Top News: Sisi Closing in on the Presidency

Former army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi is expected to emerge from a second and final day of voting on Tuesday as Egypt’s next president, with supporters seeing him as the man who can pull the Arab world’s most populous nation back from the brink.

Sisi closing in on the presidency
Former army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi is expected to emerge from a second and final day of voting on Tuesday as Egypt’s next president, with supporters seeing him as the man who can pull the Arab world’s most populous nation back from the brink. Despite calls for a big turnout by Sisi and media loyal to the army, the turnout on Monday appeared lower than in previous elections. With Sisi seemingly assured of victory, he needs a good turnout to shore up his legitimacy. Earlier on Monday, it was hard to find anyone who planned to vote for Sabbahi in lines of voters where young Egyptians were conspicuous by their absence. An opinion poll by the Washington-based Pew Research Center suggested that enthusiasm for democracy among Egyptians is slipping, and that stability and a strong leader are becoming greater priorities. It found that 54 percent of Egyptians prioritized stability above democracy. Ayman Nour, an Egyptian liberal politician jailed after he mounted a challenge for the presidency in 2005, said the presidential election is more one-sided than the one he lost to Hosni Mubarak. [Reuters, 5/27/2014]

Low voter turnout prompts extension of voting period
Former army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi is expected to emerge from a second and final day of voting on Tuesday as Egypt’s next president, with the military-backed government seeking to boost turnout by declaring a holiday and extending voting hours. Local media loyal to the government chided voters for not turning out in large enough numbers, and Egyptians received text messages reminding them that not voting was an offence punishable by a fine. A prominent TV commentator said people who did not vote were “traitors, traitors, traitors.” After polls opened at 9.00 a.m. (0600 GMT), lines outside polling stations in various parts of Cairo were short, and in some cases no voters could be seen. The polls close at 10 p.m. (1900 GMT), an hour later than planned. Egypt’s minister of local development blamed the low turnout on the high temperature and people fasting for religious reasons. He also claimed that voting picked up later in the day. [Reuters, 5/27/2014]

NCHR received 216 complaints on first day of Egypt’s presidential poll
Egypt’s National Council for Human Rights (NCHR) revealed on Tuesday that it received 216 complaints on the first day of the Egyptian presidential polls. The semi-governmental organization said it reported 151 complaints to the Presidential Electoral Commission (PEC), the judicial body overseeing the voting process. According to the NCHR report, violations predominantly occurred in the governorates of Port Said, Kafr al-Sheikh, Suez, Beni Suef, and Sohag. On Monday, the first of the two-day poll, the NCHR dispatched seven groups to observe polling stations in the Cairo, Giza, Alexandria, Suez, Qalioubiya, Beheira, and North Sinai governorates. Hamdeen Sabbahi’s campaign said that it has reported “systematic violations by the army and police” on the first day of Egypt’s first presidential elections. The campaign also said its members were arrested and detained and that police forces were seen instructing voters. The campaign has filed an official report to the presidential elections commission supervising the vote. [Ahram Online, 5/26/2014]

Also of Interest:

  • PEC cancels voting in South Sinai subcommittees | Aswat Masriya
  • Observers dispatched around the nation on first day of polling | DNE
  • Parties condemn draft Parliamentary Elections Law | DNE
  • Tagammu Party to report activists for attacking headquarters | Mada Masr
  • Government will resign after official election result: Egypt PM | Ahram Online, DNE


Students sentenced to five years for raiding Azhar
An Egyptian court jailed nineteen supporters of ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi for five years on Saturday for storming the offices of the head of Al-Azhar university, judicial sources said. The defendants were accused of damaging public property, assaulting civil servants, blocking roads and displaying aggression in November, the sources said. Each defendant was also fined EGP 20,000 ($2,850 or €2,200). A minor involved in the case was sentenced to three years in juvenile detention, while one Turkish national was acquitted of the charges, they added. [Aswat Masriya, AFP/DNE, 5/24/2014]

Egypt suspends over a dozen pro-Morsi judges
A judicial disciplinary body in Egypt has suspended sixteen judges pending a probe on their affiliation to a group with alleged links to the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood. The Judges Disciplinary Council accuses the judges of joining the Judges for Egypt movement and working in politics along with dozens of others, a violation of Egypt’s judicial law. The suspension on Sunday is the latest in a succession of disciplinary measures taken by authorities against perceived pro-Morsi judges, which have deemed political reprisal against Morsi’s Islamist group and its sympathizers. [Ahram Online, 5/25/2014]

Also of Interest:

  • Alaa Abdel Fattah trial postponed | DNE
  • Activist arrested after being sentenced in absentia | DNE


New Egypt budget sets deficit at 12 percent of GDP
Egypt’s budget deficit is forecasted to reach 12 percent of GDP, or LE288 billion, in the 2014/2015 fiscal year state budget, according to statements made by the country’s finance minister on Monday. The draft budget, which was passed for final presidential approval by the interim cabinet of Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab on Monday, accounts for the cost of servicing foreign debt and constitutionally-required allocations to health and education, as well as financing Egypt’s newly-introduced public-sector minimum wage, said Finance Minister Hany Kadry Dimian. [Ahram Online, Mada Masr, 5/26/2014]

Also of Interest:

  • Bin Ladin Saudi firm CPC buys Egypt’s Sphinx Glass for $190 mn | Ahram Online
  • Egypt market down on pre-emptive profit-taking ahead of poll result | Ahram Online
  • Egypt has limited scope for boosting purchases of local wheat | Reuters


