Thursday’s papers: Bread, boycotts and the Brotherhood

First and foremost in Thursday’s papers is news that opposition coalition, the National Salvation Front, will boycott upcoming parliamentary elections. Also on offer are poll preparations as well as a possible crisis over subsidized bread supplies due to looming state bakery strikes, which could result in shortages across the country starting Friday. Media analyze the differing accounts of an exchange between US President Barack Obama and Egyptian chief Mohamed Morsy as well.

Privately-owned Al-Watan newspaper leads with the headline “Boycott campaign: No elections over the blood of martyrs,” echoing comments made by NSF leaders.

Independent daily Al-Shorouk chooses “NSF takes to the streets to promote a popular boycott,” while privately-owed Youm7 newspaper goes for a more political spin with “NSF is planning a shadow government.”

Private daily Al-Tahrir covers the story as well in an article headlined “NSF prepares boycott campaign across the governorates.” Front leader Mohamed ElBaradei is quoted saying, “We will not deceive the people by asking them to participate in a falsified democratic system.”

Liberal party paper Al-Wafd lends its support to the announcement in articles “Boycott shakes Brotherhood’s state” and “Say no to elections without electoral integrity and judicial independence.”

Meanwhile, state-owned Al-Gomhurriya newspaper predicts another decisive victory for Islamist parties in the April-May polls. The paper adds to its early elections coverage with a story titled “FJP electoral lists to be presented within hours … While NSF begins boycott campaign.”

Youm7 has another article about the Brotherhood’s alleged preparations and deal-making ahead of the vote. According to the paper, the Freedom and Justice Party is working on a plan to ensure Islamists win a majority of parliamentary seats and is willing to share its power with MPs from other like-minded groups including the Wasat Party, Jama’a al-Islamiya and, to a lesser extent, the Salafi-oriented Nour Party.

According to Freedom and Justice newspaper, the FJP’s official publication, the elections will be free and fair only if the government agrees to five stipulations: complete judicial oversight, NGO monitoring of polling stations, ballot sorting and counting inside polling stations, mandatory voter identity checks using national IDs and allowing candidates' representatives to monitor the voting process.

The newspaper also features a review of a story allegedly posted on the US-based Huffington Post news website, in which the author describes Egypt’s opposition as “weak, divided and unable to drive Egypt forward.”

It is unclear what story the Muslim Brotherhood is referring to since the author, title and date of publication are not mentioned.

The FJP paper also quotes a story supposedly from independent news agency Reuters that says “Boycotting elections on the part of the NSF reflects its inability to compete.” Again, the name of the author, the quoted source and the publication date are mysteriously absent.

In less mysterious coverage, the FJP paper fails to mention any of the multitude of articles criticizing President Mohamed Morsy and his government that regularly appear on the news aggregator’s site.

Privately owned Al-Watan newspaper sheds light on Morsy’s telephone call with Obama on Tuesday. In the article “One phone call, two translations,” the newspaper reports that Egyptian officials claimed the American president asked Morsy to visit Washington DC. However, the Obama administration made no mention of an impending Morsy visit in press briefings this week. Instead, Obama’s team said Secretary of State John Kerry would visit Egypt on 2 March.

Al-Shorouk runs a similar headline, “Dialogue between Obama and Morsy … One phone call, two accounts.”

Several news outlets report on a possible strike by state bakeries. An Al-Wafd headline reads “Tomorrow… Bakeries partake in civil disobedience and disappearance of subsidized bread.”

Al-Watan newspaper claims 10 governorates could face bread shortages as an estimated 25,000 state bakeries launch a nationwide strike on Friday over salary concerns, including those in Alexandria, Ismailia, Giza, Port Said, Kafr el-Sheikh, Fayoum, Beheira, Damietta, Assiut and Sohag. According to the article, state bakeries had demanded the Supply Ministry provide them with overdue worker bonuses and cover a recent diesel price hike, prompting some workers in Assiut to strike early.

The paper adds that the government will react quickly to the strike and ensure subsidized bread is still available.

The FJP’s take on the matter is that the strike action planned by bakers has already failed. The article goes on to say that bakers in Port Said have denounced the strike call since it is “politicized” and then quotes bakers in Daqahliya Governorate as saying, “We reject all forms of civil disobedience and strikes.”

Al-Wafd predicts the growing unrest, strikes and dwindling foodstuff reserves will lead to a “revolution of the hungry within three months.”

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-Gomhurriya: Daily, state-run

Rose al-Youssef: Daily, state-run

Al-Dostour: Daily, privately owned

Al-Shorouk: Daily, privately owned

Al-Watan: Daily, privately owned

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

Youm7: Daily, privately owned

Al-Tahrir: Daily, privately owned

Al-Sabah: Daily, privately owned

Freedom and Justice: Daily, published by the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party

Sawt al-Umma: Weekly, privately owned

Al-Arabi: Weekly, published by the Nasserist Party

Al-Nour: Official paper of the Salafi Nour Party

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