Thursday’s Papers: Stock market sees historic drop, fact finding continues

The stock market opened yesterday after six weeks of suspended trading and before the constitutional announcement scheduled for Thursday, creating even more uncertainty in an already volatile investment climate. According to state-run Al-Ahram newspaper, the market lost LE34 billion in its first day of trading.

The new chairman of the Egyptian Exchange, Mohamed Abdelsalam, said the losses were less than expected after the 55-day hiatus. The privately-owned Al-Shorouk attributed the 8.9% drop to investor uncertainty. The paper quote Hesham Taqfeeq, who runs a large brokerage firm, as saying that there was “very little initiative by investors to buy many of the blue-chip stocks.” Trading on 46 companies was suspended because they violated disclosure agreements with the stock market. Private daily newspaper Al -Dostour wrote the drop was “the largest decrease in the history of the stock market.”

In anticipation of the constitutional announcement Thursday, state-run Al-Akhbar’s main headline read, “Today…The fall of the ’71 constitution.” The announcement is anticipated to include the amendments approved in the referendum on 19 March.

“The constitutional announcement will organize the law in the transitional period…until the election of the legislative authority,” General Mamdouh Shaaban of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces said, according to Al-Ahram. According to Al-Akhbar, the next president-elect will exercise his authority based on specialized articles until a new constitution is drafted and approved.

Al-Akhbar reported on a military decree issued yesterday that “criminalized demonstrations and sit-ins that cause a disruption of work as long as the emergency laws are in place.” Protesters can be penalized with an LE500,000 fine or one year in prison, the paper reported. Al-Shorouk calls it a ban on “some” forms of protests. The law aims to end demonstrations, especially labor and student protests, and force people back to work.

The fact-finding committee investigating crimes that took place during the revolution is examining the roles of former President Hosni Mubarak and former Interior Minister Habib al-Adly in the violence. According to Al-Dostour, al-Adly and six other Interior Ministry officials are on trial in a criminal court “for their involvement in the killing and injury of (peaceful) protesters.”

Al-Ahram cites a report by the fact-finding mission and a human rights committee implicating people loyal to former People’s Assembly Speaker Fathi Sorour. Al-Shorouk says that Sorour had a direct hand in inciting the violence on 2 February, when armed thugs stormed peaceful Tahrir Square protests. The committee report, which was submitted to military leaders and Prime Minister Essam Sharaf, says there were clear orders to fire live ammunition on the protesters. “Many of the fringe authorities refused these orders, but were forced to comply after insistence from the Ministry of Interior,” Al-Ahram writes. The committee broadly implicated many NDP members and the party itself in the violence. It requested, according to Al-Ahram, that the NDP’s assets be frozen due to the collusion between the party and Mubarak’s regime.

Meanwhile, corruption trials continue and Al-Dostour writes that Central Auditing Organization President Gawdat al-Malt previously sent whistle-blowing documents and recommendations regarding Ahmed Ezz’s steel monopoly, which were ignored. Opposition Al-Wafd paper opened an extensive file attempting to expose judiciary corruption and claiming that around 3000 police officers were employed by the judiciary. The newspaper also writes that many court rulings were made under orders from Mubarak Chief of Staff Zakareya Azmi.

Al-Wafd has also highlighted the emergence of new “evidence” regarding Mubarak’s implication in the assassination of the late President Anwar Sadat. Much of the evidence has to do with the direction of the bullets that pierced Sadat’s body, as well as their caliber. Al-Dostour also digs into the new “evidence,” citing claims from more than one source that Mubarak was behind the assassination.

Al-Wafd issued a supplement with its paper today exalting the role of the Wafd party throughout the revolution. One of the headlines read, “Al-Wafd’s flag was the only one raised side-by-side with the Egyptian flag.” The supplement did not mention that the presence of any flags during the revolution was taboo in an attempt to avoid polarization or politicization of the revolution.

The first post-revolution student union elections are set to begin Thursday at Cairo University, according to Al-Shorouk. The Muslim Brotherhood will likely show a strong presence in addition to the "old student unions.”

Egypt's papers:

Al-Ahram: Daily, state-run, largest distribution in Egypt

Al-Akhbar: Daily, state-run, second to Al-Ahram in institutional size

Al-Gomhorriya: Daily, state-run

Rose al-Youssef: Daily, state-run, close to the National Democratic Party's Policies Secretariat

Al-Dostour: Daily, privately owned

Al-Shorouk: Daily, privately owned

Al-Wafd: Daily, published by the liberal Wafd Party

Al-Arabi: Weekly, published by the Arab Nasserist party

Youm7: Weekly, privately owned

Sawt al-Umma: Weekly, privately owned

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