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

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.”

‘Jury still out’ on new Lebanon government, says rights chief

Updated 40 min 46 sec ago

‘Jury still out’ on new Lebanon government, says rights chief

  • The executive director of Human Rights Watch, Kenneth Roth, said it was too early to say if the new government would be any better than its predecessor
  • Kenneth Roth: We’ve seen in Lebanon a government that can’t even clean up the garbage, they can’t deliver electricity, they can’t provide the most basic services

DAVOS: The “jury is still out” on whether the new government in Lebanon will be any different to the old one, the head of Human Rights Watch told Arab News on Friday.

Lebanon has been convulsed by demonstrations since October, when people took to the streets to protest against corruption, unemployment, a lack of basic services and economic problems. Political veteran Saad Hariri resigned as prime minister so that a new cabinet could be formed, but it took time to assemble a coalition.

The executive director of Human Rights Watch, Kenneth Roth, said it was too early to say if the new government would be any better than its predecessor. He warned, however, that the early signs were not promising.

“We’ve seen in Lebanon a government that can’t even clean up the garbage, they can’t deliver electricity, they can’t provide the most basic services,” Roth told Arab News on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos. “It’s not at all clear that the more technocratic government that has been put in place is going to be responsive to the needs of the people and able to deliver. The jury is still out on that. While the government has responded to the protesters’ demand on a political level by changing personnel, the security forces on the ground have often responded violently, and in repeated instances used excessive force rather than respect the rights of the protesters to petition their government to appeal for a government that is more respectful of their needs and accountable to their desires.”

According to Amnesty International, Lebanese security forces’ unlawful use of rubber bullets last weekend left at least 409 protesters injured, some seriously, in the most violent weekend since the protests began on Oct. 17.

“The protesters in Lebanon are upset by what they see as a dysfunctional and unaccountable government, I mean they are the most basic services that are not being provided,” Roth said, adding that the government was getting “increasingly intolerant.”

He also expressed concern about the plight of Syrian refugees in Lebanon. The rights’ group says there are around 1.5 million of them in the country and that 74 percent lack legal status. “Authorities heightened calls for the return of refugees in 2018 and municipalities have forcibly evicted thousands of refugees,” the group said in a report.

“Syrian refugees obviously do impose a burden on Lebanon, but nonetheless there are legal obligations and the government really led by President (Michel) Aoun rather than former Prime Minister Hariri has been trying to make life more miserable for the refugees in the hope of forcing them back to Syria despite the fact that Syria remains completely unsafe,” Roth said.

Aoun and his son-in-law, former foreign minister Gebran Bassil, head the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) which has the biggest parliamentary bloc. Aoun and Bassil have repeatedly claimed that Syria is now a safe and peaceful country and that the refugees should go back.

“It is not safe to force anybody back, the Lebanese government knows this in the sense that they are not putting guns to people’s heads and forcing them back, but they’re doing the metaphorical equivalent by making life so miserable that many refugees feel that despite the risks to their lives, they have to go back to Syria because there’s nothing for them in Lebanon,” Roth added.