Top News: Libya Elections Commission to Announce June 25 as Date for New Legislative Elections

The Libyan Revolutionary Operations Room (LROR) has called on “true revolutionaries” serving in the armed forces to quit “temporarily,” according to a statement released this week. The statement called on revolutionaries to obtain the names of terrorists from their commanders, saying that the LROR would be “the head of the spear” dealing with any crimes such as assassinations. In a move seen as a show of support for the brigades in Benghazi that have come under attack by retired General Khalifa Haftar, the statement rejected the renegade general, calling current military operations a “coup.” The LROR stated, however, that it would not participate in any civil war. [Libya Herald, 5/21/2014]



US-Egypt military ties will depend on Egypt’s actions, says US general
The future of US military ties with Egypt will depend on the actions of the future government, the top US military officer said ahead of Egyptian elections next week. “I think we should maintain a relationship with the US military and Egyptian military. I think that that relationship will be affected by their actions and whether they make progress on their political transition,” said General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff. He added, “I think that [the military-military] relationship should largely be defined by our common interests. We have a lot of common interests in particular in countering terror.” Dempsey also said he was confident Egypt would use the sophisticated US weapons for their intended purpose and that Washington would check that they were not used to commit rights abuses. [Reuters, 5/22/2014]

Sisi gets 94.5 percent and Sabahi 5.5 percent in expat vote
Results of the expatriate vote showed former defense minister Abdel Fattah al-Sisi winning with a huge margin of 94.5 percent over 5.5 percent for his Nasserist opponent Hamdeen Sabbahi, the Presidential Electoral Commission (PEC) announced in a press conference on Wednesday. Total valid votes were 318,033, of which 296,628 went to Sisi and 17,207 to Sabbahi. Meanwhile, 41,98 of the voters casted invalid votes. [Aswat Masriya, DNE, SIS, 5/21/2014]

Egypt’s Sisi aims to bring deficit down to 8.5 percent by 2017-18
The leading candidate for Egypt’s new presidency, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, aims to cut the Egyptian budget deficit to 8.5 percent of gross domestic product by the fiscal year ending in June 2018 from last year’s 14 percent, his campaign said on Wednesday. Sisi, who is widely expected to win presidential elections next week, also targets GDP growth of 7 percent by the same fiscal year, a big jump for an economy that grew only about 2 percent in the last fiscal year. [Reuters, 5/21/204]

NCHR requests visit to al-Shamy after receiving petition
The National Council on Human Rights (NCHR) said that it intends to visit two detained hunger strikers on Monday after receiving a letter discussing the deterioration of the prisoners health according to a statement released today. More than one hundred political activists, lawyers, and journalists signed a petition on Wednesday to draw the attention of NCHR to the extreme measures some detainees have resorted to in order to demand their basic rights. The petition addressed the case of two detainees who have maintained a hunger strike for more than one hundred days to protest being held without legal charges. The first is Al Jazeera journalist Abdullah al-Shamy, who has been detained in Egypt nine months. The second detainee, Mohammed Sultan, son of Islamist preacher Salah Sultan, has sustained a hunger strike for 105 days and suffers deteriorating health. [Aswat Masriya (Arabic), 5/22/2014]


Elections commission to announce June 25 as date for new legislative elections
According to a senior official at the Higher National Elections Commission (HNEC), June 25 is confirmed as the date for the House of Representatives election, and a formal announcement is forthcoming. This means the country has five weeks to prepare for elections that will see the General National Congress replaced. Earlier there had been conflicting reports about the date of the vote, and HNEC had itself said that it would be logistically impossible to hold legislative elections before August. [Libya Herald, 5/22/2014]

Libyan renegade general challenges government as clashes rock Tripoli
As part of his continued campaign, retired General Khalifa Haftar called on the government to hand over power to the country’s top judges, mounting a challenge against Tripoli as heavy fighting erupted in the capital. The judicial council is independent and is one of the few state bodies respected by Libyans. Haftar said that the government and legislature had lost legitimacy because they were unable to purge the country of extremists roaming around unchallenged. Culture Minister Habib Amin announced his support for Haftar’s movement, the first government minister to do so. Tripoli residents reported several loud explosions early on Wednesday near the al-Yarmouk air defense barracks after air defense top commander Juma al-Abani released a video message saying he was joining Haftar’s “Operation Dignity” against Islamists. [Reuters, AP, 5/21/2014]

