Top News: Turkey Returns to Single-Party Rule in Boost for Erdogan

The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) secured a stunning victory in Sunday’s snap parliamentary election to gain back a parliamentary majority just five months after losing it. Preliminary results show that the party won more than 49 percent of the votes. The AKP is projected to get 317 seats in the 550-member parliament, just thirteen short of the number President Recep Tayyip Erdogan would need for a national referendum on constitutional changes to forge a presidential system granting him full executive powers. President Erdogan hailed the results as a vote for stability and demanded the world respect the result. Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu described the outcome “as a victory for democracy.” PM Davutoglu echoed the call on Turkey’s political parties to come together and agree on a new constitution. Devlet Bahceli, the leader of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), denied reports that he would resign after the poor election result. His party lost almost half of the seats it had won in an election in June. A senior official from Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) said there was no likelihood of a coalition government after Sunday’s general election, with the AKP back to single-party rule. Pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) leader Figen Yuksekdag said the outcome of Turkey’s general election was the result of a deliberate policy of polarization by Erdogan, but the fact the party had crossed the 10 percent threshold needed to enter parliament was nonetheless a success. Turkish police fired tear gas against protesters in the mainly Kurdish city of Diyarbakir on Sunday. [AP, Al Jazeera, 11/2/2015]



Turnout in first stage election runoffs 21.7 percent; Campaigning for second phase starts Tuesday
Campaigning for the second phase of parliamentary elections will start on Tuesday, Spokesman for the High Elections Committee (HEC) Omar Marwan said. Campaigning will begin after the final list of candidates taking part in the second phase is announced. The HEC said that the names would also be announced on Tuesday. Elections for the second stage will be held for Egyptians abroad on November 21, 22, while voters in Egypt will go to the polls on November 22 and 23. On Friday, HEC head Ayman Abbas said that turnout in the run-offs of the first stage was 21.7 percent. “The highest turnout among the fourteen governorates in this round was Matrouh with a turnout of 33.45 percent, while the lowest was Alexandria with a turnout of 14.83 percent,” Abbas added. [SIS, Ahram Online, AP/AFP, Aswat Masriya, DNE, 11/2/2015]

Almost 12,000 people arrested for terrorism in 2015 says Interior Ministry
The Interior Ministry disclosed Thursday that 11,877 people have been arrested on terrorism-related charges since the beginning of 2015, said Deputy Minister for General Security Kamal al-Daly in an interview. He did not indicate how many of these people have been referred to trial, released, or kept in jail pending investigations, but did note that they were all arrested in connection with 171 separate terrorism-related cases. According to Daily News Egypt tallies, at least 418 people were arrested in October on charges of belonging to the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood group, according to Interior Ministry reports. Of the 418 arrested, 248 were arrested on suspicion of being middle-ranking Brotherhood members, while the remaining 170 were arrested on charges of belonging to specialized committees. [Mada Masr, DNE, 10/31/2015]

Egypt bars scores of Egyptians from traveling says Human Rights Watch
Egypt has unlawfully prevented scores of people from leaving the country over the past year, US based-Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a new report released Sunday. Those blocked from leaving the country include “leaders and members of political parties, youth activists, people associated with non-governmental groups,” and a former aide to ousted President Mohammed Morsi. HRW documented at least thirty-two cases in which “airport security officers confiscated the passport of political activists and workers in nongovernmental groups.” They have yet to get their passports back, HRW said in its report, criticizing the restrictive and intimidating measures that Egyptian security agencies are using. Egypt’s Interior Ministry declined immediate comment. [DNE, Reuters, AP, Mada Masr, Aswat Masriya, 11/1/2015]

