The victories of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohammed Morsi and ex-prime minister Ahmed Shafiq in the first round of Egypt’s presidential elections headline every Arab paper today, as pundits discuss what the two candidates will offer the country.
Egypt’s most widely read paper Al Ahram leads today with, “Morsi and Shafiq face to face in a repeat of the elections on June 16. A shock to supporters of Sabahi, Abolfotoh, and Moussa.” Egypt’s liberal newspaper Al Masry Al Youm features a short article on election fraud, saying that “the campaigns of several candidates…have exchanged accusations of electoral abuse and accounts of deception.” Despite comments by opposition campaigns, announcements from election monitors including a statement by the Carter Center which notes that the election was marked by “transparency and integrity” have prevented these complaints from carrying much weight.
While some articles highlight potential problems with the vote, most publications appear to accept the election as legitimate and are instead focusing on potential alliances, endorsements, and problems in the next round of voting.
An article in Al Ahram cites a response by Mohamed ElBaradei to the election results: “If someone from the old regime wins, a second wave of rebellion could start…and the people will feel that the revolution has been stolen.” ElBaradei went on to say that “[Egyptians] need to see a new face.”
Liberal Egyptian paper Youm7 also features numerous public intellectuals and leaders calling to “protect the revolution” and vote against Ahmed Shafiq. Author and thinker Alaa Al Aswany is quoted saying, “Our duty to protect the revolution now requires us to create a wide national front and support the Muslim Brotherhood against Mubarak’s corrupt and bloody regime.” Aswany, like ElBaradei, predicts a doomsday scenario if a former regime official wins, calling it a potential “Armageddon” and saying, “either unite or lose the revolution.”
Youm7 further reports that the candidates are scrambling to garner support and widen their respective coalitions, as Mohammed Morsi’s Freedom and Justice Party announced it was “launching a national initiative…under the banner of ‘the homeland is in danger.’” A leading FJP official added that in their effort to “reunify the political forces…he was sending invitations to all presidential candidates, including Abdel-Moneim Abolfotoh and Hamdeen Sabahi.”
The Palestinian press today highlights what it views as the highly negative reaction in Israel to the Egyptian election results. Palestinian daily Al Quds leads with an article entitled “Why are the elections in Egypt keeping Israeli leaders up at night,” and another article says, “No matter the results of the presidential election…Israel is concerned about the ‘security vacuum’ in the Sinai.” The front page of the UK-based Palestinian Al Quds al Arabi also features an article entitled “Former Israeli defense minister fears that dawn will turn to darkness in Egypt.”
Iran talks continue, but to what avail?
Negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 (five permanent members of the Security Council and Germany) are set to continue in June. Alongside reports that Iran has enriched uranium to over 20 percent, the Arab press debates the effects of sanctions, the merits of the talks, and the future of the Islamic Republic.
Writing for international Arab paper Dar Al Hayat, commentator Hassan Haider notes that indeed sanctions are proving effective and warns of an “imminent collapse.”
“Living conditions in Iran are getting worse,” he says, as “President Ahmadinejad and his team underestimated the effects of sanctions and international solidarity.”
Another commentator Jihad al-Chazan also argues that Iran’s position is weakening for other reasons, writing that despite claims by Iran that “We absolutely support the courageous people of Bahrain and their independence,” in reality, “the Iranian regime has lost in Bahrain, and has yet to admit defeat, or at least shut up.”
Still, a commentator in an article published in Saudi Arabian-based Elaph cautions against placing too much faith in the upcoming talks. In an article entitled “Arab concerns about the West falling in love with Iran,” the author agrees that, “Iran has found itself in a position of immense international isolation…and has found within talks of a ‘grand bargain’ [a chance] to break its isolation and that of Syria.”
This comes at a time when, “Iran’s willingness to give and take on the nuclear issue are linked to the impact of sanctions…as the drop in gas prices coincides with Syria’s urgent need for financial assistance from Iran.”
The author ends with a note of caution however, “there is a great concern that western countries, particularly the United States, will fall in love with the promises from Iran…beware of promises during electoral and transitional periods, as they may well turn against those who made them.”
Art, Censorship, and the West
An article in Dar el Hayat today discusses art censorship in the Middle East and its effect on society. Reporting on a Doha Debate, the article says “censorship and control…can never defeat creativity.” It further notes that censorship “does not get to the core work of art…but seeks to silence natural interactions with the piece.” The article points out that there are academics in the region who advocate for some level of censorship, as there is “a cultural specificity that must be taken into account in some societies.”
Meanwhile, an Al Arabiya article today features Lebanese actress and model Lamitta Frangieh saying that “she does not mind working in the West.” She adds that collaboration on films is good, “as long as efforts are made to satisfy the appropriate audience.”