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Abdel Fattah el-Sisi narrowly misses 100 percent of vote in Egypt

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AL JAZEERA — In a result that comes as no shock to Egyptians and the rest of the world, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has won the presidential elections with 97 percent of the votes, final results showed, securing another four-year term.

The elections were criticised as a one-man show with no credible opposition, as at least six other candidates pulled out, were prosecuted, or jailed.

Announcing the final results on Monday, Egypt’s election commission said there had been a 41.5 percent turnout, lower than the 47 percent in the 2014 election.

The only other opponent who ran against el-Sisi was little-known Mousa Mostafa Mousa, who entered the race hours before the deadline and whose party had previously endorsed el-Sisi.

Preliminary results released on Thursday showed that Mousa had received just three percent of the vote, and according to The Economist, came in third place after more than one million people spoiled their ballot papers.

Some had crossed out the names of the two candidates and added the name of popular Liverpool and Egyptian national football player, Mohamed Salah, reportedly giving him twice as many votes as Mousa.

Yet the results were revised the next day to suggest that there were no spoiled ballots.

“The elections were a joke and a complete fabrication,” Sarah Yerkes, a fellow at the Washington-based Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, told Al Jazeera. “They are not really a meaningful marker for the country.”

‘Further pain in store for Egyptians’

El-Sisi’s first term in office, which he won after the military removed then-President Mohamed Morsi from power, was characterised by promises he failed to deliver on, such as eradicating “terrorism” and improving the country’s economy.

Gulf countries, most notably Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, pumped billions of dollars of investments into Egypt when el-Sisi first took office, but that was paralleled by “unprecedented levels” of suppression, James Gelvin, professor of Modern Middle East History at the University of California, Los Angeles, told Al Jazeera.

“The quick infusion of cash did nothing to alleviate the Egyptian economic crisis in the long term, which is the result of poor economic planning, cronyism, and demographic explosion,” he said.

The economic crisis in Egypt will be el-Sisi’s priority during his second term in office, at the cost of plunging the population into further misery, Galvin said.

The professor cited a number of factors that currently afflict the economy, saying they will likely worsen, such as high unemployment rates, the curtailment of food and fuel, unprecedented income inequality, and plutocratic rule.

“In a world in which neoliberal economic policies are the sole prescription for national economies in crisis, there is only further pain in store for Egyptians,” he said.

“When [former presidents] Sadat and Mubarak attempted to impose neoliberal polices, popular revolt – called IMF riots – ensued,” he said.

“Under these circumstances, Sisi will undoubtedly continue the harsh repression, probably citing the threat of terrorism as the reason.”

Loyalist base

The 63-year-old former commander-in-chief of the armed forces maintains a loyal base of supporters, who view him favourably as a force for stability rather than democracy.

“No one believes he is a democrat,” Sarah Yerkes said. “Rather, many Egyptians are happy to sacrifice democracy if it means greater economic performance, stability, and security.

“The problem with that argument,” she added, “is that Egypt’s economy and security situation have both deteriorated under Sisi’s authoritarian rule – not improved.”

According to Gelvin, Sisi relies on continued support from the “deep state” – which includes the military, the bureaucracy and the judiciary – and its supporters.

Furthermore, the president’s influence is not just contingent upon domestic support but depends on regional and international support that hinges on maintaining the status quo in the region – most notably from Saudi Arabia and the United States.

“Sisi will stay in power so long as the deep state wields the influence it does, and he continues to cow the remainder of the population,” Gelvin said.

Middle East

Is Qatar taking advantage of Somalia – UAE dispute?

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As Somalia seeks to ease tensions with the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Qatar which is seen to be at the center of the fallout of the two nations, has donated 30 buses and two cranes to Mogadishu regional officials.

Relations between UAE and Somalia have been steadily declining since the latter’s decision not to cut ties with Qatar, preferring to take a neutral position in the dispute between Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

In March, Somalia banned UAE’s DP World from doing business in the country after it nullified an agreement the company had entered into with Ethiopia and Somaliland for the management of Berbera port.

Diplomatic row

One week ago, Somalia intercepted a plane chartered by UAE diplomats and confiscated $9.6m cash, saying it would investigate the intended purpose of the funds.

UAE retaliated with a scathing statement describing the seizure of the money as a breach of diplomatic protocols.

Both countries have separately issued statements ending a military cooperation program that was started in 2014, where UAE was training and paying some members of the Somali army.

Voice of America (VOA) journalist, Harun Maruf also reported that the UAE-run Sheikh Zayed hospital in Mogadishu had suspended its operations until further notice.

On Monday, it was reported that another UAE plane had been prevented from leaving Bosaso airport by Somali officials after Emirati military trainers refused to hand over their luggage to be scanned and searched.

Reconciliation talks
VOA has also reported that the Somali government on Monday opened conciliatory talks with UAE leaders.

Somali Foreign Minister Ahmed Isse Awad is quoted to have said that ‘talks have begun between the top leadership from the two countries and are progressing well.’

