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Thursday, December 20, 2012
Excerpts: Less stability for Egypt. US treading warily re Egypt crisis. Checks for $ 1/2 billion at Western Wall. Gas for Jordan from Egypt December 20, 2012

Excerpts: Less stability for Egypt. US treading warily re Egypt crisis.
Checks for $ 1/2 billion at Western Wall. Gas for Jordan from Egypt
December 20, 2012

+++SOURCE: Egypt Daily News, Editorial 20 Dec,’12:”The outcome of the
referendum promises less, rather than more, stability”

SUBJECT: Less stability for Egypt

QUOTE:”The participation rate is estimated to be a little less than 31
percent”

FULL TEXT:Following the first round of the referendum on the constitution,
which many hoped would be the first step on the road to stability, close
results and fears about violations indicate the political upheaval will
continue, and perhaps even intensify.

Ten governorates voted on Saturday on a draft constitution which emerged out
of a tumultuous process characterized by divisions and controversy within
and around the Constituent Assembly tasked with drafting the document.

The preliminary results show that 57 percent of those who participated
approved of the draft while 43 percent rejected it. The participation rate
is estimated to be a little less than 31 percent.

The Islamist forces, including the ruling Muslim Brotherhood and various
Salafi fronts, promoted the draft while the non-Islamist opposition forces
mobilized for a “no” vote. The results are thus seen as a reflection of the
electoral prowess of the political forces entangled in the current battle,
and a potential continuation and deepening of this rift.

Game changer

“[The results] represent the fall of all the lies the Brotherhood propagate,
that they represent the Egyptian people while the opposition is just an
elite group. This shows that the people have not given them an unconditional
monopoly on legitimacy,” says Hussein Abdel Ghany, spokesperson for the
National Salvation Front, a coalition of opposition forces and leaders.

Compared with other polls since the fall of Hosni Mubarak, the results of
the referendum reflect a decline in the popularity of Islamist forces.

Last year, a referendum on constitutional amendments supported by Islamist
forces passed with a 73 percent majority. Islamist forces continued their
domination of the electoral game sweeping a majority of 70 percent in the
parliament, which allowed them a controlling majority in the Constituent
Assembly drafting the constitution.

“The results mean two things, that the political powers are now almost equal
and that there is public anger festering against the Islamist hijacking of
the state and the treatment of Egyptians as children who need to be
disciplined,” says Abdel Ghany.

Mohamed Naeem, political analyst and member of the Social Democratic Party,
says the results offer early indications of a smaller presence for Islamist
forces in the next parliamentary elections. He says it is a sign of the
gradual, continuous strengthening of the opposition, which entered the scene
less than two years ago.

“Islamists will have the majority but not an absolute majority that allows
them to do whatever they want,” he speculates on the results of the upcoming
parliamentary elections.

However, Taher Abdel Mohsen, a member of the Freedom and Justice Party and
Constituent Assembly, says the referendum is not an accurate measure of the
Brotherhood’s popularity.

“You can’t measure popularity through a referendum where there are many
other factors involved. In the next parliamentary elections where there will
be direct competition, this is when popularity can be determined,” he says.

Additionally, he says that the popularity of the opposition remains
concentrated in the cities. In the first round of the referendum, the “no”
vote won in Cairo and the Delta governorate of Gharbiya, while the “yes”
vote triumphed in the rest of the eight governorates that voted in the first
round, with growing margins in the remote governorates of Sinai and Upper
Egypt.

“Nobody wins elections with the capital. Cairo is not a measure, in villages
and rural areas you will only find the big parties that truly blend with the
public,” says Abdel Mohsen, claiming the opposition’s appeal remains limited
to the elite.

It’s not over yet

The constitution drafting process marked the reenactment of a deep
Islamist-secular rift in the Egyptian polity. Weeks before the Constituent
Assembly finalized its work, almost all non-Islamist members withdrew in
objection over the draft.

The state of polarization deepened when President Mohamed Morsy issued a
constitutional declaration in November giving himself overreaching powers
and making his decisions immune from judicial oversight.

