Top News: NSF Rejects Morsi’s Call to Discuss Transparent Elections Guarantees, Announces Election Boycott

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Egypt’s presidency is planning to hold a national dialogue meeting on Tuesday with a number of political groups to discuss transparency of the upcoming parliamentary elections. Around 60 public figures, among them National Salvation Front members, have called on political parties and movements to announce a collective boycott of the upcoming parliamentary elections.


Poll: Morsi’s popularity makes record low, a third of Egyptians ignorant of NSF
President Mohamed Morsi’s popularity has hit a record low, with approval ratings for his performance dropping to 49 percent this month, down from 53 percent at the end of January and from 78 percent at the end of his first 100 days in office early October, according to a local opinion poll. Just over a third of Egyptians — 35 percent — are ready to reelect Morsi if fresh elections were held immediately, a drop from 39 percent in January and 58 percent in early October. According to the poll, 35 percent of Egyptians have also never heard of the National Salvation Front, the country’s leading opposition coalition. The number is higher in rural areas. Among those who are aware of the NSF, only 35 percent support its policies, while 53 percent oppose them, and 12 percent remain undecided. [Egypt Independent, Baseera (Arabic), 2/26/2013]

Call for election boycott campaign
Around 60 public figures have called on political parties and movements to announce a collective boycott of the upcoming parliamentary elections. They also called on them to launch a public boycott campaign to discredit the upcoming elections. The House of Representatives elections are set to be held over four phases. The first phase starts in April and the last in June. Egypt’s main opposition umbrella group, the National Salvation Front (NSF), has announced it will boycott the upcoming parliamentary elections on the grounds that the elections law under which they are being held is unconstitutional. Former Arab League Chief, Amr Moussa, has said that Egypt’s president has lost his constitutional legitimacy. With Islamist parties including the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party planning nationwide campaigns, boycotts by liberals and leftists will enhance the chances of the Islamists securing a commanding say in the new parliament. [DNE, Reuters, Ahram Online, Aswat Masriya, Ahram (Arabic), EGYNews (Arabic), AMAY (Arabic), 2/26/2013]

Morsi sets meeting to discuss transparent elections guarantees, NSF boycotts meeting
Egypt’s presidency is planning to hold a national dialogue meeting on Tuesday with a number of political groups. The session will be broadcast live on television, will discuss how to ensure the transparency of the upcoming parliamentary elections, due to begin on April 22. The dialogue session will look at propositions put forward by Egypt’s political forces as well as the mechanisms of oversight from local and international NGOs to ensure free and fair voting. Four parties, among them the Construction and Development Party and Amr Khaled’s Egypt Party, have announced their participation in the meeting. Joining the NSF in their rejection of the dialogue are Ayman Nour, the April 6 Movement, and the three Egyptian churches. [DNE, Aswat Masriya, Presidential statement, Ahram Online, Ahram (Arabic), 2/26/2013]

Also of Interest:
Bakkar criticizes “hesitant presidency”| DNE
Qandil tells opposition to stop providing cover for ‘vandals’ | Ahram Online
HEC: Redistributing or increasing parliamentary seats not to affect polls | SIS
Al Watan to contest 100% of the seats in parliamentary elections, enters into alliance with Hazem Abu Ismail | EGYNews (Arabic)


Cabinet orders investigation into balloon crash
Cabinet Spokesperson Alaa al-Hadidi said Tuesday that a technical committee from the Ministry of Civil Aviation has been formed to investigate the crash of a hot-air balloon that killed at least 19 Tuesday morning. Prime Minister Hesham Qandil contacted Luxor Governor Ezzat Saad in an attempt to discern the reason for the crash, while Health Minister Mohamed Mostafa Hamed ordered ambulances dispatched to the scene to take injured passengers to nearby hospitals. At least 19 people were killed after the balloon reportedly exploded and then plummeted nearly 1,000 feet (300 meters) to the ground. [Egypt Independent, Ahram Online, 2/26/2013]

Also of Interest:
Administrative court postpones lawsuit against Morsi to March 21 | EGYNews (Arabic)


