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The political process that is underway in Egypt

Mark Urban | 16:46 UK time, Monday, 7 February 2011

We've got a much better idea in the past couple of days about the political process that is underway in Egypt.

We can also see more clearly how the principal forces in this battle - Egypt's security establishment and the Muslim Brotherhood - are trying to out manoeuvre one another.

The Brotherhood appears to see the current crisis as an important stage in its decades-long struggle against repression and is not aiming for a rapid solution.

Instead it is trying to soothe those who might be alarmed by its rise (the secular and Christians at home; those abroad who fear political Islam) with carefully formulated political messages: the Brotherhood will not put forward a candidate for the presidency in the polls due in September; it will respect all cultures; it will respect Egypt's international treaty obligations.

At the same time, one can infer that the Brotherhood wants to improve its representation in parliament substantially. Candidates affiliated to the Brotherhood did well in 2005, and are likely to do even better in the next elections, particularly if the regime is pressured into allowing a fair campaign.

The security establishment, for its part, is deeply suspicious of the Brotherhood, although it appears ready to allow it greater freedom of action. The old guard, is now personified by vice president General Omar Sulayman, who, the Wikileaks cables show, has frequently warned the US about the dangers presented by the Islamic group.

At the weekend Gen Sulayman held talks with the opposition, including the Brotherhood. This was progress, no doubt, but it is easy to imagine the suspicion with which those around the table regarded each other.

The opposition declared it was unhappy with the outcome of the talks and that demonstrations would continue. The security establishment, for its part was ready to throw some of its members to the wolves, allowing investigations to move ahead on several key officials.

What all of this suggests is that we may now be in for a prolonged period of political manoeuvring. The American envoy, apparently sensing this, surprised many by stating that president Mubarak ought to remain in place until, September to oversee the transition.

The coming weeks or months promise all manner of tough talking about the elections, constitutional changes, and the fate of many leading personalities including President Mubarak himself. Protest and violence will be an intrinsic part of this negotiation.

As the security bosses and the Muslim Brotherhood seek their accommodations, both the president and many of the protesters in Tahrir square may prove expendable.


  • Comment number 1.

    the muslim brotherhood was created to challenge british imperialism. So they are a liberation movement. One might say Egypt hasn't been liberated yet.

    it seems some people find a mature islamic movement more threatening than a violent chaotic one?

    if one stops interpreting uk national interest through israel then one sees no problem for the UK with a mature non violent islamic government drawn from people who have been doing social works for years?

    but the FO middle east desk is owned by the pro israelis who see any islamic government a threat to their occupations and long term expansionist plans?

    without justice you cannot have stability.

  • Comment number 2.

  • Comment number 3.

    For what it's worth the uprising in Tunisia has made it harder for oppressed people in the Middle-East to achieve the same result. Why? Because the other corrupt, self-serving, megalomaniacs like the president of Egypt were warned by it and had time to put their contingency plans in place in case the same thing happened to them.

    To hold total dominion over millions of your peers is more addictive than any drug. History bears testimony to that, and sadly, to the millions who, from the dawn of human civilization have had to die to deflate their grotesque swollen, self-obsessed egos and finally render them incapable of further abuse of the human race.

    What fascinates me is how the Egyptian young, who have not yet acquired anything to lose, accordingly drove the revolutionary process on, and initially, the older generation who had plenty to lose, because of what happened in Tunisia, fell in with the young.

    Now however they're 'going wobbly', thinking of their pensions, their property, and their investments in the status quo, and we see the beginning of Mubarak's come-back. You couldn't make it up. You couldn't write it and expect people to take it seriously, but yet it is, along with thousands of years of recorded human history, nothing short of inevitable!

    Tonight I watched a science fiction drama on BBC that actually suggested that our species might become so integrated, egalitarian, and collectively focused that we managed to achieve interstellar colonisation!

    To me it has the same sadistic edge as that famous quiz catch phrase, 'Now let's take a look at what you could have won!' Whatever happens to us in the end will be dependent on the achievement of a secular, science and evidence based global consensus. Anything else and we will become extinct.

