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Cablegate: Parliamentary Election Coverage Revs Up: Egyptian

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS CAIRO 007946

SIPDIS

NEA/PD FOR FRANK FINVER

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV KPAO KMDR OPRC IZ SY EG
SUBJECT: PARLIAMENTARY ELECTION COVERAGE REVS UP: EGYPTIAN
MEDIA THEMES, OCTOBER 11 TO 16


1. Summary: The Egyptian media intensified parliamentary
election coverage with several announcements about the NDP
and opposition parties' candidate lists, along with the
announcement, on October 15, that President Mubarak would
be personally leading the NDP's parliamentary campaign. An
unsigned editorial in the leading pro-government daily, Al-
Ahram, encouraged voters to go to the polls. While
coverage of preparations for Iraq's October 15
constitutional referendum received criticism from
columnists who alleged it would "divide Iraqis," coverage
of the conduct of the referendum itself mentioned the high
turnout and showed images of smiling Iraqi families casting
their votes. Several commentators alleged that the U.S.
might use the death of Syria's Interior Minister to connect
Syria with Hariri's death in order to "divert attention
from the Iraqi quagmire." End summary.

2. Egyptian parliamentary elections: On October 11, the
media reported that President Mubarak had issued a decree
setting the date for the first round of parliamentary
elections for November 9. Later in the week, on October
14, the media reported that Mubarak had approved the list
of ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) candidates for
November's parliamentary elections. The headline of
ardently pro-government Al-Gomhouriya (circulation:
200,000) on October 15 read, "Mubarak himself is leading
the campaign for the parliament of the future." Egyptian
TV also reported on October 15 and 16 that Mubarak would be
"personally leading the NDP campaign." Unsigned editorials
in Al-Ahram on October 15 urged people to vote, noting that
"the NDP and the opposition are showing seriousness in the
campaign." All major Egyptian newspapers reported on
October 12 that the Muslim Brotherhood would field 170
candidates and coordinate its electoral campaign with
several opposition parties.

3. Iraq: Iraq's constitutional referendum came in for a
wave of criticism by Egypt's print commentators during the
week leading up to October 15. In opposition daily Al-Wafd
(circulation: 50,000), a columnist wrote on October 11 that
the constitution "is a plot to divide and eliminate Iraq."
The same day, reflecting the dark view of the constitution
held by many Egyptian commentators, a columnist wrote in
pro-government daily Al-Ahram (circulation: 750,000) that
"civil war in Iraq has already begun," claiming the
constitution would "continue to divide Iraqis." Another
columnist opined on October 15 in pro-government Akhbar Al-
Youm (circulation: 1,000,000) that the constitution "will
not change the situation in Iraq, which is on the verge of
civil war." Opinions became more cautiously optimistic
after the referendum; on October 16, Egyptian TV reported
that over 60 percent of Iraqis had voted on the
constitutional referendum in "peaceful" voting. The print
media also reported the referendum's high turnout on page
one with images of smiling Iraqis voting with their
families.

4. Death of Syrian Interior Minister: On October 14, the
Egyptian media historically friendly and non-critical of
the Asad regime reported Syria Interior Minister Kenaan's
death as a "suicide," although it noted that the Lebanese
media doubted that assessment. The same day, several
commentaries in pro-government Al-Akhbar (circulation:
800,000) eschewed discussing Kenaan's death in any detail,
and focused instead on alleged U.S. plans against Syria.
"The U.S. is only using Syria to divert attention away from
the Iraqi quagmire," wrote Al-Akhbar's Editor-in-chief,
,
Mohamed Barakat, in a long commentary on October 14. "One
must wonder if the U.S. will use the minister's suicide to
prove its allegations of Syrian involvement in Hariri's
death," mused another Al-Akhbar columnist the same day.
The former Editor-in-chief of Al-Gomhouriya, Samir Ragab,
wrote on October 14 that he also expected the U.S. "would
use Kenaan's death to connect Syria with Hariri's death."
Ragab also wrote that he hoped "the Syrian people did not
suffer any more violence, as happens in Palestine, Iraq,
Lebanon, and Darfur. Otherwise, terrorism will increase."

RICCIARDONE

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