Arab world divided over reasons behind Hosni's UNESCO loss
Published: Sep 24, 2009 08:40 AM Updated: May 25, 2011 01:01 PM

Arab world divided on Wednesday over the reasons behind Egyptian Culture Minister Farouk Hosni's loss in the race for UNESCO's top post to Bulgaria's Irina Bokova.

Irina Bokova won 31 votes against Hosni's 27, although Hosni was supported by Arab, African and some European countries. 

Some observers said that clash of civilizations and cultures was the main reason of Hosni's loss while others think that political arrangements and Hosni's own mistakes were behind his failure.

Egypt's ambassador to France, Nasser Kamel, considered the loss of Hosni in the leadership bid for the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) was due to "failure to the idea of the dialogue between civilizations."

Kamel told local Nile TV channel on Wednesday that what happened in UNESCO is "a failure to the dialogue between civilizations, building bridges between the East and the world, communication and tolerance."

Meanwhile, Mohamed el-Azar, a cultural official in Palestinian embassy in Cairo told Xinhua that "I'm not happy" to see that the conflict between Western and Muslim civilizations stands behind Hosni's loss especially "when all indicators showed that elections were politicized to a great extent."

"It was supposed that UNESCO presidency transfer to the Arab world and Hosni has all the needed qualifications for the position," said el-Azar, adding "we thought he would absolutely win but we were surprised at the last moment."

Hosni was considered a favorite choice months ahead of the election but Bokova, Bulgaria's former foreign minister, gained ground as other candidates dropped out.

Bokova, the first woman to lead UNESCO since its foundation in 1945, would succeed Koichiro Matsuura, a Japanese whose term ends in November. Matsuura was elected in 1999 and endeavored to eradicate corruption and cronyism in the organization.

In her statement made after winning the UNESCO's fierce elections, Bokova paid her respects to the Egyptian candidate, adding that she would work with Egypt and other Arab countries to improve cultural diversity and avoid the clash of civilizations.

El-Azar criticized the Western countries, saying that they "cannot accept Arab countries' participation in international cultural decision making process, although the director general of the UNESCO doesn't work according to his own agenda."

On the other hand, Hossam Nassar, Hosni's advisor and director of his election campaign, said that Hosni tried to make a "dialogue among civilizations" but unfortunately some countries refused that.

Nassar considered the result of UNESCO election "a practical lesson for all parties calling for dialogue between North and South."

However, professor Said al-Lawindy, head of international relations unit of the AL-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, told Xinhua that the concept of conflict between civilizations is among "pretexts" promoted by some people to justify Hosni's failure, adding that "the battle was honest and fair."

"Elections always witness some arrangements and this is not a heresy," said al-Lawindy.

He added that the great powers have "desire and strategy" to keep dominating high positions in international organizations including UNESCO so as to put the international system under their control.

Hosni has drawn criticism for his vowing to burn any Israeli books in Egypt's famed Library of Alexandria last year. He apologized for the remark during his candidacy.

Just before Tuesday's final and decisive round of UNESCO's elections, Hosni said that the stances opposing his candidacy are considered as a politicization of the UN agency.

But Wahid abdel-Maguid, vice chief of AL-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, thinks that UNESCO battle was not a "battle between civilizations and cultures" but it was a "political battle in the first place," referring that some important European countries like Greece and Spain supported the Egyptian candidate.

Abdel-Maguid attributed the defeat to the "political battle led by world Zionism" and at the same time to some mistakes and deficiencies in the election campaign of the Egyptian candidate.

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