The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

Campaign kick off review

So Egypt’s presidential campaign officially begins today. The three candidates that people will be watching, Ayman Nour from Hizb al Ghad, Nomaan Gomaa from the Wafd, and of course Mubarak, are each holding kickoff press conferences today. Mubarak will deliver a live television address on Dream TV tonight at 8 pm. Dream, by the way, ran two page ads for the speech in some of today’s newspapers. I opened up Al Misry Al Yom today and was thrown for an instant when I saw a huge full page picture of Mubarak. Had my favorite newspaper sold out? No, it was the Dream TV ad.

Ayman Nour has gone to the Muslim Brotherhood seeking their endorsement of his candidacy. It seems unlikely that he’s going to get it. Rumors are swirling that the Brotherhood will support Mubarak. Nahdat Misr earlier this week did a full page spread on the opposition’s secret deals with the regime. Though it was largely speculative, the article concluded that the Brotherhood was most guilty of concluding such pacts with the regime, followed by the Tegammu Party and the Wafd. The Wafd’s Nomaan Gomaa has agreed to run in the elections, perhaps to spite Ayman Nour, but also presumably in exchange for a better showing in the upcoming parliament. Baheyya has some keen insight on why Gomaa's candidacy is a boon to Mubarak. Talk of Brotherhood collusion with the regime has been circulating for a while now. Remember the fateful demonstration in front of the lawyers syndicate on July 20, when the Brotherhood got upset about the left’s anti-regime chants. See Issandr's sage analysis for more.

The Brotherhood, rumors have it, has agreed to support Mubarak. In exchange, the government would stop harassing and arresting its members, and would reconsider legalizing the party, in addition to allowing the Brotherhood to win 50 seats in the coming parliamentary elections. Or so Nahdat Misr is claiming.

Brotherhood activist, Ali Abd al Fatah, responded to the rumors on Nahdat Misr’s op-ed pages:

I can say that the Brotherhood will not ally itself with the regime against the people. Because the Brotherhood’s success depends on the people’s support for them in the syndicates and protests. So the Brotherhood will not become part of the regime by forming an alliance with it, and they will not neglect the feelings of the people which reject the continuation of the deteriorating political and economic situation, and they will not abandon the national consensus, because they are patriots and patriotism is a part of [Islamic] faith.

The Brotherhood’s opponents would like nothing more than to see "Egypt's most popular opposition force" side with Mubarak, thus stripping the organization of credibility, but it doesn’t seem likely. More sober analysts seem to think the Brotherhood will boycott the presidential elections all together. But one has to wonder why they are holding out on publicizing their intentions.

Ayman Nour’s decision to appeal to the Brotherhood for support has been portrayed by Al Misry Al Yom as a response to Pope Shenouda’s announcement of support for Mubarak in the name of all Copts. Shenouda’s pledge of loyalty prompted one Coptic priest to break ranks and join forces with the Ghad Party, for which he was suspended from the church for six weeks. Police reportedly intervened earlier this week to break up a demonstration by Coptic youth protesting the suspension outside a church in Giza.

Magdy Mihana writes in Al Misry Al Yom:

With what right do religious men have the right to advise the people on their national and political choices?... Church leaders’ decision to turn to the media represents a violation of the tenets of the Christian religion… We find ourselves confronting something positive because it exposes the hypocritical face of the church, because, while the great church leaders are content to partake in political activities, they order the suspension of a church priest when he practices his right as a citizen to support the position of one of the opposition parties.

A new daily paper has hit Egyptian newsstands.
Roz al Yussuf, the liberal government weekly that once represented the pinnacle of Egyptian journalism, but has since become little more than government propagandist drivel, began publishing a daily newspaper this week. In their first issue last Moday they attacked Kefaya, accusing it of having foreigners among its rolls. The accusation was based on the fact that foreigners are involved with the Socialist Studies Center, whose leader, Kamal Khalil, is a member of Kifaya. Kifaya promptly responded on its Web site. And the Roz al Yussuf daily responded with a second front page article in today’s paper, accusing Kifaya of lying, and claiming it had the tapes to prove it.