The Middle East Channel

Thousands of Egyptians protest presidential election results

Thousands of Egyptians are protesting the results announced on Monday from the first round of presidential elections. Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohamed Morsi and Hosni Mubarak’s last prime minister, Ahmed Shafiq, will compete in run-offs on June 16 and 17. Demonstrators took to the streets in Cairo, Alexandria, and Suez, stating the elections were "neither free ...

AFP/Getty Images
AFP/Getty Images

Thousands of Egyptians are protesting the results announced on Monday from the first round of presidential elections. Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohamed Morsi and Hosni Mubarak’s last prime minister, Ahmed Shafiq, will compete in run-offs on June 16 and 17. Demonstrators took to the streets in Cairo, Alexandria, and Suez, stating the elections were "neither free nor fair," and some claimed the results had veered from the causes of the revolution. One protester, Ahmed Bassiouni, told the Associated Press, "The choice can’t be between a religious state and an autocratic state. Then we have done nothing." Meanwhile, violence flared in Tahrir Square after unknown assailants set fire to Shafiq’s campaign headquarters. The fire left no serious damage, but brought up concerns that as the military candidate, such acts of violence could increase Shafiq’s appeal.  

Syria

Most of the 108 people killed in Friday’s Houla massacre were summarily executed, according to Rupert Colville, spokesman for the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights. He added that early investigations indicate fewer than 20 victims in the nearby village of Taldou had been killed by heavy artillery. Among the dead in the villages that make up Houla were an estimated 49 children and 34 women. The U.N. report came as international envoy, Kofi Annan, was meeting with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus in attempts to salvage his six-point peace plan that has failed to produce a ceasefire in the over 14-month conflict. The United Nations Security Council unanimously condemned the attacks on Sunday. However, Russia maintains it will not support a military intervention. In a meeting with British Foreign Secretary William Hague, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that both the Syrian regime and the armed opposition were to blame for the deaths in the villages that make up Houla, near Hama. This echoes the statements from the Syrian government which admits to tank and artillery fire, but accuses "armed terrorists" for the door to door killings. In an interview, U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin E. Dempsey, referred to the massacre as "horrific" and said he was prepared with military options, but was apprehensive. Many western nations, including Britain, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, and Canada, have expelled Syrian diplomatic officials. Australia expelled two senior Syrian diplomats saying, "This is the most effective way we’ve got of sending a message of revulsion of what has happened in Syria." Meanwhile, Syrian forces killed a Lebanese man and injured three others in another instance of cross-border violence. Additionally, fighting has intensified in Hamas, where activists have reported that Syrian army shelling has killed 41 people.

Headlines

  • A fire in an upscale mall in Doha killed 19 people, mostly tourists and European expatriates, raising concerns of Qatari building regulations ahead of the 2022 World Cup.
  • Imprisoned Bahraini activist Abdulhadi al-Khawaja ended a 110-day hunger strike after the release on bail of human rights worker Nabeel Rajab, accused of inciting illegal rallies.
  • Yemeni officials reported a U.S. drone strike killed al Qaeda leader, Qaid al-Dahab, and four other Islamist militants.

Arguments & Analysis

‘Syria: why Russia changed tack’ (Simon Tisdall, The Guardian)

"Russia‘s support for Sunday night’s UN security council statement condemning the Houla killings is the first positive news to come out of the Syrian crisis for months. It opens up the possibility, hitherto remote, that Washington and Moscow may find common cause in easing out Bashar al-Assad and defusing the rebellion against the Damascus regime. Russian spokesmen moved quickly on Monday to suggest events in Houla, where the UN says 116 civilians including dozens of children died in a bombardment by government forces last Friday, were "murky", that regime opponents carried much of the blame for the carnage, and that Russia’s opposition to regime change remained steadfast. But there was no escaping the fact that the unanimous UN statement represented a breach in the diplomatic defences Moscow has erected around the Syrian regime. And it can be assumed with some certainty, given its importance, that Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, will have taken the decision himself."

‘How Egypt’s Islamists Lost the First Round’ (Rania Al Malky, The Cairo Review of Global Affairs)

"If we divide the top five candidates into Islamists and non-Islamists, the simple calculation reveals that Islamists Morsi and Aboul Fotouh secured 43 percent of the vote, a mammoth 13 percent less than the total percentage of votes gained by the three non-Islamist candidates, who combined, received around 56 percent of the vote… While it’s understandable that voters, disillusioned and fearful of Islamist hegemony, would choose to support another icon of the revolution like Hamdeen Sabahi, the reason why the runoff will most likely end up between the two polar extremes Morsi and Shafiq, is that Egyptians have proven that they are still trapped in the anti-Islamist rhetoric of the Mubarak era. These results have taken us back to square one when many may find themselves forced to plug their ears and noses to give their protest vote to the FJP, just like the old days."

Arab-African Ties: Severing History’ (Yazan al-Saadi, Al Akhbar English)

"Much of what is written about the relationship between the Arabs and the African continent arises from the West, and usually describes the relationship along a crude paradigm of "Arabs" versus "black Africans." Whether in dealing with the civil wars in Sudan, brutal treatment of blacks in Libya after the fall of Gaddafi, or outlining the abuse of African nationals within various Arab countries, the narratives presented by Western, and in some cases African, quarters follow a pattern of solely blaming Arab racism without a deeper examination. Simply stating that Arab racism is at the heart of all the struggles between Africans and Arabs further ferments conflict within this complicated relationship. It is an intertwined association, going back centuries prior to Islam’s emergence, moving forward through the forgotten horrors of Arab slavery and hopeful periods of African-Arab solidarity against imperialism and colonialism, until finally arriving to its current condition."

‘The Syria Dilemma’ (Philip Gourevitch, The New Yorker)

"Syria cannot be addressed in isolation. What concerns the United States most in the region is trying to avert war between Israel and Iran. (Last week, during negotiations in Baghdad to curtail Tehran’s nuclear program, Washington’s hopes ran prematurely high.) There is a risk of a regional Sunni-Shiite conflagration, as Saudi Arabia, which backed Bahrain’s crackdown on Shiite protesters, has advocated arming Syria’s opposition. There are Turkish misgivings about Kurdish rebels establishing bases in Syria; and Israeli anxieties about Assad’s accelerating military assistance to Hezbollah forces. There is also the question of Syria’s enormous chemical-weapons stockpiles: might Assad use them? Can they be secured if he falls? And there is the problem of Russia’s support for Syria-its lone remaining client state in the Middle East-and China’s support for Russia, particularly after both countries were angered by NATO’s use of its U.N. mandate to provide humanitarian protection in Libya to achieve regime change there. (Russia has called on the International Criminal Court to investigate allegations of NATO war crimes in the campaign against Qaddafi.)"

–By Jennifer Parker and Mary Casey 

 Twitter: @casey_mary

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