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Egypt: Police Clash with Copts
November 24th, 2010 by Evan
Coptic Christians clashed with police yesterday after Egyptian authorities stopped construction of a church in the Omraneyya neighborhood of Giza, leaving one protester dead and over 50 injured. Several police officers and security officials were also hurt. After the initial confrontation at the construction site, over 700 Copts marched on the Giza governor’s office but were turned back by riot police. The government has sent 3000 troops to the area to restore order. The violence comes amidst increased reports of sectarian hostility across the country.
Posted in Egypt | Comment »
Iran: Ahmadinejad Faces Growing Conservative Opposition
November 24th, 2010 by Evan
Writing at The Daily Beast, Reza Aslan argues the recently revealed plan to impeach President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is indicative of growing popular and elite displeasure with his policies. There is a sense in Iran that “with the protests having died down and the ‘Green Movement’ having been (for the moment) contained, the alliance of convenience that had formed among Iran’s feuding conservative factions would fracture, taking Ahmadinejad down with it,” Aslan writes. As opposition in parliament and on the street to Ahmadinejad’s planned subsidy reduction program grows the President’s position will likely become increasingly tenuous.
Posted in Iran, Islam and Democracy | Comment »
Egypt: Pressure on Egypt’s Election Monitors Builds
November 24th, 2010 by Evan
After rejecting U.S. calls for international election monitors, the responsibility for ensuring the validity of elections falls squarely on the Egyptian government, writes Al Masry Al Youm’s Ashraf Khalil. “‘If the elections on Sunday are perceived to be as non-transparent and lacking in credibility as people expect, then we could see a revival [of the Washington-based push for domestic reform],’” POMED’s Stephen McInerney told Khalil. Over at the Los Angeles Times’ Babylon and Beyond, Amro Hassan describes the National Council for Human Rights’ (NCHR)  preparations for domestic monitoring. According to NCHR vice president Mokbel Shaker Egypt is prepared to supervise the election: “‘Monitoring elections through a foreign authority is a procedure that could only be taken in underdeveloped countries carrying out elections for the first time, and Egypt certainly doesn’t belong to such a category.’”
Posted in Egypt, Elections, Judiciary | Comment »
Egypt: Too Late for International Monitors?
November 24th, 2010 by Evan
The Washington Institute for Near East Policy’s David Schenker suggests that Egypt should follow Jordan’s example and allow international organizations to monitor its elections on Sunday in a new piece for The Weekly Standard. “Absent international monitors, it is all but certain that Cairo’s perennially fraudulent elections will continue,” Schenker writes, adding “Rather than return to the customary practice of sending out the troops on November 28, Cairo should send in the monitors — both independent domestic observers and international ones. Should Egyptian elections be assessed as free and fair, Egypt — like Jordan — will win international praise.”
Posted in Democracy Promotion, Egypt, Elections | Comment »
Egypt: The Brotherhood Vote
November 24th, 2010 by Evan
In a new article in The Daily News Egypt, Khalil Al-Anani analyzes the Muslim Brotherhood’s electorate. According to Al-Anani, there are three broad categories of potential Brotherhood voters: (1) those who are committed to the organization’s religious and political ideology and pay membership dues; (2) those who are sympathetic to its religious views and benefit from its social subsidies but do not formally participate in its activities; and (3) protest voters who want to vote against the ruling National Democratic Party. This year, the Brotherhood faces many challenges getting these voters to the polls, Al-Anani writes: “In many constituencies, the group will not be able to mobilize its regular electorate as it used to,” Al-Anani writes.
Posted in Egypt, Elections, Muslim Brotherhood | Comment »
Egypt: Will Parliamentary Elections Influence the 2011 Presidential Race?
November 24th, 2010 by Evan
Issandr El Amrani recently authored a piece for the International Relations and Security Network’s (ISN) Insights series on the process, outcome, and potential effect of the upcoming Egyptian parliamentary elections.  The constitutional amendments passed in 2007, voter apathy, and the weakness of Egyptian opposition parties mean that there is “no great suspense about the outcome,” El Amrani writes. The real significance of the elections, according to El Amrani, will be their effect on the 2011 Egyptian presidential election: “The regime may desire as tame a parliament as possible during this transition, and seats at the People’s Assembly will afford parties and individuals some room for negotiation during this delicate time […] the presence of strong opposition voices inside and outside formal structures like parliament, even if limited, could influence the direction of the new regime and force it to take into account the growing number of voices seeking real change.”
