UNITED24 - Make a charitable donation in support of Ukraine!

Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

International Information Programs
Office of Research
Issue Focus
Foreign Media Reaction

September 13, 2005

EGYPT'S PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS:  'THIS IS JUST A BEGINNING'

KEY FINDINGS

**  Egypt's pro-Mubarak press hails poll as proof the country can achieve "true democracy."

**  Global dailies term Mubarak's victory in the "flawed" elections "no surprise."  

**  Despite "many shortcomings," the election could pave the way for "real democratic change."

MAJOR THEMES

A 'model' election--  Egypt's pro-government media trumpeted the presidential poll as leading to a "brighter future and more democracy."  The Egyptian people were "the real winners," said a commentator for Egypt Radio, with the country showing it is "ready to face the challenges of the future."  Al-Gomhouriya declared that Egypt "highlighted its civilized image by proving it is capable of achieving a true democracy without anybody's interference."  Writing in state-owned Al-Ahram, though, one writer said Egypt has "a very long way to go" before participation in "decision-making expands" to include the greatest number of citizens possible.  Independent Nahdat Misr meanwhile emphasized the "shock" delivered to the ruling NDP and Al-Wafd parties by the second-place finish of Tomorrow Party leader Ayman Nour "only 11 months after his party first appeared" on the political scene.

'Surprise, surprise, Mubarak wins'--  A few outlets, like Saudi Arabia's pro-government Arab News, hailed the elections as "historic," but most global observers were skeptical of the "dubious" vote, citing "weak" turnout that reflected the "general mood of the Egyptian people who are frustrated and indifferent."  The campaign was "dominated by the state-controlled media," a Czech paper complained, terming the election a "shadow play" designed to undermine Islamic radicals.  Indonesia's independent Kompas stated that Mubarak’s victory was "not surprising since it was achieved through deceit and deviousness."  The election, said Iran's conservative Tehran Times, was a "cynical farce."  London-based Arab nationalist Al-Quds al-Arabi spoke for many when it declared the poll was not the result of Mubarak's "own free will" but "came as a result of Western and particularly U.S. pressure."  The paper called the poll a "booby trap" for Mubarak, who "showered" voters with "promises of economic prosperity" and reform that he may not be able to keep.

A 'fresh wind is blowing in Egypt'--  Yet even many of those critical of the elections argued that despite its "shortcomings," it remained a "promising sign" of reform.  "The list of problems with this election could go on and on," the UAE's expatriate-oriented Gulf News opined, "yet, there is little doubt that the exercise represents a major positive evolution in Egyptian politics."  Canada's leading Globe and Mail argued "it would be wrong to dismiss the election as meaningless."  An Indian editorialist noted this was "the first multi-candidate election in the country's political history" while Turkey's centrist Millyet maintained the election "signifies the demise of a political monopoly in that country."  Britain's conservative Daily Telegraph fretted that there is a danger that Mubarak "will now close the door on liberalization" and urged the U.S. and its allies to support the opposition "as they attempt to drive the wedge further into the opening created" by the presidential poll.

Prepared by Media Reaction Branch (202) 203-7888, rmrmail@state.gov

EDITOR:  Steven Wangsness

EDITOR'S NOTE:  Media Reaction reporting conveys the spectrum of foreign press sentiment.  Posts select commentary to provide a representative picture of local editorial opinion.  Some commentary is taken directly from the Internet.  This report summarizes and interprets foreign editorial opinion and does not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Government.  This analysis was based on 43 reports from 21 countries September 5 - 12, 2005.  Editorial excerpts are listed from the most recent date.

MIDDLE EAST

EGYPT:  "Egypt And The Egyptian People Are The Real Winners"

Hasan al-Ashmawi commented on government-owned Egypt Radio General Service (9/12):  "President Hosni Mubarak was right when he said that the Egyptians were the real winners in the presidential elections.  The people knew that by electing Mubarak they were choosing a brighter future and more democracy.  President Mubarak, after his victory, said that the people's choice is a responsibility that he will faithfully carry and thus honestly implement his election promises.  These promises will transform Egypt and increase the freedoms that the people enjoy.  The elections showed that Egypt is ready to face the challenges of the future and the Egyptian people have shown the world that Egypt will always remain at the forefront of the path toward democracy."

"Congatulations"

Mumtaz al-Qut wrote in state-owned, pro-government weekly Akhbar al-Yawm (9/10):  "Mubarak [congratulations] to you, the people of Egypt, as you provide a model to the whole world and stress that you are the creators of civilization and that you are the example that should be followed.  Mubarak to you, people of Egypt, as you pass your judgment and announce to the entire world that you have chosen the path to the future, that your bias was to the man that led your ship through storms and waves to the shores of safety."

