• Reports
  • May 23, 2006
  • 6 minutes read

Davos Forum and Support for Arab Dictatorships

On the occasion of the World Economic Forum on the Middle East (Davos), Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and his Prime Minister Ahmad Nazif made statements in which they considered that the political reform process would need several years and should not be precipitated.

Nazif attributed this orientation to the political rise of Islamists following the successes they achieved in the latest legislative elections in Egypt and other Arab countries and the feared resulting “chaos”, according to him.

In his inaugural statement at the Forum, held at the Sharm el-Sheikh resort, Saturday, 20 May 2006, Mubarak said, “reform must emanate from within the region so as to ensure that it will endure. Making rash leaps will lead to chaos and to a setback to the reform process.” He went on to say, “the reform that we seek to achieve is one that would guarantee human rights; we want to achieve a reform that would respect the Constitution and the law and not one that would lead to rallies and inclination to chaos.” Mubarak linked reform in Egypt to the situation in the region: “the winds of change will continue to blow in the region and Egypt, given its standing in it, knows best the circumstances of its region.”

He added, “I am concerned with the affairs of Egypt and the region and I think that achieving reform at all fronts has a long way to go before democracy is well-established, the society is modernized and the economic, social and political development is achieved.”

He denied that the political reform process in Egypt had stopped: “the reform is a continuous process. It has not stopped and will not stop so long as it serves the highest interests of Egypt and the interests of its people.”

The president often tends, in his statements to media, particularly Western media, to warn against opening the door wide open before democracy, which, according to him, could bring extremists to the reigns of government, which would result in the spread of chaos. This result would also threaten the interests of the West.

In an interview published by the Egyptian daily “Akhbar al-Yom” on Saturday, 20 May, Mubarak said, “I do not tend to resort to cruelty and violence against anyone and do not take an emotional action against anybody. But the situation becomes completely different when there is abuse against Egypt or negligence with regard to its rights and high interests as well as the people’s interests, which we would confront with all firmness and stringency.”

Mubarak’s statements came on the heels of repression by authorities of pro-reform demonstrators and the arrests made by Egyptian police against hundreds of people during their demonstrations in support of two senior pro-reform judges who were referred to a disciplinary trial for having denounced wide election abuses. Those actions by the authorities have raised strong U.S. and European criticisms.

Mubarak’s statements followed similar statements by his Prime Minister, Ahmed Nazif, as reported by Reuters, before the inauguration of the Sharm al-Sheikh Davos forum, in which he said, “This (political reform) will not happen in a month, two months or six months; it will take years. We have the time at our disposal and we are not in a hurry.”
Nazif denied that his government had gone back on political reform, but he acknowledged that the government had to take action, bearing in mind the successes made by Islamists in the region during parliamentary elections.
He added, “as soon as this democratic process begins, some developments take place. You would see Islamists, for example, make gains in parliament here and in Palestine and Iraq. We therefore start to reconsider our calculations concerning all that happens in this regard.”
“You need to reconsider your calculations and re-evaluate your assumptions so as to make sure that you are on the right track. But ultimately, I don’t think that there is room for going back on reform.”

In May 2005, U.S. sources revealed that Nazif succeeded during a visit that he made that month to Washington to scare the Americans from what has become to be called the Islamic opposition “scarecrow”, especially the Muslim Brotherhood which controls 20 per cent of the seats of the Egyptian parliament. He was also reported to have persuaded them of the slow Egyptian model of democracy which excludes Islamic groups on the pretext that they posed a threat to the stability of Egypt and the interests of Washington.
“Interest Groups”

Nazif belittled the importance of pro-democracy demonstrations that Egypt has witnessed lately, labeling them as “interest groups”.
He said, “the Egyptian Movement for Change (Kefaya or Enough), for instance, which opposes extending Mubarak’s rule and any attempt to bequeath power to his son Gamal, comprises 2000 members only.”

The Egyptian regime has recently been the object of domestic and external criticisms regarding the pace of democratic reforms which it has promised and also because of the violence that dominated the latest legislative elections, the extension of the Emergency Law and the repression of demonstrators.
Although putting an end to the state of emergency represents a major demand of all Egyptian opposition forces, the Nazif government asked for that law, in force since Mubarak took over in 1981, to be extended for a further couple of years. This was approved by the ruling party-dominated People’s Assembly (parliament) last month.