State-owned newspapers on Tuesday dedicate their front pages and substantial internal content to coverage of the latest episode of the ruling National Democratic Party's (NDP) annual convention. Al-Ahram leads with the headline “Presidential elections to be held in September…A special convention to announce the NDP candidate two months ahead of the poll.”
The NDP still appears undecided over who will succeed 82-year-old president Hosni Mubarak in the event he opts to not seek a sixth term. There was no discussion during the party’s seventh annual conference, which lasted from 25 to 27 December, of potential candidates, according to the coverage.
Al-Akhbar leads with the headline “The party and its government pledge to fulfill assignments given by the president and to care about those with limited income.” The coverage of the state-owned press pays special attention to the official discourse revolving around promises to improve the quality of life of the poor. Such discourse aims primarily at fending off accusations that president Hosni Mubarak’s neo-liberal economic policies have only served the rich and brought more Egyptians below the poverty line. Disillusionment with a ruling regime that has long claimed to be the guardian of the poor has sparked thousands of social protests and significant labor unrest in the last four years.
While the state-owned press offers an optimistic view of the present and the future, privately-owned daily Al-Shorouk conveys the contrary. Almost half of the publication's economy page is dedicated to a column that dismantles the NDP's misleading promotion of prospects for economic prosperity in Egypt. Wael Gamal, an editor with Al-Shorouk, refutes a set of articles published last week by NDP stalwart Ahmed Ezz. To Ezz, the ruling party won a sweeping majority in the last parliamentary elections thanks, in part, to its savvy economic performance. In almost a full page, NDP Secretary Ezz delivered a flowery account of the Egyptian economy, substantiating his claims with a list of numbers and statistics showing that salaries of millions of Egyptians have doubled since 2005. Ezz argued middle class Egyptians have grown richer with a higher purchasing power enabling them to send their children to private schools. Per capita income, he adds, has risen significantly.
In his defiant opinion piece, Gamal, an expert on Egypt’s economy, refutes each and every claim made by the NDP leader. Again with numbers, Gamal proves there was no increase in salaries as raises did not meet price hikes. On the middle class argument, Gamal voiced another sharp critique of Ezz’s argument that this sector of the population is forced to spend on private education because public education is derelict.
“If my income does not rise, the quality of my food and cloth does not improve. If I cannot get good basic services easily and at affordable prices, if my children do not have the opportunity to get educated, treated and promoted socially, it would be hard for me to believe politicians no matter what indicators they are referring to,” says Gamal in his column entitled “With number tricks…this is how Ezz spoke.”
On its second page, Al-Shorouk highlights a recent study that claims fear is growing among Arab elites over escalating sectarian tensions. The study, set to be released by the Arab Reform Observatory on Wednesday, quotes those elites as urging Arab governments to promote education based on citizenship values. Respondents have also expressed their disappointment with growing infringement on political and civil liberties, according to Al-Shorouk. This study will come out a few days ahead of the South Sudan referendum which, analysts expect, will divide the country.
Moreover, Al-Shorouk emphasizes the ongoing stand-off between the Muslim Brotherhood and the ruling regime. “Arrests and raids against the Muslim Brotherhood…The group says: the regime’s message is refused,” reads one of the paper’s headlines. Police arrested three Muslim Brothers and raided houses of another four members in Cairo's satellite city of 6th of October, says Al-Shorouk. These developments come on the heels of the arrest of six Muslim Brotherhood leaders in the Delta province of Sharqiya, adds Al-Shorouk. The paper quotes prominent Muslim Brotherhood leader Saad al-Katatni as saying that such developments are meant to discourage the Muslim Brotherhood from taking to the streets.
Some leaders of the nation’s oldest Islamist organization have expressed willingness to escalate their confrontation with the regime by taking to the street after the group’s defeat in the recent parliamentary elections. The poll was marred by a series of electoral violations, opposition figures and rights groups say, that resulted in the complete exclusion of the Brotherhood from the new parliament.
Al-Ahram: Daily, state-run, largest distribution in Egypt
Al-Akhbar: Daily, state-run, second to Al-Ahram in institutional size
Al-Gomhorriya: Daily, state-run
Rose al-Youssef: Daily, state-run, close to the National Democratic Party's Policies Secretariat
Al-Dostour: Daily, privately owned
Al-Shorouk: Daily, privately owned
Al-Wafd: Daily, published by the liberal Wafd Party
Al-Arabi: Weekly, published by the Arab Nasserist party
Youm7: Weekly, privately owned
Sawt al-Umma: Weekly, privately owned