MENA Brief newsletter 12-18 April 2019
The latest MENA Brief analyses Egypt's referendum, mayoral elections in Turkey, Haftar's advancements in Libya, and the protests in Morocco and Algeria
- Bahrain - Heightened protest risk as 139 demonstrators convicted of terrorism
- Egypt - Heightened protest risk during referendum on extending presidency
- Israel - Railway strike causes severe delays across country
- Turkey - Heightened protest risk as ruling party calls for rerun of Istanbul election
- United Arab Emirates Airport maintenance work closes runway until end of May
- Algeria - Security forces deploy checkpoints to limit access to capital
- Libya - Airstrikes in Tripoli residential areas as fighting intensifies
- Morocco - Several strikes nationwide due to fuel-price increase
- Tunisia - Protest planned in capital to demand the release of prisoners
Bahrain Heightened protest risk as 139 demonstrators convicted of terrorism Iran Security risk: Medium
On 16 April, the country's high criminal court convicted 139 people on terrorism charges, and revoked the citizenship of all but one, in one of the biggest trials in the country. Most of those convicted were arrested during protests in 2017. These were in support of Shia cleric and politician Issa Ahmed Qassem, who was stripped of his citizenship for backing protesters during the 'Arab spring.' According to prosecutors, those convicted were trying to create the 'Bahraini Hezbollah', and forge links with Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
Why it matters: Protests are still likely to occur across the country in light of the court decision, as tensions continue to grow between opposition groups and security forces. In the past, security forces have used heavy-handed tactics against protesters, including deploying tear gas and firing live ammunition. A2 Global advises travellers to exercise caution and avoid travelling to central districts in towns and cities where protesters are likely to gather, such as the Pearl Roundabout in the capital Manama.
Egypt Heightened protest risk during referendum on extending presidency Egypt Security risk: High
On 17 April, Egyptian authorities announced that the country will hold a nationwide referendum from 20 to 22 April to vote on constitutional amendments, passed by the Egyptian parliament on 16 April. If the referendum endorses this, it would allow President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi to extend his term of office from four to six years, and the number of terms a president can remain in power from two to four terms. This would allow al-Sisi to remain in power until 2034, should he win successive elections. The amendments would also give the president the power to directly appoint judges and bypass judiciary oversight.
Why it matters:
Although protests have been banned since 2013, demonstrations against the referendum are likely, as opposition groups have accused al-Sisi of trying to strengthen the power of the military via the constitutional amendments. On 28 May, protests occurred during preliminary votes on the constitutional reforms, leading to several arrests. Despite opposition calls for a boycott, millions of Egyptians are set to vote, causing travel disruption across the country. Heightened security is expected, especially near polling stations. A2 Global advises foreign personnel to avoid protests as a precaution, due to the likelihood of confrontations between protesters and security forces.
Why it matters:
Israeli media has reported the incident to be part of a strike conducted by rail traffic managers as an act of protest against the organisation. In March, similar strike actions occurred as a protest against poor working conditions. Issues between railway workers and management staff remain unresolved, increasing the risk of such incidents happening again. A2 Global advises business travellers to expect delays on their travels across the country, as railway operations are set to face delays through the day until operations resume normally.
Turkey Heightened protest risk as ruling party calls for rerun for Istanbul election Turkey Political risk: High
On 17 April, the ruling AK party (AKP) has formally requested the supreme election council, YSK, for a rerun of the 31 March Istanbul mayoral elections. The request comes after President Recep Tayyip Erdo?ans appeal for recount was rejected by YSK on 9 April. On the same day, the YSK confirmed that CHP's mayoral candidate Ekrem ?mamo?lu had won the election and granted him his official mandate despite the legal challenges imposed by the AKP. The YSK must now assess whether it will accept calls of a rerun by the AKP. If the request is approved, new elections are set to occur on 2 June.
Why it matters:
If the request for a rerun is approved, the risk of protests by CHP supporters increases, as they are not likely to take the decision positively. A heightened security presence is expected across the city. If protests do occur, demonstrators are likely to gather in central locations, such as Taksim square. Business travellers should avoid any protests as a precaution.
United Arab Emirates Airport maintenance work closes runway until end of May United Arab Emirates Security risk: Medium'
The southern runway at Dubai International Airport (DXB) will be closed from 1500 local time on 17 April until 30 May, due to essential maintenance work. The airport has two runways.
Why it matters:
DXB is the world's busiest airport by international passenger traffic, and the maintenance work is set to cause some DXB flights to be diverted to Al Maktoum International Airport (DWC), 65 km south of DXB. Free shuttle bus services will be running between the two airports. A2 Global advises travellers to re-confirm their flight status in case of cancellations and delays. Travellers to and from DXB should also allow for additional journey time.North Africa