    But hey, Mubarak might still get to stay in power, and his son might even get to take over in the time-honoured tradition of despotic autocracies throughout history. Surely the rights of power junkies to abuse the rest of us are more important than the survival of our species?

    Finally, now I truly admire the US constitution, the fixed term presidency can be seen to be the genius idea that it was. I hope the context of fixed term periods in political office will become mandatory throughout all the civilized world. It is the only way to stop the disintegration of people who probably started out in politics with the best of intentions turning into power-addicted grotesque monsters.

  • Comment number 4.

    Mubarak is waiting for the heat to die down, the crowds to go home, the worlds press to get bored.....and I hope he is wrong....

  • Comment number 5.

    The principal forces in Egypt are
    - Egypt's security establishment (aka Mubarek, Sulieman)
    - the Muslim Brotherhood and
    - the Eyptian People themselves (What do they want?).
    Has the Muslim Brotherhood, aside from all the charitable work that it does, ever demonstrated extreme Islamic fundamentalism?
    Candidates are likely to do well in the September elections; so what? This is supposed to be a democratic vote with (I assume) observers. Even if the Mislim Brotherhood took every seat, if the election was transparent, should that be any business of the west, except of course for dealing with the democratically-elected party?
    What kind of election is it IF the results are only be recognized if the western governments approve (like Hamas in Gaza)? Is this the western vertion of democracy?
    General Omar Sulayman has frequently warned the US about the dangers presented by the Islamic group. General Omar Sulieman is extremely pro-western, a CIA affiliate, and is vested in the same type of regime that Mubarek has been running for thirty years. His opinion is biased.
    The American envoy "surprised" many by stating that president Mubarak ought to remain in place until, September to oversee the transition? Surprised?
    No, this is exactly what I would expect the American envoy to say.
    The Muslim Brotherhood will be strong in a post-Mubarak Egypt but I don't know about domination of the country. I believe it has been western media hype that promotes ideas such as
    - the Brotherhood is acting for al Qaeda
    - the Brotherhood is leading Egypt to war with Israel,
    - the Brotherhood will not keep the Israel/Egypt Peace Treaty.
    The thing to remember is that most Egyptians are not members of the Brotherhood. In parts of the Middle East where relatively free elections have been held, e.g. the Gaza Strip, Islamist parties have done well, but I believe that is a reaction against western unjust policies more than anything else.
    The Brotherhood would chop the close military tie between the United States and Egypt. But extremism, like closing the Suez Canal to American ships is highly unlikely. As a matter of fact: Al Qaeda leaders have blasted the Brotherhood for rejecting jihad and engaging in the political process.

  • Comment number 6.

    "Whatever happens to us in the end will be dependent on the achievement of a secular, science and evidence based global consensus. Anything else and we will become extinct."

    I'm so glad to hear you say that. I've been rattling around seemingly on my own saying this very thing for so long I was starting to doubt myself.

    The challenge is to get rid of moral relativism.

  • Comment number 7.

