Three weeks before its presidential election, Egypt on Sunday extended an
overnight curfew around the Defense Ministry in a bid to forestall a repeat of
Friday’s deadly violence.
One soldier died and almost 400 people were
wounded in Friday’s clashes, the second time in a week that protests over the
army’s handling of the country’s troubled transition have turned
The military reimposed the curfew in the Abbasiya district
around the Defense Ministry for the third straight day, the state-run MENA news
Running from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m., it is an hour shorter
than on the previous two nights.
Many protesters who gathered near the
ministry were extremist Salafis, furious that a candidate they supported for
president was disqualified from the race. Non-Islamists and others attended the
rally, accusing the army of seeking to manipulate or delay the scheduled
The military has dismissed the allegations, promising to honor
a timetable transferring power by July 1 or earlier – in the unlikely event of
an outright winner in the first round of voting this month.
Egyptian media reported that 14 women and 15 journalists of the 300 people
detained Friday had been released after a military prosecutor accepted a legal
In separate developments, Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Egypt
returned to Cairo late Saturday, Egyptian airport officials said, almost a week
after he was recalled in a rare diplomatic row between the longtime
Ambassador Ahmed Abdulaziz Kattan was withdrawn in response to
street protests in Cairo against the arrest of an Egyptian lawyer in Saudi
Previously strong ties between Riyadh and Cairo were strained by
last year’s uprising in Egypt that overthrew president Hosni Mubarak, a close
Saudi ally. The rising power of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt has riled
governments in the Persian Gulf who fear the spread of its
Egypt sent a large parliamentary delegation to Riyadh this
week to help rebuild ties with the Gulf kingdom, which has promised $2.7 billion
to support the battered Egyptian economy.
On Saturday, Saudi Arabia
confirmed its plans to send aid.
“We’re taking procedures to execute the
aid budget,” Saudi Finance Minister Ibrahim Alassaf told reporters after a
meeting of Gulf Arab finance ministers in Riyadh.
The Egyptian website
Bikya Masr reported Sunday that the country’s foreign reserves had seen their
first increase since late 2010. Foreign reserves edged up to $15.21b. by the end
of April, up from $15.12b by the end of March, according to Egyptian Central
“Foreign participation in Egypt’s stock market remains
small,” an unnamed Egyptian economist told the site, “but a partial recovery in
tourism and a tendency for Egyptians to keep bank deposits in local currency are
The presidential election – scheduled for May 23 to 24 –
will choose a successor to Mubarak.
The two front-runners are Amr Moussa,
a former foreign minister and Arab League chief, and Abdel Moneim Abol Fotouh,
an Islamist who has won the backing of a broad range of voters ranging from
non-Islamists to Salafis.
Polls conducted by the state-run Al-Ahram
newspaper show Moussa with a slim lead, but the veteran official is tainted by
his association with the Mubarak regime and charges of political opportunism.
The Muslim Brotherhood is also running a candidate.
Writing for Al-Masry
Al-Youm newspaper, columnist Karim Mohy said it’s time for selfdeclared liberals
to question their support for Abol Fotouh.
“The endorsement of the ultra
conservative Salafis has no doubt left liberal supporters anxiously wondering
just what was said during the rounds of meetings between Abol Fotouh and Salafi
leaders,” Mohy wrote. “The perception that the most important decisions
affecting Egypt are currently being made in back room deals has created an aura
of suspicion around the country’s political actors, and Abol Fotouh’s recent
shift in position on the system of governance and the endorsement of the Salafis
for his campaign have raised many red flags.”
“What we can be certain of,
is that both Abol Fotouh and the Salafis are both serious and committed to
implementing Shari’a law, despite talk by the former about tolerance and
diversity,” he wrote.
“The onus is on Abol Fotouh to act with
transparency and to clarify his political positions. If he wants to retain the
trust of his diverse voter base, he must remain principled and consistent, and
leave the double-talk and flip-flopping to Amr Moussa.”