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.

US bolsters Middle East force with 1,500 troops as Pentagon blames Iran for tanker attacks

Updated 24 May 2019

US bolsters Middle East force with 1,500 troops as Pentagon blames Iran for tanker attacks

  • Donald Trump says the additional troops would serve a 'mostly protective' role
  • The US began reinforcing its presence in the Arabian Gulf region earlier this month

WASHINGTON: The US will strengthen its force in the Middle East with 1,500 extra troops, Donald Trump said Friday as the Pentagon blamed Iran for an attack on oil tankers off the coast of the UAE.

"We want to have protection in the Middle East," Trump said as he left the White House for a trip to Japan. "We're going to be sending a relatively small number of troops, mostly protective.
"Some very talented people are going to the Middle East right now. And we'll see what happens."

Shortly after his comments, the Pentagon accused Iran's Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) of being directly responsible for attacks on tankers off the UAE earlier this month, describing it as part of a "campaign" by Tehran driving new US deployments.
"The attack against the shipping in Fujairah we attribute it to the IRGC," said Rear Admiral Michael Gilday, the director of the Joint Staff, adding the Pentagon attributed limpet mines used in the attack to the IRGC. He declined to describe "the means of delivery" of the mines.

The 1,500 extra troops will be made up of a deployment of 900 more forces, including engineers, and the extension of a tour by some 600 personnel manning Patriot missiles.

Officials said earlier that members of Congress were notified following a White House meeting Thursday to discuss Pentagon proposals to bolster the force in the region.
Earlier this week, officials said that Pentagon planners had outlined plans that could have sent up to 10,000 military reinforcements to the region. Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan later said planners had not settled on a figure.
The US began reinforcing its presence in the Arabian Gulf region this month in response to what it said was a threat from Iran.

*With AP and Reuters