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All other contenders have either withdrawn or been disallowed.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.


Few takers for Hezbollah offer to repatriate Syrian refugees

Syrians prepare to leave their refugee camp in the city of Arsal in Lebanon's Bekaa valley on the eastern border with Syria. (AFP)
Updated 20 July 2018
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Few takers for Hezbollah offer to repatriate Syrian refugees

  • A number of refugees from the town of Flita were reluctant to return after hearing of revenge incidents
  • “Hezbollah’s mission in Syria has not yet been completed and as long as the threat of terrorists lingers there, Hezbollah will stay no matter the number of fighters”

BEIRUT: More than 11 days have passed since Hezbollah opened reception centers in Bekaa, a southern suburb of Beirut, and southern Lebanon where Syrian refugees can apply to return to their home country. However, the number of applicants so far has been rather small.
Many of the refugees had one simple question for the Hezbollah officials at the centers: “Will you take us to the Lebanese-Syrian border and dump us there or will you take us to our houses, which you helped destroy, inside Syria?”
Hezbollah opened the repatriation centers in response to the Iranian position, which was later confirmed by Hossein Jaberi Ansari, the Iranian president’s special envoy to Beirut. He said: “One of our top priorities at this stage is the issue of Syrian refugees and ensuring their safe return to their homeland. We cannot discuss a final solution to the Syrian crisis unless refugees are back in their homeland, cities and villages.”
On July 23, about 1,200 people will return from the Lebanese town of Arsal, near the border with Syria, to their homes West Qalamoun.
Arsal Mayor Basil Al-Hajjiri said that the return of this group, the third batch of refugees to go home, comes within the framework of a reconciliation with the Syrian authorities, and in coordination with Lebanese General Security.
He added that it had been initiated by the refugees themselves.
“Most of those refugees do not have identification papers to travel outside Arsal and they acted before Hezbollah urged them to submit applications through the party’s centers, and prior to Foreign Minister Gibran Bassil’s call,” said Al-Hajjiri.
“They have agreed to return in light of the developments in the areas surrounding their homes. Neither Hezbollah nor minister Bassil can make them return if they were not fully convinced of their ability to go back to their homes under safe circumstances.”
A source responsible for Hezbollah’s refugee application center in Hermel said it had received telephone calls from Syrians in Wadi Khaled, northern Lebanon, saying it was difficult for them to get to Bekaa to register but that they want to return to their hometown of Talkalakh, having fled the fighting there.
A Hezbollah official said: “Communicating with those refugees requires certain arrangements on which we are currently working.”
But what guarantees can Hezbollah offer refugees who wish to return?
The official said: “Hezbollah’s mission in Syria has not yet been completed and as long as the threat of terrorists lingers there, Hezbollah will stay no matter the number of fighters.”
The Hezbollah source in Hermel confirmed that they do not provide any reassurances or guarantees to refugees about what might await them upon their return to Syria.
“We take individuals’ and families’ names and promise to secure the transportation of all their belongings, but if their houses were destroyed, we cannot promise to rebuild them,” he said. “We collect applications and submit them to the concerned committee.”
Asked how Hezbollah can reassure refugees of their safety even though the party’s fighters are still operating inside Syria in support the regime against the opposition, the Hezbollah official said: “People fought and reconciled throughout the history of mankind. A reconciliation must take place and I believe it is what refugees want.”
He fears that if the Syrian refugees remain in Lebanon, they may cause a demographic change, pointing out that each of the families that had registered at the center included at least 10 members.
Former member of Parliament Nawar Al-Sahili, who heads the committee formed by Hezbollah to oversee the return of Syrian refugees, said the number of registered families so far does not exceed 150.
“We want to send people back to safe areas, not ones that are still undergoing security developments; repatriation does not include returning to Idlib or Deir Ezzor, for instance,” he said, adding that “the applications will be handed over to the Syrian authorities to be approved.”
As for what awaits refugees who return to Al-Qusayr and its countryside, given that most of them are dissidents who took part in anti-regime demonstrations, Al-Sahili said: “We must find a solution for this issue.”
Arsal Mayor Al-Hajjiri said the information he has been given suggests the return of refugees to Al-Qusayr has been postponed by the Syrian authorities and Hezbollah.
“There is great destruction and people want guarantees that can only be provided by those controlling the territory,” he said.
Al-Hajjiri added that a number of refugees from the town of Flita were reluctant to return after hearing of revenge incidents. He believes the return of refugees to Al-Qusayr and its countryside will require not only a reconciliation but a general amnesty.
He pointed out that the road to West Qalamoun is safe but there is a need for a diplomatic route, which remains impassable for now.