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Cablegate: Media Themes in Egypt, November 28 December 4:

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

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 CAIRO 009071

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV KPAO KMDR OPRC AL EG
SUBJECT: Media Themes In Egypt, November 28 December 4:
Rounds Two And Three Of Egyptian Parliamentary Elections -
Violence, More Muslim Brotherhood, And Judges Rebel.


1. Summary: As Egypt entered the turbulent third round of
its parliamentary elections, commentators discussed the
violence that marred them, as well as the significance of
the continued gains of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB). Some
"lack of civic awareness" was seen as a contributing to
success of the MB, as well as the low turnout and chaos
during the polling. News outlets also reported the
official results of the second phase of voting in which
150 candidates won seats, including: 75 from the NDP, 38
independents (including MB), and 2 from Al-Wafd. On the
economic side, papers continued to speculate over the pace
of negotiations for a potential Free Trade Agreement
between the U.S. and Egypt.

2. Violence mars the elections: As the country ended the
second phase of voting for parliament, the opposition
press continued its charges that voters supporting the
opposition were being jailed, while pro-government daily
Al-Ahram (circ. 750,000), on November 29, stated that the
second phase of the elections was "fair and transparent,"
and that the reporting of violence was exaggerated. As
Egypt entered the third and final phase of the
Parliamentary elections, however, the press reported
widely on the large number of security forces on hand,
ostensibly to deal with acts of violence and bullying that
occurred during the polling. All papers reported on
gunfire at polling stations, and the closure of some
voting stations. Columnists and talk shows continued to
debate the success of the MB and the outbreak of violence.
A columnist in pro-government daily, Al-Ahram, on November
28, suggested that the people of Egypt lack sufficient
understanding of elections and democracy, and need
educating.

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3. Gains of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB): Columnists from
several papers expressed the opinion that the success of
the MB is due to the NDP's failure to support its people
combined with its lack of vision, the people's desire for
change, and the extremely well-disciplined organization of
the MB. There was also considerable debate on the future
of religious tolerance in Egypt if the MB were to gain a
majority. Viewpoints ranged the spectrum from
characterizing the MB as Islamic extremists to pro-
democracy moderates. Popular Orbit satellite TVs evening
program, "El-Qahira el-Yom" hosted a leading figure of the
opposition movement who, when asked what his position on
Israel would be if the MB were ever to gain a majority in
government, stated "the Camp David accord would have to be
reconsidered" and "it does not matter if that led to war."
Meanwhile, Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, a pan-Arab magazine,
featured MB Supreme Guide Mahdy Akef calling for dialogue
with Coptic intellectuals on issues of mutual importance.
Talk shows hosted academics and strategists who
characterized the MB as "secretive and dishonest about
their true plans," and said that the MB will "turn toward
the Turkish model of Islamic rule; that they are a fascist
organization, and that nobody has the right to regulate
people's relationships with God."

4. Judges: The press focused intensely on the actions of
local judges in their role as election monitors. All
papers, and the pan-Arab newspaper, Al-Sharq Al-Awsat,
published the Supreme Council of the Judiciary's calls for
bringing certain judges to account for allegedly insulting
the judiciary and fellow judges in comments they made to
the media on the elections. Several papers also carried
the story that an estimated 120 judges, in protest against
election violations, submitted requests to be excluded
from supervising the third round of elections. Pro-
government daily, Al-Ahram, reported Minister of Justice
Mahmoud Aboul Leil's statement that measures will be taken
to protect judges and to secure the electoral process.
Over the weekend, after violence erupted during the third
round of voting, pro-government daily Al-Akhbar reported
on its front page that judges in polling stations had been
attacked by citizens and police, and opposition paper Al-
Wafd reported that Egyptian security forces had attacked
nine judges, and that the president of the Judges
Association had called for canceling elections in those
stations.

5. Other issues: All papers continued their ongoing
coverage of the Ayman Nour trial, and reported his
detention pending resumption of his trial on Saturday.
Several stories ran regarding a police assault on four
journalists from the pro-government newspaper, Al-Akhbar,
during their coverage of the elections. Both satellite
channels, Al-Jazeera and Al-Arabiya TV, broadcast stories
of the U.S. ambassador to Iraq holding talks with Iran.
All papers published stories that a new round of
discussion would begin between Egypt and the U.S. on the
Trade and Investment Framework, which will lead to talks
on a Free Trade Agreement. Al-Ahram reported that
"Foreign Trade Minister Rachid, while in the U.S. officially
declared the beginning of FTA talks with the U.S.," while
Al-Akhbar reported that "Egypt is determined to continue
economic and political reform."

Ricciardone

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