Muslim Brotherhood Candidate Wins Journalists’ Syndicate Presidency

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The elections took place amid criticisms of delays due to what seems like a widespread sense of apathy among members toward their union. (Photo: AFP - Marwan Naamani)

By: Mohammad Abdel Rahman

Published Friday, October 28, 2011

Egypt’s journalists gathered to elect new leadership for their syndicate. But many members seem apathetic towards their union, perhaps because of its past complicity with the old regime.

Cairo — “Hurry up…Register…Hurry up…Register” is not your typical protest slogan in Egypt. Egyptian journalists repeated this chant Tuesday afternoon during their first union president election following the January 25 uprising. Mamdouh al-Wali, the Muslim Brotherhood-backed candidate, won the top post in the journalists’ syndicate.

Union regulations state that at least half of the members should register before the voting can begin. Thus, a group of journalists did their best to encourage their tardy colleagues to register at the office. The elections took place amid criticisms of delays due to what seems like a widespread sense of apathy among members toward their union.

The elections required that 3,000 journalists be present at the syndicate building before 3pm. Unable to reach this number, those present demanded an extension to the registration period. This would spare them the trouble of a second round of voting, which would require the presence of only a quarter of the members. Thus, the quorum was reached and voting was open until 7pm, with the results announced by midnight.

The absence of security forces except for a few policemen on the sidewalk facing the syndicate building was noticeable. This was not the case during previous elections. Back then, security forces would fill the sidewalk.

The regime’s fall meant that many pro-Mubarak journalists were noticeably absent. Several former heads of national media did not attend, particularly those of the older generation, such as Ibrahim Nafeh and Samir Ragab. Also absent were leaders of the generation that was ousted by the uprising and that supported former syndicate president Makram Mohammad Ahmad.

Surprisingly, Ahmad himself failed to show up, even though the former syndicate president must be present to hand the post over to the winning candidate. It was difficult for Ahmad, who was close to Mubarak, to appear among his colleagues after he opposed postponing the elections two weeks ago.

Nasserist presidential candidate Hamdeen Sabahi made an appearance to support “tayyar al-istiqlal” (Independence Current) candidate, Yahia Kalash. Kalash initially took the lead, edging out his rival candidates al-Wali, Sayyed al-Iskandarani, and Mohammad Moghrabi. Kalash also enjoyed the support of young and prominent journalists, notably writer Gamal al-Ghitani. But al-Wali was the winner at the end of the day with a difference of 300 votes (al-Wali: 1,716; Kalash:1,406).

On the eve of the elections, al-Ghitani called the al-Aashera Masaa (Ten PM) talkshow on Dream TV to confirm Kalash’s association with the syndicate. The show hosted Kalash and his rival candidate al-Wali separately. Al-Wali reiterated that he is not an official member of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB), even though his electoral program was posted on the Brotherhood’s official website.

An additional 102 journalists competed for the 12 seats of the syndicate council. Six of these council seats went to candidates who have been members of the syndicate for less than 15 years. This was done to ensure that the younger generation are well represented on the syndicate council. The council is expected to deal with many important political and financial issues that will help to polish the image of the profession. It must also undergo a purification process to remove holdovers from the previous period who effectively undermined public confidence in the media.

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.

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