According to the minister, UAE had explained the purpose of the funds and will work with federal government of Somalia on their utilisation.

Mohamed Moalimuu, Secretary General of National Union of Somali Journalists, tweeted on Tuesday evening that the country’s legislators had been summoned to return to duty, supposedly to discuss the UAE dispute.

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Briefing Room

Diplomatic leaks: UAE dissatisfied with Saudi policies

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AL JAZEERA — Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed (MbZ) is working on breaking up Saudi Arabia, leaked documents obtained by Lebanese newspaper Al Akhbar revealed.

Al Akhbar said that the leaked documents contained secret diplomatic briefings sent by UAE and Jordanian ambassadors in Beirut to their respective governments.

One of the documents, issued on September 20, 2017, disclosed the outcome of a meeting between Jordan’s ambassador to Lebanon Nabil Masarwa and his Kuwaiti counterpart Abdel-Al al-Qenaie.

“The Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed is working on breaking up the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” the Jordanian envoy quoted the Kuwait ambassador as saying.

A second document, issued on September 28, 2017, reveals meeting minutes between the Jordanian ambassador and his UAE counterpart Hamad bin Saeed al-Shamsi.

The document said the Jordanian ambassador informed his government that UAE believes that “Saudi policies are failing both domestically and abroad, especially in Lebanon”.

“The UAE is dissatisfied with Saudi policies,” the Jordanian envoy said.

The Qatar vote
According to the leaks, UAE ambassador claims that Lebanon voted for Qatar’s Hamad bin Abdulaziz al-Kawari in his bid to become head of UNESCO in October 2017.

“[Lebanese Prime Minister Saad] Hariri knew Lebanon was voting for Qatar,” the UAE ambassador said in a cable sent to his government on October 18, 2017.

In November last year, Hariri announced his shock resignation from the Saudi capital Riyadh.

He later deferred his decision, blaming Iran and its Lebanese ally in Lebanon, Hezbollah, for his initial resignation. He also said he feared an assassination attempt.

Officials in Lebanon alleged that Hariri was held hostage by Saudi authorities, an allegation Hariri denied in his first public statement following his resignation speech.

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Ethiopia

Ethiopia’s Web Blackout Ends, Raising Hopes of Reforms Under New PM

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REUTERS — ADDIS ABABA — Internet users in Ethiopia said on Monday the government appeared to have ended a three-month online blackout, raising hopes of a relaxation of restrictions after the arrival of a new prime minister who promised reforms.

Mobile and broadband internet services shut down in December in many regions outside the capital that were hit by unrest that threatened the ruling coalition’s tight hold on country.

Rights groups accused the government of trying to stop them spreading news online and organizing rallies calling for land rights and other freedoms – charges the government denied. But internet users said they had noticed services returning following the April 2 inauguration of Abiy Ahmed.

The communications minister and the state-run telecoms monopoly did not immediately reply to requests for comment.

“We are very happy that it is back to normal,” said Hassan Bulcha, who runs an internet cafe in Shashemene, a town in the state of Oromiya which has seen some of the worst violence since protests erupted in 2015.
Groups that monitor internet usage in Ethiopia – one of the last countries on the continent with a state telecoms monopoly – gave the news a guarded welcome.

“Restoration of Ethiopia’s internet is a short-term win in a long-term struggle,” said Peter Micek of Access Now, a group that said it recorded two large-scale internet shutdowns in Ethiopia in 2017 and three in 2016.
The move was a step forward, but worries remained about the government’s wider commitment to freedoms, said CIPESA (Collaboration on International ICT Policy for East and Southern Africa), a Uganda-based body that lists Britain among itsfunders.

“Too optimistic”

“It would be too optimistic to expect that the new prime minister’s government will overnight dismantle all the layers of authoritarian control that have for decades been at the center of state power in Ethiopia,” said Juliet Nanfuka from CIPESA.

The government has denied accusations that it abuses protesters’ rights and said it has only acted to keep order.

The new prime minister, a 42-year-old former army officer from Oromiya, has travelled to several areas of the country, promising to address grievances strengthen a range of political and civil rights.

But the country remains under a state of emergency imposed a day after Abiy Ahmed’s predecessor Hailemariam Desalegn resigned in February.

Since 2015, hundreds have died in violence triggered by demonstrations over land rights in Ethiopia’s Oromiya region.

The protests broadened into rallies over freedoms that spread to other regions.

Unlike in other African countries where the majority of internet users access the web through mobile phones, internet cafes are still widely used in Ethiopia because smartphones remain expensive and mobile data costs are high.

Africa’s second-most populous nation has clocked the region’s fastest economic growth rates over the past decade but it has among the region’s lowest internet penetration rates.

People in Oromiya, which surrounds the capital, in the Amhara region, and in the eastern city of Harar and nearby Dire Dawa, told Reuters internet access and mobile 3G servicesresumed about a week ago.

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