CAIRO: Culture Minister Farouk Hosni’s loss to Irina Bokova in the bid for the UNESCO director general elicited almost similar reactions among the public, with most people agreeing that he was a qualified candidate for the position.
The Bulgarian candidate defeated Hosni in the fifth and final round of secret balloting by a vote of 31 to 27, to be the first woman and first Eastern European to run the UNESCO. Although controversy loomed over Hosni’s bid – namely after making what were deemed anti-Semitic comments – he still succeeded in making it through all four rounds beating nine other candidates. “The results came as no surprise; we all know the US-Israeli conspiracy; American and European officials worked to prevent Hosni from being elected following a very spiteful Jewish campaign, Hesham Medhat, 47, a cardiologist, said. However, for others, the results did come as a surprise.
Yasser Osama, 20, a student, said he expected the culture minister to win. “I thought that all his credentials in culture – serving as the culture minister for two decades – would be enough to earn him the position, because he has all the qualifications, he said. Fifty-eight-year-old Nahla El-Naggar was also surprised with the results. “I wasn t expecting him to be defeated because the local press portrayed an optimistic picture regarding Hosni’s chances of getting the job; I don’t know what happened to change the situation.
Gehan Walid, a 26-year-old teacher, said that while she was offended by remarks Hosni made about the veil a few years ago – calling it a “sign of regression and “cultural backwardness – she was still hoping for an Egyptian to win the post. Khaled Lotfy, a 34-year-old attorney justified Hosni’s comments about burning Israeli books saying that “he, just like the rest of us, is angry about the daily massacres at the hand of the Israelis. Lotfy said that Hosni’s loss was a result of Jewish pressure.
However, other people did not feel as strongly about the results.
Mina, a 42-year-old businessman, attributes Hosni’s loss to his “anti-Semetic remarks. “He thought that retracting his statements on burning the Israeli books and expressing his ‘regret’ will guarantee him the job, but he lost internal and external support, he said. Mohamed Rizk, 75, said that as culture minister, Hosni contributed very little to the cultural environment in Egypt. “I personally think that Farouk Hosni, in more than 20 years, couldn’t rejuvenate the cultural environment in Egypt. We didn’t witness any cultural leaps during his tenure. Yousra Nagy, a 23-year-old student at the American University in Cairo, said that while he might have not been the best candidate to head the UNESCO, he fought hard and lost with honor.