Wednesday 30 May 2012

Egypt's Liberals Draft 12-Point Charter Of The Covenant

As liberal and secular-leaning political forces continue to find themselves in a bit of a bind over whether or not to support the MB's presidential candidate Mohammed Morsi in the runoffs against former regime candidate Ahmed Shafiq, one idea was to present a proposal with the minimum set of acceptable promises that Morsi had to agree to before winning their endorsement. However, that idea has been taken and instead presented to the public at large, up for grabs by either, or both, candidate. The problem is that it means that some of them are implying they might theoretically consider endorsing Shafiq or that, at least, they are pitting Shafiq against Morsi so as to enter a bidding war. Not necessarily the most tactful move if you want to maintain your pro-revolution credentials and build a vital long-term relationship with the country's largest political group. Still, I understand that perhaps they are trying to generate the biggest possible public pressure, which is unquestionably needed.

Al-Watan, Egypt's newest newspaper, and Al-Ahram both have different presentations of how the document is like, as neither of them actually published the charter itself. We seem to know the following:

- It reaffirms article two of the 1971 constitution as it stands, stipulating that Islam is the religion of the state, Arabic is the official language and that the "principles of the Islamic Shari'a are the main source of legislation," while demanding the addition of: "with non-Muslims having the right to refer to their own laws (literally: Shari'as)) The previous interpretations of the article by the Supreme Court would be upheld.

- Calls for the application of the Universal Declaration On Human Rights, reaffirms the principle of equal citizenship, denounces discrimination and practices such as the accusation of others of apostasy.

- Stresses the importance of the separation of powers, the independence of the judiciary.

- Before the elections runoff, the willing candidate must announce a "presidential team" with multiple VPs who have real influence.

- Negotiations on a coalition government must begin now, which would include youth, different political groups, women, copts.

- Al-Azhar becomes the only official reference on Islamic matters.

- Equal rights in the construction of house of worship and in the practice of religious rituals.

- Promises to facilitate the regular peaceful transfer of power.

- A fairer composition for the constituent assembly in charge of writing the constitution. Only 35 out of 100 members would come from parties represented in the parliament by at least 5 sears, and they should be divided equally among those different parties and political groups, with the remaining 65 coming from different national groups. Decisions would be taken by two/thirds majority.

- The collective practice of politics should be done through official parties, and not through organisations or groups with sectarian bases.

- Demands the replacement of the (Orwellian) Ministry Of Information with a National Council For Media/Information (BBC-like structure.)

- Ensures the right to peaceful protest and public "resistance and revolution," says Ahram.

- Insists on social justice and the empowerment of underprivileged groups in society.

The "United Civil Current," which wrote this document, included participation by SDP head Mohammed Abul-Ghar, Hazem Al-Biblawy, Sameh Ashour and others (including some alleged and unspecified participation or attendance of deliberation by presidential candidates Amr Moussa and Khaled Ali), and was drafted by Constitutional Expert Nour Farahat.

The final draft will be announced this Friday, and here are references in Arabic: Ahram - Alwatan

What do you think? Good move? Something missing?

شيل صور المُرَشَّحِين

شيل صور كل المُرَشَّحِين من بروفايلك على فيسبوك وتويتر. شيل صورة صباحي ومرسي وشفيق وأبو الفتوح والبرادعي وأبو إسماعيل وغيرهم. رجع صورتك انت، ومتحطش صورة رجل سياسة لسة عايش في الدنيا بدل صورتك، أي كان. متفقدش ذاتك وشخصك وتفرّدك، وعمرك ما توصل بيك درجة قناعتك برجل سياسة إنك تضع صورته مكان صورتك. إدعمه بكلامك ونقدك وحماسك لأي من أفكاره ومجهودك "طول ما إنت مقتنع"، بس خلي صورتك إنت هي اللي موجودة. صورتك إنت.

Monday 28 May 2012

Sunday 27 May 2012

Detailed Results Of The First Round Of Egypt's Presidential Elections

Thanks to the massively incredible work by my friend Iyad El-Baghdadi (@Iyad_ElBaghdadi) and his partner on this project Galal Amr (@GalalAmrG,) we have detailed and tabulated results of the first round of the Egyptian Presidential Elections.

Thank you Iyad. Thank you Galal!

Saturday 26 May 2012

One Way The Morsi-Shafiq Runoff Could Be Good For Egypt?

