Top News: Islamist political parties form electoral alliance

Islamists in Tahrir.jpg

 Seven Islamist political parties have launched the Umma Alliance (Nation Alliance) announcing their collaboration to protect the "achievements of the January 25 Revolution" and stand against those who interrupt the "constitutional path that allows people to choose their ruler." 


Presidential source: Morsi to call for new national dialogue
President Mohamed Morsi will soon call for national dialogue with all political groups to discuss developments in the country and recently postponed parliamentary elections. The source did not mention a specific date for the dialogue. Morsi is sending an envoy to the leaders of the National Salvation Front opposition bloc in an effort to persuade them to attend national dialogue sessions, a presidential source said. He also plans to send a second aide to meet with a number of political youth movements with the aim of setting a timetable for holding meetings with the presidency. President Morsi "doesn’t mind" appointing a new cabinet, the same source went on, as long as it "enjoys consensus" and receives guarantees from the opposition that the current political situation would stabilise once new ministers were sworn in. [Egypt Independent, Ahram Online, 3/10/2013]

Islamist political parties form electoral alliance
Seven Islamist political parties have launched the Umma Alliance (Nation Alliance) announcing their collaboration to protect the "achievements of the January 25 Revolution" and stand against those who interrupt the "constitutional path that allows people to choose their ruler." The parties say in a press conference Saturday that what prompted them to form the alliance is the recent political crises in Egypt and the "clear dangers" triggered by the "police [labour] strike… in what seems like a forced summoning of the army" to take power. The alliance includes the Salafist Raya Party, headed by disqualified presidential candidate Hazem Salah Abu Ismail, the Reform Party, Asala (Authenticity) Party, People’s Party, Islamic Party, Fadila (Virtue) Party and New Labour Party. [Ahram Online, 3/9/2013]

FJP mulls draft law granting private firms arrest powers
Talks of the Interior Ministry contracting private security companies have created a stir, especially after a leading member of the Freedom and Justice Party called for granting them arrest powers. News reports claimed negotiations are under way between Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim and private security companies to aid the ministry in clamping down on protests and widespread unrest. Saber Abul Fotouh, head of the FJP labor committee, called for alternative methods to maintain security in the country in light of a recent wave of police strike that saw Central Security Forces close their camps and dozens of police stations close nationwide. Critics, however, argue that the proposals will simply serve to alienate the public and stir up further unrest. [Egypt Independent, Ahram Online, 3/10/2013]

Also of Interest:
Sources: Morsi considering replacing Qandil | Egypt Independent
Egyptian Social Democratic Party to boycott elections | Ahram Online


Public prosecution highlights citizens arrest law
Citizens are empowered by law to arrest those who vandalise public and private property, block roads, and prevent public officials from carrying out their duties among other crimes, the public prosecution said. In a statement given on Sunday by Councillor Hussein Yassin, head of the prosecutor general’s technical office, said that in response to recent violence the prosecution would like to remind citizens that these are all crimes which do not require a judicial warrant for officers to make arrests. At least six men were arrested near the Muslim Brotherhood headquarters in Moqattam on Sunday night by Muslim Brotherhood members alongside the police. Wafd Party spokesman, Abdullah al-Moghazy, said on Sunday that granting citizens the right to arrest suspects gives a political cover to Islamist militias who have a history of violence. Al-Gamaa Al-Islamiya’s Construction and Development Party and the Salafist Nour Party recently announced plans to form ‘security committees’ in several Upper Egyptian cities. [DNE, AP, Ahram Online, Aswat Masriya, 3/10/2013]

Interior minister summoned over Port Said deaths
A judge decided Sunday to summon Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim on 17 March to hear testimony on violence that has taken place in Port Said since January between protesters and police that has claimed the lives of 42 people. Judge Abdel Aziz Shaheen, an investigating judge, also decided to summon the deputy security chief for service affairs on 18 March, and the Port Said east and west prison chiefs on 19 March. Shaheen also decided to check records on the arming of police and number of troops in Port Said during the incidents, as well as their places of deployment and commanders’ names for each location they were deployed. He also ordered investigations of the General Security Directorate and the National Security Office. [Egypt Independent, Aswat Masriya, 3/10/2013]