    What is the Obama administration doing involving itself in negotiations between the Mubarak regime and several Egyptian opposition parties, including the Muslim Brotherhood.
    VP Omar Suleiman, has been leading the negotiations; therefore, it would seem that he is heading the military-dominated “transitional” government.
    Suleiman met with representatives of the Muslim Brotherhood. The Muslim Brotherhood declared that they “did not regard the 'meeting' as negotiations but simply as an opportunity to hear what the government had to say.”
    Suleiman also spoke with members of several political parties such as Wafd and Tagammu that have been afforded semi-legal status and some few parliamentary seats under Mubarak.
    Mohammed ElBaradei said he had not been invited to the negotiations; however, a member of his National Association for Change group attended.
    Suleiman afterwards released a statement, insisting there was a “consensus” among all involved for a “commitment to constitutional legitimacy.”
    Well, maybe; after all, I wasn't there.
    Sulieman pledged to confront the dangers of (among many other things) “any attempts at foreign intervention into purely Egyptian affairs..."
    Suleiman pledged to
    - form a committee comprised of “members of the judicial authority and a number of political figures” that will spend a month considering possible constitutional and legislative changes;
    - form another bureau to consider complaints about the detention of political prisoners;
    - the media and communications would be “liberalised”.
    But he did not, would not lift the state of emergency that has existed since Mubarak assumed power in 1981. He said this can only be lifted “based on the security situation and an end to the threats to the security of society.”
    I guess that means "never".
    The beginning of negotiations marks a further step towards the establishment of an interim government for orderly transition dominated by the military & Omar Suleiman. Egyptian State TV reported the leadership of Mubarak’s ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) has collectively resigned, including the president’s son Gamal Mubarak.
    The Obama administration has tripped all over itself to endorse these latest transition manoeuvres. The US envoy to Egypt, Frank Wisner, declared his support for Mubarak to remain in power until September. “We need to get a national consensus around the preconditions for the next step forward,” he defended. “The president must stay in office to steer those changes.
    The US State Department quickly distanced itself from Wisner’s statements, saying Wisner was speaking in his personal capacity. Wisner’s remarks however highlite the approval that Mubarek Regime still enjoys within sections of the US administration.
    Secretary of State Hillary Clinton declared that Suleiman was Egypt’s Head of Government. She must have meant "interim", though she failed to use the word. Clinton said that there are forces at work in any society...which is why I think it’s important to support the transition process announced by the Egyptian government and an orderly establishment of the elections that are scheduled for September.
    Clinton’s reference to forces at work may have been a Freudian slip representing the fear in Washington that the anti-Mubarak movement will trigger the emergence of an independent movement of the Egyptian working people - or even a social revolution.
    Clinton also promoted the army as a respected institution, as well as the business sector, particularly banking.
    From all of this I conclude that:
    A transition regime that is backed by the military and is amenable to the financial industry constitutes the Obama administration’s strategy for Egypt, possibly beyond September, 2011.
    Meanwhile, mass demonstrations in Egypt continue.
    Suleiman told protestors: “We can say only go home. We want to have normal life. We don’t want anybody in the streets. Go to work. Bring back once again the tourists. Go to the normal life. Save the economy of the country.”
    I wonder what influence the United will be able to exert by September so that it can retain its regime. I wonder if the Eyptian People will allow the revolution to slip through their fingers.
    My answers:
    The US will fail to keep the old,regime past September.
    The Egyptian People will erupt sooner rather than later, but definitely post September if no meaningful changes have occurred.

  • Comment number 8.

    Dear Mark Urban, Have enjoyed your Egyptian analysis for the most part. Keep hearing you on TV reports using the Bolshevik revolution as an example of how small groups take over a movement. The Bolsheviks won the urban population and then the countryside to their cause through argument backed by action. Lenin had to argue against the leadership for a revolution! It was either the Bolsheviks with their agenda of bread, peace and land or war and the first fascist state with the anti-semitic Black Hundreds murdering at their will. The failure of revolution in Germany and the intervention of outside powers probably set the scene for the rise of Stalinism. Still keep up the sharp analysis as you've shown the cynical diplomatic behaviour of the major powers and their interests. Ywo

  • Comment number 9.

    Are these events in the Middle East really revolutions? I would say no. They are protests from a very large number of annoyed people, who are not organised politically, they have no revolutionary ideology to put in place. It could be argued that each individual/small group is self seeking and not collectivised, all with their own agenda and far removed from the propaganda portrayed by the media as a movement driven by "the will of the people".
    There have been revolutions, Cambodia Khmer Rouge is an example, bad example I know but it did have ideology. My point is the Middle East thing is nothing like, there is no ideology and no direction other than the western corrupt economic political system we foolishly call democracy! And there is where I see the similarities between protests there and here in the UK, many people taking to the streets venting their anger does not equal revolution, they are not going anywhere.
    The result in the Middle East/UK will be capitalist reform and that's it.
    Workers worldwide have been involved in this struggle for centuries, unfortunately their oppression prevents any organised revolution.
    It is interesting watching the UK government bringing in new cuts/reforms almost daily, keeping workers on the hop and not allowing time for a collective response before the next thing is announced by which time it's all too late, sounds like a dictatorship don't you think!

  • Comment number 10.

