The potential for comedy, tragedy, satire, in fact, all possible genres, in Ramadan is limitless. But this year, there’s something special.
Besides the over 150 special programs between TV series, sit-coms, variety shows and hard-hitting interviews with movers and shakers who only appear on the small screen in this annual airwave extravaganza, Egyptians are being treated to another drama in the real world. Whether it’s classified as comedy, tragedy, satire or simply reality TV, one thing’s for sure: this particular drama has all the elements of candid camera; a big prank is being played out, and the joke is on us.
Take a fleeting look at newspaper headlines over the past few weeks and you’d think that we’re smack in the middle of presidential election season. It started months ago with the return of former IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei to Egypt amid elated calls that he run for president in 2011 even though according to our fudged constitution — which was amended in 2005 and again in 2007 to cater to a handful of candidates — he does not stand the slightest chance to even qualify for candidacy, especially since he has refused to join any of our puppet political parties.
As soon as the ecstasy over ElBaradei-for-president subsided, ElBaradei re-emphasized that he will not run without guarantees for free and fair elections and opted instead to start a long struggle to collect 1 million signatures in support of seven demands in his “Together We Will Change” campaign. His demands include bringing an end to the emergency law, judicial oversight and independent monitoring of elections and a two-term limit on the presidency.
By the end of July, following a strategic alliance with the Muslim Brotherhood, and no sooner did the campaign announce that it had secured 200,000 endorsements — in fact under a week later — we woke up to a counter-campaign launched by supporters of Gamal Mubarak, the 47-year-old son of President Hosni Mubarak and assistant secretary-general of the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP), which began hanging posters throughout Cairo calling for the younger Mubarak’s nomination in next year’s presidential race.
The campaign is organized by the self-styled "Popular Support Coalition for Gamal Mubarak," ironically run by an unknown member of the leftist Tagammu party Magdi El-Kordi, who was expelled from the opposition party when he decided to jump to the other side. And the plot thickens. Kordi stresses that he is working independently of the NDP and that he has not and will not contact Gamal Mubarak until he collects enough signatures to “force him to run in the elections.”
But the element of farce officially kicked in when the former head of Al-Ghad Party, Ayman Nour joined the cacophony with a counter campaign under the slogan “Egypt is Too Big For You” (referring to Gamal Mubarak) along with the usual suspects: a number of opposition groups and parties including the Constitutional Party, the Kefaya Movement for Change and Youths for Change.
Nour’s bid to fight El-Kordi’s “attempt to legitimize the inheritance of power in Egypt” also included a redux of ElBaradei’s seven demands (plus four) when he announced earlier this week 11 demands for participating in the 2011 presidential elections. His move comes despite the fact that legally, Nour is barred from any official political activity for five years because he was imprisoned in an “honor” crime for forging signatures to set up Al-Ghad, in a case that observers have deemed fabricated, politically-motivated and based on trumped-up charges.
Elements of phantasmagoria start to infiltrate Nour’s scenario, when, at the same press conference in which he made his 11 demands, he announced the formation of special committees to put together a shadow government. Despite his regular public statements that he is willing to support any opposition candidate around whom there is overwhelming consensus, Nour clearly has ravenous aspirations for the top job that may not always come across as completely altruistic.
Adding to the din, another unknown, a lawyer by the name of Marwa Hodhod, kicked off an online petition to collect, not 1 million, but 5 million signatures to support Gamal Mubarak for president under the slogan “Sowtak Amana” (Your Vote is a Duty). Posting pictures of a rather uncharismatic young Mubarak, the way the www.sottak.org/gamal petition is being conducted is eerily reminiscent of ElBaradei’s campaign both on and off-line, minus any demands for real reform.
The petition statement reads like a commencement address hailing a national hero “for the splendid work he has done in service of the country and the advancement of Egyptian society through his position in the National Democratic Party’s policies committee,” and does not fail to point out that Gamal Mubarak is a “young man who has new ideas for the prosperity and security of Egypt.” All hail the heir-apparent of Egypt’s throne.
A nascent group that goes by the name “Ehna Mish 3ayzinku” (We Want None of You) is apparently in the throes of launching their own rejectionist campaign of all the players on the scene, whether it’s ElBaradei’s calm and collected push for peaceful rotation of power; Nour’s hyperbolic political posturing or the “independent” Gamal Mubarak groupies seeking a safe option and avoiding a brutal confrontation with an authoritarian regime.
My advice: sit back and enjoy the show. It’s not everyday that we’re treated to a combination of reality TV, farce and tragedy all wrapped up in a candid camera setting. Just make sure you don’t end up as an extra on the scene, or worse still, the poor, duped guy who didn’t know what hit him.
Rania Al Malky is the Chief Editor of Daily News Egypt.