Press split on presidential race, pessimistic on declaration

Ahmed Shafiq and Muhammed Mursi Both Ahmed Shafiq and Muhammed Mursi claim they are ahead in the race

Egyptian state and privately-owned newspapers are keenly awaiting the outcome of the presidential race between Mohammed Mursi of the main Islamist movement, the Muslim Brotherhood, and Ahmed Shafiq, who served as prime minister under former President Hosni Mubarak.

While some papers boldly predict their candidate is ahead in the race, and others advise readers to wait for the official results, expected on Thursday, a private daily urges Egyptians to seize the opportunity to move on down the road to democracy.

The papers are exercised by a declaration issued by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, or the Scaf, on Sunday which gives the council sweeping powers.

'People are waiting'

"The people are waiting, Mursi or Shafiq?" runs a front-page headline in bold red in the state-run daily Al-Akhbar.

The Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice party (FJP) newspaper's headline says "Mursi president", accompanied by a photo of Mr Mursi with his hands open in an inclusive gesture.

State-run daily Al-Jumhuriyah is more restrained. Its main headline says the ballot boxes would "reveal the name of the president". The paper carries a manufactured image, showing cut-out photos of the heads of Mursi and Shafiq on top of a cracked ballot box, with quotes from both candidates alleging vote-rigging.

Contrasting sharply with the FJP paper, privately-owned Coptic daily Al-Dustur carries a headline: "Flagrant rigging in favour of Mursi, and popular rise of Shafiq". Another headline speaks of an "inevitable collision between Muslim Brotherhood, army".

'Semi-democratic elections'

Start Quote

Sixteen months after the beginning of the revolution without a constitution, without a parliament and a president with unknown powers”

End Quote Jalal Arif Al-Akhbar columnist

Writing in privately-owned Al-Masri al-Yawm, former MP Amr al-Shubaqi concedes that questions should be about the democratic process in Egypt but adds "there is a semi-democratic presidential election, where millions of Egyptians went to cast their ballots".

The writer continues: "There are millions who are afraid of the Muslim Brotherhood and likewise of Shafiq, but we must leave behind the republic of fear that we lived in under Mubarak for 30 years". "We must not assume that there is someone who is able to turn back the clock once again!"

An editorial in Al-Jumhuriyah has a piece of advice for the new president: "Don't isolate yourself from the people." "Egypt," it said, "is in need of a president, regardless of the outcome that will be clear in the coming hours, who will open a new chapter in relations between leaders of the country and all political powers representing with truth the aspirations and sufferings of the people."

'Everyone's a loser'

The Scaf's constitutional declaration - which effectively gives it legislative powers, control over the budget and over who writes the permanent constitution which will decide what competencies are given to the new president - also attracts plenty of comment.

"The president from the boxes, powers from army," is how the privately-owned daily Al-Shuruq sums up the situation in its front-page headline.

Al-Akhbar uses a combination of fonts to convey a different tone to describe the significance of the declaration in its front-page headline. "Field Marshal [Hussain Tantawi] today issues supplementary constitution declaration" says a headline in a small grey font, followed by "New constitution in three months" in a larger, bold red font.

A columnist in the paper, Jalal Arif, described the current situation as a "constitutional mess".

"Sixteen months after the beginning of the revolution without a constitution, without a parliament and a president with unknown powers".

He says the team of "constitutional scholars" behind the March referendum are to blame for the situation in which the country held a presidential election before adopting a new constitution.

Columnist Wa'il Al-Simari in privately-run daily Al-Yawm al-Sabi is pessimistic. "Everyone is a loser," he writes. The Muslim Brotherhood has "lost credibility" because of its "greed for power", and Scaf's popularity has been hugely dented after they "were involved in [shedding] the blood of Egyptians".

BBC Monitoring selects and translates news from radio, television, press, news agencies and the internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages. It is based in Caversham, UK, and has several bureaux abroad. For more reports from BBC Monitoring, click here

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