Shafiq (left) and Morsi (right)

There is no denying that the results of the first round of the Egyptian elections have left progressive, secular and liberal Egyptians and Revolutionaries in possibly the tightest of spots. They are now forced to vote either for  a strong representative of the regime they fought with their lives to bring down, or the representative of an increasingly hungry and conservative political machine that is out to aggressively establish its hegemony over the Egyptian political scene, yet still represents a break with the previous regime. However, there is one way this possibly could be good for Egypt. Read my piece here on Al-Monitor.

Tuesday 22 May 2012

Final Thoughts Before These Inspiring And Depressing Presidential Elections

There is no doubt that tomorrow's presidential elections in Egypt are an inspiring historic milestone. 

For the first time in the life of this nation we will get to "elect" our leader, through (hopefully) free and fair elections. With more than a dozen candidates "fighting and competing" to win the votes of their fellow Egyptians through conviction, citizens seem to have finally become more in charge of their own destiny, and from now on (theoretically) parties and individuals will compete for the betterment of Egypt and Egyptians in order to win, and continue to win, these precious votes that define their worth. Democracy just as it was intended.

And these elections come in the backdrop an Arab Spring and a revolution that promise freedom, equality, prosperity and dignity. Therefore, the success of these elections and the nation as a whole, now and over the next few years, could help breathe new life in this now-struggling wave of democracy that has inspired the region since last year, and possibly change the lives of more than 300 million Arabs for the better.

Nevertheless, there is a sombre feeling in the air as well. These elections come while virtually not a single officer has been punished for the murder of protesters in the January Revolution, and with the revolution itself now regarded within a significant segment of the population with much less enthusiasm as used to be one year ago, essentially due to the difficulty of the current conditions and the ambiguity of the future. The true overwhelming size of the Deep State that has governed Egypt since the 1950s has only begun to reveal itself, and reveal with it the process the true weight and length of the struggle for democracy that is actually at hand. The economy, the bloodstream of the people, is ailing and struggling from the uncertain and volatile political and security conditions, as well as from the excruciating mismanagement by the consecutive governments and the SCAF. 

The first ever freely-and-fairly elected parliament has overall been a national disappointment, and seems to be continuously turning perhaps a bit too soon into a traditional political battleground rather than a place for  an all-too-urgent national reconstruction and reconciliation as was needed of it for at least one more year. Further, it seems to have been dedicating much of its time for the discussion of the ridiculous, the petty, and the disturbing. It either often ignores what is truly needed of it, or serves what seems to be hastily cooked output in order to save face or simply because of what could be sheer  collective ineptitude (for one, the shallow and outright "bad" Education reform law was nothing more than a waste of resources and time for the nation.)

The growing conservative-moderate-liberal polarisation within the country was also expected to be sure, and these presidential elections have seem to have only heightened the polarisation and introduced new sides to it, again expectedly. Yes, you might say "that is democracy," and you would be right, but I only regret it happening this fast while there are so many purely technocratic areas of consensus on political and economic reform we could be working on. Moreover, I regret the "depth" of the polarisation itself, as I perceive it. Still, I know for a fact that it is not at all beyond repair.

And what is particularly heavy on the heart is how, it often seems, that these elections are also about the future of not just our healthcare, education and economy, but even our most basic and fundamental freedoms and rights, including the freedom of thought, freedom of expression, and the equality of all citizens under the law. The fact that these globally enshrined rights and freedoms seem to be somewhat  further at stake, even if theoretically, is a frightening and disconcerting notion.

Of course, there is also the fact that the coming president will be elected with a vague future and an undecided mandate. SCAF will issue an annex to the existing constitutional declaration or a new declaration altogether, setting the still-undecided powers of the next president until the next constitution is written and finalised. And this next constitution itself might see an assault on the office of the presidency in general, especially if the parliamentary majority selecting the Constituent Assembly that will draft the constitution and influencing it ends up with a distaste the elected president. This would potentially render a popularly elected president powerless, incapable of fulfilling a single one of the many lofty campaign promises, and rendering much of our current excitement and inspiration nothing more than a practice drill for something else.

It is for such reasons, and many others, that I will go as an Egyptian to the polling station with both an inspired and elated mind, and a genuinely heavy heart. Perhaps there is too much bleakness in these words above, and perhaps much of it is an expression of frustration with the more negative sides of democracy as it exists in the world, but believe me when I say that I remain hopeful. I truly remain hopeful not just out of a survivalist need to be hopeful, but also out of true conviction that there is so much to be hopeful for, and so much to be hopeful from.

