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EGYPT: TV showdown imperils former Prime Minister Ahmed Shafik

March 3, 2011 | 12:16 pm

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Ahmed Shafik's short-lived spell as Egypt's Prime Minister will always be remembered with the TV talk show that played the biggest part in speeding up his imminent resignation.

As satellite television spread across the Middle East over the last decade, Egyptian officials' appearance on privately owned TV channels has been scarce as they tried to protect their images. Those who had the courage or the will to speak to independent networks always spoke with aloof demeanors and were rarely subjected to any direct criticism from their interviewers.

Nonetheless, Wednesday evening witnessed an unprecedented live program hosting Shafik among a number of political analysts and prominent Egyptian intellectuals in the presence of businessman and ONTV owner Naguib Sawiris.

The second part of the show had Shafik receiving questions from author Alaa Al Aswany and TV broadcaster Hamdi Kandil, who dared to ask the prime minister why he doesn’t heed the call of millions of Egyptians and quit his post.

"How do you stay on as a prime minister and accept it even when you know that the majority of Egyptians want you out," Kandil said looking straight into Shafik's eyes without getting any clear response.

The debate reached its peak when Aswany harshly told Shafik that his main priority should be providing security to Egyptians, as well as speeding up the interrogations against those responsible for the death of those who died during the revolution.

Shafik responded by saying that he suggested refurbishing Tahrir Square and having it as a venue for any activists voicing their revolutionary demands. The novelist wasn’t impressed by the answer and repeated his question and it was then that Shafik told Aswany to "stop putting [on] the face of a patriot."

A brief moment of yelling occurred between the pair, in what can be considered as the first form of live TV democracy-style debate Egypt has ever witnessed. Despite previously reiterating that Shafik will keep his position for at least few more weeks, the ruling Supreme Military Council announced on Thursday morning that Shafik's resignation has been accepted.

Egyptian news website Al Destour al Asly reported that in an attempt to improve his image among Egyptians, it was Shafik himself who asked to appear on ONTV but obviously his appearance backfired and only shortened his tenure as head of the cabinet.

-- Amro Hassan in Cairo

Photo: Egyptian former Prime Minister Ahmed Shafik. Credit: Associated Press

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