    Mark you must stop comparing the Egyptian revolution to Russia on Newsnight. There is no comparison. In Russia society was mobilised in a World War. From February to October the army couldn't take a stand on one side or the other because it was being decimated on the Eastern Front. The country was awash with arms, soldiers, sailors and deserters. Quickly after the October Revolution there was foreign intervention and then civil war. None of these crucial conditions apply to Egypt.

    Secondly, I have to tell you that your assertion that the October Revolution was carried out by a small band of conspirators is a very old-fashioned view from the Cold War historiography. The revisionist view is that from the summer of 1917 to the end of the year the Bolsheviks became a mass-based political movement. The leaders were actually struggling to control it, especially in July. It's true that there was an organisational core of people that planned the key moves to take control of the telegraph system, the railroads and the bridges in October, but they were pushing against an open door by then. There was very little resistance. It is also often forgotten that this all happened in Petrograd, but the leaders there were at the head of a tide that was sweeping many of the towns and cities in European Russia.

    I'm not claiming that the Russian Revolution ended well, clearly it didn't. And I'm not a Trotskyist either. But when you talk about Egypt and Russia your view of what happened in Russia is arguable, and in any case the context is so different from Egypt that the comparison is meaningless.

    It's possible the Egyptian Revolution could end in tyranny, but there's no reason to think it necessarily will. I would say that the conditions suggest that it won't but I could be wrong.

  • Comment number 11.

    9 Doleboy...there is an ideology at play and it`s global capitalist asset-stripping neoliberalism applied to the UK and EU by Wall Street and CIA/Soros....using the new internet savvy global middle class locals to make the whole thing seem like an inside job....for example the American lawyer Saakashvilli being installed in Georgia.

    But what would happen if the English wanted their "freedom" from the rest of the UK and Ireland? Or from the EU....or US foreign policy escapades?

    Would John Simpson and the rest of the world1s media set up shop and "encourage" us....or the many millions of poor unemployed Americans if they marched?

    I should Coca Cola!

  • Comment number 12.

    9 Doleboy...there is an ideology at play and it`s global capitalist asset-stripping neoliberalism ....
    I said, they have no “revolutionary” ideology to put in place! I can see the pro capitalist lobby out in force! Newnight, 11.02.11, had interesting piece on [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator]and Glassman, this pro capitalist cyber imperialist group is backed by multinationals and receives cash from US/UK governments! This is not a revolution, just more neo conservatives spreading capitalist ideology based on an economic model of human beings. They wanted democracy, welcome to the real world!

  • Comment number 13.

    The [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator] is
    The cyber imperialists here

  • Comment number 14.

    Just watched/listened to Tony Blair on BBC News. He lauded the "stability" provided by Mubarak.

    I wish that he and politicians like him had studied physical science. An unstable explosive mixture has been cooking up in Egypt for decades - helped by Western short-sightedness. Absence of an explosion did not mean that the system was stable - it just required the right kind of shock to cause detonation.

  • Comment number 15.

    Egyptian troops are apparently scuffling with pro-democracy protesters in Cairo's Tahrir Square ; the troops are trying to clear the human traffic.
    Soldiers began their work on Sunday morning, removing the tents set up to shelter the protesters.
    Hundreds of thousands of Egyptians celebrated Mubarak's ouster, but hundreds remained in Tahrir (Liberation) square.
    They vow to stay until Egypt's new military rulers meet their demands for democratic reforms; in other words, there is some doubt pervading the stay-behinds, some suspision that things are not as they seem. Scuffles broke out as some of the activists resisted the soldiers.
    There exists a list of Popular Demands:
    - the dissolution of the ruling party-dominated parliament and
    - the lifting of a deeply unpopular emergency law
    - an evident beginning to transition to a democratic, civilian government...
    It is the last demand that is most provocative because, nothing has yet been done and THERE IS NO TIMETABLE. So how can the People mark progress?
    The activists are being strongly urged to go home and allow normal life to resume. Normal life? Is this what the Egyptian People fought for - same-old, same-old?
    What does the following statement mean:
    In a statement Saturday, the military said the Cabinet appointed by Mr. Mubarak on January 31 WILL REMAIN IN PLACE until a civilian government is formed. (Remember there is no timetable.)?
    The Egyptian military has also vowed to "remain committed" to all of Egypt's international treaties, a pledge welcomed by Israel, which had been concerned about the fate of its 1979 peace treaty with Cairo. Even if this is a good move, it would seem to lock any new, duly-elected Government into an agreement dictated by the military.
    The White House says that democracy will "bring more - not less - stability" to the region. Obama has pledged to provide "necessary and requested" financial support and other assistance to Egypt (aka military) as it moves toward free and fair elections - which don't have a timetable.
    I feel that something is not right; I feel that the Eyptian People have been hood-winked. I feel they have been ecstatically swept up into a SOFT COUP - a brilliant SOFT COUP.
    Some of the protesters seem to feel this too; most are simply too happy to think.