Good luck to the nation, tomorrow.

Brookings Poll Bravely Tries To Understand Egypt

There is no secret that opinion polls about Egypt have been anything but consistent. A lot of criticism has been said with regards to the methodology or phrasing of many questions. Setting that aside for a moment, Brookings embarked on a very interesting poll that ended May 10th (before the Presidential Debate).

Source: Brookings

Some findings: 54% percent think Turkey is the most attractive model for Egypt to emulate; 71% think the Brotherhood was wrong to field a presidential candidate after they said they wouldn't; and while 66% want to see the Sharia' as the basis of Egyptian laws, 83% want to see it adapted to "fit modern times." "Trust" is the leading criteria for selecting a presidential candidate, followed by the position on the economy, then his record and experience, which is different from the criteria in the Parliamentary elections. Oh, and apparently Mitt Romney is more popular in Egypt than he is in Utah and Massachusetts. Check out the Brookings Poll Here.

An Arabic translation of the poll's main results could be found here.

إستطلاع مهم: ماذا يريد المصريين

قامت مؤسسة بروكينجز بإستطلاع إنتهت فعالياته يوم المناظرة الرئاسية يوم ١٠ مايو بعد إسبوع من العمل، غير واضعا بذلك بحسبانه نتيجة المناظرة. ولذا، فحتى يوم المناظرة فقد سجل الإستطلاع هذه الملاحظات، أنقلها كعينة من نتائج البحث وبترتيب ظهورها في البحث:

١- ٧١٪ من العينة الممثلة للشعب المصري ترى أن قرار الإخوان بتقديم مرشح للرئاسة بعدما قد وعدوا بأنهم لن يفعلوا ذلك كان قرارا خطأ، وحصل محمد مرسي في الإستطلاع على ٨٪ (مرسي يسجل ٨-٩.٥٪ في إستطلاع المصري اليوم)
٢- تأثر دعم أبو الفتوح بين الناخبين الليبراليين بعد الدعم السلفي له.
٣- أبو الفتوح كان متقدما ب٣٢٪، عمرو موسى ٢٨٪، شفيق ١٤٪، مرسي ٨٪، صباحي ٨٪.
٤- بينما في الإنتخابات البرلمانية كان الناخب يقرر بحسب: الحزب (٢٤٪) ثم خبرة المرشح وتاريخه (٢١٪) وموقفه من الإقتصاد (١٩٪)، في الإنتخابات الرئاسية الترتيب يختلف: الثقة في المرشح (٣١٪) ثم موقفه من الإقتصاد (٢٢٪) ثم الخبرة والتاريخ (١٩٪)، وأنا أميل إلى تصديق هذا الترتيب.
٥- من المثير أن أن ٨٪ فقط رأوا أن أهم شيء بالنسبة لهم في مرشح الرئاسة هو رؤيته حول دور الدين في الدولة، وكانت تلك النسبة ٩٪ في الإنتخابات البرلمانية. (إحصائية جالوب كانت تجادل بنسبة أقل حتى من ذلك)
٦- من يرون أن الإقتصاد هو القضية الأهم كان يميلون إى تفضيل عمرو موسى، ومن قاموا بتاتركيز على أهمية الثقة في المرشح كانوا يميلون إلى حمدين صباحي و(بجد!) أحمد شفيق. مؤيدي أبو الفتوح كانت قضيتهم الرئيسية هي مسألة دور الدين في الدولة، ومؤيدي عمرو موسى كانت قضيتهم الأولى هي السياسة الخارجية.
٧- عمرو موسى حصل على أكبر دعم من المسيحيين (٤٣٪)، صباحي (٢٤٪)، أبو الفتوح (٩٪).
٨- بين الجامعيين، حصل أبو الفتوح على (٣٥٪) ثم موسى ب(٢٣٪) ثم صباحي ب(١٨٪).
٩- بين الشباب الأقل من ٢٥ عاما، حصل أبو الفتوح على (٣٦٪) ثم موسى ب(٢٣٪).
١٠- خارج المدن الكبيرة، موسى (٣١٪) ثم مرسي (٢١٪) ثم شفيق ب(١٧٪) ثم أبو الفتوح ب(١٦٪).
١١- ٧٣٪ من المصريين يفضلون ميت رومني عن أوباما، بينما ٦٨٪ يرون الولايات المتحدة بشكل "سلبي للغاية"، ١٧٪ بشكل سلبي، و١٤٪ بشكل إيجابي.
١٢- ٦٦٪ يريدون أن تكون الشريعة هي أساس القانون المصري، ولكن ٨٣٪ يريدون رؤية وأسلوب تناول للشريعة يناسبان العصر الحديث، بينما ١٧٪ يريدون تطبيق حرفي.
١٣- بين النموذج السعودي والإيراني والتركي والتونسي والماليزي والمغربي، ٥٤٪ إختاروا النموذج التركي كالأفضل، بينما إختار ٣٢٪ النموذج السعودي. (ملحوظة: بحث أخر منذ فترة أبعد وضع السعودية في المركز الأول من حيث نفس السؤال، وأعتقد أنه كان لمؤسسة Pew)
١٤- ٦٣٪ إعتبروا أردوغان الزعيم الدولي الأكثر إحتراما، بينما إختار ٥٪ أوباما و٥٪ الملك عبد الله ملك السعودية.
١٥- ٣٥٪ يريدون الرئيس القادم ليكون مثل أنور السادات، ٢٦٪ مثل عبد الناصر، ١٥٪ مثل أردوغان.
١٦- ٤٦٪ يريدون الإبقاء على إتفاقية السلام مع إسرائيل، ٤٤٪ يريدون إلغائها، ١-٪ يريدون تعديلها.
١٧- ٥٥٪ لا يعتقدون أنه سيكون هناك سلام "أبدا" بين الفلسطينيين والإسرائيليين، ٥٪ يعتقدون أنه سيكون في الخمس سنوات القادمة، و٤٠٪ يعتقدون أن السلام قادم "لا محالة" ولكن في المستقبل.

