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The Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party has decided to support keeping the caretaker prime minister and cabinet appointed by the ruling military council in office for the next six months.

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Egyptian Salafis

Before Marianne Shukri, a resident of Awlad Saqr in the Sharqiyya governorate of Egypt, could cast her vote, she had to call the state-run Egyptian Communications Company to determine the location of her polling station.Download the PDF

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Field Marshal Tantawi with U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta

Despite congressional backing for new restrictions on future military aid to Egypt -- contingent on respect for human rights and progress toward a transfer of power to civilian leadership -- the Obama administration is still hoping to allocate Egypt's full $1.3 billion assistance package, according to Assistant Secretary of State Jeffrey Feltman, who was interviewed by the Egyptian independent newspaper al-Masry al-Youm in Cairo on January 6 (full text here). 

The bright side of Feltman's remarks was his clear statement of support for NGOs and civil society. "We want to help create the space for civil society to be able to operate freely," Feltman said.  But what the statement failed to acknowledge is that (1) supporting civil society while (2) continuing military aid to a leadership that will not tolerate dissent or criticism are contradictory imperatives.  The recent crackdown on NGOs leaves little doubt that the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) is waging a domestic war on civil society.  If the United States is genuinely committed to supporting a free and democratic society, it's clear that the administration's policy of unqualified assistance to Egypt's military must end. 

Congress has taken steps to restrict military aid to Egypt in the new spending bill, but so far the White House has pushed back on the proposal over concerns that conditions on assistance would "threaten the foreign policy prerogatives of the president.”

In order to allocate the aid earmarked for Egypt's military this year, the administration will need to meet tough new conditions imposed by Congress: Under the terms of the State and Foreign Operations Appropriations Bill for fiscal year 2012, none of the military aid earmarked for Egypt can be allocated until the Secretary of State has certified that its government is "supporting the transition to civilian government including holding free and fair elections; implementing policies to protect freedom of expression, association and religion; and due process of law" in addition to upholding the 1979 peace treaty with Israel (see pages 1092-93 of HR3671).

When asked how soon the U.S. will be able to allocate the 2012 military aid package, Feltman appeared certain that the State Department will eventually be able to cerifty Egypt's compliance with the conditions for this year's assistance budget. Suggesting that the outcome of the certification process is a foregone conclusion, Feltman seemed confident that the State Department will be able to fulfill the certification requirement  "in order to release the funding, which we intend to do and we will do."

In the excerpt below, Feltman also urged "Egyptian visitors" to visit Washington "so that they can help address the concerns that the Congress may have about Egypt’s transition to democracy," directly inviting Egyptian military lobbyists to help make the administration's case for continued military assistance:

  • QUESTION: Can the U.S. cut the military aid to Egypt?

  • A/S FELTMAN: In the United States, the Administration proposes a budget to Congress and Congress is also the one that appropriates the budget back to the Administration. So the Administration has to make its case to the Congress every year about our budget requests, whether it’s for operations or whether it’s for foreign assistance. I can’t speak for Congress; I’m not in the House of Representatives or the Senate, but what I can say is that the Administration has continued to make a very strong case for our assistance to Egypt. And we were pleased that the Congress has ultimately given us the authority for our full funding for the military assistance to the Egyptian military. This is a demonstration, in our view, of the partnership we have between the GOE and the United States. But again, the Senate and the House of Representatives play an important role in the budget process, and they have questions that we have to answer. And we always encourage Egyptian visitors to Washington to spend time on Capitol Hill to meet with Congressional representatives and their staffs so that they can help address the concerns that the Congress may have about Egypt’s transition to democracy.

  • QUESTION: When will Egypt receive the military assistance?

  • A/S FELTMAN: I’m not sure when exactly. There is now in the legislation a certification requirement. The Administration will have to work with Congress to fulfill this. So while we have the authority for the full funding, in order to release the funding, which we intend to do and we will do, there is a certain certification process that we’ll have to work on with Congress. So this will take some time. I don’t have a prediction of when the military financing will come through. But I repeat the fact that the Administration continues to make the case that full funding of our request for assistance to the Egyptian military is important to our partnership.

Mara Revkin is the assistant director of the Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East and editor of EgyptSource. She can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Photo Credit: AP

 

 

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As the anniversary of the January 25 uprising approaches, activists and political figures are divided over two different proposals for a transfer of power to civilians.

