Prime-time Cultural Revolution: First TV Debate before Presidential Elections in Egypt

Analysis, posted 05.19.2012, from Egypt, in:
Prime-time Cultural Revolution: First TV Debate before Presidential Elections in Egypt (Photo: picture-alliance/dpa)

Cairo's streets were just as deserted as if the national football team had been playing a match, and cafés were packed full of curious onlookers following the sparring on screen: the televised duel between Amr Moussa, former secretary-general of the Arab League and former foreign minister under Mubarak, and Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh, a physician and former member of the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood.

Many invited friends over to watch the TV debate at home. At least in terms of the timing and duration of the broadcast, Cairo lived up to its reputation as a city that never sleeps. For four long hours, until two o'clock in the morning, the candidates fought neck-and-neck and at times with no holds barred, especially when it came to trying to discredit their opponent.

Although the debate was strictly regulated according to the US model and broadcast by several independent private television stations, whenever the candidates had the opportunity to question one another outside of their two-minute answers to the 24 pre-defined questions posed by the moderators, the discussion heated up.

Aboul Fotouh, who left the Muslim Brotherhood in 2011 for ideological reasons, citing it as too conservative, and in order to launch his own presidential campaign, was portrayed by Moussa as an Islamist in disguise, with a secret agenda.

Moussa accused Aboul Fotouh of having connections with the so-called "Islamic group" at the university, which later became militant. In the end Moussa warned the audience that with Aboul Fotouh as president the country would return to the days of terrorism and insecurity.

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