  • Comment number 16.

    Why is the Egyptian military accepting contact with Tel Aviv?
    By what authority does the military make commitments to Tel Aviv?
    Israeli officials have made contact with Egypt's military rulers, this while the army is clashing with protesters who refuse to leave Cairo's Liberation Square.
    Israeli Defense Minister, Ehud Barak spoke with Head of Egypt's Higher Military Council, Mohamed Hussein Tantawi. The Egyptian military said it would respect all the country's international treaties including a peace pact with Israel. So what does this mean? The military is the new Government?
    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu welcomed the Egyptian army's position. He said: The Peace Treaty is the cornerstone of peace and stability in the region.
    Soldiers manhandled thousands of protesters camping out in the Square.
    Still shouting slogans, protesters fought with soldiers, forcing them to back off. The protesters, remaining in Cairo's central Liberation Square warned of holding further rallies if the military fails to fulfill its promise of a peaceful transition to a democratic civilian system.
    It is highly notable that the military made promises, but established no time-table to fulfill those promises. Thousands of protesters vowed to remain in the square until the promises have been kept.

  • Comment number 17.

    Good news? Does this mean there is real hope?
    Egypt's military has appointed a retired judge to head the committee amending the Constitution. The retired judge is Tareq el-Bishri; he heads an 8-member panel composed of sitting judges, legal experts, and former lawmaker Sobhi Saleh of the banned Islamist group, the Muslim Brotherhood. Apparently, meetings are already underway.
    Pro-democracy activists say the Constitution Committee will be drafted in 10 days and put to the public in a national referendum within 2 months.
    Opposition groups have asked for democratic reforms that would enable more candidates to run for the presidency, term limits on all posts, and authorization of more political parties. Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood said it will establish itself as a party as soon as the military removes the LAW that has outlawed the Muslim Brotherhood.
    Critics have expressed concern that should The Brotherhood come to power, it may try to transform the country into an Islamic state; the Brotherhood says it is committed to working within a multi-party system, and it will not seek the presidency. No matter, there is a need for the world to step back and recognize the will of the Egyptian People - whatever it may be.
    As for the wave of strikes threatening the economy, Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit appealed for international assistance for his nation's economy. He made his appeal in phone calls to his American, British and Saudi counterparts.
    Egypt's military council also issued a communique urging labor leaders to get back to work, warning that ongoing strikes threaten the economic prospects.
    But, surprisingly, the military has taken no steps to actually ban strikes or any other form of protest.

  • Comment number 18.

    Is it a political process spreading across the Middle East and Northern Africa, or it it the new foreign policy of a cash-strapped American Government/Military Complex that wants other militaries to do the American dirty work while hypocritically the United States sits back and bewails the impact (literally) on the people?
    British Foreign Secretary William Hague met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov; Lavrov was in London for a bilateral meeting.
    While Obama was (verbally) urging a peaceful response to protests:
    - Iranian Police Fired Tear Gas at Protesters
    - Yemen Protesters Clashed with Security Forces
    - Bahrain Police Disperse Protesters and
    Russia's foreign minister made this strange statement: it can be "counter-productive" for the United States and the West to percipitate the spread of revolutions and pro-democracy protests in the Middle East. Russia has had its own revolution and does not need to be calling for other revolutions, which would be none of their business.
    Wow, this Russian statement seems exceedingly wise to me!
    Of course we know about the popular uprisings that have toppled long-standing regimes in Egypt and Tunisia. Anti-government demonstrators are now holding protests in Iran, Bahrain and Yemen.
    US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton praised the Iranian demonstrators as courageous: What business is it of hers? Is this biased support in her job description?
    Hague urged Iran's government to restrain itself from cracking down on protesters and to allow people to freely express their views. How do we know what the true views of the Iranian People are when they are being twittered, social-networked and infiltrated by American (and possibly Israelis) trouble-makers? How much of the Iran protest is coming from external sources, and how much is sincerely internal?
    What I would like to see is Lavrov's view implemented:
    All external countries should stop butting in, and leave the choices up to the people of each country respectfully!