Saturday 19 May 2012

مشكلة الإنسان

لا توجد طاولة مستقلة في مطعم بها كرسيا واحدا...

مشكلة الإنسان هو أنه لا يقدر على أن يكون وحيدا. العلاقات هي هدفه، وأن تعلو مكانته في بين الناس هو ما يصبو إليه.

أنت لا تريد أن تكون وحدك، وستفعل كل شيء وأي شيء حتى لا تكون وحيدا. وغير ذلك، ستفعل كل شيء وأي شيء حتى يعلو شأنك.

وأهم ما ستفعل رغما عنك هو أنك ستبحث عن مجموعة أو دائرة لتنتمي لها، سواء أن أدركت أنك تفعل ذلك أو لم تدرك. ستبحث عن فرقة ومجموعة فكرية أو سياسية أو حتى رياضية لكي تصبح جزئا منها، وربما ستختار أن تنتمي لهم لأنه قد أعجبتك ظاهر أفكارهم، أو لأن أفكارهم مريحة بالنسبة لحياتك ولظروفك، أو لأن أفكارهم تملئ مساحة ما فارغة في حياتك، أو حتى لأن هناك فتاة جميلة بينهم قد إجتذبتك، وربما كل هذه الأسباب مجتمعة معا. ثم بعد قليل، ستصبح علاقاتك بأفراد هذه الفرقة هي أهم ما في حياتك، وسيصبحون أصدقائك ومصدر أمانك وراحتك وقوتك والإلهامك، وستتداخل حياتكم معا لدرجة التوحد، ولعلك حتى تتزوج الفتاة الجميلة، أو غيرها.

 ثم بعد فترة ستنسى أنك دخلت هذه الفرقة بحثا عن أفكار وأهداف، كما كنت قد ظننت لنفسك من قبل، وستكون الأفكار عبدة للفرقة، بينما الفرقة ذاتها وترابطها وسلامتها وإنضباطها هم الأهم.

فلن تستطيع أن تغير قناعاتك بعد أن أصبحت جزئا من الكيان، بل وبعد أنه قد إرتفع شأنك بداخله وأصبح البعض ينظر إليك بإعجاب أو حتى بتطلع، وربما يهلل لكلامك ويصفق له. وعندما يهللون لك، سيفرز جسدك هرمونات السعادة وستشعر أنك ملهما وأنك تحارب من أجل شيئا ساميا، فكيف تخسر كل ذلك في سبيل أن تكون إنسان أكثر حيادية؟ لن تقدر. أنت لست قادرا على إغضابهم وخسارتهم في سبيل الحقيقة. والأدهى من ذلك، فأنت لن تدري على الأرجح أنك صرت كذلك. وستتخلى عن التحليل الحيادي والمنطقي بعد فترة حول مدى سلامة الأفكار ذاتها التي تنتمي إليها، وكل ما ستفكر فيه هو كيف تحققها وتحقق الأهداف التي تمثلها، وهذا سيكون ذلك موتا لعقلانيتك. 

