Egyptian press: Desperate and afraid
The headlines ran something like this: "The conspiracy of the ruling party against political reform" Al-Ahali ; "Parliament of blood" Al-Ghad ; "Who is bleeding more?" Al-Masry Al-Yom ; "May democracy rest in peace: the elections are null" Al-Osbou, "Voting is prohibited by order of the [Ministry of] Interior" Al-Wafd. Even Al-Ahram acquiesced: "Difficult elections... and a tension-loaded climate."
The second round of parliamentary elections and its repeats seem to have traumatised everyone. In the scoop of the week Al-Masry Al-Yom publishing a letter of Noha El-Zeini, assistant head of the Administrative Prosecution Authority, in which she documented illegal practices within the constituency of Bandar Damanhour in favour of NDP candidate Mustafa El-Feki.
Commenting on the government's response -- or lack of -- in the paper's 27 November issue, Magdi Mehanna notes, "The state and the Higher Council monitoring the elections which is headed by the minister of justice, ignored the matter, as if they had never heard of it and had never seen the letter published -- as if Noha El-Zeini did not exist." Mehanna goes on to conclude, "it seems that the state has made up its mind. It no longer cares to talk about the honesty of elections. And the police no longer care to talk about their neutrality in elections. They intervened with strength to decide the results of the elections in any manner because the NDP is losing seats and its majority." The problem, decided Mehanna, is that the NDP has realised it might lose its parliamentary majority to the Muslim Brotherhood if it continues to worry about free and fair elections.
But in Al-Akhbar, Mohamed Barakat says, "[T]he time has come to request clearly that all the security authorities intervene positively to stop all forms of negative phenomena."
Outside of the state-owned press, however, Barakat would be pressed to find people who share his view. Commenting on the events of the day of the repeat elections of the second round, Abbas El-Tarabili in Al-Wafd on 27 November laments, "the state has bared its teeth and uncovered its intentions. Yesterday especially was one of the blackest days in Egyptian politics."
Strong words that encapsulate sentiments expressed across the political spectrum. In Al-Osbou, Mustafa Bakri says, "yesterday was a sad day in the history of Egypt. Voters were prohibited from casting their vote in the repeat round, hundreds of Ikhwan cadres were arrested and the judges were humiliated."
Mohamed Abdel-Fattah in Al-Ghad says, "the violence witnessed during the first and second phases of the elections confirms the weakness of the government party both in thought and popularity. The party that utilises the money, men and power of the state and then has to resort to thugs and some of the heads of committees to forge the elections is at the end of the day an unwanted party."
And in Al-Arabi this week Abdullah El-Sinawi says, "desperation does not manufacture democracy and doesn't lead to the safe transfer of power. And fear does not manufacture free nations and does not indicate the possibility of stability or peaceful democratic reform. What is happening in Egypt now is a mix of desperation and fear; desperation regarding the possibility of wide political and constitutional reform and fear of the scenarios of chaos and violence."
And while the state-owned press has put the blame of thuggery on the Muslim Brotherhood, Ibrahim Eissa in Al-Destour argues that every vote won by the Brotherhood is the result of the conscious choice of the Egyptian voter. "I believe that every vote won by an Ikhwan candidate is a real vote given by a citizen who exited the circle of apathy. And I do not believe that any vote obtained by an NDP candidate was anything but forged." He goes on to argue that people are choosing the Brotherhood because they are a political group confronting a corrupt and authoritarian party. They have withstood torture and imprisonment and stuck to their ideals and they have never been in power.
Looking to the future in Al-Musawwar magazine, Abdel-Qader Sheheib argues against the opposition's claims that the government struck a deal with the Muslim Brotherhood and says that instead of circulating such rumours "what is more important is that people prepare in advance for the possibility that the new House will fail in completing its legal duration so that they are not surprised at the advent of new elections as they were this time."