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TV presenter’s plans to become Egypt’s first female president


Summary of story from CNN, September 14, 2011

She once resigned from her news-reading job because she did not believe the news she was reading. She founded a movement, “We are Watching You” (or “Shayfeen” in Arabic), to observe Egypt’s first multi-party elections in 2005.

Now, a television presenter and political campaigner Bothaina Kamel, 49, wants to become the country’s first female president.

Although the election date has not yet been set, Kamel has already started touring the country in an attempt to, as she says, reach those people who have been forgotten by the political elites in Cairo.

Describing herself as a social democrat, she has made it her mission to listen to the grievances of minorities.

“I promise by the election I will be the most informed of the candidates about the Egyptian people. I know the demands of the Bedouin, the people of Upper Egypt, the Coptic Christians, the workers and different groups from all parts of the country.”

She may not have a budget of some of the mainstream candidates, like Mohamed El Baradei, the former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, or Amr Moussa, former secretary general of the Arab League.

However, she is adamant that she has an army of passionate supporters who are ready to accept a woman president.

“The stereotype of Egyptians is that they won’t vote for a woman, but people will vote for someone who can help them. If I’m ready to help people, they will vote for me. People are very practical.”

The slogan Kamel chose for her campaign – ‘Egypt is my agenda’ – stems from her experience during the 18 days of Egypt’s revolution in January and February this year.

“When we were in Tahrir Square, the official media said we were part of a foreign agenda, so I chose the slogan ‘Egypt Is My Agenda.'”

She has been critical of the interim government and has called for a complete change of politics.

“It’s still possible that we will see the blood coming, like in Libya and Syria because the army council wants to stay and try to kill the revolution, and one of the dirty schemes is to put the Egyptian people in a helpless state economically. Now the Egyptians can’t feel good from the revolution.”

Her strong words resonate with many who are worried that the revolution they have brought about will not result in a more democratic society.

Walid Kazziha, professor of politics at the American University of Cairo, said she is well-known among young people, a familiar face in Tahrir Square during the revolution and famously outspoken, particularly in her criticism of the military council.

He said: “On one occasion she was being interviewed on national TV after the revolution and when she criticized the military council the interviewer announced that he got orders to terminate the interview from his superiors.”

“What we need is not only a political revolution but also a social revolution”, according to Kamel.

“Politics under the Mubarak regime was thugs and black deals, so I want to work to build new values for Egypt.”

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