Iraqi president suffers a stroke and Egyptian protesters return to the streets
Arabic media review

Iraqi president suffers a stroke and Egyptian protesters return to the streets

Series of resignations throws Egypt's political scene into disarray

Elhanan Miller is the former Arab affairs reporter for The Times of Israel

Iraq's President Jalal Talabani in 2007 (photo credit: AP/Hadi Mizban)
Iraq's President Jalal Talabani in 2007 (photo credit: AP/Hadi Mizban)

A stroke suffered by Iraqi President Jalal Talabani leads the headlines of Arab news on Wednesday, with dailies expressing fear for Iraq’s stability.

“Talabani’s ‘coma’ confuses Iraq’s political scene,” reads the headline of the Saudi-owned daily A-Sharq Al-Awsat, featuring a photo of a smiling Talabani meeting Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Maliki a short while before the stroke.

A source close to Talabani told the daily that the president had entered a state of coma, “and it is yet unknown whether he will awaken from it.”

But Qatari news station Al-Jazeera reported late Tuesday night that Talabani was in stable condition, and that a medical team from the UK was on its way to Baghdad on Wednesday to treat him. The station reports that Talabani suffers from ill health and was treated in the US and Europe a number of times this year, after undergoing heart surgery in 2008.

The London-based daily Al-Hayat reports fear in Iraq of a political void and the collapse of Talabani’s efforts to mend the ongoing crisis between the ruling coalition and the autonomous Kurdish region.

The daily speculates on possible heirs to Talabani, including Kurdish politician Barham Salih, or Sunni politicians trusted by the Shiite Prime Minister Maliki.

“On the political level, no one knows how things will develop after Talabani,” writes A-Sharq Al-Awsat, noting that even Talabani’s wife is mentioned as a candidate to replace him.

Political crisis in Egypt deepens as referendum wavers

Claiming widespread fraud in the first round of the referendum over Egypt’s new draft constitution last Saturday, the opposition National Salvation Front, a grouping of several parties, demanded the suspension of the second referendum round scheduled for Saturday.

Judge Zaghloul Balashi, who oversaw the voting process, resigned from his position on Tuesday, sending the Egyptian political scene into uncertainty, A-Sharq Al-Awsat reports, noting that the “culture of resignations” has become endemic among officials in Egypt of late.

“The judiciary wins, and the referendum wavers,” reads the headline of liberal daily Al-Masry Al-Youm, a staunch opponent of President Mohammed Morsi. The paper reports a prevailing tendency among state bureaucrats to boycott the second round of voting, rendering it impossible to implement.

The daily reports glee among Egypt’s judges following news that the resignation of prosecutor general Talaat Abdullah is final. Members of Egypt’s Judge Club, the largest group of the country’s judiciary, were giving out chocolate following the news, Al-Masry Al-Youm reports.

Commenting on the news, Egyptian oppositionist Mohammed ElBaradei said “congratulations to the general prosecution; truth remains superior to power.”

In what it dubs “a surprising development,” Al-Ahram reports five opposition processions toward Tahrir Square and the presidential palace, resulting in the injury of three men in clashes with pro-government demonstrators.

‘The forbidden has already taken place in Egypt’

Meanwhile, Arab editorials continue to lambaste Morsi for the new constitution and the political crisis that ensued.

The Egyptian street, which succeeded in toppling Mubarak, writes columnist Badriyah Bishr in Al-Hayat, “failed in attaining the right to representation in drafting the constitution.”

“The new ruler believes in exclusivity in writing it, according to the notion of ‘the winner writes the end’… but it seems that the street has emerged from its corner and is well-equipped to refuse,” he writes.

Tareq Homayed, editor-in-chief of A-Sharq Al-Awsat, is even harsher in his criticism.

“The forbidden has already taken place in Egypt,” writes Homayed. “A real earthquake has affected political life, the economy, culture, and all Egyptian institutions. The reason is the infiltration of the Muslim Brotherhood, and their coup d’etat against everything in Egypt.”

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