Also of Interest:
Port Said case verdict: Summary | Ahram Online
Prosecution forms committee to draft report on activist’s death | Egypt Independent
Forensic Medicine head: Gendy death not accident | Egypt Independent
Egypt court halts YouTube ban | Ahram Online


Egypt comes in last on WEF’s safety and security index
Egypt has fallen to the lowest rank out of 140 countries evaluated in terms of safety and security just behind Pakistan, Chad and Yemen, in the World Economic Forum (WEF)’s Travel and Tourism (T&T) Competitiveness index, released last week. Egypt’s overall rank in terms of T&T competitiveness stood at 85 – falling ten spots since 2011 – due to recent political turmoil. According to the index, Egypt has fallen to tenth place in terms of T&T competitiveness on the list of 15 Middle East and North Africa (MENA) countries. Security fears have adversely affected Egypt’s tourism sector in recent months, especially since the second anniversary of the 25 January 2011 revolution, which has been followed by months of anti-government protests. [Ahram Online, 3/10/2013]

Inflation hits highest levels in more than two years
The Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics (CAPMAS) has announced that the annual inflation rate increased during February by 2.8 percent to 8.7 percent (132.8 points), reaching its highest monthly rate since September 2010. CAPMAS head Major General Abu Bakr al-Guindy said Sunday that foreign exchange rates, especially with the Egyptian pound against the US dollar, caused price hikes across all sectors in February. EFG-Hermes economist Mohamed Abu Basha said inflation may accelerate yet further as President Mohamed Morsi struggles with the wave of violence. "It could rise more given the ongoing unrest and huge losses in the value of the Egyptian pound of around 10 percent … since the start of the year," he told Reuters. Abu Basha also cited higher prices of low-octane fuel used by bakeries and trucks that deliver goods "which usually have a direct impact on the prices of food and other products". [AP/Egypt Independent, Reuters, 3/10/2013]

Minister: Egypt does not need IMF bridging funding
Egypt does not need bridging financing as offered by the International Monetary Fund to some countries, but rather broad structural measures to tackle its budget deficit, Planning and International Cooperation Minister Ashraf al-Araby said Sunday. With its dollar reserves falling to critically low levels and deficit soaring, the government says it wants to reopen stalled negotiations for a US$4.8 billion loan from the IMF. "The cure for the budget deficit needs broad structural measures and the help we are requesting from the IMF is not quick fixes," Araby told a news conference. Former presidential candidate and prominent human rights lawyer, Khaled Ali, warned on Sunday from the repercussions of responding to the conditions of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) which entail raising the prices of energy. [AFP/Egypt Independent, Reuters, Aswat Masriya, 3/11/2013]

Also of Interest:
Lack of security, monitoring to blame for fuel shortage: Minister | Egypt Independent
Microbus driver strikes in Cairo partially contained | Ahram Online
Diesel shortage revives black market in Egypt | Aswat Masriya
EGAS in bid to import gas ahead of summer | Egypt Independent


Interior minister decries rumors, media attacks on police
Egyptian Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim slammed acts of vandalism that followed the announcement of Saturday’s Port Said court ruling, asserting at a Sunday press conference that police had not fired a single bullet since the second anniversary of the 25 January 2011 revolution. He also decried what he called as continuous rumors and media attacks against police services, saying his officers have been working under severe pressure and have been unable to respond to assaults. Ibrahim said his ministry has nothing to do with regime-opposition conflicts and added that it is only carrying on its security duties. He called on political groups to withdraw protesters from the streets so security forces can recognize “thugs and saboteurs.” [Ahram Online, Egypt Independent, DNE, 3/10/2013]

FJP demands cleansing the police
The time has come for cleansing the police, said Murad Ali, media adviser to the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party. Police nationwide have gone on strike, saying they are under-equipped to deal with protests and violent clashes. “Those who want to get paid a salary from the sustenance of the people and do not protect them have no place among us,” said Ali. “They either straighten out or get dismissed.” In a statement posted on his party’s Facebook page Sunday, Ali said the police strike is not the reason behind the lack of security, and there has been a security void for two years that has not been addressed. [Egypt Independent, Aswat Masriya, 3/10/2013]

