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International
Last Updated: June 11, 2012
Morsi, Shafiq Historic Face-Off Live on Egyptian TV on June 12
By A U Asif

New Delhi, June 10 According to reports available on Egyptian websites, the two presidential run-off contenders, Dr Mohamed Morsi, Ikhwanul Muslemeen’s Al Horreya Wal Adala candidate; and General Ahmed Shafiq, ousted President Hosni Mubarak’s last Prime Minister, were on June 12, 2012 holding a televised elections debate of a novel kind – separately. This is to be broadcast live. Egyptian News Sector, headed by Ibrahim Al-Sayyad has finalized preparations for a new form of televised elections confrontation to be held between Dr Morsi and General Shafiq. The run-off between the two veterans was scheduled on June 16-17, 2012, and the official result would come on June 21.

Both the candidates refused a ‘traditional’ face-to-face debate. So, it was now scheduled for each candidate to be interviewed separately, with broadcasters selected from the Federation of Radio and TV news sector. Those would ask the same questions, in the same context, at the same time, live. TV presenters Sharif Fouad and Ahmed Bosayla were to interview Dr Morsi, with the live broadcast starting from 10 PM on TV channels 1 and 2. Meanwhile, Atef Kamel and Amr Shenawi will interview General Shafiq, live on satellite TV channels Almasriya and Nile News. Then, the two interviews are broadcast once again, switching channels, from 12 midnight.

Ahmed Anis, Minister of Information, had invited both candidates for a televised live debate, but they declined. It was then agreed that the face-off would substitute a direct debate, providing the same opportunities to both candidates, while committing to high standards of transparency on Egyptian television.


First Round Presidential candidates Amr Moussa and Aboul Fotouh facing each other on TV on May 10, 2012

It is to point out that earlier, the then first round top two presidential candidates Amr Moussa and Dr Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotoh had already appeared on face-to-face TV debate just before the first round of presidential elections held on May 23-24, 2012. On May 10 night (and well into May 11 morning) Egyptians witnessed their first ever presidential debate.

But before Egyptian political history could be made on, May 10 night, there were commercials—lots and lots of commercials. There was also an extended pre-debate stage-setting package that sought, with occasionally hilarious results, to put the whole affair in its proper historical context. Producers dug up archival footage of the first ever televised American presidential debate between Richard Nixon and John F Kennedy, from 1960. In a surreal comedic moment, viewers also were shown footage of a mock vice presidential debate sketch from Saturday Night Live with Tina Fey playing Sarah Palin—with no acknowledgement that what they were seeing was a satire.

Aboul Fotouh, in a thoroughly Egyptian touch, ended up caught in signature Cairo gridlock and arrived to the studio late; one of his campaign officials tweeted updates from the road.

The May 10, 2012 event kicked off well after 9 pm Cairo time, with the two competitors squaring off from a flashy neon-lit studio setting that seemed more appropriate for a game show. A pair of prominent Egyptian journalists asked questions ranging from how the candidates would fix the health-care system or raise the minimum wage to their views on Israel and the Camp David accords.

Moussa, a career diplomat and far more practiced public speaker, proved himself a master of verbal jujitsu. He frequently turned the questions he was asked into accusations against Aboul Fotouh without ever answering the question. Moussa came off as more animated and aggressive, emphasizing his experience in government and Egypt’s need for a president who won’t have to spend the crucial first year in on-the-job training. “Egypt needs a man who understands the political context in the region and internationally,” he said. “The country is in a very dangerous position…It needs a man of experience.”

Aboul Fotouh seemed more avuncular and professorial, highlighting his decades of opposition to the regime while Moussa was thriving inside the Mubarak government. At one point, he declared, “I want to hear one sentence that Amr Moussa said in opposition to Mubarak’s regime.”

The most revealing moments came during the frequent interludes when the candidates were permitted to ask questions of each other. It was here that each candidate sought to smear the other over their past associations. Aboul Fotouh painted Moussa as an unreformed Mubarak crony, while Moussa described Aboul Fotouh as an unreformed Muslim Brother who secretly sought to impose Sharia law on the country.

However, the two candidates did not perform well. Aboul Fotouh came fourth while Amr Moussa fifth in the first round, paving the way for Dr Morsi and General Shafiq for the run-off on June 16-17, 2012. Now it’s to be seen how the two present presidential candidates faced questions during TV debates on June 12, 2012. This would be the second ever presidential debate on TV in the Egyptian history.   

 


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