Egyptian YouTube Sensation Counters the Government's Absurdity With His Own

If a country's democracy is being turned into a laughingstock, one may as well laugh: Mohamed Qandeel serves hard-hitting satire to followers in dire need of it ahead of upcoming elections

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Mohamed Andeel
Mohamed AndeelCredit: Mohamed Andeel's Facebook page
A photo of Dr. Zvi Bar'el.
Zvi Bar'el

"I dont want to talk to you about the shitty situation in which you're living. I want to talk to you about the future. The future that will come in a few thousand years, when human intelligence merges with artificial intelligence. Researchers will find, in the depths of the internet, proof that Egypt was the birthplace of human genius. But until then, I must talk to you, nevertheless, about several problems were having at present, because there are a few people in the country whose intelligence has not yet matured, and they believe Egypt is indeed going somewhere. ... Take for example that cheeky guy, the general whose name I dont even want to say, who announced that he plans to run against General Balbisi, the once and future president and, God willing, the eternal president.

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There are people who think there really will be a competition. [The speaker laughs scornfully]. I suggest we change our system of government. After all, there is no Egyptian nation, its a total of four people, who speak to four people, who speak to another four people. So if theres no nation, theres no need for a leader, a leader of what? Well cancel the presidency, the parliament, the local councils, the high offices, everything. Well call the system a nonpresidency, and then we wont need elections.

In that way, for over seven minutes, firing off at rat-a-tat speed, Andeel demonstrates his venomous wit on his Facebook page, which is published weekly by the online newspaper MadaMasr. Mohamed Qandeel, to use Andeels official name, calls his web video show Big Brother, dubs Egypts President Abdel-Fattah al-Sissi General Balbisi and declares that the opinions he expresses dont reflect him. But his 14,500 followers are very cognizant of the situation in which they are living, which he describes with amusing sharpness, episode after episode.

Big Brother: The beginning of the EndCredit: Mada Masr/ YouTube

Andeels videos, shot on a chaotic set featuring household items and unrelated objects, such as a faucet hanging on a wall, a vase of flowers and a red phone that is not connected to anything — are apparently the appropriate response to the presidents latest initiative. Sissi decided to give Egypts citizens the option of sending him questions via a special website page called Ask the President, in which those asking are required to give their address, their full name, their phone number and their email address — a requirement that could deter quite a number of people. The president promised that he would answer all the questions fully and transparently, between January 10 and January 15.

According to official reports, over 300,000 citizens sent in questions and are waiting for some kind of response. This is a nice gesture on the part of a president who is energetically preparing for the election in March, in which he presumably will have no serious challengers. The last prime minister who served under former President Hosni Mubarak, Gen. (ret.) Ahmed Shafik, announced that he was withdrawing his candidacy: He also happens to be under house arrest, confined to his neighborhood.

Another candidate is Lt. Gen. Sami Anan, army chief of staff under Sissis predecessor Mohammed Morsi, but it is doubtful whether he will reach the election.

Col. Ahmed Kansowa, meanwhile, withdrew his candidacy on Monday. In December he was sentenced to six years in prison after announcing his intention to run while still in uniform. Other candidates say they havent been able to rent hotel banquet halls for election rallies, presumably after the hotels received a call from intelligence officials. Sissi has promised that if he is reelected he will not run for a third term, since the Egyptian constitution prohibits more than two consecutive terms. But a constitution can always be changed.

To further impede potential challengers, the countrys election committee has restricted the campaign season to just six weeks and gave candidates just nine days to submit their candidacy. In that period each candidate must gather 20,000 signatures from supporters in various districts and an additional 20 signatures of support from members of parliament.

Sissi himself has already received over 400 signatures from MPs and over 12 million signatures from ordinary citizens. In contrast to the previous election, which took place in 2014, the administration isnt even bothering to present a mock candidate of its own, in order to at least keep up the appearance of competition.

Sissi can be pleased with the improvement in the Egyptian economy: The World Bank forecasts 4.5 percent growth in 2018. He can take credit for the fact that inflation has declined from 26 percent to 22 percent, and for the significant increase in Egypts foreign currency reserves, to an unprecedented $37 billion. But the war against terror is still at its height, with no end in sight. Unemployment among young people, who constitute about two-thirds of the population, is 33 percent, and fuel and electricity prices soared by over 50 percent.

Those are the figures that interest and concern the public, which sees no hope on the horizon for a solution to its problems. Andeel has a brilliant solution to all these difficulties: We must recognize the fact that there are problems that solve problems. For example, terror. When theres terror, we forget that people are being killed in traffic accidents, that houses are collapsing and that the health service is terrible. Terror is good business. People are afraid of terror and forget their other problems.

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