Dereliction of duty by Egypt police continues to claim lives

(Originally published by the Egypt Independent.)

On the evening of 8 February, Hassan Shaaban visited his brother-in-law at a Khalil Pharmacy branch in Alexandria’s middle-class Sidi Gaber neighborhood.

It was a Friday, and demonstrations had broken out again near the district’s flashpoint police station, not far from the pharmacy. But Shaaban, a 35-year-old chronic diabetic who lived with his mother, had to refill his supply of insulin.

Shaaban’s wife lived with her children from another marriage two governorates away, in Kafr al-Sheikh, but Mohamed Farouk Mohamed was still close to his sister’s husband. Before Shaaban left, Mohamed warned him to take care of himself.

“He said, ‘I’ll take a [microbus] and be quick,’” Mohamed recently recounted at a cafe on Alexandria’s seaside corniche, where he was meeting with lawyers. “He was always afraid. He was a guy who had nothing to do with protests or anything. I don’t know how he was taken.”

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Morsi calls Egypt poll amid prolonged unrest

(Originally published by the Times.)

Evan Hill in Cairo

President Morsi last night called a parliamentary election starting in April, in a move that critics fear is intended to cement the Islamists’ power in Egypt.

The decision reflects the Administration’s desire to finish the long series of votes and referendums that has followed the 2011 revolution and the urgent need for a functioning government that can tackle the country’s economic crisis.

It will inflame opponents, however, who argue that the President has adopted the undemocratic methods of his ousted predecessor, Hosni Mubarak.

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Longest. Transition. Ever.

Following another legislative blitzkrieg, President Mohamed Morsi has declared Egypt's election season open, again, setting a series of dates for parliamentary voting this summer. That means we're finally approaching the last step in a long and torturous transition (or, perhaps, we're just two years into something that's going to last far longer and be far more torturous, but let's not dwell on that prospect).

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Supreme Constitutional Court rejects draft election law

Egypt’s Supreme Constitutional Court has rejected a draft election law submitted by the Shura Council - the house of parliament that remains after the People’s Assembly was dissolved by court order last year - throwing the date of the impending parliamentary election into doubt. 

Under the new constitution, signed into law by President Morsi on December 26, “procedures for electing” the new parliament must begin within 60 days, meaning the government faces a February 24 deadline to get started. Recent reports in the media had suggested that Morsi was ready to declare the opening of the election campaign, before the court rejected the law. 

What “procedures” means and whether the deadline would have any practical effect is unclear, but the government had been preparing for an April vote, and Egypt’s economy is crumbling in the meantime. The International Monetary Fund, potential suppliers of a desperately needed loan, will probably not agree to terms with a government that is set to change in the coming months.

So what is holding up the election law? Below - in bullet point summary and subject to my limited abilities of interpretation - are the court’s sticking points. While I hesitate to draw any broad conclusions about the court’s motives (it has been accused by the Brotherhood of being an agent of the old regime) there is more than one area in which the justices seemed to give the Brotherhood’s opponents a boost.

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Fears in Egypt as protests close part of Port Said

(Originally published by the Times.)

Evan Hill and Muhammad Mansour

Demonstrators angry over the killing of civilians in Port Said blocked entry to the city’s East Port today, suspending work at a crucial international shipping point which earns Egypt’s government millions of pounds per day.

Hundreds of protesters massed at the port’s entrance after the military attempted to remove a small group of picketers who had gathered on Tuesday night.

​The protesters prevented more than 2,000 workers from entering the port, which houses the Suez Canal Container Terminal and is the principal facility for transferring containers from ship to ship at the northern mouth of the Canal.

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Dire straits for Suez shipping

(Originally published by Blouin News.)

The near-foundering of one of the world’s largest container ships at the mouth of Egypt’s Suez Canal raises the specter of a slowdown in the vital shipping lane — one of the country’s few remaining sources of significant income. On Feb. 2, a thruster in the Emma Maersk broke as the container ship began its journey south through the canal. This flooded an engine room, forcing the captain to halt. The Emma remains hobbled but safely docked near Port Said. [Note (2/21/13: The Emma was towed to a repair facility on February 18.]

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