Libyan Revolutionary Operations Room calls on revolutionaries to desert army
The Libyan Revolutionary Operations Room (LROR) has called on “true revolutionaries” serving in the armed forces to quit “temporarily,” according to a statement released this week. The statement called on revolutionaries to obtain the names of terrorists from their commanders, saying that the LROR would be “the head of the spear” dealing with any crimes such as assassinations. In a move seen as a show of support for the brigades in Benghazi that have come under attack by retired General Khalifa Haftar, the statement rejected the renegade general, calling current military operations a “coup.” The LROR stated, however, that it would not participate in any civil war. [Libya Herald, 5/21/2014]

Libya could face sanctions if Saif al-Islam not passed to ICC
Libya lost its final appeal to try Saif al-Islam Qaddafi in the country rather than at the International Criminal Court (ICC). If authorities do not hand Saif al-Islam over to the court, Libya could be on collision course with the United Nations Security Council. Under Article 87 of the Rome Statute, to which Libya is not a signatory, the court could issue a finding of non-cooperation. It would then refer Tripoli to the United Nations Security Council, which under Resolution 1970 had empowered the ICC to investigate Qaddafi-regime officials suspected of war crimes and crimes against humanity. The Security Council could impose a range of penalties, including sanctions. [Libya Herald, 5/21/2014]


Army breaks year-old Aleppo prison siege, severs rebel supply line
Syria’s army broke a year-long siege of Aleppo central prison Thursday, cutting off a major rebel supply route. The breakthrough puts the army and its allies, including Lebanon’s Hezbollah, within reach of Castelo Road, which rebels in Aleppo city have relied on as a supply route leading to the countryside as a rear base. The army’s advance in the area around the prison in the north of Aleppo was preceded by aerial assault on Thursday using highly destructive shrapnel-packed barrel bombs. Fighting in the area has killed at least fifty rebels and an unspecified number of pro-regime fighters since Tuesday. [AFP, 5/22/2014]

Despite domestic wheat shortage Damascus moves to export harvest
Syria’s state cereal body launched a tender for a second time this month to sell wheat to neighboring Iraq, as a trader said shipping across the border may be easier than trying to move wheat to Syrian areas suffering shortages. War and drought have cut Syria’s wheat forecast to one-third pre-war levels. “It is unclear the exact reason behind the sale tender in light of the wheat shortage, but the most obvious logistical reason is that it is not easy at all for the government to transport the wheat from places like Hassaka and Deir Ezzor back to Damascus, so this is a way of utilizing it,” a Damascus grain trader said. [Reuters, 5/22/2014]

Syrian al-Qaeda reach foothills of the Golan, setting off alarm in Damascus
Islamist fighters have hoisted the al-Qaeda flag in Tel Ahmar, just a few miles from Israeli forces on the Golan Heights. Last month’s capture of the post was followed by the seizure of the Syrian Army’s 61st Infantry Brigade base near the town of Nawa, one of the biggest rebel gains in the south during the three years of war. The advances expand rebel control close to the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights and the Jordanian border, near Assad’s power base in Damascus. Alongside aerial bombardment, the army dispatched elite troop reinforcements after rebels pulled out of Homs city. The reinforcements reflect Assad’s determination, on the eve of a June 3 presidential election, not to lose control of the towns of the Golan foothills. “The regime has rung alarm bells, fearing that the fall of Nawa and Quneitra could open an axis towards Damascus,” said Brigadier General Assad Zoubi, who defected in early 2012. [Reuters, 5/22/2014]


Arab Spring leads to divergent rating paths for Morocco and Tunisia
Fitch Ratings says in a new report that the divergence in rating dynamics between Morocco (BBB-/Stable) and Tunisia (BB-/Negative) since the start of the Arab Spring in early 2011 reflects different developments arising from the political transition in each country and their impact on economic performance. In Tunisia, the political transition has proved long and difficult with recurrent violence and popular protest. Marked political instability has undermined confidence in the economy and in Tunisia’s ability to reform and finance widening twin deficits. In contrast, Morocco’s transition to a more open political system was smooth. [Reuters, 5/22/2014]

Tunisia arrests Islamists from Libya, says were planning attacks
Tunisia on Wednesday arrested eight Islamists arriving from Libya and said they were planning attacks in Tunisia. The ministry added that the detainees had been trained in explosives and weapons in Libya. With the rise in violence on its border, Tunisia has tightened security in anticipation of possible infiltration of armed groups. Tunisian security forces have been battling militants from the banned Islamist movement Ansar al-Sharia, one of the most hardline groups to emerge after the 2011 ouster of Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali. [Reuters, 5/21/2014]

