Top News: Tunisia’s Parties Endorse Candidates as Presidential Poll Looms

Last Sunday political party Afek Tounes announced that it would be backing candidate Beji Caid Essebsi in the presidential elections. On Wednesday, al-Aman party announced it would be backing Ahmed Nejib Chebbi’s candidacy, whose party only received one seat in the country’s legislative elections.

The announcements come days after seven other parties declared their support for Moncef Marzouki’s reelection, with Tounes Baytouna announcing their support most recently. Tounes Baytouna’s announcement of support resulted in a resignation by the party’s secretary general, Tawfiq al-Obeidi, who announced on Assabah News that “the decision was not the result of a unanimous decision by all political leaders.” Ennahdha continues not to endorse officially any candidates, leaving it up to their supporters to choose, though members overwhelmingly endorse Marzouki’s reelection.




Report: Egypt, Tunisia witnessed no progress in democratic reform since 2011
Egypt and Tunisia came in fourth and sixth place respectively, according to the Arab Democracy Index (ADI), marking no change since the 2011 ranking. “This is because though real progress in freedoms was registered, these were countered by poorer living conditions and rising insecurity,” the Index said. In its November report entitled “Measuring the Pace of Change” on the positive impact of the 2011 Arab Spring on nine countries, ADI listed Morocco on top of countries, then Jordan, with positive changes and reforms, although no uprisings took place there. Algeria came next. Bahrain came in the last rank “reflecting the most negative scenario,” according to the report. The report indicated signals of continuing progress in democratic reforms, despite the slow growth. [Egypt Independent, 11/18/2014]

Egypt rights group says constitution violated
Twelve articles of the 2014 Egyptian constitution were violated by the authorities between January and November, according to the Arab Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI), an Egyptian rights group. Most of the violations “fall under the rights and freedoms section,” according to a research paper titled “Violations of the Constitution before the Ink is Dry,” published by ANHRI on Tuesday. According to ANHRI’s statement the constitution has been violated in a number of times in clear explicit articles. ANHRI claims that laws that contradict constitutional articles frequently enable the violations. [AP, DNE, 11/18/2014]

Government ready for tough response to Salafi Front ‘Islamic Uprising’
Any threat to police facilities “will be met with force and if necessary with live rounds,” ministry of interior spokesman Hany Abdel Latif said in an interview on Sunday. Abdel Latif’s comments came in response to the Salafi Front’s announcement that it intends to spearhead a new wave of protests under the name “The Muslim Youth Uprising” on November 28. The spokesman added that there is a special plan, involving heavily armed special forces, to counter all possible “violent protests.” Minister of Interior Mohamed Ibrahim also said in a Sunday meeting with the Higher Police Council that police forces are planning to secure state facilities. This comes in the wake of calls by “terrorist groups to stage protests that aim to spread chaos and unrest.” Ibrahim stressed that security forces should “launch preemptive strikes to abort those plots.” [DNE, SIS, EGYNews (Arabic), 11/17/2014]

Reports show suicide bombers in Libya include Egyptians
Unverified images of fighters, who allegedly carried out suicide bombings in Libya, were published on a website affiliated with the Islamic State in Iraq and Al-Sham (ISIS). The website claimed that the fighters were affiliated with the group. It further stated that the fighters hail from Tunisia, Egypt and Libya. The publication comes days after an audio recording was released, in which a fighter pledges allegiance to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. In the recording he said that the “Islamic State has expanded to include” Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Egypt, Libya, and Algeria. He added that he accepts the pledges made to him from these countries. [DNE, 11/17/2014]

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House of Representatives says Operation Dignity under national army
The House of Representatives confirmed its legitimization of Operation Dignity, stating that it operates under Chief of Staff Major-General Abdul Razzaq Nazhuri, one of Khalifa Haftar’s deputies. In a statement, the Tobruk-based parliament said it was fighting a “war on terrorism, not only on behalf of the [Libyan] people, but for the free world, human values, and principles of true religion.” It also said the government was “looking to the international community” for acknowledgement of the difficult situation it has found itself in but that it would not allow any foreign intervention. [Libya Herald, 11/17/2014]

