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Saturday, 28th November 2020
4:21:18pm

North Africa

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Egypt’s Mostaqbal Watn (Nation’s Future) Party took a commanding lead in parliamentary polls on Sunday as the election commission announced results from a second round of voting.

Pre-selected lists headed by the party, which strongly supports Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, won all 284 seats allocated for the 596-seat chamber through a winner-takes-all system.

Its candidates also won 59 of the 73 seats contested by individual candidates that have so far been declared by the commission. 

Remaining individual seats will be decided in run-offs later this month and in early December. Sisi can appoint 28 legislators directly.

Turnout in the two rounds of voting in an election that began on Oct. 24 was 29% so far, according to the election commission.

Many candidates and parties filed legal complaints to the commission alleging electoral fraud, but all have so far been dismissed. Some have also taken complaints to the courts. 

The commission’s head, Lasheen Ibrahim, appealed to Egyptians to participate in the run-offs, urging them not to listen to rumours spread by “enemies of the homeland”.

Parliament was already controlled by Sisi supporters, but Nation’s Future has emerged as a dominant force and won nearly 75% of contested seats for Egypt’s newly recreated Senate in August.

Sisi has overseen a sweeping crackdown on political dissent since leading the removal in 2013 of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohamed Mursi, who was freely elected in 2012 before mass protests engulfed his rule.

-Reuters

Gunmen shot dead a prominent dissident in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi on Tuesday, a stark reminder of the country’s violence as sides in a civil war sought to implement a ceasefire and political talks focused on a roadmap towards elections.

Hanan al-Barassi, a lawyer and outspoken critic of abuses in areas controlled by eastern military leader Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA), was shot dead in public, rights groups said.

“Barassi has been publicly vocal about cases of alleged assault and rape of women in Benghazi in which she implicated members of the armed groups in Benghazi, and she also alleged financial fraud,” said Hanan Salah, senior Libya researcher for New York-based Human Rights Watch.

Amnesty International said Barassi and her daughter had received death threats. It noted that her social media page had said on Monday she planned to release video exposing corruption within Haftar’s family. 

The LNA said in a statement it had summoned security chiefs in Benghazi and ordered them to investigate the assassination.

The U.S. embassy in Libya expressed shock over the killing. “The era of missing and murdered civilians must come to an end now,” it said in a statement.

Libya has been split since 2014 between the LNA and an internationally recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli in the west. Turkey supports the GNA, while the United Arab Emirates, Russia and Egypt back the LNA.

In June the GNA repelled a 14-month LNA assault on Tripoli, and front lines have solidified near Sirte on Libya’s central Mediterranean coast.

Last month the United Nations brokered a ceasefire and on Tuesday a joint military commission from both sides met at a new Sirte headquarters to detail ways to implement it.

The progress in military talks comes as the United Nations presses political talks in neighbouring Tunisia involving 75 representatives, to discuss a path to elections and the formation of a new unified transitional government.

-Reuters

The Egyptian House of Representatives on Sunday approved a presidential decree to declare the state of emergency nationwide for additional three months.

The House approved the decision at a general session on Sunday. 

The Official Gazette published on October 26 Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouli's decision to impose a curfew in some areas in North Sinai as of that date morning till the end of the state of emergency that was extended on the same day by presidential decree no.596/2020 for three months. 

According to the decree, it is prohibited to roam the area extending from east of the Tel Rafah passing by the international border line and Awja west of Arish to Mount Halal. 

The curfew is imposed in the area extending west of Arish, passing by the Mediterranean coast, until the international border in Rafah. 

In the south, it extends from south of Mount Halal to Awja on the international border. 

The curfews in the areas indicated are from 7 pm to 6 am on the following day, except for the area on the international road from the checkpoint of al-Midan to the west entrance of the city of Arish, where the curfew is from 1 am to 5 am of the same day. 

Egypt has been countering terrorism and extremism ideologies over the past years since the ouster of late Muslim Brotherhood President Mohamed Morsi. Several operations have been taking place in Sinai against terrorists, as many Egyptian officers and soldiers have martyred in the battle. 

Terrorism started to rise in North Sinai during the January 25th Revolution in 2011 when a gas pipeline was bombed. Under late President Morsi, 16 soldiers were killed in a shooting in 2012. The incident was dubbed Rafah Massacre 1. Seven others were abducted in 2013 but security forces managed to free them. 

Terror attacks intensified after the ouster of Morsi over mass protests on July 3, 2013. It is noted that Morsi was member of the Supreme Guide Bureau of the Muslim Brotherhood, which is outlawed in Egypt and designated a terrorist organization. 

The attacks targeted mainly churches, buildings of security directorates, security checkpoints, ambushes, and patrols causing hundreds of deaths, injuries, and material losses across the country. At present, terrorism is predominantly restricted to North Sinai.

-Egypt Today

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian was in Egypt on Sunday hoping to ease tensions following the publishing of controversial cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed that sparked ire in the Arab world.

A diplomatic source said Le Drian would meet President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry and Ahmed al-Tayeb, the grand imam of Al-Azhar, Egypt's highest Muslim authority. 

Le Drian “will pursue the appeasement process” started by President Emmanuel Macron, the French Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

The Cairo-based Al-Azhar, considered the foremost religious institutions for Sunni Muslims, condemned French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo's decision in September to reprint the cartoons. 

And last month Tayeb denounced remarks by Macron in “Islamist separatism” as “racist” and spreading “hate speech”.

Demonstrations have erupted in several Muslim-majority countries after Mr. Macron defended the right to publish cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed, which many saw as insulting and an attack on Islam.

Macron's remarks came after a suspected Islamist decapitated a schoolteacher in a Paris suburb on October 16, after he showed the cartoons during a lesson on freedom of expression.

Sisi himself had weighed in, saying last month that “to insult the prophets amounts to underestimating the religious beliefs of many people”.

-WION

Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi said on Wednesday freedom of expression should stop if it offends more than 1.5 billion people, following the display of images in France of the Prophet Mohammad that Muslims see as blasphemous.

Sisi also said he firmly rejects any form of violence or terrorism from anyone in the name of defending religion, religious symbols or icons.

“We also have rights. We have the right for our feelings not to be hurt and for our values not to be hurt,” he said during an address to commemorate the Prophet Mohammad’s birthday.

“And if some have the freedom to express what is in their thoughts I imagine that this stops when it comes to offending the feelings of more than 1.5 billion people,” he added in televised remarks.

The Grand Imam of Egypt’s al-Azhar university, one of the world’s most eminent seats of Sunni Muslim learning, also called on the international community to criminalise “anti-Muslim” actions.

Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb, who sits at the head of the thousand-year-old institution, also said that al-Azhar strongly rejects the use of anti-Muslim sentiment to rally votes in elections.

Turkey’s leader Tayyip Erdogan has called for a boycott of French goods and Pakistan’s parliament passed a resolution urging the government to recall its envoy from Paris.

-Reuters

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