Top News: Tunisians Hold First Post-Revolution Presidential Elections

Tunisians voted on Sunday to pick their first directly elected president, with Interim president Moncef Marzouki and Nidaa Tounes party leader Beji Caid Essebsi touted as the favorites in a field of more than twenty-five candidates. Official results were yet to be announced, but shortly after polls closed, Nidaa Tounes and Ennahda party officials said initial tallies showed they had passed to a second round run-off next month.

Official voter turnout results indicated that 64.6 percent of Tunisians turned out for the vote domestically while 29.68 percent of overseas voters also participated in the presidential poll. US Secretary of State John Kerry released a statement praising “strong commitment by Tunisians from across the political spectrum to democracy and the rule of law.” 



Mohamed Ali Bishr accused of collaborating with US, Norway
Egypt’s top prosecution charged Saturday Muslim Brotherhood leader, and Former Mursi-era Minister, Mohamed Ali Bishr, with espionage with the United States and Norway. The prosecution resumed investigations on Saturday, after Bishr was sentenced to 15 days in prison, and is scheduled to reinvestigate him on Monday. They said the charges made were based on recordings of Bishr, which he would be summoned to hear and comment on during questioning Monday. [Ahram Online, Aswat Masriya, 11/22/2014]

Political parties suggest postponing parliamentary elections
Representatives of al-Wafd al-Masry Alliance, the Egyptian Bloc, Nour Party, and the Democratic Current Alliance have agreed to submit a memorandum to President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab demanding the postponement of parliamentary elections, said Ahmed al-Boraei, the leader at the Democratic Current Alliance. The Democratic Current, the Wafd Coalition, and the Nour Party are calling for the country’s current parliamentary elections law to be amended, citing the disproportionate allocation of seats to individuals. The coalition has proposed changing the distribution to 40 percent for lists, 40 percent for individuals, and 20 percent for the categories imposed by the quota. [Egypt Independent, Mada Masr, 11/23/2014]

Committee to announce report on Egypt’s post-Morsi ‎violence on Wednesday
Omar Marawan, spokesman and secretary-general ‎of the June 30 fact-finding committee, said on Monday that the committee will ‎announce its final report in an international conference on ‎Wednesday. ‎Marawan added that the committee finalized its work and ‎held its last meeting on November 20. ‎The report includes 800 pages with thousands of ‎documents, CDs and photos attached, Marwan said. ‎Only 100 ‎pages will be given to media reporters during ‎the conference.‎ Alaa Youssef, spokesman for Egypt’s presidency, said that President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi received the committee’s final report on Sunday. The president sent the document to the cabinet for discussion, after which it will be sent to judicial authorities to take the necessary actions concerning its findings. [Aswat Masriya, 11/23/2014]

Brotherhood backs Salafist protests on Friday for Egypt’s ‘Islamic identity’
The Muslim Brotherhood has announced its support for protests on November 28 called by the Salafi Front in order to preserve Egypt’s “Islamic identity.” In its official statement, the group hailed the importance of freedom of expression without fear of persecution or accusations of treason, asserting that such demonstrations “adhere to Egyptian identity and uphold the peaceful revolution.” Nour Party leaders claimed that the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafi Front seek to repeat the 1952 Cairo Fire scenario through demonstrations. Younes Makhyoun, Nour Party chief, said the party expects a second massacre. He accused the Salafi Front of attempting to spread extremist thoughts, and called on citizens not to respond to its call for demonstrations. Al-Azhar issued a statement describing the calls for the Islamic uprising as an “invitation for civil strife and treason.” [DNE, Aswat Masriya, 11/23/2014]

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Tunisians hold first post-revolution presidential elections
Tunisians voted on Sunday to pick their first directly elected president, with Interim president Moncef Marzouki and Nidaa Tounes party leader Beji Caid Essebsi touted as the favorites in a field of more than twenty-five candidates. Official results were yet to be announced, but shortly after polls closed, Nidaa Tounes and Ennahda party officials said initial tallies showed they had passed to a second round run-off next month. Official voter turnout results indicated that 64.6 percent of Tunisians turned out for the vote domestically while 29.68 percent of overseas voters also participated in the presidential poll. US Secretary of State John Kerry released a statement praising “strong commitment by Tunisians from across the political spectrum to democracy and the rule of law.” [TAP, Reuters, 11/23/2014]

Libyan national army says ‘operation to liberate Tripoli’ has begun
Libyan army officials announced that operations to retake Tripoli from fighters allied to Operation Libya Dawn commenced over the weekend. A spokesman for Operation Dignity, told reporters that bombing raids had been carried out west of Tripoli on Saturday as part of an offensive aimed at capturing the capital. The spokesman also indicated that ports at Tripoli, Misrata, and Ras Hilal would also be targeted. [Libya Herald, 11/22/2014]