"True Democracy"

Small-circulation, pro-government Al-Gomhouriya editorialized (9/10):  "Egypt has highlighted its civilized image by proving it is capable of achieving a true democracy without anybody's interference."

"Mubarak Must Honor Promises"

Nifayn Yasin opined in opposition Al-Wafd (9/10):  "Whatever the outcome of the elections, and far from commenting on fraud and rigging, one thing is for sure:  we now have an elected president for the first time in history and he should start honoring all the promises he made during his election campaign."

"Shocks"

Muhammad al-Shabbah had this to say in independent Nahdat Misr (9/10):  "Shocks for the [ruling] National Democratic Party and the Al-Wafd Party.  Ayman Nour [of the Ghad -- Tomorrow Party] came second only 11 months after his party first appeared on the Egyptian political scene....  The second question:  has the political career of [Al-Wafd Party leader] Dr. Noman Gomaa ended?"

"A Long Way To Go"

Salah Muntasir maintained in leading, state-owned, pro-government Al-Ahram (9/10):  "Events during the few days that preceded the presidential election over whether to permit or ban election monitoring by NGOs indicate that we have a very long way to go before we can begin erecting the pillars of an open democratic society in which participation in decision-making expands to include the largest possible number of people."

"Conflicting Decisions And Blundering Actions"

Majdi Mihana commented in independent Al-Misri al-Yawm  (9/10):  "The biggest loser is Judge Mamduh Mar'i, the chairman of the Presidential Elections Commission.  With his conflicting decisions and the blundering actions of his commission he managed to cast doubt on the integrity and soundness of the election process."

ISRAEL:  "Egypt 'Votes'"

The conservative, independent Jerusalem Post editorialized (9/7):  "The essence of democracy is the peaceful transfer of power following an authentic expression of the popular will....  The only Arab country that can see such a democracy on the horizon, despite the plague of terrorism unleashed by neighboring dictatorships against it, is Iraq.  The irony is that Egypt, though ostensibly much safer and more 'stable' than Iraq, is nowhere near to achieving Iraq's freedom of the press, to the authenticity of the Iraqi election in January, and to the current dynamism in Iraqi politics....  Israel, for its part, need not care who rules Egypt, but very much which system does.  We should realize that, despite the peace treaty, normalization with Egypt has much less to do with the Palestinian problem than with the democracy problem.  Any Egyptian dictator will always need Israel as an external enemy to distract the people from his misrule.  Let no one be confused:  elections are tools that can be used to subvert or advance freedom and democracy.  No true democracy has ever threatened its neighbors.  Our best long-term hope for security is the spread of freedom in the Arab world."

SAUDI ARABIA:  "Watershed Election"

The pro-government, English-language Arab News editorialized (Internet version, 9/10):  "Egypt's first multicandidate presidential election has undoubtedly been historic.  Those who took part in the election, even those who voted for President Hosni Mubarak for a fifth six-year term of office were, whether they recognized it or not, actually voting for change."

"Booby-Trapped Victory For President Mubarak"

Abd-al-Bari Atwan wrote in London-based, Arab nationalist Al-Quds al-Arabi  (9/12):  "There were no surprises in the election and it was free of sensationalism.  Therefore, turnout was weak which reflects the general mood of the Egyptian people who are frustrated and indifferent....  President Mubarak...showered [Egyptians] with promises of economic prosperity, economic and political reform, jobs for the unemployed, and houses....  Regrettably, this unusual and unprecedented political movement was not the result of President Mubarak's or his regime's own free will.  In fact, it came as a result of Western and particularly U.S. pressure.  The U.S. administration exerted pressure not out of its concern for the Egyptian people, but rather out of fear of them.  It realized that the congestion has reached its peak and could explode in a massive popular revolution that could bring down the regime, shake the entire Arab region, and mobilize it against the United States and the Hebrew state just as the July revolution did 50 years ago....  The circus of the Egyptian presidential elections has ended and the fog has begun to disperse....  Will [Mubarak] return to his old self and retreat to his favorite resort...or will he press ahead with his current trend and continue the reform process, not only in form but also in content?...  At any rate, the Egyptian presidential election...will put Egypt on the road toward sound change.  It has shown that there is a state of awakening in the Egyptian street...and that it voted for President Mubarak to give him a last chance and because there is no qualified alternative to rule a great country such as Egypt."

LEBANON:  "The Last Stop"

In his daily column, Sateh Noureddine commented in Arab nationalist As-Safir (9/12):  "It is not easy today to compare between President Bush’s popularity and Bin Laden’s popularity.  We can assume that they are almost equal, but we can confirm that Bush will leave long before bin Laden is dead or arrested.  We can also confirm that the U.S. will have to bare the increasing expense of the war against the Islamists....  The project of change and reform in the Middle East led to the re-election of Husni Mubarak for a fifth term in office....  The last four years revealed that the U.S. can use its military, economic, and political power to the max and can destroy the world in seconds.  However, it can no longer give more of its ideas and examples to the Arab and Islamic world."

