The image of deposed Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak lying on prone on a stretcher in a cage on Wednesday has captivated Egypt and the world. But as one commentator argues, it’s crucial not to get caught up in the spectacle of a fallen despot and feelings revenge: Elections are supposed to be held in September and presidential elections next year and Egypt’s future awaits.
One of those running for president is 49-year-old Bothaina Kamel, described in the Guardian as a “celebrity broadcaster turned political warrior” (and the subject of an earlier Care2 post by Amelia T.). Kamel was formerly the presenter of an early-hours radio show called Night-time Confessions after which she worked for a Saudi-owned satellite network “before being unceremoniously dumped earlier this year.”
Egyptian blogger Bassem Sabry writes describes her credentials: Kamel is no newcomer to advocating for greater freedoms and democratic rule in Egypt: In 2005 she was already a member of the Kefaya (Enough) movement for political reform; she is also the first presidential candidate to “break the taboo on criticising Egypt’s armed force” by referring to the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) as an “enemy of the revolution.” She describes being attacked at a protest:
“At Abbasiya [an anti-SCAF demonstration in Cairo last month which came under attack by armed civilians] they almost killed me – people told me afterwards that some of the baltagiyya [paid thugs] were asking for me by name,” she claims.
“The army stood by and watched it happen, and then later that night [Egypt's de facto interim leader] Field Marshal Tantawi appeared on national television thanking the ‘brave people’ of Abbasiya who stopped the outlaws. We are not outlaws, we are revolutionaries! They are the outlaws and thugs, they are Mubarak’s regime, and they are as low and dirty as ever.”
“That kind of language is bold, even among reformist activists who have turned against the military in recent weeks and opened up a volatile legitimacy gap at the heart of Egypt’s post-Mubarak transition.
Indeed, her bold language is all the more remarkable in light of the fact that she has no real chance of winning the election and that her candidacy is of mostly symbolic value.
Kamel advocates for sectarian unity, ending poverty and rooting out corruption. She has not yet announced “a concrete policy framework, preferring to deal in either grand sweeping rhetoric or micro-detail, with very little in between” — but then, neither have her rivals. Kamel rather suggests that the fact she is running for Egypt’s president, and that there is an election at all, is the real news:
Her strength, she contends, lies in personal connections; her biggest criticism of Mubarak personally is his “arrogance and disrespect for the Egyptians all around him”, and even ElBaradei is dismissed by Kamel as someone who deals with ordinary people avec des gants (with gloves on).
The road ahead will not be easy; while her status as the first female presidential candidate earned news coverage abroad, her campaign remains almost invisible at home when set alongside those of frontrunners such as former Arab League chief Amr Moussa or Islamic scholar Mohammad Salim al-Awa.
Officials have thrown every smear they can in her direction, from claims that she was buying up land in the desert oasis of Fayyoum to carry out illegal excavations for valuable antiquities (Kamel says she was actually in Fayyoum for an anti-poverty initiative) to suggestions that she hands out “fistfuls of dollars” to participants at reformist demonstrations.
The Guardian notes that presidential rival Mohamed ElBaradei has a quarter of a million supporters on a Facebook site, while — at the time the Guardian‘s article was published – Kamel‘s around 1000. As I writing this post, I found that Kamel‘s Facebook page has around 4400. The word about Bothaina Kamel is getting out.
This video shows Kamel chanting at a rally on April 6th:
In the video below, Kamel can be seen speaking to Egyptians in Cairo.
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Photo by eimannosho
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