  • Comment number 19.

    The dirty game called: "The United States will not permit democracy within Arab countries".
    I believe that the United States has been involved in every single uprising - including Egypt. I believe the White House planned exactly what it wanted: soft coups in order to allow the militaries of the respective countries to carry out America's nefarious policies.
    American fingerprints are all over everything what is happening in the region. There is no question that the United States wants control, imperial control and that includes control of Iran.
    The United States wants to remove the dictators. e.g. Mubarak wanted Gamal, his son to succeed him. Gamal Mubarak wanted to start privitizing much of the Egyptian business establishment that is currently held by the military. Good-bye Mubarak and son.
    What's the story in Yemen? What does the White House want out of Yemen?
    It doesn't matter about the leader. The United States wants control of the military, the old regime (same as in Egypt).
    Back to Egypt. Mubarak is gone. The old regime is still there. It has more control now than it ever did under Mubarak. The emergency laws are still there; the constitution has been abolished; parliament has been suspended. Promises have been made; but none kept.
    The people of the Middle East and northern Africa really want change. The poverty is real; the unemployment is real. Does the US care? All the US cares about is full, unquestioned control.
    Washington does not want democracy - not in Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen...The Americans will talk about democratic change; but they will never let it happen - not in Egypt, not in Tunisia, not in Yemen...
    In all these countries, we have had protests; protests are not revolutions. No Middle East Country has rebelled; no Northern African country has rebelled. During a real revolution, there is no power that can contain the will of the people.
    What's changed in these countries?
    Nothing has really changed in these countries.
    I have no doubt that the United States of America is orchestrating the protests. The United States (and Israel) want to make the region quake, and then they will take the little pieces and make them into a picture of the American industrial/imperial complex.
    What can the people do?
    Accept it, or keep on protesting, which will lead to rivers of blood (not one drop of which will come to rest at the door of the White House).

  • Comment number 20.

    BB The BBC have their own Foreign Office funded television station beaming western ideas into Iran against the wishes of the Iranian government. Perhaps you could ask to address the masses regarding your views and get yourself swept to power in a Bluesberry Revolution?

  • Comment number 21.

    We've got a much better idea in the past couple of days about the political process that is underway in Egypt.
    Do we?
    There is an old saying that says: Follow the money.
    The principal forces at work may be
    - Egypt's security establishment and
    - the Muslim Brotherhood...
    But definitely at work is a NED/Soros "colourful" revolution.
    The Muslim Brotherhood does not even plan to put forward a Presidential candidate, though it does intend to become a political party, a political party that will not get many votes from the Coptic Christians.
    The emphasis being placed on The Muslim Brotherhood is MISPLACED, a red herring to fear-monger the west and Israel. The west and Israel operate best when fear is at its highest; people become docile.
    I am more alarmed by the Egyptian military establishment and if and when it may finish writing the Constitution, hold a referendum, and call a general election. The Egyptiam Military is so very entwined with business interests that one could say no revolution has in fact occurred: THE OLD REGIME STILL HOLDS POWER.
    But most of all, I am alarmed at the NED/Soros connection. The desire to stop Sharia Law in the finance industry so that western banking can take hold - the same greedy, capitalistic, unregulated type of banking that exists in the United States of America - and that nearly melted down the entire global economy. I call it Rothchild banking.
    General Omar Sulayman, who, the Wikileaks cables show, has frequently warned the US about the dangers presented by the Islamic group is (I feel) really warning the west that Sharia banking is about to take hold in Egypt, just as it was about to take hold in Tunisia; in fact, Tunisia was intended to be the financial link between Europe and Northern Africa.
    Yes, there will be a prolonged period of manoeuvring, but it is really all about money, about the Sharia banking system; and to keep Sharia banking out of Egypt, many of the protesters in Tahrir square may prove expendable. It's all about the money.
    Do you know which country leads in deposits and Sharia banking?
    So, I conclude by asking, are these revolutions about "democracy" or are they Ned/Soros colourful revolutions to head off Sharia banking before it becomes too entrenched, threatening western banking interests?