Russian airliner crashes in Central Sinai killing 224
A Russian commercial airplane crashed on Saturday in Central Sinai killing all 224 passengers and crew members onboard. Airbus A321, operated by Russian airline Kogalymavia under the brand name Metrojet, was carrying 217 passengers and seven crew members from the Egyptian resort city of Sharm al-Sheikh to St. Petersburg in Russia on Saturday morning when it disappeared from the radar 23 minutes after take-off at an altitude of 31,000 feet. Contradictory reports have emerged as to the cause of the crash. Officials have stated that the plane’s black boxes have been recovered and will be examined by both Egyptian and Russian authorities. Director of Flights at Kogalymavia charter airline Alexander Smirnov said in a statement that the plane could only have broken up mid-air due to “external” factors and that this type of crash could not have resulted from technical failure or human error. The Egyptian and Russian governments have called for a comprehensive and cooperative investigation into the cause of the crash and specialists from both countries will work in together. Sinai State, the Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL) affiliated terrorist group, claimed responsibility for the downing of the aircraft in a statement. The claim has been refuted by both Egyptian and Russian government officials, citing a lack of evidence, calling on the public to not rush to conclusions. [Ahram Online, DNE, The Guardian 11/2/2015]

For more in-depth Egypt news, please visit EgyptSource


Libya accuses Italian navy of violating waters
Libya’s eastern government has accused the Italian navy of violating the country’s territorial waters after Libyan authorities said they spotted three Italian warships off the eastern coast on Sunday. Italy’s government dismissed the claim. In a statement released late on Saturday, Libyan officials said its naval forces had spotted three warships close to the coast, east of Benghazi, and vowed to use “all means” to protect the country’s sovereignty. Italy’s Defense Ministry denied any of its ships had entered Libyan waters. Last month, the United Nations authorized EU countries to inspect vessels and use force to disrupt migrant smuggling on the high seas off Libya, but not in its waters. [Reuters, AP, Deutsche Welle, 11/1/2015]

Algeria, Egypt, Italy foreign ministers meet in Algiers on Libya
On Monday, the foreign ministers of Algeria, Egypt, and Italy kicked off meetings in Algiers to discuss the latest developments in the Libyan crisis. Representatives of the African Union and the Arab League are also taking part in the meetings. The ministers are expected to assess ways they can work with all parties to the Libyan dialogue to compromise and allow a government of national unity to take power. The three ministers will also assess the impact of Libya’s instability on its neighbors. [Ahram Online, Algeria Press Service, Libya Herald, 11/1/2015]

EU mulls Libya sanctions over stalled UN peace deal
Rival Libyan political leaders could face European asset freezes and travel sanctions if they are deemed to be deliberately blocking attempts to reach a political agreement, diplomats said on Friday. The United Nations has warned about possible sanctions before and the European Union has previously considered travel bans and asset freezes against five Libyan military commanders threatening violence against a future government. Any EU sanctions would be in coordination with the UN Special Envoy to Libya Bernardino Leon to make sure they supported his dialogue efforts, another diplomat said. European sanctions were last discussed on October 20 at the ambassadorial level in Brussels and are currently under debate at the EU working group level. Sanctions will likely come up again at the next EU Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in mid-November. [Reuters, 10/30/2015]

New Libya Envoy approved by Security Council, Ban Ki-moon says Leon stays for now
UN Special Envoy to Libya Bernardino Leon is to continue with the peace process for now, despite UN Security Council’s recent approval of Leon’s successor, veteran German diplomat Martin Kobler. It is unclear when Kobler will take over mediating Libya’s stalled peace talks. A senior UN diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Leon was due to leave on November 6, but that could be extended if there was a sudden breakthrough in his mediation efforts. Ban explained in a statement, “Continuity will be paramount in any leadership transition.” He said that Leon will remain fully engaged in the dialogue. He added that he had full confidence in Leon’s efforts to form a government of national accord as soon as possible. [AFP, Libya Herald, 11/1/2015]

National consultation with Tunisian civil society on draft municipal elections law
A national consultation with civil society on the draft law of municipal and regional elections and the bill of local communities began Saturday in Tunis. President of the Center for Tax Studies at the Faculty of Law in Sfax, Neji Baccouche, emphasized the need to collect the proposals of the civil society to improve or reformulate the draft law of municipal elections to better meet the expectations of Tunisians. [TAP, 10/31/2015]