The decree resulted in a division that materialized in bloody clashes
earlier this month in front of the presidential palace. The opposition had
called for the cancellation of the referendum arguing that the draft does
not reflect the necessary consensus.

Although Morsy rescinded several articles of the controversial declaration,
an ongoing societal rift is only expected to grow following the referendum.

“The constitution cannot function with such a low percentage of approval.
Amendments have to be adopted,” says Naeem.

Allowing for fraud, which Naeem speculates affects 5-10 percent of the
results, he says the outcome so far reflects a popular rejection of the
draft. Additionally, he says the low turnout takes away from the already
contested legitimacy of the pro

+++SOURCE: Saudi Gazette 29 Dec.’12:”US treads warily as Egypt crisis drags
on”, Agence France Presse
SUBJECT: US treading warily re Egypt crisis
QUOTE: ”Washington has called on Egyptian authorities tgo allow
demonstrations to go ahead”

FULL TEXT:WASHINGTON — The United States is treading warily amid Egypt’s
political crisis, uncertain how the struggle between President Mohamed Morsi’s
Islamist supporters and the opposition will play out in its key ally.

Top US officials have voiced fears of a return to the authoritarian days of
ousted president Hosni Mubarak, but stopped short of an outright
condemnation of Morsi’s recent actions denounced by the opposition as a grab
for power.

There have been daily demonstrations in Cairo aiming to scuttle a draft
constitution being pushed by Morsi and his Islamist backers before Saturday’s[22
Dec.] second round of a controversial referendum.

The opposition has denounced the document, written largely by Islamists,
arguing it weakens human rights protections, particularly for women, and
sets the stage for a creeping advance toward Islamic Shariah law.

Washington has called on Egyptian authorities to allow demonstrations to go
ahead, but urged that they should remain peaceful.

And State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland refused to comment on
Sunday’s[16 Dec.] first round of the referendum, with unofficial tallies
showing 57 percent of people in Cairo and nine other regions had backed the
draft charter.

“I think we’re not going to opine as a government on the process until the
process is completed,” Nuland told journalists.

She acknowledged however that Washington had heard of some voting
irregularities and urged the electoral commission to investigate every
complaint.

“That will be very, very important for the credibility of the process going
forward,” she said.

Egyptian opposition leader Mohamed ElBaradei told Foreign Policy magazine
Tuesday[18 Dec.] that the administration of US President Barack Obama had a
responsibility to condemn any abuses.

“Particularly in the US, frankly, what you see is a very muted reaction,” he
said. “People here are very disappointed... they want the Americans, and
everybody else, to put their money where their mouth is. And that’s not
happening.”

The US administration has shown remarkable caution since the start of the
political crisis in late November when Morsi issued a decree granting
himself wide presidential powers.

Morsi rescinded the decree following global pressure. The US did not join
the chorus of protest, but did voice concerns over what it called
“legitimate questions” about the constitutional process.

“We don’t want to see any return to the bad old days of the Mubarak era in
terms of security practices,” Nuland stressed last week, calling on the
military to show restraint during demonstrations.

She also directly called on Morsi “as the first democratically elected
leader of Egypt, to lead the effort before, during and after the voting to
continue to try to build a national consensus.”

US officials are caught between wanting to support a broad movement for
change while insisting the Egyptian people must chart the course of their
own democracy, and worrying “the promise of the revolution” could be lost.

But the muted response from Obama’s administration shows it is still
calibrating ties with Morsi, after its decades-long cozy relations with
Mubarak.

“Through this upheaval, the Obama administration has been oddly restrained,”
wrote David Ignatius in the Washington Post earlier this month.

“It’s crazy for Washington to appear to take sides against those who want a
liberal, tolerant Egypt and for those who favor Shariah. Somehow, that’s
where the administration has ended up.”

While officials voice disquiet about which path Morsi is planning to take,
they highlight that, so far, he has said he will honor the 1979 peace treaty
with Israel — a key cornerstone of regional peace.