Posted in Egypt, Elections, Islamist movements, Muslim Brotherhood | Comment »
Afghanistan: Parliamentary Election Results Announced
November 24th, 2010 by Evan
On Wednesday, Afghanistan’s Independent Electoral Commission released the results from the September parliamentary elections for 34 of 35 voting districts. A loose coalition led by former presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah won over 90 of the 249 seats in the lower house of the Afghan parliament and will form a quasi-opposition to President Hamid Karzai’s parliamentary allies. Christian Science Monitor reports that the winners were disproportionally members of the Hazara ethnic community, largely because continued violence in Pashtun regions kept voters at home. The Electoral Commission also announced that three more preliminary winners were disqualified for fraud, bringing the total number of disqualified candidate to 24.
Posted in Afghanistan, Elections | Comment »
Egypt: Disgruntled Workers Pose Threat to Mubarak Government
November 23rd, 2010 by Evan
Yasmine Saleh, writing for Reuters, reports that growing labor unrest threatens the Mubarak government’s grip on Egypt: “With the parliamentary vote and a presidential poll in 2011 posing little threat to the National Democratic Party’s (NDP) grip on power, analysts say the biggest flashpoint lies in the industrial heartlands of the Arab world’s most populous country.” According to Saleh, Egypt’s “healthy-looking economic growth” has had little effect on the lives of most Egyptians. Meanwhile, in a recent installment of her weeklong series on Egypt, NPR’s Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson describes Egypt’s long and often awkward transition toward a market economy.
Posted in Egypt | Comment »
Egypt: NDP Accuses Brotherhood of Stealing Platform, Sparking Violence
November 23rd, 2010 by Evan
Tension between the Muslim Brotherhood and the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) continues to grow following the recent arrests of Brotherhood members and parliamentary candidates. Al Masry Al Youm reports that on Tuesday, NDP Secretary Ahmed Ezz said that the Brotherhood is trying to “steal” NDP’s achievements and Ali Eddin Helal, NDP Information Secretary, accused the Brotherhood of inciting violence. In The Guardian, Jack Shenker reports that while Brotherhood candidates have no delusions about the likely outcome of the parliamentary elections, they are campaigning enthusiastically and believe that the upcoming election will strengthen their hand ahead of the 2011 presidential election.
Posted in Egypt, Elections, Muslim Brotherhood | Comment »
Egypt: Brotherhood Expected to Lose Seats
November 23rd, 2010 by Jason
In an article in Al Masry Al Youm, Noha El-Hennawy says that the Muslim Brotherhood is expected to suffer a “remarkable retreat” in Sunday’s election and will likely be replaced with the liberal Wafd party. As El-Hennawy explains, the unprecedented success of the Brotherhood in 2005, when the outlawed group won 88 seats with members running as independents, has lead the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) to crackdown on the party. Wafd party looks to be in the best position to capitalize on this turn of events, although Mohamed Sherdy, the Wafd Party’s official spokesman, seems less optimistic: “‘I was pro-election and pro-participation but if we could go back in time, I think we should really reconsider it […] I do not think they (the government) want anybody from the opposition, they are chocking (sic) the opposition.’”
Also, the Washington Institute for Near East Policy released an audio recording of a Policy Forum held yesterday on the Egyptian elections and U.S. policy towards Egypt. The discussants included Dina Guirguis, a Keston Family research fellow with the Washington Institute’s Project Fikra, David Schenker, the Aufzien fellow and director of the Program on Arab Politics at the Washington Institute, and Leslie Campbell, a senior associate and regional director of the National Democratic Institute’s (NDI) Middle East and North Africa division.
Posted in Civil Society, Egypt, Elections, Muslim Brotherhood, Political Parties, US foreign policy | Comment »
Afghanistan: Final Election Results Wednesday, 21 Candidates Disqualified
November 23rd, 2010 by Jason
The final results of the September elections for the Wolesi Jirga (lower house of parliament) will be announced by the Independent Election Commission on Wednesday. The announcement will come on the heels of 21 candidates who “earned a winning number of votes in their distric,” being disqualified “‘[d]ue to irregularities, usage of fake votes and the influence of provincial officials, which created electoral fraud,’” according to Ahmad Zia Rafat, a member of the five-person Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) panel.