UAE:  "Egypt Gets Ready For Democracy"

Amir Taheri opined in the English-language, expatriate-oriented Gulf News (Internet version, 9/7):  "The list of problems with this election could go on and on.  And, yet, there is little doubt that the exercise represents a major positive evolution in Egyptian politics....  Mubarak deserves credit for taking the bull by the horns and, rather than dismiss democratization as an alien idea that Arabs should shun, has committed himself to a process of reform that, if allowed to run its full course, could turn Egypt into a working democracy.  One may find his pace of reform as too slow.  But it would be wrong to dismiss the importance of the fact that he has legitimized democracy as a national aspiration.  Mubarak's decision to allow multi-candidate elections...ended a tradition, more than a half a century old, of allowing a camarilla of senior military figures to choose the nation's leader in secret and then have him rubber-stamped by the parliament....  In assessing the Egyptian exercise it is important not to lose sight of the regional context.  Most of the Arab regimes labeling themselves as republics are despotic outfits with either no electoral process or the usual 99.99 percent victory always guaranteed for the incumbent.  Just as one swallow does not a summer make, a single election, even if held in perfect conditions, does not amount to a democracy.  Nevertheless, although Egypt's democratic evolution is in its early stages, there is ground for optimism....  The exercise has shown that Egypt is ready and able to develop a faster and more comprehensive process of democratization without risking its national cohesion and/or security.  Many in the ruling elite had criticized Mubarak's reforms as a move that might allow evil genies out of the bottle.  So far, however, the genies that have come out and made themselves heard appear to be entirely benign."

"A Red Letter Day For Egyptians"

The English-language, expatriate-oriented Gulf News editorialized (Internet version, 9/7):  "Today’s multi-party presidential election is a promising sign of change.  Thirty two million Egyptians go to the polls today with the opportunity to make a choice, something their country has not witnessed for more than five decades.  Since the fall of the monarchy in 1952, Egypt's presidents have been 'elected' in one-candidate referendums.  They usually won by 99.99 percent.  Thus today is historic for Egypt as nine candidates challenge President Hosni Mubarak, who has ruled the country for 24 years.  There is no doubt that he will win, as he runs aided by government agencies the political and financial establishments and the state-run media.  His opponents, meanwhile, are virtually unknown to most Egyptians.  But the notion of a multi-candidate election is by itself significant.  The move, which was evidently forced upon the ruling National Democratic Party by the rapidly growing reform movements, represents the first promising sign of change in the most populous Arab country.  It is also important for the rest of the Arab world.  Historically, Egypt was where the new Arab political and social trends were born.  A change in the political climate there will surely have a positive influence on the atmosphere in other countries.  It is hoped thus the Egyptian people seize the opportunity and turn out in large numbers today to make the process successful.  For their sake and the sake of the entire Arab world."

EUROPE

BRITAIN:  "First Step For Egypt"

The conservative Daily Telegraph editorialized  (9/9):  "There is a danger that Mr. Mubarak, having nodded in the direction of Washington and secured another six-year term, will now close the door on liberalization.  His courageous domestic opponents deserve the support of Washington and its allies as they attempt to drive the wedge further into the opening created by Wednesday's poll."

"A Dubious Exercise In Democracy"

The center-left Independent observed (9/7):  "The modern history of Egypt shows the dangers of political repression and the restriction of free speech.  The country has become a pressure cooker of frustration and resentment.  It should be noted that the al-Qa'ida mastermind, Ayman al-Zawahiri, is Egyptian.  And the recent bombing of Sharm el-Sheikh shows that extremism simmers below the surface of this society.  For the sake of all Egyptians, it is to be hoped that these elections--flawed as they are likely to be--presage real democratic change."

FRANCE:  "Egypt Did Not Rush To The Polls"

Claude Guibal wrote in left-of-center Liberation (Internet version, 9/10):  "The outcome was no surprise.  The rivals of the head of state were left far behind.  Forecasts by observers were confounded, however by the 7.3% received by [Mubarak's] vicious adversary Ayman Nur, who, by coming in ahead of the candidate of the historical Al-Wafd party, confirms that he has become a player of influence on the Egyptian political scene.  The real surprise came in the official rate of participation, which corresponds to that estimated by the observers: 23%.  That figure proves that Egyptians harbored no illusions about the 'democratic revolution'....  Mubarak thus finds himself re-elected without incident, his legitimacy weakened.  To be sure, the stakes lay elsewhere....  For the NDP...this election served above all as a trial run for a first 'U.S.-style' campaign....  Gamal, the son of the head of state...may well use these techniques during the next presidential election in order to succeed his father....  His rivals are preparing for more immediate election deadline:  the general elections in November.  This ballot is even more eagerly awaited because independent candidates are permitted to participate in it, starting with the Muslim Brotherhood, the primary opposition force."

