Musa Mustafa Musa, the accidental candidate

Musa Mustafa Musa
Updated 07 February 2018
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Musa Mustafa Musa, the accidental candidate

CAIRO: Last August, a page appeared on Facebook supporting the candidacy of Abdel Fattah El-Sisi for president of Egypt, a post he currently holds but is seeking to win again in the elections in March.
The Facebook page, which had the word “supporters” emblazoned across El-Sisi’s image, was only one of many and was hardly noticed by Egypt’s 40 million social media users, as was the image in one corner of the man who had created the page, Musa Mustafa Musa.
Today, however, both he and his Facebook page are the talk of the country after Musa declared that he too, is running for president next month. He made his bombshell announcement on Jan. 29, a day before the deadline for candidates to declare themselves, and submitted his nomination papers to the national electoral commission with just 15 minutes to spare before nominations closed.
Suddenly his little-noticed “Sisi for president” social media campaign has become a rallying cry for the opposition, since Musa is the president’s only challenger in the election.
All other contenders have either withdrawn or been disallowed. Gen. Sami Annan and Col. Ahmed Qanswa were both disqualified because army rules forbid serving military personnel from running for president. Qanswa was jailed for six years for violating military regulations by announcing his candidacy and Annan is in prison awaiting trial.
Ahmed Shafiq, who was appointed prime minister after the 2011 uprising and fled into exile after narrowly losing the 2012 presidential election to Mohammed Morsi, announced his candidacy from the United Arab Emirates and then withdrew it after returning to Egypt.
The prominent reformist lawyer Khaled Ali also withdrew because of misgivings about the political process. Other lesser-known potential candidates had to drop out because they failed to gain the necessary number of supporters.
All of which has led to speculation that 66-year-old Musa is a “fake” candidate, standing purely for show so that El-Sisi does not run unopposed and the election looks like a genuine poll.
Although he has been politically active for nearly 20 years, Musa’s name has never been to the forefront.
His profile was perhaps highest in 2005 when he was sacked as deputy leader of the opposition Ghad Party after a split with the party leader, Ayman Nour, who lost to Hosni Mubarak in the presidential election of that year. Musa declared himself to be the true leader of the party and stood for parliament in 2010 in a southern Giza constituency but failed to win a seat in the People’s Assembly.
In 2014 he launched the Kamel Jamilak (“finish your good deed”) campaign in support of El-Sisi. That support remained unwavering until Jan. 29, when, at a press conference from Ghad party headquarters, Musa announced he had collected the required 20-plus signatures from parliamentarians and 25,000 eligible voters that would allow him to stand for president.
The following day, the national electoral commission confirmed he had met all the conditions to stand in the 2018 election.
But his campaign has already run into controversy. Candidates for president of Egypt are required to hold at least an undergraduate degree. Musa’s background is in contracting and manufacturing in construction, agriculture, textiles and paints, and his qualifications have been questioned by his old party boss, Ayman Nour.
In interviews with the Egyptian press, Musa said he had a bachelor’s degree in architecture from a French university. But Nour claimed Musa only holds a qualification from an industrial technical institute, to which Musa responded — somewhat confusingly — that his diploma was equivalent to a master’s degree.
As well as leading the Ghad party after 2011, he has also been president of the Egyptian Council of Egyptian and Arab Tribes, and chaired the Arab Council for Development Projects since 2016.
He announced he was running for president in the 2012 election but never submitted his candidacy papers, despite claiming widespread support in 20 of Egypt's 27 provinces. This was well within the requirements of the 2014 Presidential Elections Act, which stipulates candidates must collect signatures of support from at least 25,000 eligible voters in at least 15 provinces or governorates.
In response to accusations that his candidacy is “phony,” Musa has threatened to sue anyone who calls for an election boycott, which he says would amount to an act of betrayal.
“Those who call for a boycott want to embarrass Egypt before the countries of the world,” he said.
He also says he see no contradiction in his being both a supporter of El-Sisi and his electoral opponent.
“If I don’t succeed (in winning the election), I will be in solidarity with president El-Sisi,” he said.


US envoy urges tighter business ties between Israeli settlers, Palestinians

Updated 28 min 35 sec ago
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US envoy urges tighter business ties between Israeli settlers, Palestinians

  • David Friedman was speaking in Jerusalem at a forum to encourage business links between Israeli settlements and Palestinians

JERUSALEM: The US ambassador to Israel on Thursday urged deeper business ties between Israeli settlers and Palestinian businessmen in the occupied West Bank, angering Palestinian leaders.
David Friedman, who was appointed by US President Donald Trump, was speaking in Jerusalem at a forum to encourage business links between Israeli settlements and Palestinians.
“There are many, many Palestinians that would like to be freed up to engage in business ventures with Israelis, and they’re entitled to that opportunity,” Friedman told Reuters at the two-day forum attended by Israeli government officials, international businessmen and a handful of Palestinians.
Friedman’s remarks were immediately attacked by Palestinian officials as encouraging settlement activity in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, territory captured in a 1967 war and which Palestinians seek as part of a future state.
“This constitutes a stab in the back of the Palestinian people,” said Wasel Abu Youssef, a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s executive committee.
“We warn against any involvement or participation of any Palestinian in projects with settlers, or meetings called by the American ambassador.”
Most of the world considers the settlements illegal under international law, a position Israel rejects. US criticism of Israeli settlement building has died down since Trump took office.
Many Palestinians view engagement with the settlements as “normalization,” arguing that doing business with Israelis in the West Bank legitimizes their presence and hinders future Palestinian sovereignty.
However, thousands of Palestinians work in settlements, often in manufacturing or construction jobs which they say offer higher wages than similar jobs in Palestinian cities.
Haldun Al-Husseini, a Palestinian garment manufacturer from Jerusalem who attended the forum, says business with Israelis is key to improving the Palestinian economy, where unemployment stands at 32 percent.
“Most of my business comes from Israelis,” Husseini said. “If we don’t work together, we will not improve Palestinian lives.”
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas severed all political contacts with the White House after Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in 2017 and opened a US embassy in the city last May.
Those decisions delighted Israel, which claims all of Jerusalem, including the eastern sector captured in 1967, as its capital. But the moves dismayed Palestinians who see east Jerusalem as their capital.
Earlier this week, it was revealed the United States Consulate General in Jerusalem, which serves Palestinians, will be absorbed into the new US Embassy to Israel in March, creating a single diplomatic mission for both parties.