Future of Egypt 2008, Between the Promised Paradise of “Reform.. the Hellfire of Daily Oppression.. and the Silent Conflict of the Centers of Power

In Salon Ibn Rushd by CIHRS

Parallel with the boisterous governmental discourse about political reform ever since article 76 of the constitution was amended, the daily realities have been moving in a reverse direction, especially following the parliamentary elections events – the rigging cases and assault of judges and candidates, the Sudanese refugees massacre, filing lawsuits against sexual harassments of the May 25th events, postponement of local elections till 2008, and the extension of the emergency law till 2008, which has already been in effect for 27 years thus gaining Egypt a world record. As a matter of fact, even in the most war-stricken states, never has the emergency law been applicable to this number of years.

In 2008, President Hosni Mubarak will have become 80 years old; the same date when the delayed local elections, with all its effects on presidential elections, will be held, and when the emergency law will be terminated. Thus the questions raised are: What is going to happen within 2006-2008? Is it sheer coincidence that brought these events together? Are they related, as some analyses show, with the power inheritance scheme some way or another?

In this context, Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies –CIHRS- held a seminar within the framework of Ibn Roshd Salon on May 22nd 2006. Participants included Dr. Jihad Ouda, Head of the Political Science Department – Helwan University; Mr. George Isaac, Coordinator of Kefaya Movement; Dr. Mohammed Habib, Deputy General Guide of the Muslim Brotherhood; Dr. Mustafa Kamel El Sayed, Professor of Political Science – Cairo University.

A number of questions were raised by Bahey Eddin Hassan, CIHRS Director, at the beginning of the seminar, about how far this matter is related to a long-term process of subduing the new political dynamism, introduced in 2004 against the will of the political regime, and how far the regime would meet the reform promises it made in 2008; and whether or not Egypt will get off track to be overwhelmed by the new waves of terrorism and the demagogic sectarian violent acts – Alexandria’s events stand a model – as well as the power center conflicts over presidency; in fact, no one has ever managed to court the governing elite’s imagination to be the potential successor! Or whether there will be a kind of new political alliance that will soon melt in the police state’s pot of oppression, over the relics of the fragmented opposition, and succeed in imposing the political reform agenda.

Dr. Mohammed Habib affirmed that coordination between the different political forces is necessary, calling for the establishment of a unified front of action during the coming stage. Habib argued that any political trend, powerful as it might be, cannot work in isolation and not to coordinate with the other political forces in face of the government indiscriminate oppression.

Condemning Nazif’s government for not inviting Hamas’ government to Davos Forum held in Sharm el-Sheikh, Mr. Habib branded it as a stigma. He noted that the US administration has certain demands from Egypt over the forthcoming period. As Egypt seeks to strengthen relations with Israel, the US will turn a blind eye at the reform methodology applied in Egypt – which we all categorically disapprove of, being unfit for the weight and prestige of Egypt as a major state in the region.

In the context of his criticism of the United States administration, Mr. Habib explained, commenting on the United States official statements criticizing the Egyptian opposition, that such a stance betrays US support of the oppressive and authoritarian regimes in the region.

Deputy Guide of the Muslim Brotherhood contended that the US administration spares no chance of domestic political action to blackmail the Egyptian political regime to serve US interests. He explained that a certain kind of political trickery and vacuous discourse is perceived; the US administration turned a blind eye at the amendment of article 76 of the Constitution – the matter which was seen by constitutional law experts as a constitutional sin. Further criticizing political parties, Habib explained that Egypt has a number of political parties, some of which are relatively influential, while the others serve as scarecrows. He held that the former was targeted by the regime, citing in evidence undermining the Labor, the Wafd, and the Liberals parties, which culminated with striking the Jihad party through framing Ayman Nour, being an opposition key figure.

Calling for the Group to be integrate into the other parties, Habib noted that the political regime in Egypt has been demonizing the Muslim Brotherhood before both the domestic political forces and the West as well, through frightening them from Islamists’ accession to power. He deemed that the reason behind delaying local elections is the regime’s concerns over a Brotherhood’s overwhelming victory. Habib indicated that the incapacitating clauses in article 76 of the Constitution have turned obsolete, as political forces can now get over such clauses.

George Isaac, Coordinator of the Kefaya Movement, branded the present Egyptian atmosphere as stifling. He argued that working under the emergency law will be quite difficult. Noting that the restraints on the Egyptian people is responsible for generating terrorism, Isaac affirmed that the next stage of action will witness a kind of security ferocity aiming to control and which is already starting to occur in the Egyptian street. He then declared that the Kefaya Movement is suing the cops who assaulted the citizens in the pro-judge marches.

Strongly rejecting negotiation with the government, Mr. Isaac argued that the government is no more apt to negotiate; the only solution, therefore, is that it steps away and cedes power. He expressed his concern over the constitutional amendments that are underway over the next two years; the period which, according to Isaac, will be the harshest in Egypt’s long history.

Commenting on the idea of negotiating with the government, Dr. Jihad Ouda, Head of the Political Science Department, Helwan University, wondered whether the National Democratic Party should negotiate with “some public men running down the streets”; clearly referring to the demonstrators advocating the reformist judges.

Dr. Ouda hurled a barrage of accusations against political opposition forces, blaming them for the reform crisis in Egypt. He further noted that this very opposition is not up for any form of sensible talks.

The new developments, he contended, is the opposition predicament, despite acknowledging that the predicament from which the regime is suffering is age-old. He explained that the real problem of Egypt lies in the fact that we keep on creating typical political wishes, unable to admit the Masonic realities in the Egyptian political life.

Dr. Mustafa Kamel El-Sayed, Professor of Political Science, Cairo University, criticized the Egyptian political regime, arguing that the regime is over-aged, and that many political, economic and social problems that it is even unable to manage railroad trains.

Branding the ideas of the National Democratic Party Policy Committee as “naïve”, and the promoters of such ideas as “globalization dreamers”, Dr. El-Sayed warned against continuing with privatization programs. He affirmed that the Egyptian government has grown failure-addict, at all levels; budget deficit, higher poverty rates, mounting unemployment rates, deteriorating conditions of hospitals, decayed utilities and facilities, contradictory management methods – inside the state bodies – of a large number of issues, central to which is the Judges Crisis. Dr. El-Sayed gave as example the accusations leveled by the national newspapers against the Muslim Brotherhood being the reason behind triggering the crisis, accusing in turn the government obstinacy to be the main reason behind the crisis.

Dr. El-Sayed argued that the government has no intention to carry out a political reform. The National Democratic Party Policy Committee does not demand any political reforms, nor participate in finding a solution to the crises from which Egypt is suffering. He further noted that anyone bearing respect to themselves and their past would not involve themselves to work under this committee.

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