Legal & Political Institutions
Egypt’s outgoing housing minister, Ibrahim Mahlab, is to become the prime minister and form a new government tasked with organising new presidential elections in the next few months. At a news conference, Mahlab said he would begin consultations on appointing a new cabinet in the next few days. He vowed to “crush terrorism”, a term the interim, military-backed government has used against the Muslim Brotherhood and armed groups in the Sinai region. [Al Jazeera, Ahram, Reuters, BBC, Ahram, J-Post, Daily Star Lebanon] Read More..
Gender & Sexuality
Sherif Samir writes: “Women have got to realise how important and effective a free woman is. The reality now is, however, a sad one: many women ironically defend the misogynous values of masculine society. Even educated women still expect to be owned by men and to cultivate in their children the same beliefs that oppress women today. That’s how women are supposed to be in a devout Islamic country. So, I’m looking up to Egyptian women, wanting them to revolt, to change their destiny and thereby help change the world.” [The Online Citizen]
David Barnett unpacks the Egyptian government’s increasing claims of the Muslim Brotherhood’s connections with militant group Ansar Beit al-Maqdis. He claims that the government’s plan to wreck the MB’s reputation is failing for two reasons: “For one, it has served to harden opinions abroad about the regime’s anti-democratic tendencies. But more importantly, it may inadvertently be pushing some Brotherhood cadres — in particular those already promoting small-scale violence — into the waiting arms of the jihadist group.” [Foreign Policy] Read More..
Egypt expects a speedy investigation from Libyan authorities after seven Egyptian Christians were found shot dead on a beach in eastern in eastern Libya, a foreign ministry spokesman said Monday. [Ahram, Al Arabiya]
Rights & Freedoms
A Cairo misdemeanour court sentenced in absentia on Tuesday three Strong Egypt Party members to three years in prison and an LE500 fine for hanging posters calling for a ‘No’ vote on the now-passed 2012 amended constitution. Charged with disturbing public peace and distributing flyers, the party members were arrested early January while handing out leaflets calling for a ‘No’ vote ahead of the constitution referendum held on 14-15 January. [Ahram, Shorouk News-ar] Read More..
In order to cut down on Egypt’s increasingly congested bread lines, the development ministry plans to introduce a ‘smart card’ to try to manage the corrupt and wasteful bread supply chain that has been untouchable for decades. [Reuters] Read More..
Kuwait’s Emir Shaikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah has launched a bid to end a bitter standoff between Qatar and Egypt ahead of the Arab Summit to be hosted in Kuwait City next month. [Gulf News] Read More..
Legal & Political Institutions
Dostour head, Hala Shukrallah: “”Our main battle is for the people’s right to a dignified life, and a just division of resources”
Arabist: Female party head doubts Egypt path
Associated Press: AP INTERVIEW: Female party head doubts Egypt path
Summary: The first woman elected to head an Egyptian political party expressed doubt over the country’s transition to democracy on Monday, criticizing the interim authorities’ increasing intolerance of dissent.
Hala Shukrallah, a 59-year-old Coptic Christian, condemned the security crackdown that has resulted in mass detentions and trials in the months since the military overthrew the Islamist president last July.
“The road map to democracy is being compromised,” Shukrallah told The Associated Press Monday in an interview at her Cairo home in the upscale district of Mohandessin.
Analysts react to cabinet resignation with mixed reviews
Mada Masr: The Cabinet resignation; the day after
Summary: Political analyst Gamal Abdel-Gawad believes the interim government’s performance should only be judged against the transitional roadmap – which included amending the constitution and passing it via a referendum.
Holding it accountable for all the problems – political, economic and social – Egypt has been grappling with since the 2011 uprising would be unfair, he says.
From this perspective, El-Beblawi’s government “was progressing in a satisfactory way,” he says, especially considering the ongoing political turmoil.
Abdel-Gawad concedes, though, that it should have made more effort towards solving certain problems – such as traffic and bureaucratic waste – that would have “made a great difference to the relationship between citizens and government.”
Another contentious point, analysts say, is a protest law passed in December which banned all demonstrations not pre-approved by the authorities. The interim authorities said the law’s purpose was to halt the pro-Morsi protests gripping the country.