Police strike leaves ministry on shaky ground
Discontent in Egypt’s police ranks has boiled over into an unprecedented strike, with officers saying they will refuse orders until they are no longer used as political pawns, adding to the problems of President Mohamed Morsi. Accused of excessive use of force by the opponents of Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood, police officers say they feel despised by the people when they are simply following orders — and they will not take any more. "We are suspending our work indefinitely because we refuse to take responsibility for the mistakes of a government that wants to get involved in political conflicts," police Colonel Hassan Mostafa told AFP in Port Said. [AFP/Egypt Independent, 3/10/2013]

Also of Interest:
Bearded policemen remain at loggerheads with Interior Ministry | Egypt Independent
Al-Gamaa Al-Islamiya political wing denies seeking to replace police | Ahram Online


Port Said, Mahalla sees relative calm after contentious verdict but protests continue  
A day after an Egyptian court confirmed the death sentences of 21 Port Said civilians found guilty of causing Egypt’s worst sporting disaster, Port Said remains relatively calm – in stark contrast with the past fortnight, which saw dozens killed. Egyptian protesters torched buildings in Cairo and tried unsuccessfully to disrupt international shipping on the Suez Canal. Despite relative calm in Port Said following the verdict, two deaths marked clashes in Cairo on Saturday. Protesters and police faced off on Qasr Al-Nile Bridge and the Corniche near Garden City, where the two sides threw stones, as police fired teargas and birdshot. The Downtown Cairo clashes are not thought to have been directly related to the Ultras demonstration, and follow a pattern that has developed in the in recent weeks. Several governorates witnessed clashes Sunday between police and protesters who are calling for civil disobedience in protest against the policies of President Mohamed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood. [Ahram Online, Egypt Independent, Reuters, DNE, 3/10/2013]

Violence against activists becomes more systematic
Reports released by human rights organizations over the past months say that the targeting of activists and deliberate murder of civilians inside and outside detention facilities have been on the rise since President Mohamed Morsi was elected in June. What’s more, the mounting number of cases seems to point to a systematic targeting of low-profile activists, and even bystanders. Al-Nadeem Center for Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence released a report in October stating that 11 cases of targeted abduction and torture had been documented during the first six months of Morsi’s rule. It also said many of its female activists have received obscene messages and threats in the past weeks through various means of communication, whether on the center’s hotline, email or personal and official Facebook accounts. [Egypt Independent, DNE, 3/11/2013]

Also of Interest:
Brotherhood calls for halt to protests | Ahram Online
Clashes and debate ahead of student union elections | DNE


US grants Egypt $ 190 million to support economic reform
Egypt signed on Sunday an agreement with the government of the United States for a grant worth $ 190 million, according to the official page of Prime Minister Hisham Kandil. "The grant aims at supporting the national program for economic and financial reform," said a statement on Kandil’s page. During his visit to Egypt earlier in March, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said that the United States will provide Egypt with $ 190 million to support the government budget. [Aswat Masriya, 3/10/2013]

Qatar says no more aid to Egypt for now
Qatar does not expect to give further financial aid to Egypt in the immediate term, Qatari Finance Minister Youssef Kamal said on Monday. "We already announced 3 billion pounds ($5 billion)," Kamal told Reuters, when asked how much aid Qatar had provided Egypt to date. Asked whether Qatar expected to provide more, he replied: "Not yet." He did not elaborate. Qatar has been a key source of foreign aid to Egypt since its 2011 revolution through soft loans and deposits in Cairo’s central bank. [Reuters, Egypt Independent, 3/11/2013]

Protest at Libya’s embassy in Cairo over death of Copt in Benghazi
The Coptic Youth Front has called for a protest on Monday in front of the Libyan embassy in Cairo protesting the death of Ezzat Hakim, an Egyptian Copt declared dead after allegedly being tortured by security in a prison in Benghazi. Hakim was one of a hundred Egyptian Copts arrested last February after a group of Salafist Muslims raided a church in Benghazi accusing them of allegedly spreading Christianity in Libya. In an interview with Al-Ahram Arabic news website on Sunday, Hakim’s brother said that he had been detained and tortured for almost a month; no one had helped him, including the Coptic Orthdox Church. [Ahram Online, AP, 3/11/2013]

Also of Interest:
Egypt seeks enhancing cooperation with EU on human rights | SIS
Egyptian delegation to UN status of women commission criticised | Egypt Independent, SIS, DNE

Photo: Hossam Hamalawy

Image: Islamists%20in%20Tahrir.jpg