The BICI Accountability Act of 2015 gained new sponsors, including Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), who joined Ron Wyden (D-OR), Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT). The House bill, originally sponsored by Reps. Jim McGovern (D-MA), Joe Pitts (R-PA) and Hank Johnson (D-GA), added Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) and Peter DeFazio (D-OR).
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing examining U.S. role and strategy in the Middle East.
Regional News and Analysis
Bahrain Turns Away Yemen Activists: Bahrain hosted the Manama Dialogue over the weekend, with officials from the United States joining the conference. Deputy Secretary of State Anthony Blinkenrepresented the United States, saying, “It’s not the call for freedom that has caused instability, it’s the absence of open debate; the closing of political space; the failure to foster a culture of civic responsibility; and the conviction of those at the bottom that they will be pushed off the economic ladder the minute they begin to climb.”Bahrain revoked the visas of two analysts from the Sanaa Center for Strategic Studies,Farea al-Muslimi and Sama’a al-Hamdani, attempting to attend the dialogue, and did not grant a visa to New York Times journalist Nicholas Kristof, who has been critical of the government.
Phase One Results Released, Turnout Low: Results for the first phase of the parliamentary elections were announced on Friday, with pro-Sisi parties dominating. Election monitorsnoted rife instances of bribery and illegal campaigning outside of polling stations. Michael Hannasaid, “There are very few fierce regime critics who are participating in the electoral process and so clearly they have managed this election in such a way that is not going to be a representative parliament…”
In other news, a workers strike in Mahalla by 17,000 workers at Misr Spinning and Weaving Company continued through last week, though the labor minister’s 48-hour ultimatum to stop the strike expired. Human Rights Watch also reported that the government has prevented scores of people from traveling over the past year.
Shura Election Turnout Falls: Shura council elections took place, with 56 percent of registered voters reportedly turning out, compared to 76 percent for the 2011 elections. The sole woman elected was incumbent Nemah al-Busaidiya, who was re-elected to represent Muscat’s Seeb district. Sultan Qaboos expanded the limited powers of the Majlis in 2011, although ultimate power remains in the Sultan’s hands. The electoral process was carried out via biometric verification of individuals and citizens responded positively to the method by which the elections were conducted.
AKP Dominates Elections, Gains Majority: The ruling AKP dominated Sunday’s parliamentary elections, gaining 316 seats; the win secures single-party rule for the AKP but is short of allowing the party to unilaterally change the constitution. The Kurdish HDP gained 56 seats and the CHP gained 134. AKP’s gains represent a nearly nine percent gain over election results last summer. Some AKP officials seemed surprised by the extent of the win, while one CHP official called the results a “disaster.” Yavuz Baydarsaid the results will ensure “an even more rapid slide into authoritarianism.”
UN Negotiations Expected Mid-November:According to the UN, talks between Yemen’s warring factions are anticipated to begin in mid-November. Saudi Arabia has claimed its campaign has reached its “final phase,” and all parties have now publicly agreed to participate. Meanwhile, two security officers were gunned down in Aden, and a third official escaped an assassination attempt.