Egypt’s presidential election campaign begins

An election campaign banner erected by supporters of Egyptian President is seen in the capital Cairo, in this February 21, 2018 photo. (AFP)
Updated 25 February 2018
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Egypt’s presidential election campaign begins

CAIRO: Egypt’s presidential election campaign began on Saturday. The election, in which President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi is running against Mousa Mustafa Mousa, head of opposition party Al-Ghad, will take place on March 16, 17 and 18 for expatriate Egyptians in 124 countries and in Egypt on March 26, 27 and 28.
Mohammed Bahaa Abu Shoka, spokesman for the El-Sisi campaign, said that many political parties and campaigns have been established to support El-Sisi and that the majority of members of parliament have already joined the president’s “Support Egypt” campaign.
He claimed that the “Free Egyptians,” “Protectors of the Homeland,” “The Conference,” and the “Republican People” parties had joined the campaign in addition to pro-El-Sisi groups “The Citizen” and “For Egypt.”
“The campaign is open to the participation of other entities and people,” he added.
“The El-Sisi campaign aims to raise awareness among the Egyptian people in the face of calls to boycott the elections,” he explained, adding that the president’s platform included “achieving Egypt’s best interests, completing construction projects and creating a strong state capable of coping with challenges.”
No party has yet declared its support for Mousa.
“I am a candidate who is not supported by any party, person or entity, because everyone thinks that by standing by me, he stands in the face of El-Sisi,” Mousa said. “Time will not allow me to tour all provinces, but I will work on delivering my program to all people.”
Moussa has appeared as a guest on a number of television programs and has confirmed that if he wins the presidency, he will choose former Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab as head of his government. He has also indicated that the majority of the current government will keep their posts.
The head of Egypt’s famers syndicate, Hussein Abu Sadam, recently withdrew support for Mousa’s campaign.
Mousa is something of an unknown quantity in Egypt. Ahmed Al-Jundi, a government employee, said he had never heard Mousa’s name before, and had barely heard anything of the Al-Ghad “for more than five years.”
The election comes at a time of economic uncertainty for Egypt. The majority of Egyptians will likely be swayed by campaign promises of higher wages, inflation control, greater job opportunities, and affordable housing.
Unemployed university graduate Mohammad Moataz said he supports all those demands, explaining that he will vote for the candidate who can meet them immediately, regardless of whether that is El-Sisi or not.
Hadeer Ahmed, another student, agreed and added that security and the war on terror should also be given priority.
A low voter turnout is expected, given the widespread belief that El-Sisi will be re-elected by a huge majority.
In her meeting with members of the Egyptian community in Kuwait last week, Minister of Immigration and Egyptian Expatriates’ Affairs Nabila Makram warned that a lack of voter participation would achieve the “goals of the enemies of Egypt,” adding that Egyptians abroad should set an example for domestic voters.
Faiza Mahmoud, a housewife in Cairo, says she is keen to participate because she believes that “many of the rights that were taken from women in the past have returned in recent times.”
Karam Jabr, president of the National Press Association, stressed that the media needed a “commitment to neutrality and equal coverage between candidates,” and that journalists and publishers should abide by the standards set by the National Electoral Commission.
Journalists from across the globe are expected to cover the election, which is just the fourth multi-candidate presidential election in Egypt’s history.
“Every voter has the right to vote and must not give up his right,” Jabr added. “Elections under judicial supervision guarantee the highest degree of integrity and there is no justification for the voter not going to the election committees.”


Amnesty urges Lebanon to help end domestic worker abuse

An Asian domestic worker walks her employer's dog in the Lebanese capital of Beirut, on April 23, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 12 min 3 sec ago
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Amnesty urges Lebanon to help end domestic worker abuse

  • Ethiopia and the Philippines have banned their citizens from domestic work in Lebanon, but still their citizens find ways to come

BEIRUT: Amnesty International on Wednesday urged Lebanon to end what it described as an “inherently abusive” migration sponsorship system governing the lives of tens of thousands of foreigners working in private homes.
Domestic workers in Lebanon are excluded from the labor law, and instead obtain legal residency though their employers’ sponsorship under the so-called “kafala” system.
But activists say this leaves the maids, nannies and carers at the mercy of their employers and unable to leave without their permission, including in numerous documented cases of abuse.
“Amnesty International is calling on the Lebanese authorities to end the kafala system and extend labor protections to migrant domestic workers,” the London-based rights group said.
“The Lebanese parliament should amend the labor law to include domestic workers under its protection,” including to allow them to join unions, the group said.
Lebanon hosts more than 250,000 registered domestic workers from countries in Africa and Asia, the vast majority of them women.
In a report released Wednesday titled “Their house is my prison,” Amnesty surveyed 32 domestic workers employed mostly in and around Beirut, revealing “alarming patterns of abuse.”
Among them, 10 women said they were not allowed to leave their employer’s house, with some saying they were locked in.
Twenty-seven said their employers had confiscated their passports.
Many worked overtime, 14 were not allowed a single day off each week, and several had their monthly salaries revoked or decreased, despite it being a breach of their contracts.
The labor ministry introduced a standard contract for domestic workers in 2009, but the forms are often written in Arabic, a language they cannot read.
The government in late 2018 said it had translated the contracts into several other languages.
Amnesty registered eight cases of forced labor and four of human trafficking, the report said.
Six reported severe physical abuse, while almost all had been subjected to humiliating treatment and several were deprived of food.
“Sometimes I would get so hungry... I used to mix water with sugar when I was hungry and drink it,” one worker said.
With the abuse taking a toll on their mental health, six said they had contemplated or attempted suicide.
Only four of those interviewed had private rooms, while the rest were relegated to living rooms, storage rooms, kitchens or balconies.
“There is a man in the house who can enter the living room any time he wants,” said one worker who was forced to sleep in the living room.
Activists accuse the Lebanese authorities of being lax in bringing abusive employers to account.
Ethiopia and the Philippines have banned their citizens from domestic work in Lebanon, but still their citizens find ways to come.
In 2008, Human Rights Watch found that migrant domestic workers in Lebanon were dying at a rate of more than one per week from suicide or in failed escapes.
Many other countries in the Arab world also follow the “kafala” system for household workers.