Sunday, March 20, 2005
عن الديمقراطية والليبرالية فى مصر
سعد الدين ابراهيم، اسم يحمل الكثير من علامات الاستفهام ومناطق الاختلاف الملتهبة، ومع كل مايثيره الرجل من زوابع إلا أنه يبقى قيمة لها وزنها فى المشهد السياسى المصرى بغض النظر عن حجم الاختلاف أو الاتفاق معه، سعد الدين ابراهيم كتب مقالا يستحق القراءة فى إحدى الصحف الأمريكية سوف أعيد نشره هنا حيث أن الجريدة تتطلب التسجيل لقراءتها
Saad Eddin Ibrahim: Democracy in the Middle East? -- Mubarak's war on Egypt's liberals
01:00 AM EST on Friday, March 18, 2005
FOR NEARLY a quarter of a century, President Hosni Mubarak has ruled Egypt as a modern-day pharaoh. In ancient times, the pharaoh was not accountable to any authority; Mubarak is the same, and even more so. He enjoys the largess of the United States and other Western donors, from which his regime has gotten billions of dollars annually. How has Mubarak managed to do this?
At home, Mubarak has created a huge internal security force: over a million people, nearly three times the size of the Egyptian army. Some of its units -- mainly, the Central Security Forces and the Republican Guard -- are equipped with the latest from Western arsenals. Mubarak justified this after the assassination of President Anwar Sadat, in 1981, citing the need to confront his Islamic-militant threat. Few inside the country or abroad questioned his sincerity at the time; nor did they object when he simultaneously imposed a state of emergency.
Mubarak also inherited the foreign goodwill that Sadat had accumulated. Western capitals, especially Washington, were more than eager to give Mubarak all the political and economic support he needed to quash Islamic militants and to stay the course on the peace process with Israel.
But by the end of the '80s, the militant threat had greatly subsided and the peace process was at a standstill. Boutros Ghali, then Egypt's foreign minister, called the latter a "cold peace."
Meanwhile, Egypt's external debt was skyrocketing -- despite all the foreign aid and the billions in remittances sent home by Egyptians working abroad -- because of flagrant mismanagement and rampant corruption. Polite, then candid, and, finally, blunt warnings from international institutions over the need for reform fell on deaf ears in the Mubarak regime.
But then came the Gulf War as a reprieve for Mubarak. He lined up with the U.S.-led coalition, skillfully put together by a Bush who was more seasoned than the current one. After the war was successfully concluded, the Mubarak regime was bailed out of its debt crisis by cancellation of half its overdue loans -- over $24 billion -- and rescheduling of the rest.
But despite the several years of economic revival that followed, during the '90s, the political scene remained stagnant, and by the end of 2000 the peace process with Israel had fallen into a deep freeze. Mubarak's role, with that of Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah, in discouraging Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat from accepting the Clinton-brokered Camp David deal will be debated for years.
Even the economic gains of the '90s quickly eroded. Budding liberal forces raised demands for political reform, not only for good governance but also to recoup economic losses and restore the confidence of foreign investors.
That the 9/11 masterminds, Ayman Zawahery and Mohamed Atta, were Egyptian dramatized to the world the dismal failure of the Mubarak regime.
Finally, Egypt's domestic voices calling for change were joined by external counterparts.
Feeling cornered, unable to effect the demanded reforms without power sharing and opening up the system, Mubarak opted for a dual strategy: repression at home and stonewalling of external pressures, especially those from the United States. He calculated that a change in the White House or a failure in Iraq might get him off the hook. And if that didn't happen, the Mubarak regime thought that it might still bargain a way out by, playing a more constructive role in bringing together the Israelis and Palestinians, and by providing a standing service of torturing terrorist suspects for U.S. intelligence.
Mubarak's strategy at home is an all-out war on Egypt's small contingent of liberals.
The liberals call for constitutional reforms that would mandate direct, competitive presidential elections, instead of a referendum on a single candidate; a limit of two five-year presidential terms; and an end to the state of emergency (now 24 years old). The liberals also push for an end to the state monopoly over the mass media; a guarantee of press freedoms; and the right of citizens to freely establish political parties and civil-society organizations.
Small in number as these liberals may be, five of them recently declared their intentions of becoming candidates for the upcoming presidential election. They are daring Mubarak to respond positively to the demand for constitutional amendments, so that they can challenge him through the ballot box. In recent weeks, these reformists have stepped up the pressure, encouraged by the Palestinian and Iraqi elections, in which some of them participated as observers.
The Egyptian Popular Movement for Change (EPMC) has defiantly organized rallies, marches and other demonstrations. The participants initially numbered in the hundreds, but they were encircled by thousands of armed security forces. If the foreign media were present, the police were restrained, confining themselves to intimidation.
But as the acts of collective protest grew, the Mubarak regime got edgy. Three signs of this were displayed recently.
