It is political slander season in Egypt

It's normal for sarcasm and slander to surge as election day nears

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

Published: Updated:

Opponents of the Egyptian government did not spare the opportunity to mock foreign affairs minister Nabil Fahmy's recent statement wherehe described relations with the U.S. as a marriage and not a fling. Of course, the statement itself is certainly not worth mocking as it's a familiar literary metaphor, particularly in English.

However, it does reveal how discourse between the government and its rivals is reaching a new low every day and the Egyptian political scene has never witnessed such vulgarity on both sides.

The majority of the verbal onslaught is coming from the Muslim Brotherhood after it discovered that the reason it lost so much popularity wasn’t due to the “deep state” - as it continuously alleges - but due to its practices and the practices of those affiliated with it.

Costly electoral mistakes

One example is Salafist MP Anwar al-Balkimy, who belonged to the ultra-conservative Nour Party. His “nose job scandal” cost him his parliamentary membership in 2012. Balkimy had claimed that five masked men attacked him on the Cairo-Alexandria highway, broke his nose and stole 100,000 Egyptian Pounds from him. It turned out he was lying to hide the fact that he got a nose job! Balkimy's party apologized and he resigned from the People's Assembly.

The story is actually quite silly; however, it does – along with many other accounts - expose the image of alleged integrity for what it truly is.

It's normal for sarcasm and slander to surge as election day nears. Elections will carry no surprises as they will end in Field Marshal Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi's victory

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

However, not all stories are as amusing and some are quite serious. The most famous is that of Hazem Abu Ismail, the former presidential candidate, whose mother turned out to be an American citizen. Abu Ismail tried to hide the truth so he doesn't disqualify from the elections as it's a condition that both parents be Egyptian nationals. As such, the Brotherhood and its allies were an easy target because their extremist fundamentalist preaching rhetoric did not match their practices.

This electoral season is certainly proving to be exciting and full of slander, leaked tapes and insults. It seems issues will take a turn for the worst and head towards complete rupture among rival political parties. And we are yet to see what the outcome is of the ongoing exchange of insults, Will it lead to further disputes and deterioration? And will it further widen the gap?

I think the Egyptian people, who are sarcastic in their nature, are able to forgive and forget. Once reconciliation is achieved, it can wash away insults or escalated rhetoric.

However, we cannot say the same about violent incidents. We need to understand that this battle has two levels, and one of them is violence level, and anyone resorting to it cannot be forgiven.

The increasing bombings from Sinai to Cairo confirm this as these attacks further distorted the Brotherhood's image among the public. Brotherhood extremists and their allies outside Egypt think explosions and assassinations are a successful attempt to keep their cause alive; yet they are a failed means to destabilize the current regime. Such acts were only supported or justified by the Brotherhood itself, and they will certainly serve as a case against it.
As for the second level of the battle, this is where political and media distortion happens. Both sides exercise such practices and there will come a day when either party retreats and when the language of slander, distortion and random accusations disappears.

It's normal for sarcasm and slander to surge as election day nears. Elections will carry no surprises as they will end in Field Marshal Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi's victory. Therefore, attacks won't alter the results - just like a string of explosions won't change anything.

This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on May 4, 2014.

Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.