- Life Style
News of Saturday’s meeting between the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) and leaders of 15 political parties makes headlines in Sunday’s papers. Unsurprisingly for the state-owned Al-Ahram, which almost always supports the country’s rulers, it features a report supportive of the military: “To affirm its commitment to preserving supreme national interests and on not replacing the legitimate government, the SCAF laid out a final timetable to hand over power to a civilian government,” reads Al-Ahram. Yet, the report from the privately-owned Al-Shorouk newspaper begins with a different preamble, one that depicts the tension that accompanied the meeting. “After six hours of ebbs and flows between the military council and the heads of 15 parties, both camps agreed on a roadmap to hand over power within a year,” it read.
Both papers say that the military agreed to amend the most controversial parliamentary elections law in order to allow political parties to run for the one-third of parliamentary seats allocated for individual candidates. (The other-two thirds are already devoted to party lists). Both sides also agreed that the People’s Assembly and Shura Council will hold their first meetings in the second half of January and on 24 March, respectively. Then they'll elect a constituent assembly to draft the new constitution within six months. If this constitution is endorsed by the majority in a public referendum, presidential elections will be held within 60 days, according to Al-Ahram.
In the meantime, the military promised to look in the possibility of lifting the state of emergency and enacting the Treachery Law to strip former leaders of the disbanded National Democratic Party (NDP) of their political rights for two years. The SCAF promised to give its final word on these two matters within one week, according to Al-Shorouk.
As the countdown for November parliamentary poll has already started, Sunday’s papers pay close attention to the potential disintegration of the marriage between the liberal Wafd Party and the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party. Al-Shorouk newspaper quotes anonymous sources as saying that the coalition between the two parties might fall apart because they failed to coordinate among themselves in order to come up with one electoral list. In the meantime, feuds intensified between Islamists and the Wafd Party after the latter recruited former members of the outlawed NDP, says Al-Shorouk. The privately-owned Al-Tahrir newspaper runs a story headlined: “Wafd sells the Muslim Brotherhood out.” The paper quotes Mohamed Sarhan, a Wafd leader, as saying that his party will pull out of the coalition for ideological reasons. The Muslim Brotherhood remains opposed to the idea of establishing a civil state and insists on creating an Islamic state instead, Sarhan says.
Party-run Al-Wafd newspaper runs a report that seems to aim at fomenting further resentment of ongoing strikes. The paper says that strikes inflict economic losses of LE80 billion a day and keeps the development rate as low as -4.3 percent. “Students, patients and the poor are the ones who pay the price of doctors’, teachers’ and public transportation workers’ strikes,” says the paper. The report compares strikes to “a black cloud” that prevents the revolution from “catching its breath.”
Yet, Ibrahim Awad, a former International Labor Organization expert, defends the strikes in his column in Al-Shorouk, trying to diagnose their root causes. He contends that such strikes are primarily due to the decline of real wages and criticizes the Egyptian government’s policies, which instead of raising wages invest more in insufficient subsidies.
It seems that Egypt’s military rulers plan to continue their oppressive media policies. The state-owned Al-Ahram quotes a government official as saying that Al-Tahrir satellite channel, co-owned by “ruthless” journalist Ibrahim Eissa, does not have the appropriate licenses needed to air from Egypt. In the meantime, the channel’s lawyer is quoted in the paper as saying that Al-Tahrir's owners have submitted all requited documents, yet the channel has not received its licenses due to government red tape.
Last month, Egypt’s military rulers took a series of measures that were seen as flagrant attempts to crush the media. They decided to stop issuing licenses for privately-owned satellite channels and closed down Al Jazeera Mubasher Misr, Egypt’s first privately-owned 24-hour news channel. A similar fate might await the recently-launched Al-Tahrir channel, which stands out as one of the most progressive media outlets with its scathing critique of the military and vehement support of the revolution’s demands.