  • Comment number 22.

    Just when I think I understand what is going on in Egypt, something else happens...
    Egypt has officially recognized a moderate Islamic party - outlawed for 15 years. This party was granted official recognition by an Egyptian court in a sign of increasing political openness.
    Al-Wasat Al-Jadid, or "The New Center", was founded in 1996 by activists who seperated from the conservative Muslim Brotherhood; Al-Wasat Al-Jadid seeks to create a political movement promoting a tolerant version of Islam. Its attempts to register as an official party were rejected 4 times since then, most recently in 2009.
    In 2007, Human Rights Watch accused Mubarak and his ruling National Democratic Party of using the law to maintain a monopoly over political power in Egypt.
    The founder of the newly recognized party, Abu al-Ila Madi, said the ruling by the Supreme Administrative Court was "a positive fruit of the Jan. 25 revolution". Madi said his party would immediately get to work organizing, opening branches to freely participate in Egypt's political process.
    Several opposition parties had been authorized under Mubarak's rule, but their representation in parliament was small and they had little influence.
    Egypt's largest and most popular opposition movement, the Muslim Brotherhood, outlawed under Mubarak, ran candidates in parliamentary elections as "independents". There is some concern in the United States that the Brotherhood, which calls for the formation of an Islamic state in Egypt, could increase its influence in the Egyptian political process.
    Seeking to prove Al-Wasat Al-Jadid has a more moderate position, Madi said two Coptic Christians and 3 women were among the party's 24 top members. The party has promised to cooperate with all political processes - secular or democratic.
    Brotherhood leader Mohammed Badie sought in a statement Saturday to calm fears about his movement's intentions. He said the Brotherhood is part of Egyptian society but does not seek to control it. He repeated that the group would NOT put up a candidate for the presidential election later this year.
    Workers calling for better wages have held labor strikes; the army has expressed impatience, saying it will no longer allow "illegal" demonstrations because they slow production. So the army will have to take appropriate action.
    Badie advised the army to "promise them that the situation will improve gradually with the improvement of the national economic situation." He also asked the military to carry out productive talks with representatives of the different parties. He said that this approach would keep people calmand move people back to work and production.

  • Comment number 23.

