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Dispatches From Cairo: Sand and Political Excitement Fill the Air as Election Nears

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Posted on Apr 21, 2012
Hossam el-Hamalawy (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Two men fly an Egyptian flag above Tahrir Square on Friday.

By Lauren Unger-Geoffroy

We asked Lauren Unger-Geoffroy, an international artist who lives in Cairo, to share her perspective of life in Egypt after the revolution. In this entry, she writes about that nation’s approaching presidential election and the travails of the candidates.

CAIRO—On Friday, 100,000 or more Egyptians packed Tahrir Square in an impressive demonstration of popular mobilization. The event was a moment of awkward reunion between bearded Islamists and liberals of all parties in which unified slogans, generally calling for continued backing of the revolution, were on display. Political rivals found comfort in a full-contact mash of humanity as they joined in support of the new Egypt.

There were eight stages for the 40 or so parties and political movements that were represented. Groups marched in from all over Cairo, and there even was one, forming “the Revolutionary March,” that came from Suez, more than 70 miles away.

Friday’s demonstration was a pause and an attempt to re-coalesce the people’s increasingly diverging motives. Protests, but not campaigning, are permitted in the presidential contest, and there’s a thin line between the two.

Most of the people at protests in Tahrir over the past few weeks had been Salafi supporters of Hazem Abu-Ismail,  a famous TV imam who recently was disqualified as a candidate in the presidential election, in which he ran as a hard-line Islamist and an anti-West candidate.

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Ironically, the ultraconservative was forced out of the race when it was reported that his late mother had held U.S. citizenship. Abou-Ismail, who denied that his mother had been an American, ran afoul of a regulation that his own Salafist party had put through. That rule says the parents or spouse of a presidential candidate must have held only Egyptian citizenship.

The chorus of a song played last week at a rally for Abu-Ismail in Tahrir went: “We will make from our skulls a stairway for your dignity.”

Earlier, the emergence of another would-be presidential candidate, Omar Suleiman, had threatened to trigger a public uprising. The former head of Egyptian intelligence, chief enforcer and vice president during the last days of Hosni Mubarak’s reign registered his candidacy just before the deadline. Seemingly those who want a return to the last regime are not few; after only two days of collecting signatures, Suleiman submitted the required 30,000. However, he was disqualified on the grounds that many of those signatures were invalid and therefore the total was insufficient. Undoubtedly, a run by Suleiman would have touched off major riots and other violence.

One of my acquaintances—a privileged architect who had told me that when he was young he played in a rock band with country club comrades who would later become some of Mubarak’s infamous billionaire associates—asked me: “Why do people think Suleiman is bad?” When I mentioned torture, spying, arresting, kidnapping and making people disappear, he replied, “That doesn’t make him bad.”

That’s an opinion shared by some other Egyptians, but the rest of the country cried out in outrage against the candidacy and made it obvious that bloodshed would return if the ruling military allowed Mubarak’s spymaster to run. Egypt will not again passively accept being held hostage.

Khairat al-Shater, the Muslim Brotherhood’s disqualified candidate, is a business genius who spent more than 12 years, in three stints, as a political prisoner under Mubarak, and even as a captive continued to generate hugely successful businesses faster than they could be confiscated. He is a major figure of the Muslim Brotherhood. His incarceration for political opposition—more high irony here—was the source of his disqualification for candidacy. Egypt would have been lucky to have him in charge of commerce and development.

Others who were eliminated, for various reasons, were less important candidates without strong support. Among them were Ahmed Shafiq, Mubarak’s last prime minister, and Ayman Nour of the Tomorrow of the Revolution party.


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Robert's avatar

By Robert, April 23, 2012 at 6:08 am Link to this comment

“hetero= zionist-troll”...its time to change your medications…your nickels & dimes attempts at deversions are not working for you…your Israeli hasbara mega-phone closet is stenching…

Your zio-handlers are rough on you…eh! 24 hours on with no time off…your pale hasbara attempts are coming home to haunt you in that dark, dark…closet!!!

Report this

By heterochromatic, April 22, 2012 at 8:34 pm Link to this comment

Robert—- really, every time I post one of the women in your family performs a
trick .........

is about the level of your wisdom/


fuck off unless and until you have something to discuss…...till then have your
mamma peel another grape and pop it skyward.

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Robert's avatar

By Robert, April 22, 2012 at 8:25 pm Link to this comment

“hetero=zionist-troll”...must be working overtime at his assigned hasbara mega-phone closet! His zionist handlers must be rough on him…

Don’t they allow him any time off? Those nickels & dimes must be adding up…eh!

Report this

By heterochromatic, April 22, 2012 at 1:16 pm Link to this comment

Patsy——after Moses, how many Jews have served in the Egyptian government?

You know any Egyptians?  Try asking them what THEY think of the idea that a
person with Jews in their family could be elected?


till they tell you that’s it’s not impossible, we’ll go with the assumption that you’re
just being a jackass because it come naturally to you.

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PatrickHenry's avatar

By PatrickHenry, April 22, 2012 at 12:56 pm Link to this comment

tic,

Egyptians won’t elect anyone with proven association to Jews. and family ties! would sink him.

And how do you know this?  More blanket BS based on pure opinion.

Again promoting the victimhood paranoia of jews and not that of israelis.  It is only by the criminal behavior of israel that the jews of the region get a bad rap.

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By heterochromatic, April 22, 2012 at 8:47 am Link to this comment

OZ==== not “seems” it’s a flat truth. Egyptians won’t
elect anyone with proven association to Jews. and
family ties! would sink him.

Report this

By jimmmmmy, April 22, 2012 at 8:00 am Link to this comment

I enjoyed reading your article, informative as usual . Clarify what business genius means , A guy like Bill Gate or Steve Jobs or Warren Buffet? I don’t think the world needs any more business genius’s of this ilk.

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By gerard, April 21, 2012 at 4:18 pm Link to this comment

This woman is an excellent writer with a keen eye for details and probably a very accurate intuition.
The blowing sand serves her well as a living metaphor for the Egyptian situation to date. I highly respect her.

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OzarkMichael's avatar

By OzarkMichael, April 21, 2012 at 2:59 pm Link to this comment

Attempts to discredit Moussa through website reports that Moussa’s half brother is the son of a Jewish woman failed when the assertions were shown to be false.

Ack! You seem to be saying that if the reports were proven true, Moussa should be discredited?

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