Summery of the Week’s Main Headlines:
- ElBaradei beefs up constitution party leadership in preparation for parliamentary elections.
- Negotiations with US to drop Egypt’s debt.
- Tawadros II prays for Egypt and Morsi on Christmas
- Egypt engages talks over $4.8 billion IMF loan
- Egypt’s National Salvation Front parties bicker ahead of parliamentary election.
- National Salvation Front to run two separate lists in elections.
- Egypt must endorse IMF loan deal as its own: Lagarde
- Qatar lends Cairo further £1.25bn and donates extra £300m in effort to control Egypt‘s currency crisis.
- Sovereign Sekuk draft (Islamic fund) law released by the government
- Egypt’s Minister of education instructs all schools to learn from Sheik Al-Arifi’s speech(Arabic).
- Qatari deposit pushes Egypt’s stock market up by 1.08 percent.
- The Salafi Nour party elected a new leader.
- Hamas plans to build industrial city near the Egyptian border.
- No sign of progress as Palestinian rivals meet in Egypt.
- UAE question women over links with Muslim Brotherhood
- Heavy rain damage tunnels between Gaza and Egypt. Arabic
- Thousands protest the deteriorating sewage system in Egypt’s second city
- Stock exchange loses $5.2 bln Thursday; delay in IMF loan is bad for the market, says analyst.
- President Morsi replaces central bank chief.
- Facing dissent from within, Egypt’s constitution party holds internal polls.
- Egypt’s prosecutor-general forms body to investigate crimes against revolutionaries.
- Syria overshadows Iran charm offensive in Egypt.
- Dissenters from the Muslim Brotherhood are planning to establish a new preaching association.
- Obama is urged to stand ground against renewed call for ‘Blind Sheik’ release
- Jama’a al-Islamiya to celebrate constitution, Morsi on revolution’s anniversary
- Cellular networks raise rates in anticipation of new tax hikes
- A group of teachers form a party to fight the Brotherhood’s control of education. (Arabic).
- #Egypt‘s Salvation Front demands11 guarantees for parliamentary polls.
- Three members of 6th April movement in court accused of insulting the president.
- Egypt’s slum crisis persists amidst housing abundance.
- 14 injured in assault on protestors at Egypt’s presidential palace.
- Court refers lawsuit demanding Islamic parties dissolution to state commissioners.
A Few Thoughts
The economy continued to be the dominant topic in week 2 of 2013. Morsi’s main survival tactic was in the form of an economic blood transfusion. Qatar was the main supplier, the terms and conditions of the deal is unclear, and the exact figure varies from one newspaper to another; BBC reported $1.25 bn and a donation of an extra £300m, while Daily Star reported $2.5 billion. The Qatari support helped, but only temporarily; by Thursday, the stock exchange dropped again. In addition, Qatar has proposed new investments in East Port Said and the North Coast that could be worth up to US$18 billion. It is still unclear whether Egypt will successfully get the required IMF loan. A team from IMF is expected in Cairo in a couple of weeks. Meanwhile, Morsi continues to appoint loyal people in sensitive positions − the new governor of central is one example. The controversy surrounding Islamic bonds continues among Egyptian economists. It was already rejected by al-Azhar once, but as it is one pillar of the brotherhood dream which I have heard about since the ’80s, I suspect they will persevere in this goal at any cost. Meanwhile, the question still remains: will Morsi be able to organize Egypt’s messy budget?
Foreign policy was another dominant topic; Morsi finally had a taste of the tricky nature of negotiations, disputes, and conflicting demands surrounding this element. Forging a Gaza ceasefire deal possibly felt like a walk in the park in comparison to mediation attempts between Hamas and Fatah. Reconciling the two Palestinian factions is by far a tougher task than achieving a ceasefire that everyone could use as proof of victory. Morsi even failed to persuade Meshaal and Abbas to join him in a trilateral meeting; this provided a sign of how wide the gap between the two rivals is and how great a task Morsi must achieve. The question remains: why must Morsi organize those meetings before getting positive signs that obstacles will not hamper his efforts?
The turbulent relations between Egypt and the UAE are another tricky front for Morsi; his cozy relationship with Qatar is in stark contrast to his fragile relationship with the other important wing in the Gulf (Saudi Arabia and UAE). This wing was probably watching Morsi’s movements carefully, particularly on another front − Iran. The Iranian foreign Minister’s visit to Cairo and his charm offensive is not just about Syria, as it is officially announced − it is about both countries. Iran and Egypt are both trying to survive in a very tough neighborhood. It’s no wonder; Morsi rang the Saudi king on the same day he met with the Iranian envoy (al-Arabyia TV). Political talk shows in Egypt were also abuzz with the visit amid allegations of a meeting between Morsi’s advisor Haddad and leader of the Quds brigade that was vehemently denied by several brotherhood figures (but no legal case has been presented against the UK Time newspaper yet!).
Political parties continue their preparation for the next parliamentary election, and no one knows when it will be held (rumors of next April were denied). On the Salafi Front, it has become clear that Nour party is drifting away from the brotherhood sphere of interest. They view the brotherhood as a body of more opportunists who are willing to build their values for political gains. The new leader of Nour is a straight talker and well respected among the Salafi general public; thus, I suspect that the party will continue to show solid performance in the next parliamentary election.
My guess for the fate of Watan and Hazmoon is that they will end up forging a deal with the Brotherhood; however, it is difficult to be sure how things will evolve in the current murky political atmosphere. The non-Islamists are still bickering, though in a civilized way. Their decision to run in two separate directions was inevitable because of the fundamental differences between various parties within this fragile coalition. It seems to me that they are preoccupied by the anniversary of the January 25 revolution. But they are not the only ones − the Islamists are planning a strong show, too. Thus far, the anniversary, it seems, will reflect not only the goals of the revolution, but also the divisions of post-revolution Egypt.
On the domestic front, bad weather conditions have led to flooding in several areas of Egypt, particularly in Alexandria, exposing Egypt’s neglected infrastructure. Egyptians joked that the country “drowned in a few inches of water.” Underneath the humor, there was a strong sense of resentment toward the Brotherhood, particularly the Alexandria governor (Brotherhood), who simply failed to rise to the occasion. True, he inherited a very bad situation, but he neither prepared for the storm (its annual timing is well known to locals) nor set an emergency task force to help the distressed public. Another unintended consequence was the destruction of many Gaza tunnels. The storm did in a few hours what Israel tried unsuccessfully to do for many years. Last night’s incident at the presidential palace is just another example of the deteriorated security situation in Cairo. It was not the first; we used to blame Mubarak’s thugs, now who should we blame?
- Sinai is Obama’s biggest test in Egypt relations. Eric Trager
- Brotherhood should disclose sources of funding. Alaa Alaswany
- Is the Muslim Brotherhood targeting the UAE? Hussein Ibish
- Islamic bonds and Egypt’s new constitution. Abdel Monem Said
- Sharia law must be flexible. Abdel Gawad Yassin.
- Getting closer to Qatar Al-Ahram weekly.
- Weighed down: The politics of frustration in Egypt by Jessica Winegar
Egypt year 3 of democracy continues to be interesting. Next week, a new report! Meanwhile, I will leave you with this uplifting video. Egypt Still has many good people who believe in its revolution: