- Middle East/North Africa
Three developments dominate the papers on the last day of 2012: the plummeting of the Egyptian pound to record lows; an imminent ministerial shake-up expected to be announced today; and a commemoration of the year’s main milestones, set-backs, including commemoration of those killed in political violence.
Top-of-the-fold news in nearly each and every paper is the latest development in the country’s economic crisis: the plummeting Egyptian pound, whose value against the US dollar dropped further on Sunday, to an eight-year low.
Independent Youm 7 newspaper quotes Prime Minister Hesham Qandil saying that the country is witnessing “a chronic budget deficit and our options are limited.” He is further quoted as saying that the government has “no intention of floating the pound.” The paper also reports that Qandil specified that any new tax policies introduced in the new year will be determined in light of the government’s negotiations with the International Monetary Fund over the U.S.$4.8 billion loan. Meanwhile, Al-Shorouk quotes Finance Minister Momtaz al-Saeed saying that the government has not set dates for introducing new tax hikes.
Independent Al-Shorouk and Al-Watan papers, along with state-owned Al-Akhbar, report that the US dollar is now equal to LE6.36. Al-Shorouk runs a headline reading “The Pound challenges Qandil.”
The finance minister is quoted by a host of daily papers including Al-Akhbar and Youm 7, stressing that the government is “capable of providing citizens’ needs” and dismissing “talk of Egypt’s bankruptcy” as a “delusion.”
Al-Saeed is reportedly one of the ministers who will keep his portfolio in the new cabinet, which is expected to be unveiled by the prime minister today.
Al-Shorouk reports that the cabinet reshuffle will be finalized by the presidency today at the Itihadeya Palace. The paper also mentions that Prime Minister Qandil has refused to accept new ministerial nominations from the ruling Muslim Brotherhood.
Yet according to Youm 7, leading Brotherhood figure Essam el-Arian claimed “Our share of ministers in the next cabinet will amount to between five and seven seats.”
The independent Al-Sabah Newspaper runs a headline reading “Eight ministers to be unseated in cabinet shake-up.”
Although they only list seven ministries, Al-Sabah and Al-Shorouk both indicate that these eight portfolios will include the ministries of: Transport, Communications and Information Technology, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, Supply and Social Affairs, Electricity, Local Development, and Environmental Affairs.
Elsewhere in Egypt’s papers, the main events and personalities of the year 2012 are commemorated.
Al-Tahrir features photos of leading personalities who shaped the past year, including: Justice Ahmed el-Zend (chief of the Judges’ Club, and leader of judiciary strike); female Justice Tahani el-Gebali of the Supreme Constitutional Court; Al-Ahly Club’s striker Mohamed Abu Trika (who opposed resuming football championships until justice is served in the Port Said Stadium massacre in February); and TV show host and political comedian Bassem Youssef.
Al-Tahrir also commemorates photojournalist Al-Husseini Abu Deif of Al-Fagr newspaper, who was died earlier this month after being shot in the head with birdshot at the clashes between supporters and opponents of President Mohamed Morsy outside the presidential palace on 5 December.
Under the headline “Dreams of the martyr,” Al-Shorouk publishes the names and images of tens of Egyptians who died this year, either in political violence or due to negligence.
Photos of these martyrs include Abu Deif, the teenage activist Gaber ‘Jika’ Salah (who was shot in November by police forces while commemorating hose killed on Mohamed Mahmoud Street in November 2011), and army conscript Mohamed Reda Abdel Fattah (who was shot dead in August, along with 15 other troops, by an armed extremist group in the North Sinai border town of Rafah).
Al-Shorouk also ran photos and names of football falls killed in the Port Said stadium in February. The paper mourns the deaths of some 50 school children killed in the tragic bus-train crash in Assuit last month, and remembers the death of teenager Islam Masoud of the Muslim Brotherhood, who was killed while attempting to protect the group’s office in Damanhour City. It remembers the death of a host of police and army conscripts who died in accidents under negligent circumstances throughout the year.
A number of independent papers sum up the year on a dark note, concluding that the country did not move forward in the tumultuous, ongoing aftermath of its 2011 revolution.
Al-Sabah runs a headline reading “Egypt moves in reverse in the 2012.”
Youm 7 runs a headline reading “2012 – Stability is a lost dream. Port Said and Al-Itihadiya; A year congested with protests and blood.” This paper runs an illustration of the Year 2012 with cobwebs, a bloodied football, a Guy Fawkes mask, a school child walking on a railroad crossing, a flag of the Brotherhood’s sword-decorated flag, and a photo of hardline Salafi preacher Hazem Salah Abu Ismail.
State-run Al-Akhbar has a more promising outlook, with a headline reading: “2013… A year to confront darkness.” This article acknowledges that while 2012 witnessed numerous power-outages and blackouts nationwide, and 2013 may likewise be a year of energy crises, it could also be a year for new utility-planning and alternative energy development.
Meanwhile, the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice paper runs a headline about the most celebrated and most shunned figures of 2012. Moving beyond Egypt, this paper mentions that Syrian Preident Bashar al-Assad is the most notorious, “while the mask has fallen from (liberal opposition leader Mohamed) ElBaradei.”
Another Freedom and Justice headline reads “Poll: President Morsy is the best political personality… Freedom and Justice Party at forefront of political parties.” Citing a poll by the virtually unknown Baseera Polling Network, the paper proclaims “President Morsy is the most favored political figure of 2012.” Morsy is reported as receiving 29% of votes in this poll, making him the most popular and beloved politician in Egypt – followed by a distant 15% for liberal opposition figure Amer Moussa, and 10% for Hamdeen Sabbahi (both of whom competed against Morsy in this year’s presidential elections).
Al-Ahram: Daily, state-run, largest distribution in Egypt
Al-Akhbar: Daily, state-run, second to Al-Ahram in institutional size
Al-Gomhurriya: Daily, state-run
Rose al-Youssef: Daily, state-run
Al-Dostour: Daily, privately owned
Al-Shorouk: Daily, privately owned
Al-Watan: Daily, privately owned
Al-Wafd: Daily, published by the liberal Wafd Party
Youm7: Daily, privately owned
Al-Tahrir: Daily, privately owned
Al-Sabah: Daily, privately owned
Freedom and Justice: Daily, published by the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party
Sawt al-Umma: Weekly, privately owned
Al-Arabi: Weekly, published by the Nasserist Party
Al-Nour: Official paper of the Salafi Nour Party