Wednesday’s papers: RIP Kamal al-Shazli and candidates use the Eid holiday to buy votes

Egypt’s state-owned media focused on what turned out to be a busy day of public appearances Wednesday for senior government officials.

First there were early morning public prayers to commemorate Eid Al-Adha (The feast of sacrifice). For those of you keeping score of such things, the front-page picture in state flagship paper Al-Ahram, shows President Hosni Mubarak in mid-prayer flanked by Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif and Interior Minister Habib al-Adly. Defense Minister Mohammed Tantawi is visible in the background and Gamal Mubarak is nowhere to be seen.

After everybody’s religious duties were completed, it was time for the ruling National Democratic Party to bid farewell to a stalwart soldier. Kamal al-Shazli, a former Minister of Parliamentary Affairs, and a 46-year parliamentarian representing al-Bahgour district in Menoufiya, passed away Monday night at the age of 76. Both Al-Ahram and Al-Gomhouriya present front-page pictures of President Mubarak leading al-Shazli’s funeral procession.

For critics of the regime, Al-Shazli was the perfect villain–a barrel-chested bully and 10th-level backroom deal-maker. In the book, The Yacoubian Building by famed novelist Alaa Al Aswany, the character of “Kamal al-Fouli”–the regime fixer who arranges to sell a parliament seat to a rich business tycoon–was widely believed to be a thinly veiled portrait of al-Shazli. He passed away from an undisclosed illness, and recent pictures of al-Shazli that are circulating online show a dramatic weight-loss that renders him barely recognizable from his days as the regime’s main disciplinarian in parliament.   

Al-Gomhouriya’s top headline calls al-Shazli the “longest serving parliamentarian in the world” and says the NDP is “considering the selection of an independent candidate” to fill al-Shazli’s spot in the upcoming parliamentary elections.

Al-Ahram brings us a pair of front-page election-related stories. First comes a headline that could have been cut-and-pasted from a dozen other Ahram articles this past month: “Egypt refuses any foreign intervention in the elections.” Just below that comes the news that the US State Department “welcomes Egypt’s commitment to free elections.” The two stories together represent a wonderful bit of Al-Ahram cognitive dissonance. If the US was so happy about Egypt’s commitment to free elections, then why is it necessary for Egypt to refuse foreign intervention so frequently?

Opposition daily Al-Wafd brings us a headline that speaks to a completely different reality regarding the US government and the elections. The headline: “The US State Department warns against suppression of the opposition in the Egyptian elections.”

A second (bright red) Wafd headline offers a broadside challenge to President Mubarak, saying he is “personally responsible for the respectability of the elections.”

Further down the Wafd front page comes some dire numbers regarding the spiraling cost of everyday life in Egypt. Citing a Central Bank report, the newspaper claims that Egyptian are spending 27 percent more on private lessons for their children. This is in addition to the 32 percent increase in meat prices over the past few months, the newspaper claims.

Privately owned daily Al-Shorouk brings us front-page coverage of the ways that parliamentary candidates are using yesterday’s Eid al-Adha holiday to further their campaigns. According to the newspaper, the Eid festivities were "dominated by an electoral atmosphere” this year and turned into “an opportunity for candidates from different political camps to present their electoral programs and pass out gifts.”

Examples of this trend cited by Al-Shorouk include Minister of Military Production Sayed Meshal personally passing out cash after Eid prayers in his electoral district of Helwan and NDP candidate Mahmoud Othman slaughtering 30 cows and distributing their meat in Ismailia. In any normal context, this would be considered bribery and vote-buying, but on Tuesday, it was cleverly wrapped into the act of traditional Eid charity. 

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 el-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 el-Umma: Weekly, privately owned

Related Articles

Back to top button