“It is not a law that limits the right to demonstrate, but aims to protect the rights of protesters,” El-Beblawi told AFP at the time.
However, after the law was used to round up non-Islamist protesters, especially prominent activists involved in the 2011 uprising, political figures began to speak out against it.
Ahmed Fawzi, a member of the Social Democratic Party, which El-Beblawi formed after the January 2011 uprising, says the protest law is an example of the government’s “failure on the political level.”
This was echoed by Nader Bakkar, spokesperson for the ultra-conservative Salafist Nour Party, the only Islamist party to support Morsi’s ouster and the interim government’s roadmap.
Bakkar says the law is an example of how the government “rushed into decisions.”
“They decided to approve the protest law without listening to any other political party or alliance,” he says.
Bakkar also criticises the government’s decision to label the Brotherhood a terrorist organisation on 26 December.
Journalist Bel Trew on Egypt’s cabinet resignation: “The more things change in Egypt, the more–for better or worse–they stay the same”
Foreign Policy: Rearranging the Deck Chairs in Egypt
Summary: Despite the government’s persistent difficulties, the resignation of the entire cabinet will only increase Egypt’s difficulties in winning the kind of foreign investment needed to bolster its beleaguered economy.
“When so many senior members of government and the state were not aware of the wholesale resignation, that doesn’t send a very inspiring message about cooperation and coordination within government,” said H.A. Hellyer, nonresident fellow at the Brookings Institute in Washington, adding that the move will only compound the country’s myriad problems as it prepares for elections.
Many ministers, meanwhile, may not be going anywhere. Mansour, the Egyptian president, has requested that Beblawi stay in his role until a new prime minister is appointed — which local media reported would be Housing Minister Ibrahim Mahlab, a former member of Mubarak’s now defunct National Democratic Party. The more things change in Egypt, the more — for better or for worse — they stay the same.
Salafist Nour party intends to take part in Egypt’s next cabinet
Summary: The ultra-conservative Salafist Nour Party has announced intentions to take part in Egypt’s next cabinet, although it refused to the outgoing government months.
Salah Abdel-Maqsoud, member of the Nour Party’s high commission, said that while no final decision had been made, the matter was still being considered, according to Al-Ahram’s Arabic news website.
Meanwhile, Nour Party head Younes Makhion went on private TV channel MBC Masr on Monday and told host Sherif Amer that the party hadn’t been offered any positions in a future cabinet but would look into it if they were offered.
Hamdeen Sabbahi in reference to Egypt’s changing political players: “Mubarak’s men are making a comeback”
Egypt Independent: Egypt presidential hopeful fears return to autocracy
Summary: Presidential hopeful Hamdeen Sabbahi said he fears a return to autocratic rule in Egypt, telling AFP that the army chief, a likely election frontrunner, has failed to dispel these concerns.”Mubarak’s men are now making a comeback,” Sabbahi said, adding that Sisi “has not taken a position that could comfort the youths regarding the danger… which is the return to power of those who symbolised corruption under Mubarak”. Sabbahi said his intention to run for the presidency was also driven by concerns that “this election would feature only one candidate (Sisi) and would turn into a referendum”.
Sabbahi expressed hope that youths who represented a “key voting” bloc would back him after many shunned the January referendum on a new constitution.
He also criticised a law adopted by the interim authorities in November to ban all but police-sanctioned protests, saying it was a “political error” and urged interim president Adly Mansour to release all who were jailed for participating in peaceful protests.
500 Morsi supports to face mass tribunal for August 2013 deadly clashes
Summary: Egyptian authorities have ordered more than 500 supporters of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi to face a mass tribunal on violence charges.
Thousands of Morsi supporters have been arrested, killed and injured in a heavy crackdown on his Muslim Brotherhood since the Islamist leader was toppled on July 3. The Muslim Brotherhood has been labeled a terrorist organization and its assets have been confiscated.
On Monday, Egypt’s main prosecutor Hisham Barakat referred 504 of Muslim Brotherhood members and supporters to the Cairo Criminal Court on charges ranging from murder and using violence during deadly clashes that broke out during Aug. 16 demonstrations.
Many are worried that the police return to universities will revert Egypt back to pre-2011 police abuse
Summary: A Cairo court on Monday ruled that police once again be permanently deployed on campuses, three years after university grounds became off-limits to a body notorious for its heavy-handedness.