GERMANY:  "Egyptian Interplay"

Tomas Avenarius opined in center-left Sueddeutsche Zeitung of Munich (9/12):  "The official voter turnout was less than 25 percent.  After 24 years of Mubarak stagnation, a lack of interest in politics prevails in Egypt.  The people made it easy for Mubarak to win, even though they do not show too much sympathy for him.  So, what is so positive about these elections that the United States described as a milestone on the path to democracy?  Despite incredible deficiencies, the vote showed that an opposition can form in a Middle Eastern country that questions a typically oriental ruler like Mubarak.  This first presidential election with an alternative candidate will be one step for Egypt in the direction of greater democracy.  This process of a guided democratization is often a painstaking and dissatisfying process.  It is clear that the main policies will continue to be determined by the rulers.  A democratic opposition, irrespective of whether, it is an opposition in parliament or on the streets, does currently not have the strength to force a change of power in Egypt.  That is why it is all the more important that the interplay between...domestic opposition, and...clear influence from the outside works.  In Egypt, this combination of street protests of courageous citizens and a halfway dosed pressure from the United State has resulted in the first election with several candidates.  Time will tell what will happen next.  It will be decisive that the modern forces in Mubarak's party will gain the upper hand.  The willingness for reforms of the 'party of power' is, for the time being, more decisive for the continuation of democratization than the efforts of the opposition."

"President Without Voters"

Andrea Nüsse judged in an editorial in centrist Der Tagesspiegel of Berlin (9/12):  "Hosni Mubarak is now beginning his fifth term but according to the democratic rules of the game, he is politically weakened.  Only 20 percent of the 32 million eligible voters, or 8.7 percent, voted for the 'Rais.'  Critics call this a clear voted of no-confidence.  But Mubarak's power will not be restricted.  It depends on his will whether he will impose the state of emergency or grant parliament greater rights.  The United States made clear that it expected exactly this from him.  At the same time, domestic pressure will not let up....  This combination of domestic and international pressure forced the regime to allow a careful political opening.  But whether the regime is serious about it or is trying to lull the international public into a false sense of security will be shown in the preparatory stages of the parliamentary elections in November."

"Not Just A Pharaoh"

Centrist Der Tagesspiegel of Berlin held (9/8):  "Although the results of the first contested presidential election was clear right from the start, some winds of change are blowing through the country.  There has never been so much freedom of speech in any Egyptian election campaign.  The judges could partly succeed in their battle with the regime, although independent observers were only allowed to watch some time after the election had began.  This basically made them ineffective, and we must fear that the results were manipulated again.  Such decisions show the coexistence of old and new thinking.  The old forces want to prevent transparency and democracy, other forces and people abroad are pushing the government towards a different direction, which, like in this case, does not make sense apart from helping to deceive the people in Egypt and abroad.  However, the presidential elections created a precedent for the parliamentary elections in November, which could become really interesting.  Sometimes a weak wind can turn into a strong one."

"The New Old President"

Right-of-center Die Tagespost of Würzburg concluded (9/8):  "The new old president will probably use his last tenure to prepare his succession.  Future will show whether this might include democratic concessions to rising minorities.  Mubarak's son Gamal Hosni appears to be the right person, given his openness for reforms and changes.  The parliamentary elections scheduled for October and November will be better suited to give necessary answers on important domestic issue than yesterday's presidential elections with its first democratic attempts.  They might become the first real test for a new Egypt."

ITALY:  "An (Almost) Democratic Vote"

Prominent Middle East analyst Igor Man commented in centrist, influential daily La Stampa (9/9):  "Mubarak won, as has been the case for the last 24 years, but the real news is different:  for the first time in its modern history, Egypt--an authoritarian state--had an (almost) democratic electoral campaign.  For many aspects, this is a revolutionary 'novelty,' to which the Egyptians immediately adapted themselves:  which shows that, notwithstanding any possible coercion, free will can be put to sleep but not cancelled....  And we must note here that it was President Bush who asked his difficult but precious Egyptian ally for fair elections.  Since a long journey always begins with a little step, we dare hope that Mr. President will realize that democracy should be imposed by example, and not with weapons.  Threatening signals are coming from the Middle East--the bloody Palestinian feud, divisions in Israel--and the difficult times ahead more than ever require a stable Egypt, taking the road of freedom and promoting peace in the world’s most explosive area."