A prominant journalist, Reda Hilal, of the Al-Ahram newspaper, was kidnapped from his apartment in a Cairo suburb, and has not been heard from since. Close associates assert that his disappearance is due to his statements about young Gamal Mubarak, who is being groomed to succeed his father.
The second episode was directed at A. H. Kandil, executive editor of the opposition newspaper Al-Araby, who has been fiercely vocal against Mubarak's running for a fifth six-year term. Kandil was abducted late at night by four masked men, taken to the desert 50 miles outside Cairo, and stripped, beaten and abandoned. He wandered until he found a military-police unit, which helped him and contacted his family.
Public outrage ensued. Egypt's Press Syndicate demanded an immediate investigation. When the government dragged its feet, several voices in opposition newspapers and on independent Arab satellite-television networks accused Mubarak.
But the most flagrant assault on democracy activists was on Jan. 29, when Egypt's rubber-stamp parliament was convened in an emergency session to suspend the parliamentary immunity of one of its members, Ayman Nour. He had not previously been notified of any wrongdoing; the regime cited the need to investigate allegations of forgeries related to the registration of the Al-Ghad Party, headed by Nour.
The session took less than 30 minutes. As Nour left the parliament building, he was arrested by the notorious State Security Agency. With unprecedented judicial speed, a prosecution order was issued detaining Nour -- not for the normal four or the unusual 14 days pending interrogation, but for 45 days, without bail.
Again, the opposition and much of the public are up in arms.
Mubarak's wrath this time is attributed by the English-language al-Ahram Weekly (Feb. 10) to a meeting that Nour and other party members had had with former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and former Congressman and current National Endowment for Democracy Chairman Vin Weber, during a fact-finding visit for the Council on Foreign Relations. The Weekly also cited Nour's lobbying in parliament to amend the constitution.
The Mubarak regime is touchy on both points. It seeks to present Egypt to the West as having just two governmental choices: Mubarak or the Islamists. But with Nour's new and fast-growing Al-Ghad Party, a peaceful, liberal option is emerging, for all to see. This is why Mubarak is determined to eliminate Egypt's liberals.
But, like Iraq's Saddam Hussein and Syria's Bashar Assad, Mubarak may have miscalculated his heavyhandednesss. Protest at Nour's treatment came, swift and intense, both at home and worldwide. Though previously little-known, Nour's case provided an opportunity to settle longstanding accounts with the Mubarak regime.
Most vehement was the United States. Following President Bush's inaugural declaration that liberty and democracy would form his policy in the Mideast, Mubarak's action looked like a direct challenge. In the words of The Washington Post (Feb. 24), "Mr. Mubarak is no longer testing Mr. Bush; he is spitting in his face."
The Bush adminstration's anger was obvious, both during the Feb. 15 press conference of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and her Egyptian counterpart, Ahmed Abu-elghait, and shortly thereafter, in its cancellation of a scheduled March 3 official visit.
Meanwhile, small but growing demonstrations in Egypt clearly defied the 1981 Emergency Law and the fierce State Security Forces. These events -- plus the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri; Lebanon's anti-Syria demonstrations; and Palestinian, Iraqi, and Saudi elections -- must have convinced Hosni Mubarak that he could no longer ignore the pressures for political reform. His worn-out excuses for delaying reform were dismissed at home and abroad.
So on Feb. 26, Mubarak announced an initiative to the People's Assembly to amend the Egyptian constitution to make the presidential election open and competitive, instead of the one-party uncontested referendum it had been for 50 years.
Most Egyptians hailed the announcement as a victory for democracy. But when they read the fine print, they saw that it was really a ploy, in which handpicked contenders with no access to the state-controlled media would lose "graciously' to the incumbent.
The Egyptian liberals restated their demands: term limits for the presidency, full equal access to the media, ending of the state of emergency, and judicial supervision of the election, with international observers.
Thus, the struggle for democracy in Egypt, as in the rest of the Arab world, continues with growing determination, amidst a collective feeling that history, this time, is on the people's side.
Saad Eddin Ibrahim, an Egyptian democracy and peace activist, and one-time political prisoner, is a professor of sociology at the American University in Cairo, where he heads the Ibn Khaldun Center. Currently at the Woodrow Wilson International Center, in Washington, where he is writing his prison memoirs, he has indicated that he may run for president of Egypt.
Mr. Ibrahim will deliver the keynote address at this year's Providence Journal/Brown University Public Affairs Conference, "Democracy in the Middle East: Is it Possible?," to be held at Brown's Salomon Center for Teaching on April 3 and 4. He will give his address at 4:30 p.m. on April 3; on April 4, from 6:30 to 8 p.m., a panel of experts will discuss Mideast democracy.
وعلى كل الأحوال فهذا هو الرابط الأصلى للمقال http://www.projo.com/opinion/contributors/content/projo_20050318_18ibby.1e74c18.html
Cool blog, interesting information... Keep it UP video editing programsPost a Comment