- March 10, 2006
Mubarak Reneging on Promises of Democratic Reform
Few days ago, President Mubark told chief editors of Egyptian newspapers that the American Administration became convinced by the Egypt-style reform.
Although we have the president’s precious electoral platform and the government program which is drawn from Mubarak’s commitments, we do not have a clear mechanism of evaluating and reviewing the implemented items of both programs.
From time to time, influential voices inside Mubarak’s National Democratic Party call for a mechanism for accountability and review. Zakaria Azmy, an old guard of the NDP, stressed that the government was not able to provide a single job opportunity during the previous six months, meanwhile 400.000 jobs should of have been created annualy. Azmy seemed to forget that the government unskillful tackling of bird flu crisis added thousands to the unemployed population. Other voices, within NDP, protested some policies, procedures and corruption, such as Hosam Badrawy, a member of the NDP’s Political Committee. Will the coming period witness some members break away from the NDP to launch a new liberal party? An idea that is persistently brought up now.
In fact, there are numerous worrisome indications:
1-The protection of corruption, a mater that can be seen in the following cases:
–The owner of the doomy ferry travels abroad safely while compensations for victims are still disputable
-The postponement of municipal elections by two years in fear of losing the unchallenged dominance of the NDP and escaping from the probability that any opposition power could gain the constitutional quota to field candidates for presidency.
-The government overlooking decisions by the Engineering Syndicate’s General Assembly to lift government guardianship on the syndicate and to hold elections. Directed by security apparatus, the minister stated that these decisions are not obligatory.
-Non-adherence to the notorious Law no.100 of syndicates. Elections are conducted in a limited number of syndicates such as Bar Association while are not hold in the majority. Nevertheless, the government and its ruling party always fail in elections, avert the consequences of polls, and tarnish the image of the Muslim Brotherhood.
-Challenging judges and the secrecy imposed on the judiciary power bill where judges are denied the right to preview the introduced amendments.
The biggest escalation against judges was when some prominent justices were put under investigation. Actually, confusion features the government policy on one of the main three powers in any democratic state.
More seriously, the Public Prosecution, run by the Attorney General who is appointed by the president, gets involved in the conflict between the executive and judiciary powers then the legislative power is dragged to become a party in the dispute of ’exploitation of judiciary’.
-The journalist Abdel Nasser el-Zohary is sentenced on charges of deformation of an ex-minister.
After mediation of some ministers aiming to save the president’s promise to abolish imprisonment of journalists two years ago, conciliation was made between the two parties.
In fact, the Egyptian law contains assorted restrictions on journalists and writers.
Meanwhile, Kuwait passed new law that meets the popular demands of freedom of _expression which are the same of Egyptians: restriction-free issuing of newspapers and journalists are not to be imprisoned unless a judiciary ruling is made. According to newspapers, there is a tendency to replace imprisonment with fine and compensation.
-The last setback is the crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood. Seven of the group’s activists were detained during a peaceful meeting discussing the role of students to handle the crisis of the bird flu.
On another episode, Abdel Mageed Meshaly, the chief of twelve joint investment Cell phones Companies, was arrested. Within two years, the company has successfully competed with the two biggest companies Raia and Ring, taking 25% of the market share.
Security forces shut down the company headquarters and its nationwide affiliations on pretext that the company is an investment of the Brotherhood’s funds.
More astonishingly, newspapers published on Tuesday ready-made charges against the Brotherhood of training young men to be dispatched to hot zones such as Iraq to fight against the American occupation.
Two years ago, the same accusations were trumped up when 17 of the Brotherhood were subject to scathing torture in the headquarters of the State Security.
Due to absence of medical care and tight conditions in prison, Akram el-Zehary died. Millions of the Brotherhood’s assets were confiscated. Ahead of al-Adha Feast, detainees were released on heavy bails.
The attack on the group escalated when Dr. Rashad el-Byoumi, 70, a member of the Brotherhood’s Supreme Council, was arrested.
The reason behind his detention may be his stiffly-worded articles written in comment on Gamal Mubark’s interview with a daily.
The tone of articles may be regarded as improper for a VIP such as Mr. Gamal. So far, the toll of detained activists of the Brotherhood amounts to 17, most of them were deliberately arrested on aback ground of long-standing revenge.
Undoubtedly, there are other indications that spark growing concern over the reform process in Egypt and its excepted timetable.
What I would like to assert is that reform has turned basically into popular request, neither an urgent requirement for political and ideological elites nor for foreign pressures.
Therefore, if popular movements, toped by the Brotherhood, Kefiya Movement, and other reformists, succeeded to begin a new stage of action to contact directly with the grassroots that have the sense of apathy regards public activity, Egypt may become at the threshold of a new phase of reform.
In fact, the process of reform has already begun and its signs are looming in the horizon. This fact may result in a state of confusion among proponents of stagnancy and force them for the escalation against reformists.
Actually, various scenarios are available for the near future:
1- The optimistic one meets the aspirations of Egyptians; to entrench a new source of legitimacy for the regime that is drawn from national harmony over outlines of a system that permits transference of power through periodical and fair elections. The most primary guidelines are:
– The abolishment of emergency laws.
– Real judiciary independence.
-Free formation of parties without restrictions made by the executive power.
-Freedom of press, media and access to information.
-Genuine parliament that balances the coercive executive power.
The requirements of this outlook are three:
– The rise of the reformist calls inside the NDP to give reason and national interest precedence over the existing state of corruption and autocracy.
– The activation of the National Front for Change since it contains most of change-desiring powers.
– Promotion of the popular interest in reform and attacking youth to participate in action.
2-The pessimistic senior says that the coalition between autocracy and corruption will be successful in sparking crises and division among reformists. During the two last decades, the regime has been able to take officials of al-Tagamoa Party to its side, to freeze el-Amal, al-Ahrar, and al-Gad parties, and to ban al-Krama and al-Wasat parties. Now, it tries to intimidate judges and journalists. This scenario leads the country to destructive chaos. Its success is linked by:
-Suspected foreign support serves as a political cover.
-Division among reform-seeking powers and giving precedence to secondary priorities over primary ones which is the fight of corruption and autocracy.
– People become preoccupied with the growing daily problems.
3-The moderate scenario that aims to gain time awaiting unattainable miracles. Two teams share this approach; a group inside the regime that desires reform but is reluctant fearing the absence of a viable alternative to steer the wheel of the country and a reform-seeking group outside the regime that lacks popular support and does not like to join the National Front for Change.
This reluctance results from absence of confidence in the real intentions of the Muslim Brotherhood, misunderstanding of its program and future plans, and fear of international reaction towards its mounting influence in the political arena.
Other possible scenarios can be deduced. However, I am hopeful that today is better than the past and that the future carries more steps of reform and change because it is an inevitable process.