لقد صرت ترسا في ماكينة ربما لا يتحكم بها أحدا.

وسيكون كل من ولائك لفريقك ودائرتك يعلو على أي شيء، وسيكون ذلك موتا أخرا لعقلانيتك.

وسترى كل الأخرين على أنهم مضحوكا عليهم أو منساقين أو أغبياء أو أشرار، وسيكونون خصوما بدرجة ما أو بأخرى، وستنظر إليهم بمزيج من الشفقة والغضب والتحدي، وسيكون ذلك موتا أخرا لعقلانيتك.

وعندما يقول أحد خصومك فكرة ما، فستسارع إلى تحضير "الرد" دون حتى محاولة التفكير في مدى سلامة فكرته الواحدة أو الكبرى، وسيكون ذلك موتا أخرا لعقلانيتك.

وعندما سيقول لك أحدهم أن الماركسية أو الليبرالية (أو أن نادي الزمالك أفضل من الأهلي أو العكس) أو غيرهما خطأ، فستبحث عن الفيديو أو المقالة الذان يثبتان صحة فكرتك وخطأ زعمه بصورة مباشرة، وليس المزيد الذي قد يتحدى فكرتك ويثبت لك أن الحقيقة ربما شيئا أخر مما أنت عليه. فنحن لا نريد معرفة الحقيقة. نحن فقط نريد ألا نخسر كل ما بنيناه. لا نريد أن نخسر ثبوتنا النفسي وثباتنا الفكري والعقلي. نحن لا نريد أن نخسر علاقاتنا ومكاناتنا بين الناس. نحن لا نريد أن نفقد تهليلهم وتصفيقهم.

أنت لا تريد أن تخرج خارج الدائرة. أنت لا تريد أن تصير وحيدا.

Thursday 17 May 2012

كتبت ومسحت

جيت اكتب حاجة، فكتبت مليون حاجة ومسحتهم. كتبت عن الفقر والجوع اللي حوالينا ومسحت. كتبت عن التطرف والعنصرية والكراهية والتعصب والعصبية اللي حوالينا ومسحت. كتبت عن كل واحد فاكر انه فاهم الدنيا وهو زيي مش فاهم حاجة بس مش عارف إنه كده، ومسحت. كتبت عن ان كل واحد فينا دايما متحيز بسبب عقليته ومعتقداته واحلامه وحالته مهما اعتقد انه محايد، ومسحت. كتبت عن قد ايه انا تعبت اني في حاجات كتير زي اللي بيكسر في جبل بخلّة سنان وخايف لحسن تتكسر منه ويفضل ورا الجبل، ومسحت. كتبت عن قد ايه نفسي اعرف اكتر وافهم اكتر من القليل اللي عندي، ومسحت. كتبت عن قد ايه نفسي اكون مثالي وأنا اساسا ابعد ما يكون عن المثالية، ومسحت. كتبت عن إنك قد إيه ممكن تحس إنك لوحدك وإنت وسط ناس كتير جدا، ومسحت. كتبت عن قد إيه أنا لسه بعيد عن المكان اللي نفسه أوصله، وإني خايف تكون سرعتي مش كفاية أو إن الطريق نفسه يطلع غلط، ومسحت. حتى كتبت عن قد ايه الكتابة نفسها شيء مرهق، ومسحت. مسحت عشان افتكرت حاجات حلوة، ولقيت بُقّي بالعافية إبتسم، وأنا عايز اعمل فيها مكشر.

Thursday 10 May 2012

Explaining The Confusion Of The Alleged "Annulment" Of Egypt's Presidential Elections

Earlier this evening, the Banha administrative court issued a confusing verdict "annulling" the "decision" to call for the holding of the Egyptian Presidential Elections. But here is the bottom line:

The Elections Will Take Place On Time

The verdict merely canceled article ONE of Decision 5 of 2012 by the Presidential Election Committee (PEC) to "call upon citizens to vote," arguing that only SCAF has the right to issue such a call. However, it leaves the rest of the decision intact, including the dates and procedures for the elections. Even further, controversial article 28 of the Constituent Declaration gives full immunity to the decisions by the PEC against external appeal, so they can (technically) just pretend nothing even happened. And remember that, well, the head of the Supreme Constitutional Court is actually the head of the PEC.