"Mubarak, An Announced Triumph, But Egypt No Longer Fears Him"

Guido Rampoldi opined in left-leaning, influential daily La Repubblica (9/9):  "The outcome of Egypt’s presidential elections appears to be the most useful for the regime.  Mubarak has not only won, which was expected, but has over-won, with such a large percentage that he cannot possibly be considered a despot, since the people love him so much....  But this miracle on the Nile will not be a big help to Mubarak.  The defeated candidates have already asked to repeat the elections, the opposition let it be understood that it would not recognize the President’s legitimacy, the magistracy may investigate the major irregularities denounced by some NGOs....  For the time being, we must simply acknowledge that Arab transition processes appear to be complicated adventures, as confirmed by Egypt over the last few days....  All things considered, the latest elections sponsored by Washington in the Middle East have not been very successful.  In Iraq, and to a certain extent in Lebanon, they have more or less turned into a dangerous ethnic headcount....  Perhaps we ought to accept the politically incorrect truth that a people which has become free again...is not necessarily virtuous and democratic."

"This Is Not Democracy Yet"

Ugo Tramballi in declared in leading business daily Il Sole-24 Ore (9/8):  "At this point, it is of little importance that the final outcome of the elections will be maneuvered to guarantee Mubarak widespread success and give the other candidates the idea that they have usefully participated in the elections....  After all, this is just a beginning.  Mubarak will win and will govern for six more years, his health permitting.  But what has been set in motion by these elections will not stop today.  In two months, parliamentary elections will be held.  The parties that have just concluded their presidential campaign are more organized and smarter than they were before.  Education, unemployment, corruption, infrastructures and freedom are no longer the exclusive of the propaganda machine: at this point they belong to the public debate.  If not really naked, the king is by now in his shirt-sleeves."

"Egypt Votes Amid Electoral Frauds And Chaos"

Centrist, top-circulation daily Corriere della Sera opined (9/8):  "Everyone knows that Mubarak will remain president.  So it will be crucial to see where all of the denunciations of recent days will end, what will happen in the parliamentary elections in November, and, most of all, what Mubarak’s policy will be like:  reforms, albeit limited, or a resumption of the iron fist?"

"Steps Forward Towards Democracy"

Magdi Allam commented in centrist, top-circulation Corriere della Sera (9/6):  "For the first time in their thousand-year-old history the Egyptians are going to choose their 'Pharaoh.'...  An Iraqi wind is blowing in Egypt.  Mubarak has de facto copied the logic as well as the spirit that animated the electoral campaign...last January 30 [in Iraq], defying terrorism to the supreme advantage of the homeland, no matter how high the price."

RUSSIA:  "Egyptians For The First Time Elect From Among Several Candidates"

Yelena Shesternina asserted in reformist Izvestiya (9/8):  "The election campaign showed that Egypt is a long way from democracy.  Under the law, the campaign started a mere three weeks ago, which applied to all the 'alternative' candidates, but not to Mubarak.  The President’s portraits met the eye everywhere, election campaign or no election campaign.  He appeared on television a lot more often than the others, though each was allowed equal airtime.  The presence of international observers might have made the whole thing look 'democratic,' but for the authorities' opposition to 'foreign interference.'"

"What Are They Up To?"

Valeriy Panyushkin commented in business-oriented Kommersant (9/7):  "The large economic aid the United States gives Egypt is proof that the Egyptian President’s difficult and responsible work is highly appreciated and well paid.  His job is to maintain stability in the region.  As shown by his many-year record, President Mubarak has been quite good at it.  Or has he?  The latest parliamentary elections in Egypt drew 10% of eligible voters.  Today’s poll will hardly get more.  The low turnout must attest to ordinary Egyptians not linking their lives to the government....  Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, speaking in Egypt, said it would be wrong for the U.S. administration to support stability in Egypt without supporting democracy.  In other words, stability is worthless, with 90% of voters not caring to vote for it.  The truth is that the United States doesn’t need President Mubarak and his stability policy if this policy and stability are just for show.  The U.S. secretary of state wants democracy, as well as stability.  She wants Egyptians to support their president’s stability policy.  So President Mubarak, with a promptness characteristic of a governor rather than of the leader of an independent country, declared the elections alternative.  It looks like, in Egypt, everything is just for show."

CZECH REPUBLIC:  "Egyptian Shadow Play"

Adam Cerny wrote in business daily Hospodarske noviny (9/7):  "Hosni Mubarak could have gotten away with yet another (the fifth) election without a challenger, but he is under a double pressure.  He could disregard domestic opposition, but he could not ignore the repeated calls from Washington to make democratic reforms.  However, he is responding in his own way.  The ongoing campaign for the presidency is dominated by the state-controlled media and the spring referendum on constitutional changes was accompanied by complaints of manipulation and fraud.  This all is an indirect message to George W. Bush and his Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice that Mubarak does not share their vision of creating a Greater Middle East.  The Egyptian president is counting on an election shadow play, determined not to give room to Islamic radicals.  But along with the Muslim Brotherhood, the Egyptian democratic opposition is disappearing as well.  Under communism people needed just half-opened doors to begin the demolition [of the communist regimes].  In Egypt, for now, the doors are held by a firm hand."

