CAIRO, EGYPT (ANS) -- Ruthless smear tactics have been used by the different candidates to disqualify each other, most of these targeting candidates who advocate a civilian state, as the Egyptian presidential election campaigns are coming to an end, with voting slated for May 23 and 24.
An intensive psychological war is being waged against the Christian voters to disenfranchise them by "spreading lies around their preferred candidates and using tricks to weaken their vote by dividing it," says Coptic activist Waguih Jacob in a report by Egyptian journalist by Mary Abdelmassih for the Assyrian International News Agency (AINA).
The news agency reports that because of their considerable numbers, the Copts have been approached by nearly all candidates for their support, some even promising to make one of the presidential deputies a Copt.
AINA reports that according to the Coptic Church's registry of births and deaths, its followers are between 15 to 17 million in a total Egyptian population of 82 to 85 million.
"They make a big voting bloc which can tip the scales towards a particular candidate," says Dr. Emad Gad, vice-director of the Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies and an elected member of parliament.
He added: "Their vote would be particularly effective in a run-off, if no candidate scores more than 50 percent in the first round."
AINA explains that Coptic organizations conducted several polls which consistently showed that although Coptic votes are split, they are inclined to vote for Ahmed Shafik, Mubarak's civil aviation minister and his last prime minister, and Amr Moussa, former Egyptian foreign minister and former Arab League chief, as well as the Nasserist candidate Hamdeen Sabahi.
AINA says these three candidates advocate a civilian state. Ahmad Shafik is favored with the Copts because of his long-standing friendship with the late Pope Shenouda, whom Shafik calls his "big brother."
AINA reported that although Shafik and Moussa are from the previous regime, their supporters believe they have administration experience and would bring stability to the country.
The Coptic Church issued a statement saying: "The church stands at an equal distance from all candidates and does not support any candidate. It prays for Egypt to get a good president who supports the civilian state, the law and equal citizenship rights."
A poll conducted on May 19 showed 70 percent of Copts favor Shafik, 16 percent Amr Moussa and 13 percent Hamdeen Sabahi, the news agency stated.
"In other words, Copts will not vote for any Islamist presidential candidate," said Dr. Naguib Gabriel, president of the Egyptian Union of Human Rights Organization, which conducted the poll. The poll also showed that Copts were not concerned about candidates who were in the former Mubarak regime.
In an effort to sway the Coptic vote, the semi-official Al-Ahram daily published on May 18 a story saying a military court has acquitted the three soldiers charged with killing protesters during the Maspero Massacre of October 9, 2011, which claimed the lives of 26 and wounding 329 Copts. The Court emphasized in its ruling that the soldiers were in a legitimate case of self-defense, reported the newspaper. All other media copied this news.
This news was denied by Coptic attorney Nabil Gabriel, one of the lawyers for the Maspero victims. He said that it was a shame on Al-Ahram newspaper to publish false news and cause pain to the Copts for political purposes.
"The reason behind publishing this completely false news, in my opinion, is to set Copts against the military and in the end sway the Copts away from voting for Shafik, who has a military background." Gabriel said the Maspero case has been postponed until May 31.
Activist Mark Ebeid believes that the newly founded General Coptic Organization, with its head Dr. Sherif Doss, who is a member of the election campaign of Abou el Fetouh, the former deputy counselor of the Muslim Brotherhood, was planted to recruit Coptic votes for el Fetouh.
"Several disputes took place between him and other Coptic organizations, who suspected that by using the name of his Coptic organization he was misleading Copts to vote for Abou el Fetouh," said Ebeid.
Dr. William Wissa, a Coptic writer, said that many Copts believed at first that Abou el Fetouh was a liberal and were inclined to vote for him, until his role in creating the Islamic Jamaa groups, which carried out terror attacks against Egyptians in general and Copts in particular and killed over 1000 persons in the 1970s, was exposed. He said the Copts will definitely not give their votes to any Islamist candidate.
AINA goes on to report that in order to alienate Copts from the former regime candidates, newspapers articles have published stories about the Copts who were murdered by the Mubarak regime and its former members, and SMS messages have been sent to Copts, saying, "I hope that you choose to vote for Dr. Mohamed Morsi [Muslim Brotherhood candidate] but if you are not convinced then chose another one, but remember the martyrs if you are thinking of voting for Moussa or Shafik."
In another example, Waguih Jacob said the Muslim Brotherhood attempted to co-opt the Coptic vote by secretly supporting a completely unknown Coptic presidential candidate named Nageh Meligy. Mr. Meligy, a post office director, obtained as required 30 signatures of members of parliament, but none were Coptic members.
Jacob refused to disclose their names, so as not to "cause them embarrassment with the political parties they represent," reported the state news agency MENA.
Meligy advocated a modern civilian state. "The Copts saw through this trick," said Jacob, "and Meligy disappeared suddenly from the scene."
Michael Ireland is the senior international correspondent for ANS. He is an international British freelance journalist who was formerly a reporter with a London (United Kingdom) newspaper and has been a frequent contributor to UCB UK, a British Christian radio station. While in the UK, Michael traveled to Canada and the United States, Albania,Yugoslavia, Holland, Germany,and Czechoslovakia. He has reported for ANS from Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Israel, Jordan, China and Russia.
c. 2012 ASSIST News Service. Used with permission.
Publication date: May 23, 2012