Even if this row escalates tomorrow, SCAF can simply issue a declaration to the effect of calling upon the citizens to go and vote, which might not be a bad idea in order to close any constitutional loopholes, given we are now dealing with the possibility of the annulment of the previous parliamentary elections. And given that elections for Egyptian expatriates actually begin this Friday, Youssef Zada, Egyptian Consul-General in New York, just tweeted that all Egyptian embassies and consulates have been informed that elections will take place "on time."

If your Arabic is anything stronger than "Ahlan ya Habibi," check out this link for some more detail.

Never a dull moment in Egypt.

UPDATED 1: The MB And Female Circumcision/FGM

Speaking now on Egypt's CBC Channel in a "meet your presidential candidate" type of event, the FJP/MB's Mohammed Morsy was asked by a female doctor and panelist what he thought about recent calls to apparently "revise" the law banning FGM/Female Circumcision in Egypt. The candidate embarked on a long and vague answer which left a few, including the doctor herself, uncertain to a considerable extent as to his concise statement of position. But most of the people I have spoken to agree that the candidate seems to be suggesting that it should be the prerogative of the family to decide if they want their daughter to undergo it or not. When pressed further, he said it was not the role of the president to be involved in such details.

Aside from the answer itself, what is also worth noting is that in the FP roundtable discussing responses to Mona El-Tahawy's controversial piece "Why Do They Hate Us?", a spokesperson for the MB said:

"But how do we move forward? Based on these alarming figures, the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) has devised a holistic plan to advance women's standing in Egyptian society. First, we acknowledge that Egypt needs a cultural revolution alongside the political one. There are many practices -- not just FGM -- that must be eradicated outright, but railing against such practices will not make them disappear. Instead, what we need are sustained, nationwide campaigns to raise awareness and dissociate religion from repression of women. We also recognize that, in some cases, we cannot wait for educational efforts to take root. Both the legislative and executive branches of the state must play an immediate role. Legislation criminalizing harassment of and assaults against women must be passed, while ensuring that these measures are implemented by strict rule of law."
That previous line thus indicates the MB is against the practice, as far as I understand it. Does Morsy's answer represent a change of official position, a personal opinion by the candidate, or did we misunderstand the opinion stated on the FP piece?

UPDATE: The MB responded promptly on Twitter to users discussing the issue, including some who were sharing this post. 

In these three tweets, @IkhwanWeb says:

1- "The Brotherhood are not with Female Circumcision. What matters is finding effective ways to deal with the problem, most important of which is awareness." (View Tweet)

2- "The law already exists, and we won't annul the existing law." - Referring to the law banning FGM in Egypt (View Tweet)

3- "Yes, the answer was not clear enough perhaps due to the sensitivity of the issue. But our vision regarding circumsion is fighting it through awareness and legislation." - Referring to Mohammed Morsy's answer on the TV Q&A session. (View Tweet)

Then they go on to say:

4- "I believe the previous tweets have explained our official position clearly. Any opinions different from this position only represent whoever said them." (View Tweet)

Thus: MB is fully against female circumcision/FGM, existing law in Egypt will not be annulled, and the MB is only looking for effective ways to deal with the problem. Any differing opinion belongs to whoever said.

Let's follow up and see.

Monday 7 May 2012

A Look At TV And Online Ads Of Egyptian Presidential Candidates - قائمة إعلانات مرشحي الرئاسة المصرية

NOTE: This post will be updated with any new ads that appear. Stay tuned.

The Egyptian Presidential elections are happening, so it seems, and we're less than 3 weeks to go before the "official" dates for the first round of elections, May 23rd and 24th. With the official ban on campaigning over, here are some of the ads by the main candidates thus far.

1- Hamdeen Sabbahy: "Egypt Wants A Fair President." 

The ad stresses his background as an activist, as "one of the people", his focus on "Social Justice," "dignity," the "rights" of the people, and his non-Islamist, non-military and "centrist" alignment. The visuals are also what you would also expect in such a campaign ad, with pictures of him with all segments of society, all apparently supporting him. You can see how tight-budgeted the campaign is as all of the ad basically relies on archived material rather than anything new. He will definitely need to make another one as well, especially without the not-so-great shot of the "Eagle" at the end, alluding to his electoral symbol.