Tobruk government restarts TV channel
The Wataniya channel has resumed broadcasting from its new base in Tunis. Omar al-Quwairi, culture minister in the Tobruk government, visited the headquarters on its launch day, according to the Tobruk-run LANA outlet. Authorities in Tobruk now run their own news agency rivaling those controlled by the government in Tripoli. Local media reports suggest that al-Quwairi has pumped millions of dinars of his own money to launch the channel, as the Tobruk government has not had the resources to finance the project. [Libya Monitor (subscription), 11/18/2014]

Libya Africa Investment Portfolio tries to maintain neutrality amid conflict
The Libya Africa Investment Portfolio (LAP), owned by the Libyan investment Authority, is trying to maintain neutrality amid escalating tensions in the country. In a statement, it said it does not want “to be pushed into any [political] struggle” which may threaten its assets and investments. The LAP said its overseas funds are still monitored by the international community and that “we are not, as many assume, completely free to move our money around.” Established in 2006, the LAP has tens of billions of dollars’ worth of assets on the African continent. [Libya Monitor (subscription), 11/18/2014]

Ailing Algerian president returns to Algeirs after emergency treatment in France
Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika returned to Algiers on Saturday, following a forty-eight hour stay at a hospital in France. Neither the French nor the Algerian authorities made the reasons for his admittance public. Bouteflika currently suffers from paralysis to the right side of his body following a stroke in April 2013 and was last seen in public during the commemoration of the sixtieth anniversary of the country’s war of independence. [Asharq al-Awsat, 11/16/2014]

Tunisia’s foreign minister hold talks with Emirati counterpart in Tunis
Tunisia’s Foreign Minister Mongi Hamdi met on Monday with the UAE’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan to discuss bilateral partnerships in development, investment and security. The Emirati minister stressed his country’s commitment to supporting Tunisia’s ongoing political transition and its aggressive fight against terrorism. The Emirati minister also reaffirmed his country’s dedication to implementing commitments made during the Invest in Tunisia, Start-up Democracy conference held earlier this year. [TAP, 11/17/2014]

Tunisia’s parties endorse candidates as presidential poll looms
Last Sunday political party Afek Tounes announced that it would be backing candidate Beji Caid Essebsi in the presidential elections. On Wednesday, al-Aman party announced it would be backing Ahmed Nejib Chebbi’s candidacy, whose party only received one seat in the country’s legislative elections. The announcements come days after seven other parties declared their support for Moncef Marzouki’s reelection, with Tounes Baytouna announcing their support most recently. Tounes Baytouna’s announcement of support resulted in a resignation by the party’s secretary general, Tawfiq al-Obeidi, who announced on Assabah News that “the decision was not the result of a unanimous decision by all political leaders.” Ennahdha continues not to endorse officially any candidates, leaving it up to their supporters to choose, though members overwhelmingly endorse Marzouki’s reelection. [Tunisia Live, 11/17/2014]


Barrel bomb attack kills at least thirteen in Aleppo
A Syrian military airstrike killed at least thirteen people, including children, and wounded another twenty in the northern province of Aleppo Tuesday after striking a neighborhood with crude bombs. The military aircraft dropped at least one “barrel bomb”—crude weapons made from canisters laden with explosives and hurled from helicopters—to strike the Qabr al-Inglizi area. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that the death toll was likely to rise because more people were buried under the rubble. [AP, 11/18/2014]

Syrian Kurds make gains in Kobani, seizing territory and weapons cache
Kurdish fighters on Tuesday seized six buildings used by ISIS in the north of Kobani and took a large quantity of rocket-propelled grenade launchers, guns, and machine gun ammunition. The buildings were in a strategic location close to Kobani’s Security Square where the main municipal buildings are based. The clashes killed around thirteen ISIS militants, including two senior fighters who had been helping to lead the militant group’s assault on the town. Kurdish forces appear to have made other gains in recent days of fighting. Last week they blocked a road ISIS was using to resupply their forces, the first major gain against the jihadists after weeks of violence. [The Daily Star, Naharnet, 11/18/2014]

