The Middle East Channel

Sisi Declared Winner of Egypt’s Presidential Election

Egypt's election commission has declared former army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi the country's new president. According to election officials, Sisi won the presidential election with 96.91 percent of votes. However, the official turnout was 47.45 percent, which was far less than the 74 percent Sisi was hoping to reach. In a televised address after the announcement, Sisi thanked his supporters and said it was now "time to work." Thousands of Sisi supporters gathered in Tahrir Square to celebrate. The Muslim Brotherhood denounced the election calling it "the election of blood" and liberal and secular activists, including the April 6 movement, dismissed the polling. The United States and Britain said they look forward to working with Sisi, though the United States expressed concern over the "restrictive political environment" in which polling was held and urged the new president to carry out human rights reforms.  

Syria

Election officials began counting votes in Syria's presidential election after polls closed at midnight. President Bashar al-Assad faces two opponents but he is widely expected to win a third term. Iranian officials are celebrating his anticipated win calling it a defeat for the United States and praising Iran's role in keeping Assad in power. Meanwhile, in an interview with CNN's Christiane Amanpour Tuesday, former U.S. Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford said he could no longer "defend the American policy" on Syria.

Headlines

  • Three people were killed in a suicide car bombing targeting former Libyan General Khalifa Heftar in Benghazi, though Heftar survived the attack.
  • Saudi Arabia has raised the death toll from the Mers virus to 282 after a review showed nearly 100 cases needed to be added.
  • Turkey lifted a two-month ban on YouTube Tuesday though Prime Minister Erdogan continued to blast the international media calling a recently detained CNN correspondent a foreign agent.
  • The EU is pushing Iran to accelerate its cooperation with the IAEA as analysts and diplomats say it is unlikely that world powers and Iran will meet the July 20 deadline to negotiate a final nuclear deal.

Arguments and Analysis

'If Assad wins, what does that say about the opposition' (Hassan Hassan, The National)

"Politically speaking, holding the election is a chance for the regime to consolidate its gains, reaffirm that it has the upper hand in the conflict and to contrast reality under the regime with that under extremists in rebel-held areas. In that sense, the election will help the regime to solidify its position at least in areas under its control.

Regardless of the merits of the election, the episode has highlighted deep polarisation, with people from the same country looking like they live in parallel universes. The opposition has the right to lament how fellow Syrians forget all the atrocities committed by the president and cheerfully celebrate him.

But a significant part of these celebrations is essentially a defiant response to the opposition's failure to provide an alternative."

'Cleaning House in Tehran' (Reza H. Akbari, The Majalla)

"Rouhani has certainly attempted to stay true to his promises by taking some crucial steps towards lifting the international sanctions, implementing a more rational distribution of public subsidies, and increasing the purchasing power of Iranian households. However, major problems remain.

Rouhani demonstrated his willingness to address the country's weak economy during the first days of his presidency by announcing his decision to revive the Management and Planning Organization, a relatively independent institution responsible for preparing the country's budget, which was dissolved by Ahmadinejad in 2007. Iran's most qualified and brightest economists are back at work, but tackling deep-rooted and widespread financial corruption takes more than patience and audacity."

'An IMF Program for Egypt Finally?' (Mohsin Khan, Atlantic Council)

"It would be advisable in the very early days of the Sisi regime for Egypt to send a message to its population and the international capital markets that it is serious about putting its economic house in order. What better way to do this than to start negotiations with the IMF for a program? Aside from the signaling aspect, the program would bring in at least $5-6 billion in IMF financing on very favorable terms. Moreover, there would be additional financing from the European Union and other international institutions whose funding has been conditional on Egypt having an IMF program."

-- Mary Casey

MOHAMED EL-SHAHED/AFP/Getty Images

The Middle East Channel

Syria Holds Presidential Election Amid Civil War

Syrians are voting in government-controlled areas of the country Tuesday in a presidential election widely expected to be won by President Bashar al-Assad. The Syrian opposition, rebel fighters, and Western states have dismissed the election as a farce. Assad, seeking a third seven-year term in office, and his wife Asma cast their votes in Damascus, while fighting continued outside the capital and across the country. Syrian officials predicted high turnout, and Information Minister Omran Zoabi said, "The size of the turnout is a political message." However, some Syrians reported being forced to go to the polls and feeling pressured to vote for Assad. Residents in rebel-held areas, where polling will not take place, said the election was meaningless calling Assad a "butcher."

Headlines

  • Libya's new Prime Minister Ahmed Maitiq has taken office though the outgoing premier, Abdullah al-Thinni, had refused to step down.
  • Government forces and Houthi fighters agreed on a cease-fire after clashes killed at least 120 people in northern Yemen Monday.
  • Egyptian satirist Bassem Youssef has canceled his TV show "The Program" saying the climate in Egypt is not suitable and over security concerns.
  • Israel said it is "deeply disappointed" after the U.S. State Department announced it will work with and fund the new Palestinian unity government.
  • Israeli troops killed a Palestinian man who they said had shot at soldiers at a West Bank checkpoint, however the family of the man denies he opened fire.

Arguments and Analysis

'Syrian presidential vote: What changes will it bring?' (Nicholas Blanford, The Christian Science Monitor)

"It means that the conflict is likely to endure for many more years. Assad will feel vindicated by his reelection and will likely reject any proposed meaningful negotiations with the opposition. 

On the battlefield, Assad's forces will continue to systematically seize territory from the fragmented, poorly equipped armed opposition. The regime has regained control over the critical corridor linking Damascus to the Mediterranean coast via Homs and has either pushed rebel forces away from the suburbs of Damascus or surrounded and bombed them in a brutal but effective strategy of 'surrender or starve.' The military is attempting to reverse recent rebel gains in the Golan Heights and Deraa province in the south and continues to chip away at rebel quarters of Aleppo."

'A new political dilemma for Egypt's ruling military' (Ellis Goldberg, The Washington Post)

"The 2013 coup may have exorcised the danger of a political party such as the Muslim Brotherhood subordinating the armed forces to its control, but it left other problems in its wake. Sisi himself, even if he came from the ranks of the military, was another kind of threat. Beside the Scylla of institutional independence (Mubarak and even the Muslim Brotherhood), Sisi threatened the Charybdis of charismatic independence. All that singing, dancing, chocolates and underwear: The Sisi mania.

That the turnout was low is another cause for relief. Sisi may worry and the broadcasters, flacks and intellectual hangers-on moan that Egyptians are now refusing to give Sisi their voices. But within much of the general staff, there may now be quiet jubilation. Sisi, whatever he had hoped six months ago, will not be able to free himself from SCAF or his fellow generals. They did not campaign for him, and unlike him, they can look forward to another election in four years in which, if necessary, a more plausible military candidate can challenge him."

-- Mary Casey

LOUAI BESHARA/AFP/Getty Images