The Europeans however are taking a tougher stand.
The president of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz, earlier this month
called for ties between the European Union and Egypt to be suspended.

“We can’t give approval to a coup d’etat. The only thing such a regime
understands is economic pressure,” he told the German Sunday paper
Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung.

German Development Minister Dirk Niebel warned plans to turn some 240
million euros ($310 million) of Egyptian debt into aid may be under review.

“Morsi should ensure there are no doubts that Egypt is on the path to
democracy. The Egyptians are right to expect this from him, and we will
judge him on that basis as well,” he told Bild daily.

Some $450 million in proposed aid to Cairo is currently blocked in the US
Congress, but there has been no hint the United States is rethinking its
$1.3 billion in annual military aid. — AFP

+++SOURCE: Naharneet (Lebanon) 20 Dec.’12: “Moolah From Heaven? Cheques
Found at Western Wall (Jerusalem)”, Agence France Presse
SUBJECT: Checks for $ ½ billion at Western Wall

QUOTE:”at the moment it looks like they are genuine checks”

FULL TEXT:Moolah from heaven or a devilish scam? That is a question
Jerusalem police are asking on Wednesday[19 Dec.] after signed cheques worth
around half a billion dollars were found at the Western Wall.

The 507 cheques were discovered in an envelope at the Jewish holy site in
the Old City of Jerusalem and handed in to police by a good Samaritan, the
Western Wall Heritage Foundation said in a statement.

"The honest finder handed them over in accordance with the law to the police
lost property office. For now the cheques are waiting for whoever lost
them," the statement said.

Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld confirmed the unusual discovery at the
Wall, where the faithful are more likely to deposit scraps inscribed with
their prayers than cheques for their life savings.

"There was an envelope that was found at the Western Wall. Inside the
envelope itself were hundreds of cheques, each one for a sum close to a
million dollars," Rosenfeld told Agence France Presse.

"It's been taken to 'lost and found,' and at the moment we're examining the
source of each cheque and if they're real or not, but at the moment it looks
as though they are genuine cheques," he added.

Rosenfeld said the cheques were from various different countries, though the
Western Wall Heritage Foundation described them as "Nigerian cheques."

"From time to time the Wall receives donations from African countries," the
statement added. "But most of them bounce."

SourceAgence France Presse

+++SOURCE: Jordan Times 20 Dec.’12:”Egypt PM due in Amman today[19 Dec.]”
SUBJECT: Gas for Jordan from Egypt

QUOTE:”focus on gas supplies issue and Egyptian labor in Jordan”

FULL TEXT:AMMAN — Minister of Energy and Mineral Resources and Minister of
Transport Alaa Batayneh on Wednesday[19 Dec.] held talks with Egyptian
Petrol Minister Osama Kamal on the natural gas agreement.

The talks came on the eve of a visit by Egyptian Prime Minister Hisham
Qandil to discuss ties, with focus on the gas supplies issue and Egyptian
labour in Jordan.

Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour told a press meeting Wednesday[19 Dec.]
evening that Jordan’s losses due to disruption in Egypt gas this year stands
at JD1.7 billion.

During a press conference, Batayneh said that talks will resume on
Thursday[20 Dec.] to reach a commitment from Egypt on the agreement’s terms.

For his part, the Egyptian minister, who is currently visiting the Kingdom
with an official delegation, said that both sides reviewed the talks
previously held in Cairo on the gas deal, the Jordan News Agency, Petra,
reported.

He also said that both parties will continue discussions to ensure that the
holding company will provide Jordan with the “contractual quantities”, that
would be sufficient for electricity generation.

“We will return to the level that would safely operate power plants, taking
into consideration diversity in the power sources,” Kamal said, highlighting
the historic Jordanian-Egyptian ties.

Jordan has recently halted a campaign to regulate the half-a-million-strong
Egyptian labour force, following orders by His Majesty King Abdullah. The
drive saw in its first days thousands of illegal Egyptian workers deported

==========
Sue Lerner - Associate, IMRA

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