Thousands protest utility prices in Morocco’s Tangier
Thousands took to the streets in Morocco’s northern city of Tangier late on Saturday to protest high prices for water and electricity in the nation’s largest protest since pro-democracy marches in 2011 demanding political reforms. Saturday’s demonstration was the latest in a series that started two weeks ago. It took place a day after authorities and the company running utility services proposed measures to calm unrest against what protesters see as high prices and administrative mismanagement. [Reuters, 11/1/2015]


Syria rebels using caged captives as human shields
Jaysh al-Islam, a major Syrian rebel group, is reportedly using metal cages as human shields in the largest opposition stronghold on the outskirts of Damascus, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) said. Jaysh al-Islam, regarded as the most powerful rebel group near the capital, has put regime soldiers and Alawite civilians in metal cages, placing these cages in public squares in the Eastern Ghouta region in an attempt to “prevent regime bombardment,” SOHR said. A video published by opposition news outlet Shaam Network showed cages of men and women being transported on the backs of three trucks through the streets. Speaking on camera, both men and women asked government forces to stop shelling Eastern Ghouta. [AFP, 11/1/2015]

EU gives 28 million euros to Syrian refugees in Jordan; US pledges $100 million to rebels
The European Union on Sunday said it has allocated an extra 28 million euros to Jordan to help it meet the urgent needs of Syrian refugees as winter begins. The latest aid raises the overall EU humanitarian assistance to 198 million euros since Syria’s conflict broke out in 2011. The funds are expected to be used to provide the refugees with basic needs such as health care, clean water, shelter, rent, and education. Over the weekend, the United States announced it is providing nearly $100 million more in aid to the Syrian opposition for tasks like supporting local councils and civil society activists. This brings the amount the United States has pledged to the Syrian opposition to nearly $500 million. [AFP, 11/1/2015]

ISIS overruns town in central Syria
Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL) militants took over a town in western Syria on Sunday, driving out Syrian government forces as ground fighting intensified over the weekend. ISIS began its assault Sunday on the town of Maheen, in southwest Homs province. From Maheen, the jihadists pushed northeast toward the village of Sadad and the nearby highway running south from Homs to the Syrian capital. As ISIS advances in western Syria, they are the target of a new ground offensive staged by US-backed rebels in the northeastern Hasaka province. Reports by SOHR show intense ground fighting between ISIS militants and fighters connected to the newly established US-backed rebel alliance, including militia members of the Kurdish People’s Protection Forces (YPG), in the al-Houl area near Syria’s border with Iraq. [Reuters, AFP, 11/2/2015]

Syria Kurdish-Arab alliance launches first anti-ISIS attack
A coalition of US-backed Kurdish militia and rebel groups has launched its first operation against territory controlled by ISIS in northeast Syria, a spokesman said Saturday. The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) were formed in mid-October as an alliance between the YPG and other Syrian rebel groups. “This is the first step of the Syrian Democratic Forces,” said Sherfan Darwish, spokesman for the Burkan al-Furat Arab rebel group, which is part of the SDF. Speaking from Syria, Darwish said the SDF’s operation began on Friday night and would target ISIS-held areas in the northeast province of Hasaka, including the towns of Shadadi and al-Hol. Darwish said the operation would receive air support from the US-led coalition. In a video statement published online, the YPG confirmed the beginning of the operation “with all of the members of the SDF, and with support from and coordination with the international coalition, to liberate the southern parts of Hasaka province.” [AFP, 10/31/2015]

Turkish, US air strikes kill more than fifty ISIS militants in Syria
Air strikes by Turkish and US aircraft in Syria on Saturday killed more than fifty ISIS militants and wounded around thirty, Turkish security sources reported on Sunday. Six Turkish F-16 jets which took off from the Incirlik base in southern Turkey and a drone belonging to the coalition were involved in the air strikes on Saturday morning. Reports say the operation destroyed eight ISIS targets around 5 km inside the Syrian border near the Turkish province of Kilis. The operation was backed up by Turkmen forces on the ground in Syria. [Reuters, 11/1/2015]

For more in-depth Syria news and analysis, please visit SyriaSource.


