Egypt has just celebrated its first pluralist elections although the modification of the law was so belated that political parties did not have enough time to effectively set up. These elections took place at the end of the reign of Hosni Mubarak, who is slowly preparing his own succession as he leaves the stage like someone who walks backwards, and in the face of Washington’s pressure on Egypt. Some hawks did not hide their wishes to overthrow the current president although he did numerous concessions to Washington and Tel Aviv. In this context, the electoral campaign gives the government and also the opposition an excellent opportunity to make mutual accusations regarding their dependence on the United States. In effect, while those who have the power in Cairo depend on the US subsidies to the extent that they can’t deny anything to Washington, there is also a sector of the opposition that enjoys the financial support from the State Department.
In the website Egyvote.20at.com, Egyptian writer and journalist Ahmed Fathi describes the way in which the United States significantly finances the bodies in charge of supervising the elections. According to the author, certain groups received large sums of money to “train” observers, a practice that reminds us of those that preceded the “color revolutions”.
The behavior of Freedom House, an organization run by former CIA boss James Woosley, and which plays an essential role in the political changes that took place in Ukraine and Georgia, reminds us the premises of the operations of Kiev or Tbilisi. An article can be read today in the website of the organization that affirms beforehand that the election will not be free and gives its support to Keffaya, a heterogeneous opposition group that demands the end of the Egyptian president’s reign. However, the “NGO” praises the mobilization of Egyptians around the democratic project.
However, there is no sign that shows any attempt to destabilize Cairo or that we may not be simply witnessing an intimidation. In the Al Ahram news daily, a state-run publication, President Hosni Mubarak presents his program and affirms his own independence in an interview with Osama Sarava, chief editor of the news daily. The candidate-president notes that the Egyptian political reform is completely endogenous and has nothing to do with any pressure from a foreign power. If it is taking place right now it is only because the work carried out during 24 years to adapt the economic structures and to stabilize the country is bearing fruit. The interview also tries to appeal to the patriotic feelings of the people presenting Egypt as a great regional power.
This common maneuver of political propaganda reflects the control of the power over the media during a campaign. On the contrary, it is the Egyptian opposition that monopolizes the analysis on the lections in the international press. Omnipresent Sadd Adwin Ibrahim appears in the first line of the media opposition. This Egyptian opposition writer is an expert of the Project Syndicate and the Benador Associates, which guarantees him a large audience. Recently, on September 1st, the US Deputy Secretary of State for European and Euro-Asian Affairs, Daniel Fried, paid tribute to him during a speech given in Paris.
Saad Ibrahim’s column appears in the Taipei Times, the Jerusalem post, Le Figaro and the Daily Star, and is hoping to be published in other dailies. The analysis made by the author is very similar to that of Freedom House. He denounces an electoral fraud and ridicules President Mubarak, who refuses to allow courts to supervise the elections. However, he rejoices at the attitude of the Egyptians and sees the election as the end of a tyranny.
Another well-known opposition member, Hossam Bahgat, a former journalist with the Cairo Times who became known for his denunciation of the arrest of homosexuals, denounces the results of Hosni Mubarak in human rights affairs in the Daily Star and The Guardian. However, he uses very different communication strategies in each publication. In the first, he calls on Hosni Mubarak’s new team in charge of his campaign to develop a change of strategy and to persuade the president to fight torture. According to the text, it seems that these practices are not made following a government directive, but they are the work of isolated individuals that, unfortunately, Cairo has not punished. On the contrary, in The Guardian, the same author calls on the British government to take advantage of its mandate ahead of the European Union to pressure Egypt, to convince Cairo to renounce torture and to make the elections more transparent. In this text, he accuses the regime itself. At the same time, the author sends a warning to London: the United Kingdom will lose its credibility if it adopts terrorist legislation against individual rights. Rifaat Said, president of Tagammu, a leftist party of the Egyptian opposition that advocates for boycotting the elections, explains his strategy in an interview granted to the French communist daily L’Humanité. For him, this election is only a cosmetic reform of power to create an image of democratization. Thus, he refuses to participate in what he calls a farce and denounces the democratization speech given by the ruling power. According to him, Mubarak has his hands tied by Washington and has already been forced to send an ambassador to Iraq, to sell gas to Israel and to accept the visit of Ariel Sharon. Currently, the United States uses the elections to maintain Egypt under its control granting or taking away democratic points according to the policy implemented.
Opposition member Aida Saif Ad-Dawla also finds a space in the European leftist media. In an interview published by JungeWelt, a communist daily of the former German Democratic Republic, she strongly denounces the maneuvers of the ruling power to falsify the result of the election. However, she commends the importance of the opposition movement. For his part, in Asharqalawsat, the chief editor, Abdelrahmen Al Rachid, does not accept the criticism against the Egyptian elections. For him, this vote represents an advance whose importance should not be ignored. Although the result is determined beforehand, the election represents an opening for the entire Arab world.