Worried Lebanese

thought crumbs on lebanese and middle eastern politics

How they helped defeat Farouk Hosny (the story)

Posted by worriedlebanese on 23/09/2009

The nine original candidates. Housny is the second guy from the left (with dyed hair)

The 9 original candidates. Housny is second from left

Before delving into the analysis, let’s set the record straight. I won’t be looking into the dirty politics behind these elections. I do have some crusty insider information on some dirty play, but it’s closer to gossip than meaningful information, and strictly off topic. What we’ll be looking into is the public debate that surrounded these elections. I believe it had an incidence on the final outcome: Irina Bokova’s election to the post of Director General of UNESCO. But there is no way to prove this fact.

Interestingly enough, the reasons behind Farouk Hosny’s defeat are not of much interest. They will leave no trace in the public conscience. On the other hand, the fierce debate surrounding this election will undoubtedly mark those who feel envolved in the Israeli-Arab conflict.

Let’s start with a quick look at the five rounds that brought Farouk Hosni to his defeat. If you’re interested in more details, check out this blog.

  • Results of the 5 rounds

    Candidate Round 1 Round 2 Round 3 Round 4 Round 5
    Farouk Hosny 22 23 25 29 27
    Irina Bokova 8 8 13 29 31
    Benita Ferrero-Waldner 7 9 11 0 0
    Ivonne Baki 7 8 9 0 0
    Ina Marciulionyte 3 4 0 0 0
    Alexander Yakovenko 7 3 0 0 0
    Noureini Tidjani-Serpos 2 2 0 0 0
    Sospeter Muhongo 1 1 0 0 0
    Mohammed Bedjaoui 0 0 0 0 0
    Blank 1 0 0 0 0
    Total 58 58 58 58 58

As the figures clearly show, Farouk Hosni was the leading contestant up to the fifth round. His candidacy was supported by the Arab League, the African Union, and the Organization for the Islamic Conference. It was backed by France and unopposed (though grudgingly) by Israel. So what happened? If you’re interested in geopolitics, check out what Stephen Suleyman Schwartz had to say about it. I’d rather look into one campaign that picked up speed and was given more media attention than any other story in these elections: that of Bernard-Henri Lévy (alias BHL, alias BHV) relayed on the net through Save Unesco!, a blog started by “French students in political science” that was deleted earlier today (but here is the cached copy). Much can be said about Bernard-Henri Levy and the anonymous group of French students, but I will focus on the issues that they raised, and they are identical. Instead of supporting one specific candidate, they attacked the Egyptian candidate on three main issues

  • Antisemitism. This accusation springs from a misquoted statement on burning Israeli books found in Egyptian libraries (a statement Farouk Hosny later apologised for in his “message to the world“). BHL reinterpreted this statement as a vow “to burn with his own hands any book in Hebrew that could have possibly infiltrated the stacks of the Alexandria Library”.
  • An alleged involvement in the Achille Lauro Hijacking affair.  
  • Responsibility as Minister of Culture (for over two decades) in the crackdown of liberties and freedom of expression in Egypt.

So, is Elie Wiesel, Nobel Peace price laureate, right when he says “UNESCO has escaped a scandal, a moral disaster. Mr. Hosni did not deserve the job he does not deserve this honor  tomorrow”. Can we agree with BHL when he says “We have won. Liberty has won. Tolerance has won. And thanks to all of you, respect has won. I’d like to thank you, net surfers, for engaging in this battle for democracy and peace. Thanks to all who refused the unacceptable and who allowed for this beautiful victory”. That’s what we’ll be looking into tomorrow.

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