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Cablegate: Opposition Press Agrees with Changes To

Published: Sun 19 Jun 2005 03:41 PM
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
UNCLAS CAIRO 004598
SIPDIS
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV KPAO IZ EG
SUBJECT: OPPOSITION PRESS AGREES WITH CHANGES TO
PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION AMENDMENT; NO TO ELECTION MONITORS:
EGYPTIAN MEDIA THEMES, JUNE 12 TO 18
1. Summary: Opposition press eagerly engaged in the
debate over changes made by Parliament to the
constitutional amendment on Egypt's presidential elections
law changes that they perceived would exclude Gamal
Mubarak from running for the presidency. However, one
commentator in leading pro-government daily Al Ahram
remained unimpressed by Egypt's reforms, comparing Egypt
unfavorably to Syria. Most commentators continued to
reject international election observers, while several
reacted to recent violence in Iraq, with large-circulation
pro-government daily Al Akhbar claiming that Zarqawi "must
be an American agent." End summary.
2. Gamal thwarted?: The opposition press expressed
satisfaction with Parliament for having made two amendments
to Egypt's presidential election law: 1) a presidential
candidate must not be a dual national and 2) a candidate
must have completed his military service. Leading anti-
government critic opposition Al Wafd (circulation: 180,000)
praised the amendments in its June 16 edition. Previous to
June 16, Al Wafd attacked Parliament for considering the
possibility of not amending these two items. Most papers
agree that Gamal Mubarak did not serve in the military;
however, the independent daily Al Masri Al Youm
(circulation: 20,000) reported that Gamal had served in the
Republican Guard. Meanwhile, a report in independent
weekly Al Dostour (circulation: 50,000) on June 15 demanded
that Gamal Mubarak reveal whether or not he carries British
citizenship. In criticism aimed at the government's reform
efforts, a June 16 commentary in pro-government Al Ahram
(circulation: 750,000) compared Syria's "old guard" to
Egypt's ruling NDP: "The only difference (between Egypt
and Syria) is the speed of any so-called change. In the
end, the objective in both countries is keeping one party
rule."
3. Election monitors in Egypt: While TV and the print
press reported on the third round of Lebanese parliamentary
elections, Egyptian commentators were quiet on the results.
Instead, commentators devoted their attention to Egypt's
elections and the issue of international election monitors
for the most part, rejecting monitors. A guest on
Channel One's "Halet Hiwar" ("State of Discussion") on June
16 declared, "Egyptians refuse any foreign intervention in
our elections." On June 18 all newspapers reported on the
claim by the Sheikh of Al-Azhar that elections in Egypt
"should not be monitored by any foreign agency unless the
Egyptian government permits it." The June 18 weekend
edition of pro-government Al Akhbar, Akhbar Al Youm
(circulation: 1,000,000), reported that leading
intellectuals and opposition party officials "reject
international supervision of elections in Egypt." However,
a reformist commentator welcomed international observers in
Al Ahram on June 18, writing, "This issue has nothing to do
with national sovereignty. Since Egypt claims that its
elections will be fair and free, having observers would
improve Egypt's image abroad and affirm its leading role in
the Arab world."
4. Iraq: The Egyptian press and commentators returned to
the well-worn theme of criticizing USG policy in Iraq.
(Comment: TV and print media coverage seemed to focus on
the violence in Iraq more than at any other time during the
past few months. End comment.) A June 17 unsigned
editorial in Al Ahram criticized what it termed the
"alleged democracy and freedom in Iraq," claiming that the
"chaos" and violence in Iraq was "due to the presence of
U.S. occupation troops." Pro-government Al Akhbar
(circulation: 800,000) went as far as to claim in an
unsigned editorial on June 15, "Zarqawi m
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