Egypt. Egyptians living abroad—many in the Gulf, the United States, and Canada—have begun voting in the presidential elections. Turnout has been low thus far, but voters will have until May 17 to cast their ballots. The latest poll numbers from Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies have Amr Moussa maintaining a strong lead, with Ahmed Shafiq overtaking Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh for second place. The survey was conducted on May 8 and 9, however, before last week’s widely viewed debate between Moussa and Aboul Fotouh.
The Gulf. The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) meets in Riyadh today to discuss the possibility of creating a union of the GCC’s six member states, similar to the European Union. Liberal civil society activists have criticized the plan, citing concerns about the effect it would have on pro-democracy opposition groups. Analysts have pointed to the benefit of a union for GCC members in countering Iranian influence.
Iran. Talks between Iranian and International Atomic Energy Agency officials to be held today in Vienna will lay the groundwork for discussions next week in Baghdad. Iran’s withholding of access to the Parchin military complex will likely be a major point of contention.
Israel-Palestine. Two Palestinian prisoners have reached the seventy-seventh day of their hunger strike, and doctors are saying they are dangerously close to death. Other prisoners who are members of Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and Fatah—up to 1,600 of them—are also participating in the fast to protest prison conditions and extended detentions without trial. An Israeli prison service spokesperson says Egypt has brokered a deal, likely to be announced this week, that aims to end the strike. On Tuesday, Palestinians will mark Nakba Day, which commemorates Palestinian displacement following the declaration of Israel as an independent state.
Libya. Human Rights Watch (HRW) today has released a report documenting seventy-two civilian deaths it says were caused by NATO air strikes in Libya between March and October 2011. HRW has called for a “prompt, credible, and thorough” investigation into the deaths. NATO responded through its spokesperson, saying it “did everything possible to minimize risks to civilians.”
Syria. The results of last week’s parliamentary elections will be announced Tuesday. Meanwhile, violence continues to spread throughout the country, spilling into Lebanon with recent clashes in Tripoli between supporters of Bashar al-Assad and opposition members.