Qatari tanker held up at Brega port
A Qatari ship held up at the port of Brega in central Libya was released on Saturday after protesters seized the ship in protest of Qatar’s policy towards Libya. The Qatari ship was bound for Germany but temporarily docked at the port in Brega to pick up additional supplies. Reports indicated that the ship was only let go after the House of Representatives intervened, though the Tobruk-based parliament has not yet issued any statement on the incident. [Libya Monitor (subscription), 11/24/2014]

Tobruk parliament dismisses audit bureau chief
The House of Representatives in Libya has voted to dismiss the head of the Audit Bureau, a monitoring agency formed by the National Transitional Council (NTC) in late 2011, in an effort to improve accountability and transparency within state institutions. Sources indicate that the president of the monitoring agency, Khaled Shakshak, was terminated after failing to recognize the legitimacy of the Tobruk-based parliament. The House of Representatives has previously voted to dismiss the governor of the Central Bank and the Grand Mufti, but both seem to have continued in their roles as the government in Tobruk struggles to enforce its decisions throughout the country. [Libya Monitor (subscription), 11/24/2014]


Kurdish fighters advance against ISIS militants in Kobani
Kurdish fighters gained ground from Islamic State militants in fierce battles in the Syrian town of Kobani with at least eighteen Islamic State fighters reported dead in overnight skirmishes. The Britain based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that Kurdish fighters of the People’s Protection Units (YPG) had advanced in both the east and the northeast of the town though control of the town was still almost evenly divided between the Kurds and the jihadist militants. The monitoring group also indicated that coalition forces conducted at least five air strikes in Kobani though official casualty figures had not yet been released. [Naharnet, 11/24/2014]

Syrian rebels launch attacks on pro-government forces in Zahra and Nubul
Al-Qaeda militants and Syrian rebels launched an attack against two predominantly Shiite Muslim villages in northern Syria that have been under siege for eighteen months. Local Coordination Committees and the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that fighters from the al-Qaida-affiliated Nusra Front joined by Islamic rebel groups took control of the town Zahra and Nubul, located to the north of Aleppo near the Turkish border. [Washington Post, 11/24/2014]

Iraqi security forces advance in Diyala as the battle for Ramadi continues
Iraqi troops backed by Shiite militiamen and Kurdish security forces have recaptured two eastern towns from Islamic State militants after fierce clashes over the weekend. Police officials in Diyala province said that Iraqi forces entered the towns of Saadiya and Jalula late Sunday and wrestled control from Islamic State militants though sources indicated that clashes continued through Monday. Iraqi officials also indicated that new operations to retake control of Ramadi were currently underway though Iraqi security forces had met fierce resistance in their advance towards the capital of Anbar province, located eight miles west of Baghdad. [AP, BBC News, 11/24/2014]

Iraqi authorities request Jordanian assistance in anti-terrorism fight
Iraq’s Lower House Speaker Atef Tarawneh and his Iraqi counterpart Salim al-Jabouri on Sunday called for coordinated and intensified regional efforts to eradicate terrorism, stressing that growing militancy was a threat to both countries. During a joint press conference, the Iraqi official voiced his government’s appreciation of Jordan’s assistance to Iraq despite its growing economic burden. The officials also announced a joint memorandum between the Jordanian and Iraqi parliament to enhance parliamentary cooperation between the two countries. [Jordan Times, 11/23/2014]

Jordanian authorities accused of deporting wounded Syrian refugees
The international human rights monitoring group, Human Rights Watch, on Monday released a report implicating Jordanian authorities in the deportation of vulnerable Syrian refugees including wounded men and unaccompanied children. The report said that those deported include a group of twelve Syrians who had been receiving treatment at a rehabilitation center and four refugees, three of them children, whom Jordanian border police stopped near the Syrian border. A spokesman from the Jordanian government denied the claims though an official statement on the report has not yet been released. [AP, 11/24/2014]


Defense minister: Houthis to be added to military, security institutions
Yemeni Defense Minister Major-General Mahmoud Subaihi said Sunday the government was appointing members of armed groups of the Houthis in security and military institutions. “There is currently a process of blending groups of our Houthi partners, Ansar Allah, in the armed forces and security, in order to create the necessary national balance,” Subaihi said in during a visit to a military police camp. The incorporation of Houthi forces into the Yemeni defense establishment was part of the September 21 peace and partnership agreement that ended fighting in Sana’a. [KUNA, 11/23/2014]

Al-Qaeda cleric in Yemen denounces ISIS
Harith bin Ghazi al-Nadhari, a senior cleric in al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, denounced the leader of the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) for a speech he made earlier this month directly challenging control over the Arabian Peninsula. In a video released Friday, al-Nadhari rebuked video statements made earlier this month by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declaring an ISIS-dominated caliphate that included Yemen. In the November 13 video, al-Baghdadi accepted the allegiance of foreign groups in Egypt and Libya and proclaimed the expansion of ISIS to Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Algeria, as well as the “nullification” of the groups therein. As a direct challenge to the existence of AQAP, al-Nadhari rejected the claim, saying, “The announcement of the caliphate for all Muslims by our brothers in the Islamic State did not meet the required conditions.” [UPI, 11/24/2014]