PROTESTS:

 1) As the anniversary of the January 25 uprising approaches, activists and political figures are divided over two different proposals for a transfer of power to civilians. One suggests that the military hand over power to the speaker of parliament once elections are completed in January. Another proposal, backed by 56 parties and movements led by April 6, is to hold presidential elections in April, earlier than originally planned, and open the door for presidential nominees on January 25. Elected MPs Amr Hamzawy and Mostafa al-Naggar, are also calling for presidential elections in April. The second proposal also calls for an inclusive and representative provisional assembly that will draft a constitution that accurately reflects Egyptian society and creates a semi-presidential system. Skeptics have dismissed both proposals as politically unfeasible, and fear that compressing the transition timeline further could provoke a crisis. The FJP has repeatedly rejected proposals to expedite a transfer of power and insists that the SCAF’s proposed timeline for a presidential election in July be respected. [al-Masry al-Youm, English, 1/10/2012] [al-Ahram, English, 1/10/2012]

2) The Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) issued a statement demanded that the government recognize January 25 as a national day of tribute to the revolution, in addition to paying compensation to the martyrs’ families. In the statement, the FJP called on the SCAF to respect the timetable announced in the constitutional declaration and hold the presidential election immediately after the first joint session of the People’s Assembly and Shura Council. [al-Ahram, English, 1/10/2012]

ELECTIONS

3) Runoff voting began on January 10 for individual candidacy seats that were not decided in the third round, as well as for districts where voting was previously suspended by court rulings. The Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) and Salafi  Nour Party lists are continuing their electoral rivalry in the runoffs, with the FJP competing for 30 seats and Nour for 29. Supporters of the rival Islamist parties clashed in Dakhaliya while competing to sway voters, forcing police to intervene to restore security.  [al-Masry al-Youm, English, 1/10/2012] [al-Masry al-Youm, Arabic, 1/10/2012]

4) The Muslim Brotherhood announced on January 7 that it had won at least 41 percent of the seats in the People’s Assembly, with Islamist parties collectively winning almost two thirds of the seats so far. The FJP won 35.2 percent of the party lists votes in round three, followed by the Salafi Nour Party with 27.5 percent, Wafd with 9.8 percent and the liberal Egyptian Bloc at 5.6 percent. Official results are expected after a runoff round for undecided individual candidate races on January 10-11. Partial results issued by the Muslim Brotherhood indicate that non-Islamist parties will not have strong representation in the new parliament: An estimated 9 percent of the seats will go to the liberal Egyptian Bloc, 9 percent to  the Wafd Party, 4 percent to former NDP members, and only 2 percent to the Revolution Continues coalition. The moderate Islamist Wasast Party also won 2 percent of the seats, while the rest were taken by independents. [The Daily News Egypt, English, 1/9/2012]

5) The liberal-oriented Free Egyptians party announced that it will boycott the Shura Council elections (scheduled to start on January 29), over the HEC’s failure to follow up on electoral violations, particularly the use of religious slogans in campaign propaganda. [al-Masry al-Youm, Arabic, 1/9/2012]

AL-AZHAR:

6) Al-Azhar has issued a controversial draft bill, which younger clerics view as an effort to consolidate the control of senior clerics over the institution. The proposal aims to reinstate the Senior Scholars Authority and grant it the authority to elect al-Azhar’s Grand Sheikh, ending the tradition of presidentially appointed Sheikhs. The Senior Scholars Authority would replace the state-controlled Islamic Research Academy. Last week, al-Azhar’s senior clerics discussed the proposal and agreed to set a retirement age (80 years) for the Grand Sheikh, although younger imams had argued for a lower retirement age. [al-Masry al-Youm, English, 1/10/2012]

INVESTIGATIONS:

7) The trial of former President Hosni Mubarak will continue into February, delaying a verdict until after the anniversary of the January 25 uprising. Omar Suleiman and Field Marshal Tantawi are now facing perjury charges. [al-Masry al-Youm, English, 1/10/2012]

8) Egyptian Ambassador Sameh Shoukry claimed that the government supports “the valuable role” played by NGOs and cautioned against calls from Congress to suspend military aid. [Bloomberg, English, 1/6/2012]

9) Naguib Sawiris, founder of the Free Egyptians Party, has been summoned to appear in court on January 14 on charges of contempt for religion after he published a controversial cartoon of Mickey Mouse sporting a beard and Minnie Mouse wearing a niqab on Twitter. [al-Ahram, English, 1/9/2012]

10) Presidential candidate Ayman Nour and the leading activists Mamdouh Hamza were summoned for questioning in connection with the clashes outside of the Cabinet building on December 19. Both are accused of inciting violence against the military. [al-Ahram, English, 1/9/2012]

ECONOMY:

11) An IMF delegation will visit Cairo on January 15 to restart negotiations on a $3.2 billion loan package, which the Egyptian government initially rejected last June. [al-Ahram, English, 1/9/2012]

Photo Credit: al-Masry al-Youm

 

FJP Flag

With the third and final round of Egypt's parliamentary elections coming to a close and preliminary results suggesting the domination of the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) in the People's Assembly, the focus has shifted to what the FJP might do with its newfound political gains. One widely debated question surrounds the FJP's position on the Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty. This is arguably the single most important agreement binding Egypt, Israel, and the US in their international relations and the paradigm by which Egypt has operated since 1978. Trying to gauge the FJP’s stance on the matter, however, remains confusing given the Brotherhood’s ambiguous and often contradictory statements on this issue.