Warren P. Strobel and Habib Zohori, in an article for McClatchey, focus on the results in Ghazni province, where Hazara candidates (an ethnic minority) were able to take all 11 provincial seats. “What happened in Ghazni is in dispute. While Pashtun candidates say their votes were stolen, there’s little doubt that polls in the province were among the messiest of a very messy campaign.”
Posted in Afghanistan, Elections, Political Parties, Sectarianism | Comment »
Egypt: Free, Fair Elections Are “Vital” to Egypt’s Future
November 23rd, 2010 by Evan
Responding to a question on Egypt’s upcoming election, State Department Spokesman P.J. Crowley said “we are closely monitoring events that are happening in Egypt, reports of arrests and intimidation, and we have not hesitated to express our concerns directly to Egyptian leaders.” Crowley added that “we think this is a vitally important period for Egypt’s future and we continue to encourage them to do everything possible to ensure a free, fair, and impartial election in Egypt.” Crowley’s statement comes amidst growing concern about the validity of the Higher Electoral Commission and widespread voter disinterest ahead of the election.
Posted in Egypt, Elections, Human Rights | Comment »
Iran: Ahmadinejad to be Impeached?
November 23rd, 2010 by Jason
Farnaz Fassihi reports in the Wall Street Journal that Iran’s parliament had a plan to “impeach President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad but refrained under orders from Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. “The possible impeachment charge stems from accusations that President Ahmadinejad and members of his government violated the law by “acting without the approval of the legislature. Charges include illegally importing gasoline and oil, failing to provide budgetary transparency and withdrawing millions of dollars from Iran’s foreign reserve fund without getting parliament’s approval.” U.S. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley told the Journal, “There are clear rivalries within the Iranian government and multiple camps around Ahmadinejad, Larijani and others […] Those tensions have certainly been exacerbated as Iran feels more pressure from sanctions and political isolation.”
Posted in Iran | Comment »
Khouri Assesses Elections Across the Arab World
November 22nd, 2010 by Evan
Writing in the Daily Star, Rami Khouri analyzes the recent outcomes of the Bahraini and Jordanian elections and the prospective outcome of the upcoming Egyptian parliamentary election. According to Khouri, these elections reveal three important lessons: “Ruling power elites and their foreign supporters remain hesitant to allow the full force of Arab public opinion to assert itself; they provide useful means of gauging public sentiments on important issues of the day; and, they provide a limited arena in which people learn to contest power peacefully, make deals with other groups, and appeal for the votes of their fellow citizens.”
Posted in Bahrain, Egypt, Elections, Jordan | Comment »
Egypt: Should the U.S. Push Hard for Democratic Reforms?
November 22nd, 2010 by Jason
Amanda Kadlec, writing at International Affairs Review, questions the efficacy of unwavering U.S. support for the Egyptian government. Kadlec agrees with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that Egypt is a “‘cornerstone of stability and security in the Middle East,’” but, she asks, “at what cost, and – more critically – is it durable?” While Egypt remains a “central player” in the peace process between the Israelis and the Palestinians, Kadlec argues that “isolating the peace process as a priority at the expense of democracy is an unwise long-term strategy.” Ultimately, silence on the issue of democracy in Egypt “speaks volumes,” according to Kadlec. “It signals quite loudly to Egyptians that their human, civil, and political rights are trumped by a nebulously defined regional stability that hinges on a Palestinian-Israeli agreement.”
Jay Soloman and Ashraf Khalilwrite in the Wall Street Journal that “[s]uccessive U.S. administrations have struggled with the dilemma of how hard to push for democracy in Egypt,” noting Egyptian support on both the peace process and anti-terrorism issues as plausible reasons for the indecisiveness. George Ishak, a founder of the Keyafa movement, which advocates for democratic reform in Egypt, told the authors, “‘America doesn’t care about this at all. They feel stability is more important than democracy.’”
Posted in Egypt, Elections, Reform, US foreign policy | Comment »
Egypt: Government Rejects U.S. Criticism of Religious Freedom Record
November 22nd, 2010 by Evan
The Egyptian Foreign Ministry rejected recent U.S. criticism of the status of religious freedom in Egypt saying that the State Department “has no right to make such an evaluation.” Foreign Ministry spokesman Hossam Zaki added “Egypt is only concerned with what emerges from parties linked to the United Nations.” The State Department’s annual International Religious Freedom Report, released last Wednesday, criticized Egypt saying “The status of respect for religious freedom by the government remained poor, unchanged from the previous year.”