GPC leader in Taiz killed in attack by gunman
Khaled Abdulsalam, a leader in the General People’s Congress (GPC) party in Taiz, was shot and killed by a gunman on Monday. Abdulsalam was head of tribal affairs for the GPC in the province, and was targeted at a traffic roundabout in the Taiz city center. A security officer was also wounded in the attack. Sources reported that Abdulsalam’s killing was the result of a tribal land dispute with another clan and that the security officer was being transferred to a military hospital to receive treatment for his injuries. [Aden al-Ghad (Arabic), 11/24/2014]

Attempted assassination of a tribal leader by roadside bomb in Bayda
Security sources reported that Mehdi al-Mansouri, a tribal leader who has been fighting Houthi militants in Yemen’s central Bayda province, survived an assassination attempt by roadside bomb on Monday. Al-Mansouri is one of a number of tribal sheikhs from around the city of Rida who have put up fierce resistance against the Houthis in the past month. Sources close to al-Mansouri said that two improvised explosive devices were planted in his car, one of which failed to detonate while the other caused damage to the vehicle. Al-Mansouri and two companions were able to escape unscathed. [Al Masdar (Arabic), 11/24/2014]

Bahraini elections held Saturday, independent candidates surge ahead
Bahrainis voted in the first parliamentary elections since 2011 on Saturday. The Wefaq party and three other Shia opposition groups boycotted the elections over accusations that constituency changes still favored Sunni Muslims. According to the justice ministry, turnout for parliamentary elections was 51.5 percent and was 53.7 percent for the municipal elections. Independents outperformed candidates from established political societies, who fielded thirty-six of 266 candidates. Sunday’s results showed that twenty-three society candidates had been eliminated. Close constituency races forced second round votes in thirty-four of forty electoral districts. The high overall number of candidates ensured only a few secured the simple majority required to win a seat in the Council of Representatives, the lower chamber of the parliament. [Reuters, Gulf News 11/22/2014]

GCC foreign ministers to meet in Doha ahead of December summit
The six Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) foreign ministers will hold a meeting in the Qatari capital Doha on Tuesday ahead of next month’s summit. The meeting, to be chaired by Qatar’s foreign minister Khalid bin Mohammad al-Atiyyah, was initially scheduled for November 10, but was postponed amid tensions between member states that threatened to cancel or shift the summit to another venue. However, the GCC leaders were able to reach an agreement that paved the way for the Doha summit at an extraordinary meeting in the Saudi capital Riyadh last week. Saudi and Qatari media also reported that Qatar has appointed a new ambassador, Sheikh Abdullah bin Thamer al-Thani, to Riyadh. [Gulf News, 11/24/2014]


Libya’s Nafoura oilfield will resume production on Monday, say officials
Libyan officials on Monday announced that the Nafoura oilfield will resume production on Monday after protesters demanding jobs ended a month-long protest. The field in volatile eastern Libya used to produce up to 65,000 barrels of oil daily until local protesters forced a shutdown after officials failed to meet their demands for direct employment with the state-owned AGOCO oil company. [Reuters, 11/23/2014]

Yemen’s foreign reserves and oil revenues decrease
According to the Yemen’s Central Bank, the country’s economy still suffers from a decrease in foreign reserves and oil export revenues. Economic experts confirmed the negative impact of the political situation on the economy, blaming in particular the continued sabotage of oil pipelines in the Marib province. The government has had to resort to import large quantities of oil derivatives from abroad in order to meet the needs in the domestic market. [Yemen Observer, 11/24/2014]

Jordanian government presents House with trimmed budget bill
Jordan’s government presented the 2015 state budget draft law to the Lower House, estimating the budget deficit at JD 688 million after foreign grants. According to the minister of finance, the primary challenges to the state’s budget and the major factors behind the increase in public debt have been the deteriorating regional situation, the disruption in Egyptian gas supplies to Jordan, and the ensuing losses of the state-owned National Electric Power Company. [The Jordan Times, 11/23/2014]

Syria’s government spending to increase by 12 percent in 2015
According to Syria’s state news agency, Syria’s spending is expected to rise 12 percent to 1.55 trillion Syrian pounds ($9.10 billion) in the next year. Most of the money is going to go into social support costs, which are expected to reach 983.5 billion pounds, a rise of 368.5 billion from this year. The chairman of the budget committee further recommended increasing the salaries of members of the armed forces and security services and called for action to rein in a wave of high prices hitting low income households. [Reuters, 11/23/2014]

Egypt’s economic summit scheduled for March
Egypt announced March 13 as the new date for the economic summit aimed at attracting investment to the country. The summit had first been scheduled for February 21 but later postponed due to the Chinese new year. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are organizing the summit with two international consultancy firms. Egypt hopes to attract $10-$12 billion in investments for twenty projects, focusing on energy, transport and water. [Ahram Online, 11/22/2014]