Security forces use teargas to disperse Morsi supporters in Egypt’s Kerdasa
Security forces used teargas to disperse dozens of supporters of ousted president Mohamed Morsi who attempted to prevent voters from casting their ballots in the town of Kerdasa, located south of Greater Cairo. This latest clash between Morsi supporters and security forces comes just days after three people were killed and fifty-eight were wounded in similar clashes across Egypt on Friday. Influential Qatar-based Muslim cleric Sheikh Youssef al-Qaradawi on Sunday called on Egyptians to boycott presidential elections and shun front-runner Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, saying the former army chief had “disobeyed God.” Abdel Moneim Abul Fotouh, who left the Brotherhood in 2011, also criticized Egypt’s current policy toward the Brotherhood saying that government oppression in Egypt is fanning militancy that will pose a threat abroad unless the army-backed authorities start respecting freedom and human rights. [Ahram Online, 5/26/2014]

Egyptian activists launch solidarity hunger strike
Prominent Egyptian human rights activists Laila Suweif and Aida Seif al-Dawla began a hunger strike on Sunday in solidarity with detained Al-Jazeera journalist Abdullah al-Shamy and Egyptian-American Mohamed Sultan, son of pro-Muslim Brotherhood preacher Salah Sultan, both whom have been on a hunger strike since January. A statement by Suweif and Seif al-Dawla said their demands are the same as those posted by hundreds of activists to the National Council for Human Rights (NCHR) on Wednesday, which called for al-Shamy and Sultan’s hospitalization and release. [Ahram Online, DNE, Mada Masr, 5/25/2014]

NGOs call to end forced disappearances, torture in Ismailia prison
A rights group has condemned what it called “enforced disappearance and torture” that has been ongoing at a prison in Ismailia. The group called for immediate investigations in these incidents. The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights and the Nadeem Center jointly expressed their worry over the rising number of enforced disappearances and the torture of individuals suspected of committing political violence crimes. In a statement posted on the initiative’s website, the two groups denounced the continued detention of civilians in the Azouli Prison in Ismailia for long periods of time. These detainees are interrogated without lawyers present, the statement said. Azouli is a military prison inside al-Galaa military camp in Ismailia where military personnel are held according to military law. [DNE, Aswat Masriya, 5/23/2014]

Also of Interest:

  • Islamist writer banned from traveling abroad | Aswat Masriya
  • For Egyptian secular activist, election is reminder of elusive dream | Reuters
  • ‘Cairo Statement’ urges revolutionaries to unite against ‘post-coup’ Egypt | Ahram Online
  • International Press Institute urges future president to protect journalists | DNE
  • AFTE condemns arrest of activist supporters | DNE
  • Murder of Tamarod member unrelated to elections – source | Aswat Masriya, Ahram Online
  • More than 41,000 arrested in Egypt since July – NGO | Aswat Masriya, DNE


Bombs explode in Heliopolis and Fayoum
A person was injured when a homemade bomb exploded in Cairo’s Heliopolis district on Tuesday. Three cars were damaged in the blast, which left no casualties. Security forces are combing the area to make sure there are no further explosive devices. According to a security source in Fayoum a homemade bomb exploded on Monday outside of a polling station, resulting in no causalities. On Monday Egypt’s Interior Ministry denied an earlier report on state TV of a homemade bomb exploding outside a polling station in the city of al-Mahalla al-Kubra. [Ahram Online, 5/27/2014]

Egypt militant group denies its leader was killed
Egypt’s most active militant Islamist group denied on Sunday reports that its top leader had been killed days earlier in the Sinai Peninsula. Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, or Defenders of Jerusalem, rejected in an online statement claims by security sources and local media that Shadi al-Menei was killed with five other insurgents in a firefight on Friday. “They announce the death of the brother jihadist Shadi al-Menei and that he is the (head of the group) while he was not killed and was not a leader,” the statement said. [Reuters, Mada Masr, 5/25/2014]

Also of Interest:

  • Queueing voters discover marijuana plants at Egyptian school | Ahram Online
  • Egypt army chief visits poll stations to check vote | Aswat Masriya


US State department acknowledges shrinking space for dialogue in Egypt
US State department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf told reporters Friday that US officials have noticed a “shrinking space for dialogue, for peaceful protest, for freedom of the press” in Egypt just days ahead of the country’s second presidential elections in as many years. In a report published Friday, Amnesty International said that it expected the human rights situation to continue deteriorating “with neither of Egypt’s two presidential candidates pledging any human rights reforms, nor action to hold those responsible for abuses to account.” [DNE, 5/24/2014]

UAE to continue political, economic support to Egypt after elections
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) will continue its political and economic support for Egypt after a presidential election next week that most expect Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to win, Egypt’s state news agency reported on Saturday. The UAE official in charge of aid to Egypt, State Minister Sultan Ahmed al-Jaber, said the UAE regarded the May 26-27 vote a “a new starting point.” Jaber added in comments published by Egypt’s state news agency, “We will continue to provide political and economic support.” [Reuters, 5/24/2014]

Also of Interest:

  • Across the border: Israeli views on Egypt’s presidential election | Ahram Online
  • In lawless Libya, Egypt’s Sisi becomes a star | Reuters
  • We don’t interfere, only observe, says head EU monitor | Ahram Online
  • Egypt’s Sisi seeks ties with US on his terms | AP
  • Fahmy discusses Egypt, region with Arab Ambassadors | DNE
  • Egyptian ambassador meets with several Somali ministers | DNE