Voter registration to start as of June 23
The Independent Higher Authority for the Election (ISIE) met Wednesday with Interim Prime Minister Mehdi Jomaa to discuss the final preparations for voter registration. Jomaa was informed, officially, of the date set by the ISIE for the start of the voter registration, June 23. Concerning setting the date of the election and the issue of separation of the legislative and presidential elections, ISIE stated that this issue does not fall within the competence of the organization and expects the National Constituent Assembly to resolve both of these issues. The ISIE’s role is to ensure that the commitment to hold elections before the end of 2014 is fulfilled. [TAP, 5/21/2014]


Hadi talks political participation, economic reform on Unification Day
President Abdrabbo Mansour Hadi addressed the nation on Wednesday evening, ahead of the May 22 Unification Day celebration, commemorating the reunification of north and south Yemen. Separatists in the South, however, celebrated May 21 as Disengagement Day. Hadi called on all parties who had not participated in the National Dialogue Conference to take up political participation to fulfill their national duty. Hadi also announced that he planned to take up economic reforms to address the financial troubles that Yemen is currently confronting, including the shortage of oil derivatives. Due to an attack on power lines on Wednesday night, many Yemenis will spend Unification Day without power. [Al-Masdar (Arabic), 5/21/2014]

Yemen’s Saada to launch dozens of development projects
Yemen is preparing to inaugurate 156 development and service projects in cities across Saada province, as well as lay the foundation stones for thirty-nine others. The move comes to mark the country’s national day, May 22. Financed by the federal and local governments, the projects cover the energy, education, housing, irrigation, agriculture, and health sectors, the defense ministry’s website said. [Al-Shorfa, 5/21/2014]

Ministry of defense is the “epicenter of corruption,” says Islah MP
Abdul Razak al-Hajri, an Islah MP, charged the ministry of defense with being the “epicenter of corruption” during a parliamentary session. The ministry of finance similarly demanded that Defense Minister Major General Mohammad Nasser Ahmed to distribute approximately 9 billion Yemeni rials that his ministry received recently earmarked to the Popular Committees in Abyan and Lahij. The lack of payment for Popular Committees in the south has resulted in the resignation of one prominent Popular Committee leader. The budget for the ministry of defense has jumped from 52 billion rials in 2010 to 73 billion in 2014, while pensions have nearly doubled. Many suspect the rise in pensions is due to the chronic issue of double dippers and ghost names that continue to receive funds. [Mareb Press (Arabic), 5/22/2014]

IDPs in Shabwa in need of urgent aid
The head of the government-run Displaced Relief Committee in Shabwa said that over 21,000 people have left their homes due to the ongoing fighting in the province between the military and al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). The government has yet to assist the internally displaced people (IDPs), relying instead on NGOs. The government promised to contribute money from the operational budgets of public offices in the governorate and from optional contributions from public employees. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) confirmed some numbers, but said information about IDPs in Abyan cannot be verified due to insecurity. It emphasized that the immediate needs are in food, access to health care, support with non-food items, and access to safe water. [Yemen Times, 5/22/2014]


Lebanon presidential election session fails over lack of quorum
The presidential election session failed once again Thursday over lack of quorum. Speaker Nabil Berri said that he would call Parliament into session at any time that a consensus candidate was agreed upon or a quorum of MPs was reached. Around seventy-three lawmakers were present in Thursday’s session. There must be eighty-six MPs present in the chamber before a vote can be held. There was no sign of Hezbollah lawmakers in parliament, and while MP Michel Aoun’s Change and Reform bloc was present in the chamber, its MPs said they would not vote. The lack of quorum is bringing Lebanon ever closer to a presidential vacuum as President Michel Sleiman’s term ends Sunday, after lawmakers have now botched five attempts to elect Sleiman’s successor in less than a month. [The Daily Star, 5/22/2014]

Palestinian unity government to retain PM Hamdallah
Current Palestinian premier Rami Hamdallah is to head the consensus government to be formed under a deal with Hamas to end seven years of rival administrations in the West Bank and Gaza, an official said Thursday. “The government is nearly ready, and Rami Hamdallah will be prime minister,” the official close to the reconciliation negotiations said on condition of anonymity. Hamdallah is the prime minister of the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority. Hamas currently has a rival prime minister in Gaza, Ismail Haniya. [AFP, 5/22/2014]