Egypt: Will the person who voted for Musa please stand up?

Egyptian women leave a polling station casting their votes at a polling station in the Nile Delta City of Tanta, 120 kilometres north of Cairo, on March 27, 2018 on the second day of the 2018 presidential elections. (AFP)
Updated 28 March 2018

Egypt: Will the person who voted for Musa please stand up?

CAIRO: He may be one of just two candidates in Egypt’s presidential election, but finding someone in Cairo who is voting for Musa Mustafa Musa is far from an easy task.
Moving from one polling station to another, through Cairo’s busy streets, Arab News struggled to locate a single Musa voter.
Over two long days and with visits to polling stations in Maadi, Sayeda Zayneb, New Cairo and Nasr City, not one person we met was willing to voice their support for the only rival to Abdel Fattah El-Sisi.
Finally, in one of the polling stations in Agouza, a central district on the banks of the Nile, there was success.
Nadia, a housewife in her 40s living in the neighborhood, said she was supporting Musa.
But her decision was based not on an admiration for his policies or dislike of the incumbent.
“Well, I am here to support Musa Mustafa Musa because I don’t want the election results to look bad,” Nadia said with a smile.
El-Sisi won 97 percent of the vote in 2014, and is assured of victory when the three days of voting end on Wednesday.
The opposition has claimed the government deterred other potential rivals through a strategy of intimidation.
Musa has been unashamed in saying his candidacy is essentially in support of El-Sisi.
During the election campaign, the leader of the secular and centrist Al Ghad party even produced a banner supporting El-Sisi. “We support you for another presidential term,” it said.
As a result, his efforts have been viewed with a degree of ridicule.
On Twitter, a hashtag created by his campaign and containing Musa’s name has been trending due to the number of jokes about his candidacy.
One tweet said: “Go back to sleep Hajj Musa, we will wake you up once El-Sisi wins.”
Musa dismisses accusations he is being used to present a false sense of competition, and the electoral commission says it will ensure the vote is fair and transparent.
The candidate earlier said his last-minute decision to challenge El-Sisi was intended to rescue Egypt. The constitution will not allow a sole contender.
“If he falls, we all fall,” Musa said in a television interview.
The strange circumstances mean that Musa is warmly received among El-Sisi voters.
“We are not doing enough to thank you (Musa). Even a whole century of appreciation is not enough. You have proved that you are a true soldier of Egypt”, said Mona El-Ashry, Cairo resident and an El-Sisi supporter.
Musa said during his campaign that he expects to win 20-25 percent of the vote with the help of 7,500 campaigners.
But judging by the response at polling stations during the first two days of voting, the chances that one out of five people will vote for him seem slim.
Meanwhile, El-Sisi has fended off questions about the lack of opposition.
“It is not my fault,” he said in a recent interview. “I wished there would have been more candidates for people to choose who they want. But they were not ready yet, there is no shame in this.”
Egyptian authorities arrested former army Gen. Sami Anan in January, saying his candidacy breached the laws of his military service.
Former prime minister Ahmed Shafik and human-rights lawyer Khaled Ali announced their candidacies, but withdrew later.

Jumblatt expresses concern over torture of Syrian refugees

Syrian children are pictured at a refugee camp in the village of Mhammara in the northern Lebanese Akkar region on March 9, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 19 March 2019

Jumblatt expresses concern over torture of Syrian refugees

  • UN official stresses ‘urgent need to ensure’ their ‘safe, voluntary and dignified return’
  • Some 215,000 Syrian students are currently enrolled in Lebanon's schools 

BEIRUT: Lebanese Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblatt has expressed concern about reports that Syrian refugees returning to their country from Lebanon face torture and murder.

This coincides with a debate in Lebanon about whether Syrian refugees should return without waiting for a political solution to the conflict in their country. 

UN Special Coordinator Jan Kubis stressed after meeting with Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri on Monday the “urgent need to ensure the safe, voluntary and dignified return of Syrian refugees home, according to international humanitarian norms.” 

Kubis added: “The UN and the humanitarian community will continue to facilitate these returns as much as possible. Another very important message was also to support the host communities here in Lebanon.”

Mireille Girard, representative of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), on Monday said: “The reconstruction process in Syria may not be enough to attract refugees to return. We are working to identify the reasons that will help them to return.”

She added: “The arrival of aid to the refugees is an element of trust that helps them to return. Their dignity and peaceful living must be ensured.”

Social Affairs Minister Richard Kouyoumdjian said the Lebanese General Security “issued lists containing the names of refugees wishing to return to their homes, but the Syrian regime accepted only about 20 percent of them.”

He added: “The solution is to call on the international community to put pressure on Russia, so that Moscow can exert pressure on (Syrian President) Bashar Assad’s regime to show goodwill and invite Syrian refugees to return to their land without conditions, procedures, obstacles and laws that steal property and land from them.”

Lebanese Education Minister Akram Chehayeb said: “The problem is not reconstruction and infrastructure, nor the economic and social situation. The main obstacle is the climate of fear and injustice in Syria.”

He added: “There are 215,000 Syrian students enrolled in public education in Lebanon, 60,000 in private education, and there are informal education programs for those who have not yet attended school to accommodate all children under the age of 18.” 

Chehayeb said: “As long as the displacement crisis continues, and as long as the (Assad) regime’s decision to prevent the (refugees’) return stands … work must continue to absorb the children of displaced Syrians who are outside education to protect Lebanon today and Syria in the future.”