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WASH­ING­TON/CAIRO: Don­ald Trump barn­stormed five states yes­ter­day while Hil­lary Clin­ton im­plored her most fer­vent sup­port­ers to get to the polls, in a fre­netic fi­nal 48-hour dash to the US pres­i­den­tial elec­tion. Last-minute cam­paign events - in­clud­ing a mid­night rally tonight by Clin­ton - pep­per the land­scape in the na­tion’s most con­tested states that will ul­ti­mately de­cide whether the United States main­tains Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s le­gacy or steers a more con­ser­va­tive course.

The bruis­ing and un­pre­dictable race that con­cludes on Nov 8 has gripped the world and roiled in­ter­na­tional mar­kets, as Amer­i­cans de­cide whether to elect their first fe­male com­man­der in chief or a bil­lion­aire real es­tate ty­coon whose po­lit­i­cal in­ex­pe­ri­ence is seen by some as an as­set and oth­ers a li­a­bil­ity. Clin­ton is bank­ing on star power to lock in her nar­row poll lead, host­ing back-to-back weekend pop con­certs with Bey­once and Katy Perry and book­ing a date with Obama.

For his part, Trump has em­barked on a cross-coun­try odyssey through key bat­tle­grounds Florida, North Carolina, Ohio and Penn­syl­va­nia, as tight­en­ing polls sug­gest a flu­id­ity in sev­eral states at the 11th hour. He is also plan­ning stops in states like Colorado, Michi­gan, Penn­syl­va­nia and even Min­nesota, seek­ing to poach once-re­li­ably Demo­cratic states. “We’ve got the mo­men­tum,” Repub­li­can Na­tional Com­mit­tee chair­man Reince Priebus told ABC Sun­day talk show “This Week”. “We win a state like Michi­gan and as you know, it’s all over.”

Clin­ton’s cam­paign ex­pressed its own con­fi­dence, wel­com­ing Trump’s Michi­gan ven­ture as grasp­ing at straws. “We’re feel­ing good, we’re clos­ing strong, but we’ve got a tremen­dous amount of work to do,” Clin­ton cam­paign chair­man John Podesta told ABC.

In a sign that Clin­ton was leav­ing noth­ing to chance, the 69-year-old for­mer sec­re­tary of state added a stopover to­day in Michi­gan, a state Obama won hand­ily in 2008 and 2012. She vis­ited Penn­syl­va­nia, Ohio and New Hamp­shire yes­ter­day, while Trump has a busier itin­er­ary: Iowa, Min­nesota, Michi­gan, Penn­syl­va­nia and then Vir­ginia. Polls give Clin­ton a na­tional lead, al­beit a nar­row one.

Mean­while, in Cairo, cap­i­tal of the most pop­u­lous Arab coun­try, the US elec­tion is met with self-ab­sorbed in­dif­fer­ence or loathing for one, and some­times both, can­di­dates. The staff at a bar­ber­shop in Cairo’s mid­dle class Dokki neigh­bor­hood looked at one an­other in be­muse­ment when asked whom they fa­vored for US pres­i­dent. Two ad­mit­ted they did not know who was run­ning. “We’re fol­low­ing what’s hap­pen­ing here, that’s more than enough for us,” laughed a hair­dresser who gave her name as Mona, re­fer­ring to Egypt’s eco­nomic cri­sis. An­other said he knew “lit­tle” about the elec­tion: “What I know is that Trump is hos­tile to Mus­lims.”

Eight years af­ter the re­gion closely fol­lowed the elec­tion won by Obama, up­ris­ings, eco­nomic ruin and civil war have di­rected peo­ple’s gaze in­wards. “I think the Arab world is con­sumed by its own ex­is­ten­tial cri­sis and few peo­ple have re­ally thought through the im­pli­ca­tions of the next US pres­i­dent on their well-be­ing,” said Hend Amry, a Libyan-Amer­i­can writer who lives in Qatar. Near Cairo’s zoo, three univer­sity stu­dents shyly said they had not been fol­low­ing the elec­tion. An el­derly man walk­ing by peremp­to­rily de­nounced both can­di­dates, be­fore strid­ing away with a tod­dler in tow. “Their elec­tions are like crap,” he said. “You re­move crap and re­place it with crap.”