The court order came in the wake of widespread disorder gripping universities amid near daily protests, mostly held by Islamists, since the ouster of former president Mohamed Morsi last July and up until the autumn semester ended a month ago.
Numerous students and professors have voiced dismay at Monday’s decision, decrying it as an attempt to curtail freedom and expecting it will further exacerbate simmering tensions at universities.
“We fought for dozens of years until we officially ejected police from universities,” Al-Azhar University Professor Mahmoud Khafagy told Ahram Online. “Now the clock is turned back to the days before the  revolution,” he said in reference to the 25 January popular revolt fuelled by the police brutality and lack of freedom under the 30-year rule of autocrat Hosni Mubarak.
Rights & Freedoms
Rights group files complaint against Reuters for publishing information on terrorist activities from an alleged illegitimate Twitter
Summary: A rights group has filed a complaint against Reuters, accusing the British wire agency of propagandizing for a terrorist group, the privately owned ONA news agency reported on Monday.
Diaa al-Din al-Garhy, executive head of the Justice Center for Freedoms, wrote in the complaint that Reuters threatened Egypt’s national security and harmed tourism by publishing a story about the Sinai-based Jihad group Ansar Beit al-Maqdes.
The complaint was filed with Prosecutor General Hesham Barakat.
On February 18, Reuters published a tweet allegedly sent out by the militant group that warned tourists to leave the country by February 20 shortly after a bomb attack on a tourist bus in Sinai killed two Koreans and one Egyptian.
Ansar Beit al-Maqdes had claimed responsibility for the attack.
“We recommend tourists get out safely before the expiry of the deadline,” the tweet read.
Although the jihadi group said repeatedly that it has no accounts on social media, Reuters reported that the information published on the alleged Twitter account appeared on other websites that the group does admit to using.
Rights group condemning detention of journalist Kareem al Behairi, arrested on Jan25 anniversary
Summary: The Arab Network for Human Rights Information submitted a grievance Sunday to South Giza Prosecution demanding the release of El-Badil journalist Kareem Al-Behairi, who was arrested while covering protests marking the third anniversary of the 25 January Revolution.
The grievance filed by ANHRI calls for the inspection of documents submitted by the lawyers of the detained, whose preventative detention was extended for another 15 days on 18 February. Al-Behairi, who is being held at a Central Security Forces (CSF) camp on Cairo-Alexandria Desert Road, was charged with inciting riots, protesting and possessing Molotov cocktails.
“It is noteworthy that Al-Behairi, upon his arrest, faced physical abuse; moreover, the policemen insisted on apprehending him although he showed his ID and told them about the nature of his work along with reasons behind his presence in the protest,” the statement read.
Egypt’s banking situation unchanged, still negative due to political instability and an indebted government
Summary: The outlook for Egypt’s banking system is negative because of political instability and banks’ increasing exposure to the indebted government, Moody’s Investors Service said in a report that contrasted with many investors’ growing optimism.
Yields on Egypt’s international bonds have tumbled and its stock market has soared 62 percent since last July, when the ouster of Islamist President Mohamed Morsi brought to power a government promising better economic management.
Billions of dollars in aid to Egypt from Gulf allies since Morsi’s ouster have averted a balance of payments crisis and allowed the government to spend on economic stimulus plans.
But credit rating agency Moody’s, which rates Egypt’s sovereign debt Caa1, deep in junk territory, said on Tuesday that it still had a negative outlook for the mass of Egyptian banks – unchanged since 2011, when the country’s political turmoil began.
Russia’s support to Egypt heavily entrenched in military, and hostility towards Muslim Brotherhood
Atlantic Council: Egypt’s Presidential Elections: The Russian Factor
Summary: While the Gulf still seems hesitant about Field Marshal Abdel Fatah al-Sisi’s presidential candidacy, Russia has extended a warm welcome, perhaps more explicitly than is appropriate. The sentiment is evidenced by Sisi’s latest visit to Moscow, where Russian President Vladimir Putin himself officially welcomed Sisi, in violation of established protocol. This will increase the possibility of substantial Russian support for Sisi’s candidacy, which could mean providing international support in the face of expected American and European disapproval at the start of his term, or potentially economic and military support.