SPAIN:  "Skeptical Egyptians"

Left-of-center El País (9/9):  "Pressured by Bush's government to advance democratization, Mubarak has, at least, not passed his power directly on to his son after 24 years of rule.  However, at 77 years of age, his succession is not resolved in a country that is critical to the region.  In any case, this is not the example of democratization in the Middle East that Washington has championed.  Nonetheless, it does permit us to maintain tenuous hopes that democracy is possible and that the reformist spirit is winning supporters against revolt and rupture."

"Electing In Egypt"

Centrist La Vanguardia editorialized (9/5):  "This campaign has been different.  After years of inertia, without debate, apathy has dominated the scene, but the existence of several candidates has allowed the expression of opinions different from the pro-government ones.  It would be nonsense to deny that something is happening.  Mubarak may have taken Bush into account, who insists on a democratizing operation in the Middle East.  However, Egypt's opening up is due to internal pressure.  That is why, if Mubarak's eventual victory reminds us of the previous ones, everything will have been a superficial operation."

TURKEY:  "Congratulations"

Sami Kohen commented in mass-appeal, centrist Milliyet (9/8):  "The Egyptian election signifies the demise of a political monopoly in that country.  Unlike Egypt’s last four elections, Mubarak allowed a multi-candidate system this time.  He competed against nine other candidates.  Mubarak’s move provides an important step toward the democratization of Egypt.  There are various reasons why Mubarak took this initiative, including U.S. pressures and Egypt’s own internal political dynamic.  Regardless of the motives behind it, the initiative by Mubarak deserves to be encouraged.  There might still be some problems along the way, but democracy is not achieved overnight.  It is a long process.  Egypt has embarked on that road, which is, at least for now, the most important thing."

EAST ASIA AND PACIFIC

INDONESIA:  "Election In Egypt Unsurprising"

Leading independent Kompas commented (9/10):  "[Mubarak’s] victory is not surprising since it was achieved through deceit and deviousness.  The next five years of his tenure will be very challenging.  Dissatisfaction will spread widely as economic wellbeing in Egypt is always under pressure.  Militants will stir up the security situation.  The security threat that hit the tourism industry will likely occur again.  Overlapping economic and security problems will put Mubarak’s administration in jeopardy.  Mubarak’s administration is felt to have failed in providing security stability and in boosting economic growth.  Hope for a breakthrough is still high, but disappointment is also widely felt among the people due to an unfair general election.  The credibility of Mubarak’s administration will always be questioned and it will be difficult for the people to support his leadership for the next five years.  The majority of people in Egypt were hoping for a change after the 24-year administration of Hosni Mubarak."

"Mubarak Era Soon To End"

Leading independent Kompas concluded (9/7):  "Signals of rejection on his [Mubarak’s] leadership tend to increase.  Mubarak eventually submitted to the demand for political reforms such as to hold a multi-candidate presidential election.  However, the temptation to rule is so strong that Mubarak’s campaign team sought to make the requirements for other candidates running for the election more difficult.  Although Mubarak’s victory seems to be already 'official' the people would surely respond coldly to the value of his 'victory.'  The biggest challenge for Mubarak now is to resign at the right time without having to lose his honor and dignity.  However, regardless of shortcomings in many ways, multi-candidate presidential election could be regarded as an early step for a greater and better political reform in Egypt.  It is also expected to be an inspiration for political reforms for other countries in the Middle East."

MALAYSIA:  "Many Remain Skeptical"

Wan Norazah Wan Chik commented in Utusan Malaysia (9/11):  "As predicted...Mubarak has been given a mandate once again to continue ruling in Egypt....  Most Egyptians were so sure that Hosni would win the elections they did not want to 'waste their time' going to the polling booths.  Besides, many remain skeptical about the reform promises of democracy put forward by the government earlier."

SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA

INDIA:  "Mubarak And His Political Shell Game"

The left-of-center Hindu editorialized (9/12):  "There was never any doubt that Egypt's President, Hosni Mubarak, would handily win yet another six-year term in office.  Mubarak did not belie expectations as he romped home with over 80 percent of the votes....  The Egyptian leader did depart from past practice this time in some respects.  This was the first multi-candidate election in the country's political history; the opposition was allowed to criticize the government in 'unprecedented' fashion; and the President hit the campaign trail for the first time ever.  These changes might have been marginal, even cosmetic, but the Egyptians at least got a whiff of democratic debate....  The Egyptian establishment certainly has cause for concern as it looks to the future.  Its legitimacy is in question since less than 30 percent of the electorate bothered to turn up....  The low turnout might also indicate that the masses who are undergoing severe economic hardship have lost faith in the system altogether....  The people of the Arab world are once again turning against rulers unwilling to oppose the policies the United States is implementing in the region....  Another factor complicates the task of democratizing the Arab world.  It is quite conceivable that Islamists, who, in different countries, have frequently demonstrated a capacity for political organization superior to that of rival movements, will come to power if truly democratic systems were to be established.  Since such an outcome would be as unacceptable to Washington as it is to Cairo, President Mubarak has all the incentive to continue with his political shell game."

"Egypt's Limited Glasnost" 

S. Nihal Singh noted in centrist The Asian Age (9/8):  "Nobody was taking bets on who the winner of Egypt’s first ever presidential election, held yesterday, would be.  Yet the novelty of the event, the unfamiliar sight of Hosni Mubarak on the election campaign trail overseen by media-savvy Egyptians long familiar with Western techniques made the exercise an extraordinary one....  Having sounded the bugle, President George W. Bush's ardor for implanting democracy on West Asia has abated.  Americans are bogged down in Iraq and the prospect of genuine democracy giving the Muslim world sharply anti-U.S. regimes is inducing second thoughts in Washington.  But the restricted Egyptian exercise...is significant nevertheless for the bow it makes at the altar of democracy.  Egypt remains the intellectual and cultural leader of the region....  What happens in Egypt, therefore, holds universal interest among Arabs....  Granted that the presidential election was a limited, controlled exercise in glasnost, with all the cards stacked in President Mubarak’s favor, the question Egyptians and the world are asking is what impact it will have on the country’s future, in immediate terms on the parliamentary election....  These are disillusioning and disheartening times for the Arab world....  How long can Egypt continue to play its role as the regional leader while being a supplicant at the court of President George W. Bush?  Among the promises made by President Mubarak in the lead up to the election was to amend the emergency, in force since 1981.  He has, besides, other pressing problems to attend to, including unemployment and slow economic growth.  The essential point in President Mubarak’s new term is whether he will help his country become a normal state, with opposition spokesmen allowed to express their feelings.  There, however, seems to be an unspoken compact between the U.S. and President Mubarak, rather like keeping the Communists out of power in Italy during the Cold War, that the Muslim Brotherhood should remain banned.  The future will be fascinating to watch."

PAKISTAN:  "Surprise, Surprise, It’s Mubarak Again!"

The Lahore-based, liberal, English-language Daily Times concluded (Internet version, 9/12):  "In Egypt, the voter turnout was low at 25 percent...but 80 percent of those who voted chose President Hosni Mubarak....  Until Mr. Mubarak himself decreed a change of rules earlier this year, no one actually competed for the post....  Only parties vetted by a state-controlled committee were legal.  This excluded the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s best-organized opposition group....  There is space for becoming endlessly cynical about the Arab world, but let us be grateful for the partial opening up of a system that Mr. Mubarak has run solo for a quarter of a century.  It is like Saudi Arabia letting 50 percent of local government seats be contested by the people earlier this year.  There can be other ways of being imperfect.  Look at Pakistan, we have a full-fledged constitutional democracy now for over 50 years, but it is hardly something that the world would want to emulate."

IRAN:  "A Cynical Farce"

The conservavite, English-language Tehran Times held (9/11):  "The Egyptian presidential election last Wednesday was a cynical farce.  Bush wanted an election that looked free but legitimized Mubarak's rule, and Mubarak has done his loyal best to oblige."

"September 11 And Mubarak's Victory"

Kiarash Tahmasbi opined in moderate reformist Farhang-e Ashti (Internet version, 9/10):  "At last the first round of the multi-choice or in other words, rubber-stamp democratic elections in Egypt came to a conclusion, and the only name from among the candidates that emerged from the electoral ballot boxes was the pompous name that has resonated throughout Egypt for the past 24 years:  Muhammad Hosni Mubarak, who after 24 uninterrupted years of sole candidacy in elections, once again, despite fraud, garnered 80 percent of the electoral votes, to demonstrate that even under the auspices of democracy and outward reforms he is able to win in an elections in which other candidates are also present....  Although he has submitted to cosmetic reforms, he continues to wield the main means of power, such as mass means of communication.  It is by using this means and the influence exerted by the ruling National Democratic Party that he has been able to overcome his unknown rivals....  [An] ideal situation lasted for Mubarak until the advent of the fearsome and earth-shattering storm that was September 11....  In fact, September 11 provided White House politicians with the pretext to apply pressure even on politicians who at one time were considered friends of America.  It was to this end that the issue of reforms in the Middle East was broached by the United States....  Of course the main reason for reforms, contrary to its apparent attractiveness, stemmed from America's concern about the growth of resistance in the Middle East against Zionism, and since the security of Israel is paramount in American foreign policy, this security was to be obtained at the price of exerting pressure on longstanding friends, of whom Mubarak was one.....  The September 11 tragedy...ultimately reinstated Mubarak in his position, for Mubarak is one of America's friends and as long as he proves his friendly loyalty to the White house, he should, according to an unwritten international custom, be able to safeguard his post."

