Egypt: Disappointment at First Presidential Debate

This post is part of our special coverage Egypt Elections 2011/12.

On May 10, 2012, people around the region and beyond were pinned to their screens following Egypt's first ever presidential debate, which was between the top two presidential candidates, Amr Moussa and Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh.

However, this was not the first presidential debate in the Arab world, as in Mauritania in 2007 a televised presidential debate took place between Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdallahi and Ahmed Ould Daddah.

The debate was three hours long, moderated by TV anchors Yosri Fouda and Mona El Shazly and aired on Egyptian private channels ONTV and Dream TV – ironically not on Egypt's state TV. Twitters users tweeted about the debate under the hashtag #monazarat.

The two candidates shaking hands. Image by @SultanAlQassemi

The start of the debate was delayed due to traffic. Ben Wedeman, CNN anchor and reporter, tweeted sarcastically:

‏@bencnn: Aboulfotouh arrival at debate delayed by #cairotraffic? No matter who is running, #cairotraffic always wins. #monazarat #Egypt

Many commented on the long series of commercials which were shown before the debate and during the breaks. Robert Mackey reporter and editor of the New York Times tweeted:

‏@RobertMackey: Don't know if this #monazarat has inspired Egypt to buy into democracy, but the barrage of ads did just motivate me to buy a Twix.

The candidates were asked questions on various topics such as human rights, health plans, the economy, foreign relations, sharia law, and the role of the military. They were even asked about their financial status and health.

Both Egyptians and Arabs around the region were tweeting the candidates’ replies.

The first question was regarding their vision for Egypt; their replies were tweeted by Emirati commentator Sultan Al Qassemi, and Egyptian Dalia Ezzat:

@SultanAlQassemi: On vision for Egypt – Amr Moussa: A constitutional state that leads the region & serves expectations of its people + Sharia #monazarat

@DaliaEzzat_: Abuel Fottouh : bread, freedom, dignity and social justice. He's basically repeating the slogans of the revolution #Monazarat

Blogger Iyad El-Baghdadi summarized their priorities:

@iyad_elbaghdadi: Abulfutouh vs. Mousa: The first puts democracy, sharia and then security; Mousa puts security, democracy, Islam. #Monazarat

Regarding how they would have managed the Abbassiya events, Amr Moussa's reply was tweeted by Sultan Al Qassemi:

@SultanAlQassemi: On Abbaseya events – Amr Moussa: I didn't wait until I become president, I made calls & demanded police intervene #monazarat

Yet Aboul Fotouh had a more powerful reply, tweeted by Egyptian blogger Bassem Sabry:

@Bassem_Sabry: Fotouh: If I were president, the Abbasiyya events would not have happened at all, would protect right to protests and sit ins – #Monazarat

Regarding Israel, AboulFotouh had a clear and straightforward reply, tweeted by Egyptian professor Rasha Abdullah:

@RashaAbdulla Aboul Fotouh: Israel is an enemy, with 200 nuclear heads and history of occupation and violations #monazarat

Moussa on the other hand had a less confrontational and more diplomatic reply, refusing to answer whether he considered Israel an enemy:

@iyad_elbaghdadi: Mousa: I call for reviewing our treaty with Israel, but insist on a two-state solution. #Monazarat

Finally when asked why voters should elect them, their replies were as follows:

@SultanAlQassemi: AF: elect me because: I bring people from all backgrounds together. Don't elect Moussa because: he didn't stand by the revolution #Monazarat

@ahauslohner: Moussa: Elect me because I'm experienced and I've proven myself. #Egypt is in crisis & it needs an experienced statesman. #monazarat

Both candidates focused on each other's controversial points. Moussa, who was Mubarak's foreign minister and former Secretary General of the Arab League, referred to Aboul Fotoh having been a longtime member of the Muslim Brotherhood, while Abou el Fotouh countered with commenting on Moussa being part of the former toppled regime.

Iyad El-Baghdadi and Dalia Ezzat summarized the candidates strengths and arguments:

@iyad_elbaghdadi: Abdulfutouh playing on his ability to unite everyone behind the revolution; Mousa playing on his past experience. #Monazarat

@DaliaEzzat_: The debate in a nutshell : you're Ikhwani! [member of the Muslim Brotherhood] Is that right? Well you're felool [a remnant of the former regime] and part of the regime that the people revolted against. #Fail

Amr Moussa's answers were vague and came across as arrogant and hostile while Aboul El Fotouh's answers were more transparent, and he was more calm and collected. Jenan Moussa, a reporter for Al Aan TV, tweeted:

@jenanmoussa: Moussa is very dismissive of Abu El Fotouh. He feels he is better or sth. I dont like the attitude. #Monazarat

Twitter user The Ess summarized their performance:

@Nadesque: #Moussa : weak answers, strong attacks. #AbulFutouh : good answers, weak attacks. #Monazarat

Many voters had hoped that this debate would help them learn more about their candidates and their plans and vision. Menatallah Essam tweeted her disappointment, and that of many, of how the debate turned out:

@mentos_391: what i really hoped is that each one says his positive plans for the future not mentioning each one's negative points. #monazarat

Some voters changed their opinion regarding the candidate they might have voted for before viewing the debate, and some even considered other candidates. AbdEl-Rahman Khaled tweeted:

اللي هيطلع كسبان من ال ‎‫#مناظرة_الرئاسة‬‏ دي هو ‎‫#حمدين_صباحي‬‏
The winner of this presidential debate will be Hamdeen Sabahi

Blogger Ruwayda Mustafah compiled the presidential debate tweets: part 1, part 2 and a factcheck. Blogger Mostafa Hussein made a transcript of the debate. The debate can be seen in full on YouTube.

This post is part of our special coverage Egypt Elections 2011/12.


  • Last Duchess

    Who are these people? Why them in particular? How do you pick them? They are biased to Abuel fettouh. There are many other people who think differently. I personally think Moussa exposed Abouel fettouh’a lack of agenda and cast doubt on his abilities as president. Moussa was truly arrogant; however, although I wanted neither before the debate, my inclinations are now more towards Moussa if he makes it to the second round and if it is just him and aboul fettouh.

  • The people chosen were randomly picked, both Arabs and Egyptians who were using the hashtag #monazarat, without any particular prior or present knowledge to their preference as they were tweeting both candidates’ replies. The piece reflected the replies of both candidates and the general feeling that tweeps got from their performance in the debate without any bias to one or the other.
    I appreciate your comment and respect your choice.

  • Hello Last Duchess! I don’t understand how do you say that Amr Moussa exposed AbolFottoh lack of agenda when all what he did was “react”? I say that Amr Moussa has no tiny evidence of agenda and all what he did in his talk was accusing AbolFottoh, which in turn exposes the lack of agenda of Amr Moussa.

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