Saudi-led coalition sends weapons to Yemen pro-government forces
The Saudi-led coalition in Yemen provided pro-government forces in Taiz with dozens of armored vehicles this weekend in their fight against Houthi rebels. The coalition has sent thirty military vehicles, including tanks, to help pro-government forces recapture the city and break the Houthi-imposed siege. Meanwhile, twelve pro-government fighters, part of a 500-strong Yemeni force sent from the main southern city of Aden, were killed in a late Sunday ambush by the rebels en route to Taiz. Despite the United Nations and World Food Programme describing the humanitarian situation in Taiz as potentially irreversible, military operations have continued in the area as the Saudi-led coalition and its allies reportedly prepare for a decisive battle. [The Daily Star, UN News Centre, Sahafah (Arabic), 11/2/2015]

Gunmen attacks in Aden rise, as two security officers are shot
Gunmen killed two security officers in separate drive-by shootings on Saturday in the southern Yemeni city of Aden, where jihadists are becoming increasingly active. In the first incident, gunmen opened fire from a car at Major Meead Ali outside his house in Inmaa neighborhood while gunmen also shot dead Abdelwahed Ahmed of Aden’s criminal investigation unit in a similar attack in al-Mansoura district. Meanwhile, Chief Prosecutor of Lahj province Saeed Abdullah was also attacked, but survived the attempted assassination. Neither the Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL) nor al-Qaeda has claimed responsibility for the shootings. These attacks coincide with growing concerns over the security situation in Aden particularly regarding the safety of government cabinet members residing in the city. While both al-Qaeda and ISIS have gained ground in Yemen, Khaled Bartarfi, one of the most prominent leaders of al-Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula (AQAP), denounced ISIS as hypocritical and vowed to destroy the group. [Yahoo, Sahafah (Arabic), Yemen Press, 11/2/2015]

Saudi Foreign Minister discusses Syria and Iran at Bahrain security conference
Saudi Arabia’s top diplomat says the timing of the departure of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and the withdrawal of foreign fighters remain the main sticking points to finding a lasting resolution to the war in Syria. Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir made the comments Saturday at the Manama Dialogue security conference in Bahrain, just hours after leaving high-level talks in Vienna aimed at ending the war in Syria. He said that the powers had not been able to reach an agreement, adding that the presence of foreign fighters in Syria, particularly Iranians, is aggravating the crisis. While a number of politicians attended the conference, Yemeni researchers were reportedly blocked from the event, apparently at the urging of Yemen Foreign Minister Riad Yassin. [AP, 11/2/2015]

Emirates Red Crescent to help rebuild Yemen infrastructure; fears mount over Tropical Storm Chapala
The Emirates Red Crescent plans to spend around 400 million dirham on rebuilding Yemen’s electricity, sanitation, health and water infrastructure through its Yemen We Care program. The organization has worked to reopen schools and hospitals in Yemen, providing them with resources and medical supplies. The United Arab Emirates (UAE) also announced it is sending freshly trained soldiers to replace those currently fighting the Houthi rebels in the country and to prepare for new military operations. In the short term, the UN World Food Program fears that the humanitarian crisis will further deteriorate due to a tropical storm set to make landfall in Yemen and may impact an important terminal for aid supplies in neighboring Oman. [Gulf News, Khaleej Times, Al Masdar (Arabic), 11/2/2015]


