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NightWatch 20150109

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For the night of 9 January 2015

Egypt: In a news conference yesterday, the Higher Electoral Commission, the judicial body that supervises Egypt's parliamentary polls, said that parliamentary elections would be held in late March and late April.

The first stage of voting will take place on 21-22 March for expatriates and 22-23 March for residents in Egypt.

The second stage will take place on 25-26 April for expatriates and 26-27 April for residents in Egypt.

The announcement follows the ratification on 21 December by President Abd-al-Fattah al-Sisi of a new electoral constituencies law. According to that law, the total number of seats in parliament will be 567. The number of judges who will take part in supervising the vote is 16,000.

Comment: The electoral commission pointed out that the parliamentary elections will complete President al-Sisi's three-part plan for restoring government. The completed parts are the approval of a new constitution and the election of the president. The commission failed to announce information on voter registration procedures and a deadline.

Tunisia and Egypt are the only two countries to have survived the Arab Spring upheavals with some degree of stability. Both experienced significant violent internal upheavals, but Egypt appears more stable than Tunisia.

Sinai. Egypt has begun the second phase of work to widen the buffer zone along the border of the Gaza Strip. Last October it began the first phase, which created a 500-meter security zone. Increased attacks by Sinai terrorists, smugglers and militants prompted the government to widen the zone to a kilometer.

According to Palestinian sources, the Egyptian town of Rafah will be razed completely and its inhabitants relocated, eventually to a new Rafah a few kilometers west of the Gaza Strip border. Over 1,000 families will be relocated.

Comment: Egyptians claim the Rafah residents have gotten rich from smuggling arms and supplies to the Palestinians using the tunnel under the border. The government claims supplies also have been smuggled out of Gaza to the Sinai terrorists. The al-Sisi government got serious about suppressing the unrest in Sinai after Islamist militants killed 33 soldiers and security personnel last October.

The government made the decision to expand the zone to a kilometer last November. This is a form of collective punishment, inconveniencing the locals and holding the civilians hostage for supporting the militants.

This is the same tactic that Pakistani President Musharraf used during his presidency when he got fed up with the militants in the tribal agencies of northwest Pakistan. The Pakistan Army promptly bulldozed the villages that supported the terrorists.

The Israelis did a lot of bulldozing inside the Gaza Strip last summer.

Nigeria: A government spokesman said that Nigerian military forces with air support have begun fighting to retake the town of Baga, which Boko Haram overran twice this week. Amnesty International, however, repeated reports that the town has been destroyed and possibly 2,000 people killed.

Comment: At this time no open sources have reliable information on conditions in Baga, except that a major atrocity occurred.

The government of Niger announced it will not send soldiers back to Baga until the Nigerians restore security. Niger withdrew its 50-man contingent months ago, so its lack of involvement is inconsequential.

End of NightWatch for 9 January.

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