    What political process is underway in Egypt - or perhaps anywhere else in Northern Africa or the Middle East?
    In Egypt, the Military Machine Remains Intact, the status quo prevails.
    The same group of Egyptian generals that ran Cairo are still running Cairo. There has been no REAL change.
    The military junta = The Mubarak regime.
    If any change is coming, who wull be served by that change?
    In both Tunisia and Egypt, the oligarchic structure remains intact. Also, there remains the external forces that supported the Tunisian and Egyptian regimes.
    What are these forces?
    The United States and Israel.
    Even as Mubarak was leaving office, the military in Egypt had begun to play the “protector” of the Egyptian people. The military junta wasn't slowly phased in; it literally jumped in with two feet.
    Egypt’s 18-day uprising produced a soft military coup that slithered over the country almost silently like a snake.
    The Egyptian military is not neutral. The Egyptian Military was the power of the dictatorial regime. The Egyptian military is also Washington’s power for holding onto Egypt.
    Presently the Egyptian High Council of the Armed Forces is running Egypt. Ordinarily this would be called a military junta. Similarly in Tunis, Fouad Al-Mebazaa, one of the old crowd of Ben Ali, is ruling Tunisia.
    The military generals in Cairo have always run Egypt under the guise of civilian government. The Egyptian protests have sadly served to solidify and consolidate the hold of the Egyptian military over the Egyptian Government and its people. It is likely that Mubarak, before he stepped down from his office, was preparing the grounds for a military junta.
    Mubarak’s regime began as a continuation of the regime of Mohammed Anwar Al-Sadat. Mubarak and Sadat both came from within the ranks of the Egyptian military. Sadat was an Egyptian Army officer and Mubarak was a commander in the Egyptian Air Force. In other words, Egypt’s top military brass and the so-called military are symbiotic twins.
    Omar Suleiman also comes from the ranks of the Egyptian military. Suleiman was the head of Cairo’s intelligence services, as such he's very familiar and used to working with MOSSAD, the CIA, and other such "intelligence" aencies.
    As for Field Marshal Tantawi, he is one of the most powerful members of the Egyptian military establishment. These generals – retired or not – form the Egyptian High Council of the Armed Forces. In other words, Suleiman, Shafik, and Tantawi are running Egypt, just as they would've under Mubarak.
    The Egyptian military is a US' client. It is financed by Washington. After Israel, Egypt is the second largest recipient of financial aid from the US.
    Sami Hafez Al-Anan (Al-Enan), the Chief of Staff of the Egyptian Military, was in Washington for 2 days after the protests started. The American Government was likely instructing him on what the US wants from the Egyptian regime. After his return to Egypt, Ahmed Shafik was appointed PM and Field Marshal Tantawi became deputy PM.
    If you shaking your head in disbelief, ask yourself: Has the US Government suspended its military aid to the Egyptian military?
    The answer is no.
    No real changes can be expected under a group of generals who have an interest in maintaining the status quo. The Egyptian junta has also announced
    1. it will continue the sanctions regime against the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and
    2. maintain the treaty between Egypt and Israel.
    Think about it: Has there ever been an authentic Arab democracy?
    Ironically, the only democratic system amongst the Arabs existed amid the occupied Palestinians when they exercised their democratic freedom to vote Hamas. Washington and Israel's contempt for democracy amongst the Arabs is visible from its reaction to this fair Palestinian election in 2006 that brought Hamas to power. Washington, Tel Aviv, the EU, the House of Saud, Jordan, and Egypt were all instrumental is the DEBASEMENT & HUMULIATION of the democratic results in Palestine.
    In regards to Israel, it likes to claim democratic status, but Israel is not a democracy. Israel can best be characterized as an ethnocracy. An ethnocratic state is a state where individual rights and state laws are based on ethnicity. Israel discrimination of non-Jewish Persons is systematic. Israeli Jewry and Israeli non-Jews do not have equal rights. This type of discrimination is justified as legal “religious discrimination” to keep the so-called Jewish identity of Israel.
    Back to the protesters and what they must do:
    1. Persist with demands.
    2. Watch the time-table of the so-called transitional government in Tunis and Egypt. They will either try to maintain power or wait until a “controlled opposition” takes power and “puppet democracies” are formed.
    3. Persist, persist, persist with demands and never let go of them.

  • Comment number 24.

    I posted what follows on the BBC Ethics and freethought messageboard under the heading 'Prelude to Malthusian Meltdown'. I'm pasting it here to see if anyone who follows this blog wants to comment on the link between these uprisings and overpopulation, and/or on my closing prediction.

    Recent events in the Middle East are generally being seen as a good thing; an example of people power overthrowing self serving, ruling elites that have suppressed democracy and oppressed their people.

    However, most notably in the case of Egypt, there is another way of looking at things.

    Next to our survival instinct comes our powerful reproductive instinct which we share with all our fellow animals, from cockroaches and rabbits, to the mighty Blue Whale. If be didn't have it we wouldn't exist. The problem now is that there are countries in the world where overpopulation is so bad that really, reason and responsibility should begin to prevail over rabbitry!

    How many people starting a family even ask themselves how their children will live, what purpose their lives might serve, or what chance they might have of any kind of advancement in an overpopulated country with ever-rising unemployment. Even in the UK I read recently that 42% of all births are unplanned.

    I predict that as this century progresses that countries where millions of young people have needlessly been brought into the world with no work for them to do, no prospects, and no future, that a combination of social networking technology and dumbed down political rhetoric targeted at those who have nothing to lose will continue to produce these uprisings, and IT WON'T JUST BE in non-democratic, totalitarian states.

    The seeds are already being sown here in the UK!


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