Iraq says ISIS stole 1 million tons of grain, took it to Syria
Iraq believes ISIS militants have stolen more than one million tons of grain from the country’s north and taken it to two cities they control in neighboring Syria, the agriculture minister has said. Falah Hassan al-Zeidan said in a statement posted on the agriculture ministry’s website on Sunday that the government “had information about the smuggling by Islamic State gangs of more than one million tons of wheat and barley from Nineveh Province to the Syrian cities of Raqqa and Deir Ezzor.” When Islamic State pushed from Syria into northern Iraq in June, they swiftly took over government grain silos in Nineveh and Salahuddin provinces, where about a third of Iraq’s wheat crop and nearly 40 percent of the barley crop is typically grown. [Reuters, 11/18/2014]

Iraqi security forces advance in Baiji as officials announce plans to retake Mosul
Iraqi security forces entered the country’s largest refinery for the first time Tuesday after months of battling ISIS militants who have held the town of Baji since June. While sources noted that skirmishes between Iraqi security forces and ISIS militants were still ongoing, a successful Iraqi military campaign in Baiji could serve as a launching point for further operations in northern Iraq. Officials in Iraq’s Nineveh province have already announced plans to launch a major assault on Mosul beginning in the spring of 2015. [The Daily Star, 11/18/2014]

Turkey fears influx of 2-3 million more Syrian refugees
Turkey could face an influx of 2-3 million more Syrian refugees if President Bashar al-Assad’s forces or Islamic State insurgents advance around Aleppo, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Tuesday. US warplanes have been bombing ISIS forces in parts of Syria, but Assad’s military has intensified its campaign against some rebel groups in the west and north that Washington sees as allies, including in and around Aleppo. [Reuters, 11/18/2014]

ISIS atrocities fail to unite Iraqis as sectarian tensions persist
ISIS’s systematic massacre of hundreds of Iraq’s Albu Nimr tribe should have been a wakeup call for a country that may not be able to stabilize without long-term support from Sunni tribesmen. But nearly a month after members of the tribe were hunted down in groups and executed, the Baghdad government appears to be doing little to assimilate Sunnis in any much-needed move towards unity. Sabah Karhoot, provincial council chief of Anbar, home to the Albu Nimr, told Reuters there were still enough fighters to take on ISIS but they needed effective weapons and ammunition from Baghdad. [Reuters, 11/18/2014]


Yemeni tribes say they will resist Houthi takeover of oil facilities
Tribal fighters have threatened to attack petroleum installations and power plants in Marib province should they captured by Houthi militants, tribal leaders said in a joint statement on Sunday. Leaders of Marib’s most prominent tribes said they would destroy oil and gas installations in the province rather than allow them to fall into the hands of the Houthis. Tribal sources have said armed Houthi militants have been spotted more frequently on Marib’s outskirts, and that local tribal leaders suspected they were planning to take control of the oil and gas fields there as part of their advance across Yemen. Tribal fighters have frequently attacked the main Marib pipeline as a sign of discontent with the policies of Yemen’s central government. Marib is home to most of the country’s oil reserves and serves as the main source of electricity for the rest of the country. [Asharq al-Awsat, 11/17/2014]

Southern, Herak leaders visit Mukalla in Hadramawt
Southern leader Abdulrahman al-Jifri visited the port city of Mukalla with other Herak leaders in Hadramawt province to rally support for southern independence movements on Tuesday. He was accompanied by Mohsin bin Farid, Brigadier General Ali al-Sa’adi, Yahya Saleh, Ali al-Hariri, and other southern advocates of independence. Al-Jifri discussed with local leader Hassan al-Ba’um the prospects for a unified southern command. Independence demonstrations and the planting of southern flags over government buildings continued throughout the south Tuesday, including the Ibn Khaldoun hospital in Lahj. [Aden al-Ghad, 11/18/2014]

