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Cablegate: Electoral Euphoria in Egypt

DE RUEHEG #2340 3151500
P 101500Z NOV 08




E.O. 12958: N/A

1. (U) Summary and comment: Both publicly and privately,
Egyptians are over the moon with the results of the U.S.
presidential election. From the front pages of daily
newspapers to popular TV shows to smiling people in the
street, the excitement is palpable. The peaceful transfer of
power was particularly appreciated here, and the sense that
"America is back," is ubiquitous. As many observers have
already noted to us, the hard part will be managing
expectations: How will President-elect Obama and his new
administration live up to the impossibly high expectations of
Egyptians? Nonetheless, the clear verdict of the nearly
thousand Egyptians who came to our election party and
celebrated throughout the night: the U.S. elections were the
single most potent and effective promotion of democracy
imaginable. End summary and comment.

2. (U) Everyone in Egypt, it seems, from hard-bitten
businessmen to frustrated political activists, is thrilled
with what happened on November 4th; first, by the spectacle
of the American presidential election, and second, with the
results. Telephone calls from official GoE contacts have
been many and universally positive: "Congratulations on your
new president!" is the exuberant refrain. As one prominent
American-Egyptian businessman put it: "I am not a Democrat,
but I certainly feel like one today!" Another Egyptian
business contact, a senior banking executive, told us that
over the past two years, he had become completely
disillusioned with America and its role in the Middle East.
With tears in his eyes, he confessed to our Econ Counselor,
"My faith has been restored." President-elect Obama's return
telephone call to President Mubarak was publicly noted and

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3. (U) In the media, the news of President-elect Obama's
victory has been broad and positive, and has dominated
television news and talk show programs, as well as the front,
inside and editorial pages of every major publication in
Egypt. During the Embassy-hosted election night party, two
television stations broadcast the Ambassador's statements on
the election live and many others broadcast interviews the
next morning.

4. (U) Aside from factual reporting of the Obama victory,
there have been three overarching themes in local media
coverage. The first is that the election symbolized change
and the end of racism in the U.S. In the pro-government Al
Ahram, Egypt's most circulated newspaper, the lead editorial
read, "the wish of millions of Americans and many nations
around the world came true! America proved it is capable of
change and evolution by crossing over barriers of racism and
discrimination." Writing in Egypt's leading independent
newspaper Al Masry Al Youm, columnist Seliman Gouda wrote,
"Several senior Egyptian figures were divided about who would
win the U.S. elections. Even in the U.S., some analysts
doubted the victory of Obama. Apparently, no one has
realized the scope of the change in American society."

5. (U) The second theme that has emerged, but only in the
independent press, is that the election draws a sharp
contrast to the electoral process in Egypt. In Al Masry Al
Youm, columnist Belal Fadl wrote, "A U.S. election ) and any
election in the world ) exposes our deficiency, but these
U.S. elections have been the harshest on our situation."
Many observers lauded John McCain's grace in defeat and the
peaceful transfer of power from President Bush to
President-elect Obama. For example, in the independent Al
Dustour newspaper, columnist Ibrahim Mansour wrote, "they
made a change after 8 years of Bush's catastrophic era. Did
our rulers learn anything from that event? When the majority
and other political forces in the US called for a change they
were not accused of working against the nation."

6. (U) The third theme has been the expression of doubt that
an Obama administration will really bring change to American
foreign policy in the Middle East. Writing in Al Ahram,
Egypt's leading columnist Salama Ahmed Salama wrote, "As for
the Middle East, he (Obama) is not expected to step in early
in his term and risk the anger of the Zionist lobby...The
Middle East will remain as it is and any change that does not
come from within is doomed to fail." Columnist Mahmoud Nafie
in the independent Nahdet Masr wrote, "the important, nave
question we ask after each American Election is: what does
the new President have for the Arabs? Obama came, and Bush
departed, but Arabs do not learn the lesson that from the
White House, they have been bitten one time after another,
and another."

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