Egypt's election commission extended voting into a third day as low voter turnout is preventing former General Abdullah Fattah al-Sisi, who is forecast to win the presidency, from attaining the broad mandate and legitimacy he is seeking. The commission said the extension was in response to a "large" number of citizens who weren't able to make it to polling stations due to a heat wave in Egypt. However, turnout remained low on Wednesday, suggesting a lower level of support for Sisi. The Democracy International observer mission said the extension raised questions about the credibility of the electoral process.
Polling stations have opened at 39 Syrian embassies for citizens living abroad to vote ahead of Syria's June 3 presidential election. Refugees in Jordan and Lebanon are heading to polling stations in Amman and Beirut. According to the United Nations, 2.8 million Syrian refugees have fled to neighboring countries to escape the conflict. Over a million Syrian refugees are registered in Lebanon, and nearly half are believed to be of voting age. However, with only one polling station in Beirut, the facilities have appeared to be inadequate to serve the large numbers of people arriving to vote. Standing in line outside the embassy, Syrians interviewed said they would vote for President Bashar al-Assad, who is expected to secure a third term. The Syrian opposition and the United States have denounced the election as a sham.
- Gunmen attacked the home of Tunisian Interior Minister Lotfi Ben Jeddou late Tuesday killing four policemen.
- The United States has told its citizens to leave Libya saying the security situation remains unstable meanwhile the Islamist militant group Ansar al-Sharia warned the United States not to interfere.
- Turkish activists have called for protests May 31 on the anniversary of Gezi Park demonstrations, which sparked mass protests, violent clashes, and a police crackdown.
- According to an official from Fatah, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has finished consultations with Hamas and will announce a unity government Thursday.
- A suicide bomber killed at least 17 people at a Shiite mosque during midday prayers Tuesday in the Iraqi capital of Baghdad.
Arguments and Analysis
'Lebanon's Hizbollah Turns Eastward to Syria' (International Crisis Group)
"In the longer term however, Hizbollah's involvement in Syria threatens the movement and is problematic for Lebanon and the Arab world more broadly. It has deepened the regional sectarian divide, fuelled the very extremism it purports to combat and eroded the movement's legitimacy among constituencies that previously were supportive. By framing its fight as a preemptive attack on takfiris - those who declare other Muslims to be apostates - Hizbollah has tarred all shades of the opposition, and indeed sometimes all Sunnis, with the same radicalising brush. It has exaggerated, and thereby exacerbated, the sectarianism of the Syrian opposition as well as its own domestic opponents. Once widely respected across the political and confessional spectrum, Hizbollah (literally 'The Party of God') now often is referred to as 'The Party of Satan'. The warm popular embrace that for the movement was tantamount to strategic depth has diminished, along with its reputation for moral probity. Ironically, shoring up its eastern front has made Hizbollah more vulnerable."
'Middle East: Three nations, one conflict' (Borzou Daragahi, Financial Times)
"Lebanese and Iraqi Shia militiamen take up arms in Syrian towns and cities. Syrian insurgents set off bombs in southern Beirut. Sunni fighters flow from Syria to Iraq, where they battle government troops on the outskirts of Baghdad, while Lebanese and Palestinian Sunnis in Lebanon fight in the Syrian city of Homs. Governments in Baghdad and Beirut, backed by their patron in Tehran, look the other way - or sometimes help - as arms and fighters make their way into Syria for battles from Aleppo to Damascus to Deraa.
This is more than just the 'spillover' from the Syria conflict analysts warned about when the uprising against Bashar al-Assad began in 2011. The various conflicts in Syria, Iraq and Lebanon are increasingly merging into one war stretching from the Zagros Mountains to the Mediterranean Sea in what the writer Rami Khoury calls 'a single operational arena in terms of the ease of movement of fighters and weapons.'"
'The ICC and Iraq: ‘A Pinochet Moment'' (Mark Kersten, Muftah)
"Fatou Bensouda, the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), has decided to open a preliminary investigation into alleged crimes committed by UK government personnel in Iraq between 2003 and 2008. The UK has categorically rejected any and all allegations that it is responsible for systematic human rights abuses in Iraq, during the country's invasion and occupation. Still, many have been left wondering: will Western officials responsible for crimes against humanity and war crimes in Iraq finally be brought to justice? The answer is, quite frankly, unclear. But the Iraq investigation may also have another aim: to save the ICC itself."
-- Mary Casey
MARWAN NAAMANI/AFP/Getty Images