Saudi official defends spending deficit as manageable
Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said Saturday that the kingdom’s financial deficit this year is manageable, despite the low oil prices and that its growth rate will remain strong. He emphasized Saudi Arabia’s accumulation of foreign reserves over the past decade, saying, “We have no doubt that the growth rates in our economy will continue and the financial health of the kingdom will remain as strong as it has been.” He explained recent high levels of spending, noting that Saudi Arabia is “on the tail end of a huge infrastructure development program in terms of airports, roads, hospitals, highways, [and] housing.” On Friday, Standard & Poor’s (S&P) downgraded its ratings for Saudi Arabia’s long-term foreign and local currency sovereign credit, citing a “pronounced negative swing” in the government’s budget balance. S&P said it could further lower the ratings within the next two years if Riyadh fails to achieve a “sizable and sustained reduction in the general government deficit.” The Finance Ministry criticized the decision, describing it as reactionary and driven by fluid market conditions rather than the economic fundamentals. [AP, Reuters, 10/31/2015]

Tunisia aims for foreign investment jump with new law
Tunisia hopes to double annual inflows of foreign investment over the next five years by pushing through legal reforms and reducing industrial unrest, according to Investment Minister Yassine Brahim. He said Tunisia plans to issue a new investment law early next year to “help the pace of investment with incentives and by reducing administrative procedures and bureaucracy.” The new law will contain financial incentives for investors, particularly those intending to export goods from Tunisia and invest in the country’s interior. The law will also give foreign investors more flexibility to transfer funds out of the country. “With new measures and economic reforms, we aim to double foreign investments in 2020 to $2.5 billion,” Brahim said. Meanwhile, Tunisia’s cabinet examined a number of draft development bills on Friday. On Saturday, the World Bank said it will launch consultations on a new strategy for support for Tunisia. [Reuters, 11/1/2015]

Moody’s says Turkey’s election results reduce near-term uncertainty
Ratings agency Moody’s said that the AK Party’s (AKP) victory in Turkey’s elections on Sunday election have reduced near-term political uncertainty. However, the agency noted that the impact of the election results on sovereign credit quality will depend on the AKP’s strategy to combat low growth, high inflation, and volatile capital flows. Moody’s said banks in Turkey still face elevated risk aversion towards emerging markets and elevated geopolitical risks despite the decrease in political uncertainty. On Monday, the Turkish lira and the Istanbul stock market rose sharply, with the lira rising 3 percent against the dollar after falling by 25 percent this year. [Reuters, 11/2/2015]

Sisi says Egypt’s natural gas crisis will end this month
Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi promised on Sunday that the country’s natural gas shortage will end this month. Egyptian factories that rely heavily on gas to generate power have been struggling due to a shortage of gas supplies, leading some factories to halt production. “I promise all the investors that operate their factories with natural gas that they will not face any more shortages by the end of November,” Sisi said. Trade and Industry Minister Tarek Kabil said earlier on Sunday that production at steel firms had been almost halted for the past four months due to gas shortages, but said that they had resumed production last week. On Friday Germany’s Siemens said it could win an expansion of its record $8.8 billion power deal with Egypt. Sisi also promised a drop in the price of basic commodities and said that the armed forces and the state will work to provide goods at lower prices. Meanwhile, on Monday Egypt’s Finance Ministry said the country’s budget deficit dropped to 11.5 percent from 12.2 percent of gross domestic product in fiscal year 2014/2015. [Reuters, Ahram Online, 11/1/2015]

Libya’s eastern central bank chief says bankruptcy is far off
Libya’s eastern Central Bank Governor Ali al-Herbi said that while low oil revenues are detrimental, the possibility of bankruptcy remains remote. He said that Central Bank revenues are about $8 billion per year, a fraction of the levels achieved prior to the 2011 revolution, and that the oil sector is operating at 15 percent of capacity. Nevertheless, al-Herbi said “bankruptcy is far off,” claiming that Libya’s foreign reserves can keep the country’s economy afloat. He also said Libya is unlikely to seek an international loan in the near future. “Central banks don’t go bankrupt,” he stressed. He also accused the Tripoli-based Central Bank Governor Sadeeq Elkaber of “implementing a corruption policy [that] is exacerbating the economic crisis.” The Tripoli Central Bank recently released a series of reports claiming that it has successfully cut spending on salaries and subsidies to decrease the budget deficit. [Libya Herald, Libya Monitor (subscription), 11/2/2015]