On January 1, al-Hayat reported Dr. Rashad Bayoumi, Muslim Brotherhood deputy, as saying that the organization was under no obligation to recognize Israel, but that Egypt would respect its international agreements in the interim. Last week, US State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland stated that US officials that had spoken with the Brotherhood “had some good reassurances from different interlocutors” that they would uphold the international obligations of the Egyptian government.

Shortly after the announcement reached the press, however, a statement by Muslim Brotherhood Guidance Bureau member Ibrahim Mounir denied any such assurances. The same day, the FJP website also published its platform for governing Egypt – the focus almost entirely on domestic policy except for the last item on the list regarding increased Arab cooperation and support for Palestinian independence.

The confusion may partly stem from the fact that the Muslim Brotherhood and the FJP are different entities with a communication problem, not unheard of in any organization – political or otherwise. Some, however, believe the contradictory messaging is deliberate and that the organizations may, in fact, benefit from the ambiguity by allowing the Muslim Brotherhood as an umbrella organization to choose the most politically convenient position.

During the violent clampdown on unrest last November and December, the Muslim Brotherhood remained conspicuously absent from street protests against the ruling authorities, sparking suspicion over its dealings with the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF). Although the Muslim Brotherhood blamed the SCAF and the interim government for the violence, spokesman Mahmoud Ghazlan in a phone interview with the private satellite channel Dream TV said it would not oppose immunity for SCAF members accused of command responsibility for the deaths of protesters to guarantee a peaceful transition. Dr. Essam El-Erian, Vice Chairman of the FJP later released a statement denying special status or immunity for the SCAF.

So what is going on?

While more revolution-oriented groups accuse the Brotherhood and the FJP of manipulation and opportunism, others simply call it playing politics. The double talk clearly allows the organization to maneuver in a highly uncertain and volatile political environment, one in which the significance of the FJP in the People’s Assembly may hinge on the political system determined by the new constitution. The debate over the sequencing of the constituent assembly and the presidential elections pits the SCAF and the FJP against almost all the other political groups in a move designed to give the Brotherhood the greatest control over the coming transition.

The noncommittal talk may, therefore, represent the carrot (immunity) and the stick (renegotiating the Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty and the accompanied US military aid) that the Muslim Brotherhood and FJP hold over the SCAF to ensure the interim government will not interfere in its ascent to power and its shaping of the new Egypt. Should the SCAF attempt to curb the FJP’s political influence, the Muslim Brotherhood would not hesitate to exploit popular anti-American and Israeli sentiment by pushing for a referendum on the treaty and threatening the military aid that supports the SCAF’s privileged status. While by no means guaranteed, the treaty may end up a casualty in the political tug-of-war between the Islamists and the SCAF. 

 

Tarek Radwan is an Egyptian human rights activist specializing in international law and conflict resolution. He has worked for Human Rights Watch's MENA division and the United Nations mission (UNAMID) in Darfur as a Human Rights Officer. He currently provides consulting services on civilian protection and Middle East issues.

Photo Credit: Getty

 

Brotherhood Claims Victory

Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) Chairman Mohamed Morsy’s January 6 statement appears to have been written specifically to address foreign concerns about the party’s priorities.

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Ribbon-cutting ceremony at the Muslim Brotherhood

After winning an estimated 37.5 percent of the vote for list-based candidates in the third and final round of People's Assembly elections, the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party is cruising toward an outright parliamentary majority, while Islamist parties collectively expect to hold around 70 percent of the seats.

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The Muslim Brotherhood outlined its vision for Egypt's future, affirming support for a "civic constitutional state." Meanwhile, the April 6 Movement has launched a campaign to raise political awareness in preparation for a large-scale demonstration on January 25, the anniversary of the revolution.