At a cafe in Bagh­dad, a city much changed since the 2003 US-led in­va­sion to re­move Sad­dam Hus­sein, pa­trons have been fol­low­ing the elec­tion more closely. Haidar Has­san, 27, blamed the Repub­li­cans for the dis­as­trous in­va­sion that took place un­der Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W Bush, but said he still sup­ported Trump. “De­spite Iraqis’ suf­fer­ing from Repub­li­can rule and their in­va­sion, I still think Trump is tougher in fight­ing ter­ror­ism and coun­tries ex­port­ing it,” he said.

“The Democrats are more rea­son­able,” coun­tered Mostafa Al-Rubaei, say­ing US forces with­drew from Iraq un­der a Demo­crat pres­i­dent - Obama. Clin­ton’s past as sec­re­tary of state dur­ing Obama’s first term has been con­tro­ver­sial in the re­gion, with some blam­ing Amer­i­can for­eign pol­icy un­der her for the chaos of the Arab Spring up­ris­ings. Oth­ers have latched on to more bizarre ac­cu­sa­tions against the for­mer diplo­mat, mir­ror­ing fringe rightwing Amer­i­can at­tacks on her.

At a Cairo gro­cery, shop­keeper Karem Mo­hamed had launched into a pen­sive defense of Clin­ton when his col­league, who had been pre­oc­cu­pied with fill­ing a vat of pick­led onions, in­ter­rupted. “No she’s with the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood! She’s a col­lab­o­ra­tor,” said Mah­moud Ab­del Al. Many Egyp­tians saw Clin­ton as a sup­porter of Is­lamist pres­i­dent Mo­hamed Morsi, who ruled for a year be­fore the army, spurred by mass protests, top­pled him in 2013. His ouster, con­demned by Wash­ing­ton as un­demo­cratic, was fol­lowed by reg­u­lar re­ports in the Egyp­tian press of an Amer­i­can “plot” to di­vide the Mid­dle East.

Clin­ton ad­dressed some of the most bizarre ac­cu­sa­tions in her book Hard Choices. But its pub­li­ca­tion in 2014 it­self set off an­other round of ac­cu­sa­tions in Egypt, this time that Clin­ton had con­fessed in the book that she con­spired against the coun­try. “It in­cluded a clear con­fes­sion of the plot to di­vide our re­gion, re­ly­ing on its agents like the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood, and Wash­ing­ton’s found­ing of ex­trem­ist groups like” the Is­lamic State or­ga­ni­za­tion, wrote one colum­nist in Egypt’s state news­pa­per Al-Ahram. Clin­ton men­tioned no such thing in the book.

The Egyp­tian lead­er­ship has not weighed in on the elec­tions, al­though Pres­i­dent Ab­del Fat­tah Al-Sisi - the for­mer army chief who top­pled Morsi - com­pli­mented Trump af­ter meet­ing him and Clin­ton in New York sep­a­rately in Septem­ber. Sisi ap­peared to dis­miss Trump’s plan - now scaled back - to ban Mus­lims from en­ter­ing the United States as elec­tion­eer­ing. “No doubt” he would make a strong leader, Sisi said in an in­ter­view with CNN. “It is im­por­tant for us to know that dur­ing elec­tion cam­paigns, many state­ments are made and many things are said,” Sisi said of Trump’s Mus­lim plans.

Across the Red Sea from Egypt, Gulf rulers fa­vor Clin­ton, said Emi­rati an­a­lyst Ab­del Khaleq Ab­dul­lah. Clin­ton has “knowl­edge of the re­gion’s is­sues”, he said. Coun­tries such as Saudi Ara­bia and the United Arab Emi­rates had op­posed what they saw as Obama’s rap­proche­ment with their archri­val Iran over the nu­clear deal, and ex­pected his suc­ces­sor to be tougher. How­ever, Saudi writer Ja­mal Khas­shoggi said “we have a huge ex­pe­ri­ence with Clin­ton and she has a much bet­ter, clearer idea about for­eign pol­icy and Saudi Ara­bia”. “But with Trump it’s to­tal un­pre­dictabil­ity.”

— AP

(Left) A mem­ber of the US Se­cret Ser­vice pulls Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Don­ald Trump from the stage at a cam­paign rally on Satur­day in Reno, Ne­vada af­ter a false gun scare. (Right) Katy Perry holds the hand of Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Hil­lary Clin­ton dur­ing a con­cert at the Mann Cen­ter for the Per­form­ing Arts on Satur­day in Philadel­phia.

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