GPC accuses Houthis of storming headquarters in Ibb; UAE designates Houthis “terrorists”
A spokesman for the General People’s Congress (GPC) party said that the Houthis carried out an attack on the GPC headquarters in Ibb province’s Mudhaikhirah district last Friday. According to a statement released by GPC mouthpiece Al-Motamar Net Sunday, the armed men announced they “belonged to Ansar Allah [the Houthis],” during the storming of the office. GPC officials condemned the attack, though Houthi officials would neither confirm nor deny that their militants carried it out. While the Houthis have previously attacked offices of the rival Islamist Islah party, this would mark their first attack against the GPC. It was previously believed that the Houthis had collaborated with the GPC, which has strong ties to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh and the Yemeni military, in their takeover of Sana’a in September. The GPC’s statements came after the United Arab Emirates added the Houthi movement to its list of terrorist organizations on Saturday, a move denounced by the Houthis Sunday. [Yemen Times, 11/18/2014]

Blast kills senior Islah politician in Taiz
A security source said that a car bombing Tuesday killed a leading member of Yemen’s powerful Sunni Al-Islah party whose supporters have been battling the Houthis. Islah assistant secretary general Sadeq Mansur died “immediately” when a device inside the door of his car exploded in the the city of Taiz. The Houthis have not entered Taiz, 155 miles southwest of Sanaa, after a deal was struck between the provincial authorities and the group’s representatives to avoid fighting there. However, that did not stop the Houthis from attacking Islah’s headquarters in nearby Ibb earlier this month, killing three people. [Ahram Online, AFP, 11/18/2014]

Saudi Arabia convicts eight men who killed foreigners
A Saudi court found eight men guilty of involvement in a series of deadly attacks against foreigners in the kingdom ten years ago, including an attack that killed a BBC cameraman and paralyzed the organization’s correspondent. The official Saudi Press Agency reported three of the men were given death sentences and five were sentenced to prison terms ranging from twenty-five to thirty years with the right to appeal. They are part of an alleged eighty-six member terrorist cell that recruited militants for al-Qaeda, which carried out a wave of attacks around a decade ago in Saudi Arabia with the aim of toppling the monarchy. Saudi officials responded with a massive crackdown that saw many al-Qaeda militants flee to neighboring Yemen. [AP, 11/18/2014]

Bahrain election begins with overseas voting
Bahrainis overseas on Tuesday cast ballots to elect lawmakers in the fourth quadrennial elections in Bahrain’s modern history. The embassy in Washington will be the last of the 29 Bahraini diplomatic missions where voters can cast their ballots. Voters in Bahrain will cast their ballots on Saturday November 22 and, in case there is no clear winner in their constituency, on November 29. Overseas voters will head a second time to the polling stations on November 25 if none of the candidates in their constituencies secured more than 50 percent of the votes. [Gulf News, 11/18/2014]


Egypt spent $3 billion on fuel subsidies in the first quarter
Egypt spent EGP 22 billion ($3.08 billion) on fuel subsidies in the first quarter of the new fiscal year. According to the oil ministry this reflects a reduction by 29 percent from the same quarter a year ago. As part of efforts to revive the economy Egypt’s government has introduced deep subsidy cuts. In July, energy subsidies were cut raising fuel prices by up to 78 percent. Egypt’s full-year budget foresees saving more than EGP 40 billion on energy subsidies as a whole. [Zawya, 11/17/2014]

Iraq expects 2015 budget based on 80 dpb oil price
According to Iraqi oil minister, the country expects to base its 2015 budget on an oil price of $80 per barrel (dpb). Oil prices have fallen to below $80 from $115 a barrel in June. Fears that OPEC will cut supply when it meets on November 27 has also played a role in price fluctuations even though the country said in the past it should be exempt from any official cuts as it is struggling to rebuild its economy after years of violence and war. [Zawya, 11/17/2014]

IMF cuts Morocco 2014 economic growth to 3 percent
According to the International Monetary Fund, Morocco’s economic growth forecast is expected to slow to 3 percent this year despite a recent rise of nonagricultural activity. However, the IMF added in a statement that sound economic fundamentals and strong policy implementation had helped stabilize the economy, despite the difficulties it has faced. Downside external risks to the country include its relation with growth in Europe. [APA, 11/18/2014]