2- Mohammed Morsy and the MB/FJP: "The Renaissance... The Will Of The People."

So far, the campaign has two ads, and you can see a good production budget, and an overall good execution. The first is "We Want A President," wherein a series of citizens representing different segments and groups within society state what they want from, and in, their president. Such demands include a "fear of God when dealing with us," "one who can unify us," "believes in our revolution," "respects our history... and looks forward to our future." The second ad is called "The Time For Work," focusing on the "Renaissance Project" of the MB and Khairat Al-Shater, and shows different groups of people working and participating in various ways within society, then ends with a short zoom out of Mohammed Morsy in what is supposed to be a presidential frame. Two comments that were often raised by many who saw the ads: 1) You cannot see an unveiled girl anywhere in the two ads except in shortly in the first one in the group picture in 00:21; 2) Unlike most other campaign ads, you only see the actual candidate except at the end of the second ad, and not at all in the first ad, and he does not get to speak in either ad. This was argued to be due to a growing belief that Morsy is not the strongest candidate when it comes to his personal charisma, and greater emphasis is thus put on the MB and the Renaissance Project.

3- Amr Moussa: "We Can Face The Challenge."

Here, Moussa is featured quite heavily throughout the ad, uniquely with specially-recorded material, and the ad is generally well produced. Expectedly, the ad features those same different segments of Egyptian society, with them and Moussa completing each other's sentences. Typically, Moussa begins a sentence and then a group different "citizens" complete it. For example, Moussa says "we will not move forward until," then a citizen says "we utilise the capabilities of every Egyptian." The ad makes the standard references to "Education," "National Unity," power of work in society, and such other values and key terms one expects to see in a campaign ad. Expectedly, Moussa and the others highlight the "challenge" we are in, and then they ask people to "truly" consider who has the "experience" and "knowledge" and "willpower" and other characteristics needed to face such a challenge, implicitly signifying that he is the person capable of getting Egypt out of its current woes. Throughout the ending of the ad, everyone then repeats "We Can Face The Challenge." The production and direction are quite good, but the one major drawback is that the photography fails to present Moussa as energetic, but rather frames his non-youthful age with the very pale background he was placed in, and the dark tint of the overall frames he was featured in. This was the same mistake done in Moussa's posters.

4- Abdel Men'eim Abul-Fotouh: "President Of Egypt."

Abul Fotouh says he is an "Egyptian citizen" who has "lived for" his nation all of his life. He then says that he wants to work to make Egypt one of the strongest 20 countries in the world within 10 years, then highlights his belief that "Egypt's Human Wealth" is its greatest asse. He also highlights that he will restore "security in the first 100 days," the importance of Education, and speaks about how Egypt "has a right to be strong with its values and its Islamic Sharia of which the Muslim and the Christian are proud." The visuals otherwise are self-explanatory. The main problem with the ad, which is otherwise generally good, is that it is...sad. It is just eerie, dark, leaves you rather depressed towards the end. This is not how you want to leave people after a campaign ad.

5- Ahmed Shafiq: "I Will Vote For Lieutenant-General Ahmed Shafiq." And "Egypt Is For The Egyptians."

First note, other than stressing his military credentials, "Lieutenant-General Ahmed Shafiq" actually rhymes in Egyptian Arabic, so he always uses it as such. It sounds like "Al-Farie' Ahmed Shafie'." Starting out with the first ad, the visuals are also mostly pretty standard and self-explanatory. The ad begins by showing quick flashes of what has happened throughout the year, with a focus on the "chaos" and uncertainty that has been taking place. Shafiq then drops a title card with a very tacky spark animation below his name, then begins talking about the need for "security," on all levels: "physical, health, livelihood, etc..." Shafiq then is shown surrounded by audiences who support him, with people telling him "we are behind you" and "we love you and we want you." Of course, the reasoning for that, beyond what is normal for every campaign, is to confront the reputation that he is the unwanted candidate of the former regime, being Mubarak's last Prime Minister and close confidante. The second ad is more of a quick spot highlighting his electoral symbol, the ladder, and suffers from being perhaps a bit too "urban." Much of Shafiq's as well posters suffer from being a bit too upper-classed and urban, as I argue in a previous post about the posters of the candidates. One question though that some have asked: was the word "Chaos" heard within the first seconds of the ad actually taken from a Mubarak speech? We'll find out.

Verdict: I'd say Moussa's ad was the best overall.

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