Posted in Egypt, US foreign policy | Comment »
New NPR Series on Egypt
November 22nd, 2010 by Evan
NPR’s Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson began a weeklong series examining life in Egypt ahead of the country’s parliamentary election on Monday. The first installment focuses on growing discontent with the Mubarak Administration: “Not all Egyptians are in favor of Mubarak staying in power. A growing number of them are fed up living in what they see as a police state under his iron-fisted rule and in a country whose economy has failed to lift enough people out of poverty,” Sarhaddi Nelson writes. Much of the discontent stems from widespread corruption and police brutality. “Like many Egyptians of his generation, 29-year-old Ahmad Maher has a different view of life in Egypt today. The construction engineer says he could fill books with descriptions of everything that is wrong with Egypt after three decades of Mubarak’s rule. He complains that no one in government is accountable to the public,” she reports.
Posted in Egypt, Elections, Human Rights, Journalism | Comment »
Egypt: Domestic Monitors Face Challenges
November 22nd, 2010 by Jason
Bahey el-din Hassan writes in Al Masry Al Youm that civil society and human rights organizations face three major challenges in monitoring Egypt’s November 28 elections: First, the groups must obtain permits from the High Elections Commission (HEC), a process that has become increasingly opaque. “Although the HEC set 7 November as the deadline for human rights groups to submit applications to monitor elections, it set no date for the issuance of permits,” he writes. Also, the HEC “mandates that monitors be impartial, but how can the commission, with its limited resources, evaluate thousands of monitors for bias? Or is it planning to outsource the job to the security apparatus?” The second major hurdle for groups is a lack of accurate information, a problem exacerbated by the “deplorable state” of the HEC itself. The third challenge are the restrictions placed on the press. “The regime launched a quiet coup in October that restructured TV and print media and placed enormous restrictions on the free flow of information. This means that election monitors will do their job in the dark,” according to Hassan.
Al Masry Al Youm also reports that the head of the HEC, Al-Sayed Abdel Aziz, has now “definitively” stated that “there would be ‘no monitoring’ of Sunday’s parliamentary elections, stressing that the role of civil society and human rights organizations would be limited to ‘following’ the elections rather than ‘monitoring’ them.”
Posted in Civil Society, Egypt, Elections, Human Rights, Journalism, Middle Eastern Media, NGOs | Comment »
Iran: UN Adopts Resolution Criticizing Human Rights Abuses
November 22nd, 2010 by Evan
Last week, the Third Committee of the United Nations (UN) General Assembly approved a new resolution expressing “deep concern at serious ongoing and recurring human rights violations in Iran.” U.S. officials welcomed the resolution: “Iranian citizens and others continue to face abuses at the hands of the Iranian government. Those abuses undermine Iran’s standing in the international community and call into question the Government of Iran’s commitment to the principles of justice and the welfare of its citizens. […] By adopting the resolution, the international community has sent an unequivocal message to the Iranian government that universal rights must be respected,” said National Security Council spokesman Mike Hammer. Nobel Peace Prize laureate and Iranian activist Shirin Ebadi also praised the resolution for showing the “gravity of the situation” in Iran.
Posted in Human Rights, Iran, United Nations | Comment »
Egypt: Amnesty Urges Respect for Human Rights During Election, Documents Abuse
November 22nd, 2010 by Evan
Amnesty International recently called on the Egyptian government to ensure that candidates and voters are not “harassed or intimidated by security forces” during the upcoming parliamentary election. “The Egyptian authorities must uphold the rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly and ensure that peaceful protesters are not arbitrarily arrested and detained,” said Malcolm Smart, Director of Amnesty’s Middle East and North Africa program. Smart added that “The eyes of the world will be on the conduct of the Egyptian authorities during this election. It’s an opportunity for them to show that Egypt can be a place where human rights are respected.” In a new report titled “Egypt: Shouting Slogans into the Winds” Amnesty details human rights violations in the run up to the election including attacks on demonstrators, the silencing of independent voices in the press, and the targeting of National Association for Change and Muslim Brotherhood members.
Posted in Egypt, Elections, Human Rights | Comment »
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Egypt: Police Clash with Copts
Iran: Ahmadinejad Faces Growing Conservative Opposition
Egypt: Pressure on Egypt’s Election Monitors Builds
Egypt: Too Late for International Monitors?
Egypt: The Brotherhood Vote
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