WESTERN HEMISPHERE

CANADA:  "The Other Egypt"

Editorialist Guy Taillefer argued in Montreal's  liberal Le Devoir (9/9):  "Farce or democratic progress?  A complex mix of the two, difficult to comprehend.  For now, the first pluralistic presidential election...in Egypt will have served largely to conceal the dictatorship exercised for the last 24 years by President Hosni Mubarak, whom the legislative framework of the vote, the constraints put upon the opposition and the vote-rigging in the polling stations assured...of a victory....  However, in spite of this, the historically objective presidential election has made it possible to create areas of contention unheard of in a country where dissidents face jail and torture...where a culture of mistrust and fear prevail, a country stifled for the last 24 years by a state of emergency since the murder of former president Awar Sadat....  It is true that the pressures exerted by the U.S. for reforms in the Middle East have played a certain role towards this pseudo-election.  But it would be forgetting too soon the...internal strength of men such as Ayman Nour and groups such as Kefaya ('Enough' in Arabic), an umbrella organization for the lay and Islamic civil society which, since last year, has been stirring the stagnant waters of Egyptian political life.  Another factor:  the election forecasts for Hosni Moubarak a deficit in legitimacy taken into account the level of electoral participation which might barely be higher than 25%.  The opposition, still far from being a mass movement, enters slowly in new territories.  Will it be able to stay there?"

"Egypt's New Mood"

The leading, centrist Globe and Mail contended (Internet version, 9/9):  "The leading opposition candidate is filing a fraud complaint.  Poll-watchers are citing a raft of irregularities.  Cynical, apathetic voters stayed home in their millions.  Egypt's presidential vote this week was hardly a model of democracy....  And yet it would be wrong to dismiss the election as meaningless.  Even if the result was a foregone conclusion, this was the first time in the lifetime of most Egyptians that opposition figures had appeared on a presidential ballot.  Pro-democracy groups were galvanized by the opportunity, campaigning and speaking out as never before.  Protesters in their hundreds have been pouring into the streets nearly every week to denounce Mr. Mubarak and his undemocratic ways.  A once-timid press is beginning to tackle sensitive issues like corruption and nepotism.  A fresh wind is stirring in Egypt.  Mr. Mubarak may have started something he can't stop."

BRAZIL:  "Democratic Signs"

Liberal Folha de S. Paulo editorialized (9/9):  "President George W. Bush’s plans to spread democracy in the Middle East have failed....  Following the U.S. intervention, Iraq has become the image of chaos, from which everyone wants to keep a cautious distance.  However, the Iraqi disaster does not mean that slow institutional progress is not taking place in the region.  The U.S. is not the only power acting to foster democracy in the Middle East, or acting exclusively in Iraq.  Washington’s pressure over Syria, for example, led Damascus to withdraw its troops from Lebanon....  Nations in the Persian Gulf are adopting small reforms, although at a slow pace.  But the most emblematic case is that of Egypt, which carried out on Wednesday the first multi-partisan presidential election in its history.  Of course it is not yet possible to qualify Egypt as a democracy.  There is no risk that President Hosni Mubarak will be defeated....  But the simple fact that there were elections is already an advance.  Although it seems still difficult to foresee a democratic Egypt, the idea of having several candidates running--even in an unequal way--is one of those ideas that once established tends to prosper."

"Will We See A New Mubarak?"

Paris correspondent Giles Lapouge commented  in center-right O Estado de S. Paulo (9/9):  "Hosni Mubarak will succeed himself.  The 'democrat' Mubarak will replace the 'despotic' Mubarak.  Will we see a new Mubarak?...  Having suddenly decided to substitute elections with a sole candidate for elections with 10 candidates (even though the others do not have the slightest chance) is evidence that Mubarak may change....  Mubarak conducts politics as he leads an army....  He will surely add to his achievements that of 'free elections'....  If he wants, Mubarak can advance the liberalization process.  This would be a 'gift' to himself.  It would be a way to gain an honorable place in history as the man who, after 24 years of a tough fight, managed to reintroduce democracy in Egypt."

##



NEWSLETTER
Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list