Egypt govt announces economic reform measures to clinch IMF loan
The government has revealed 24 new measures as part of an economic reform programme aimed at kick-starting Egypt’s struggling economy, which will be presented to the International Monetary Fund in order to obtain approval of a badly needed $4.8 billion loan.
Ahram Online has obtained a copy of the economic programme, which was drafted following an ‘economic initiative’ conference in late December launched by the Egyptian Cabinet, in cooperation with private-sector representatives and economy experts. Finance Minister al-Mursi Hegazy told reporters a revised economic reform plan would be sent to the parliament within two days, and then to the IMF immediately afterwards. [Ahram Online, Reuters, 2/26/2013]

Bakers threaten strike if govt doesn’t shelve new bread subsidy plan
Bakeries across the nation have threatened to shut down if the government doesn’t reconsider a new subsidization system for bread products. Ministry of Supply and Internal Trade Bassem Ouda proposed the new system, which he says would save the state LE11 billion a year by subsidizing only final bread products, not the costs of grain and flour, thus preventing the sale of raw ingredients on the black market. [Egypt Independent, 2/26/2013]

Also of Interest:
Climate change and water mismanagement parch Egypt | Egypt Independent


Tahrir calm after brief skirmishes between police and protesters
Calm returned to Tahrir Square Tuesday morning after two hours of skirmishes between protesters and police. Police were trying to reopen the square to traffic, and security forces managed to remove protester tents and street vendor stands despite staunch resistance, arresting 65 people. Cars gradually started to flow into the square as protesters moved their sit-in to the central island. However, the Qasr al-Aini and Talaat Harb Street areas remain closed. Egypt Independent, Ahram Online, 2/26/2013]

Egyptian civil society see echoes of past in new law
A law drafted by the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party threatens to stifle Egyptian civil society and takes a cue from the authoritarian ways of ousted leader Hosni Mubarak, rights groups said. The draft law, due to be presented to the Shura Council, places tight restrictions on the funding of non-governmental organizations, a problem which plagued civil society groups in Mubarak’s days. Raising further alarm, civil society groups have pointed to a recent government letter instructing a leading human rights group not to engage with foreign organizations without the permission of the security apparatus. [Reuters/Egypt Independent, 2/26/2013]

Islamists attempt to halt construction on Shubra al-Kheima church
A group of Islamists surround the Abu Maqar Church in Shubra al-Kheima on Monday in an attempt to stop construction on the church’s annex, claiming that the building is not licensed, said sources from the Qalyubiya security department. Security forces were deployed to the area to convince the group to step down and allow work to resume, the sources claimed. Maspero Youth Union member Mina al-Qess said that there have been issues with local Salafis in the past concerning construction on the property. [Egypt Independent, Aswat Masriya, DNE, 2/25/2013]

Also of Interest:
Construction of 3 new power plants across Egypt delayed by strikes | Ahram Online


Kerry visit doesn’t signal US policy shift on Egypt: Sources
US Secretary of State John Kerry is expected in Cairo next month. The visit comes amid US apprehension over recent political developments in Egypt, but without any apparent intention on Washington’s part to endorse a shift in Egypt’s current political trajectory, according to informed sources. One US diplomat asserted that Kerry wasn’t coming to Cairo to upbraid Egyptian authorities, but rather to reaffirm Washington’s interest in seeing a "stable" Egypt that remained on the democratic track [Ahram Online, 2/26/2013]

FM: Egypt looks forward to boosting relations with Russia
Foreign Minister Mohamed Kamel Amr, who is currently in Moscow, said that Egypt is looking forward to fostering bilateral relations with Russia in various domains. Amr hailed the distinguished relations between Russia and the Arab countries. Amr held talks with Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov over a number of regional and international issues, including their agreed opposition to military intervention in Syria, and mutual relations between Russia and Arab countries. [SIS, 2/26/2013]

Also of Interest:
Morsi to visit India and Pakistan in March | EGYNews
Saudi defense official arrives in Cairo | Egypt Independent

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