tomb discovered in Sohag | SIS
Egypt says Shia denied entry due to lack of visas | EGYNews (Arabic)
Five Brotherhood stores attacked in Damietta | EGYNews (Arabic)
Christmas mass in Egypt: All Eyes on Tomorrow | Ahram Online


Forty Brotherhood members arrested in Egypt for allegedly attacking police stations
On Tuesday, police arrested forty suspects affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood for allegedly attacking police stations and inciting violence in Cairo, Giza, Gharbiya and Fayoum. Twenty eight suspects in Cairo and two in Gharbiya were arrested for allegedly distributing flyers that incite violence, chaos, and hampering public interests. In Giza, a 30-year-old suspect was arrested in Kerdasa for allegedly attacking a police station, stealing its content, setting it on fire and killing eleven policemen. Nine suspects were arrested in Fayoum for allegedly attacking police stations in the governorate. [Egypt Independent, 1/7/2014]

Also of Interest:
Mass prisoner escape in Delta foiled by police | Mada Masr, EGYNews (Arabic)
Border guards demolish eight tunnels in Rafah | SIS
Fifty-five arrested in connection with the bombing of the military intelligence building in Sharqiya | Shorouk (Arabic)
Cairo airport deports nine Syrians for their opposition to residency conditions | Shorouk (Arabic)


Egypt condemns Iran’s comments on its domestic affairs
Egypt’s Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Khaled Omran summoned on Monday the head of the Iranian affairs mission in Cairo Mujtaba Amani to “fully condemn” recent statements made by representatives from Iran regarding the situation in Egypt. “We reject such statements in form and substance,” Omran said, according to an official statement released by the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. “They indicate that either the Iranian side is not aware of the true situation in Egypt or they are purposefully remiss.” Badr Abdelatty, Egypt’s foreign ministry spokesman, described Afkham’s comments as “an intervention in Egypt’s domestic affairs.” Egypt’s deputy foreign minister stressed the importance of respecting states’ sovereignty and the decisions of their people, pointing out that “Egypt does not intervene in Iran’s domestic affairs.” [DNE, 1/7/2014]

Also of Interest:
Abbas meets Egyptian Ambassador | DNE
Foreign Ministry spokesman: Halayeb, Shalateen 100 percent Egyptian | SIS, EGYNews (Arabic)
Rafah crossing to open for two days on Wednesday | EGYNews (Arabic)
Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy visits Algeria | Shorouk (Arabic), DNE
$1.1 trillion US spending bill to include aid to Israel and Egypt | AP
US embassy warns citizens in Cairo on Christmas day | Ahram Online

Image: Photo: Darla Hueske