PROTESTS:

1) The April 6 Movement has launched a campaign to raise political awareness in preparation for a large-scale demonstration on January 25, the anniversary of the revolution. [al-Youm, al-Saba’a, Arabic, 1/6/2012]

2) Hundreds of protesters including Salafis – who have been largely absent from recent protests in Tahrir Square – staged demonstrations in Cairo and Alexandria on January 6 to commemorate the anniversary of the alleged murder of Sayed Bilal by police officers and demand retribution for “the murderers and slaughterers of the National Security Agency.” Bilal, a Salafi accused of involvement in the New Year’s bombing on a Coptic church, was arrested at dawn last January 5 and his dead body was returned to his family the following day. [al-Shorouk, Arabic, 1/6/2012] [Egypt Independent, English, 1/6/2012]

PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION:

 3) Prime Minister Kamal Ganzouri reaffirmed that the SCAF will oversee the transition until a presidential election is held in June, rejecting calls for an earlier transfer of power to civilian leaders. [Bikyamasr, English, 1/6/2012]

 4) Former Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq, appointed in the dying days of Mubarak’s regime, has formally launched his presidential campaign. He attempted to hold a rally for supporters in Imbaba on January 6 but was forced to flee the stage after residents began throwing chairs at him. Rival presidential candidate Mohamed ElBaradei said that Shafiq’s candidacy “means the former regime is still alive.”[Egypt Independent, English, 1/6/2012] [Egypt Independent, English, 12/28/2012]

ISLAMISTS:

5) The Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) claimed that its list won 37.5 percent of the vote in the third and final stage of voting this week, followed by the Nour party in second place, consolidating the Islamists’ guaranteed majority in the next People’s Assembly. Official results are expected on January 7 and runoff voting for individual candidacy races will be held on January 10-11. [Reuters, English, 1/6/2012] [al-Shorouk, Arabic, 1/6/2012]

6) In an official statement on the Muslim Brotherhood’s website, FJP chairman Mohamed Morsi outlined the party’s vision for Egypt’s future, including the following highlights:

  • Promoting “the establishment of the modern Egyptian civic, constitutional state, based on freedom and democracy”
     
  • Safeguarding “the fundamental rights of every Egyptian”
     
  • Restoring security and subjecting the interior ministry to parliamentary oversight
     
  • Sweeping reforms to alleviate poverty and create jobs, as well as large-scale national development projects and a living wage for every work.
     
  • Activating the Islamic system of Zakat (charity) and Waqf (religious endowments) to ensure a dignified life for Egyptians
     
  • Setting minimum and maximum wages to promote economic equality
     
  • Overhauling transportation infrastructure and addressing overpopulation with new housing developments
     
  • Educational reforms to support innovation and scientific progress
     
  • Affirming the tourism industry as “a very important source of foreign currency”
     
  • Deepening cooperation and integration between Arab countries and affirming “the right of the Palestinian people to liberate their land.” [Ikhwanweb, English, 1/6/2012]

7) After the Muslim Brotherhood’s Supreme Guide Mohamed Badie referred to aspirations for a resurrected Caliphate in the context of the Arab spring, a member of the Brotherhood’s Guidance Bureau clarified that Badie was referring to a western-inspired union, rather than a “west-like union” rather than a traditional caliphate. “I is possible that there would be a union of Arab and Islamic states resembling already existing models that can be developed, adopted and built upon, such as the Organization of Islamic Cooperation,” said Dr. Abdul Rahman al-Barr. [Ikwhanweb, English, 1/6/2012]

8) Following a statement by US State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland claiming that the Brotherhood had reassured Washington that it would maintain the peace treaty with Israel, a member of the Brotherhood’s Guidance Bureau denied that the group had reassured the U.S. on the matter. According to Ibrahim Mounir, the Brotherhood supports deciding the fate of the peace treaty by a popular referendum.  [al-Ahram, English, 1/6/2012]

SECTARIAN ISSUES:

9) Coptic Christians, representing around 10 percent of the Egyptian population, are preparing to celebrate Christmas on January 7 amid heightened security measures. The Muslim Brotherhood is sending a delegation to the midnight mass ceremony conducted by Pope Shenouda, who also invited other Islamist groups including Salafi parties. [Egypt Independent, English, 1/6/2012]

PALESTINIAN RECONCILIATION:

10) Hamas head Khaled Meshaal arrived in Cairo for an unexpected visit and met with Arab League Secretary General Nabil al-Araby to discuss progress toward implementing the May 2011 reconciliation agreement signed between Fatah and Hamas. [Egypt Independent, English, 1/6/2012]

Photo Credit: Reuters

Egypt

Although Egypt’s most genuinely competitive elections since the 1952 military coup have been dominating the headlines lately, the true political battleground still lies ahead.

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Mubarak

The April 6 Youth Movement is calling for large-scale demonstrations on the anniversary of the January 25 uprising. With final election results expected on January 7, the Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party reiterated assurances that it will seek to build a coalition with liberal and secular forces. Meanwhile, Mubarak's prosecutor recommended the death penalty for the former president and other officials.

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