Mubarak’s Ticking Bomb

Mubarak’s Ticking Bomb

The Egyptian regime is yet to learn that democracy means more than just going through the motions. The fraud and violence which characterized this year’s parliamentary election has been documented and the world acknowledges it as a fact, however, Mubarak and his NDP continue to live in denial.

For all intents and purposes, Egypt has a constitution and laws that reflect the people’s will, however, in reality, the provisions serve to maintain the iron grip of the ruling regime. Hosni Mubarak may call himself a president but he wields imperial powers. The legislature does not oversee the military budget and if more than five people assemble without permission to stage a peaceful demonstration, it is considered illegal. In addition, universities have security forces on campus to ensure that students do not engage in political activities.

The constitution was recently amended, making it almost impossible for an independent candidate to run for president. Political activists are often blocked from renting venues for meetings and media outlets avoid interviewing or dealing with people who are not sanctioned by the regime.

Egypt is supposed to have multiple political parties; however, the NDP must give permission for any party to be established. Moreover, a new party must exist for five years before it can field a presidential candidate.

The Emergency Law under Mubarak, has, for the past 29 years, been used as a tool for the president to suspend basic constitutional protections and detain, torture and sometimes kill those who dare to dissent.

Egypt calls itself a democratic country but in reality one-third of the members of its upper house are appointed by the president and of the 508 seats, 440 are held by members of the NDP. Even though Coptic Christians constitute 10 per cent of the population, they only hold 3 seats in parliament. The Muslim Brotherhood now holds no seats in parliament and was shut out of the November election even though it managed to win 20 percent of the seats in the 2005 parliamentary elections.

The ruling regime even ignores legal decisions issued by Egyptian courts if they contradict its policies. Egypt ‘s economic and social fabric is spiralling downwards and any growth is not felt by the masses of poor people, and the obscene gap between rich and poor worsens daily. More than 40 percent of Egyptians live on less than $2 per day and nearly 30 percent are illiterate. Is this happening in the same country that, more than 2,000 years ago, gave the world the Library of Alexandria? Cairo is a mega-city with a population of more than 15 million, but half the population lives in shantytowns next to communities that are gated-off and rival the opulence in Western countries.

In need of a new beginning, new rulership, and new policies, Egypt ’s voices of dissent are growing, speaking daily of social justice. Everyday Egyptians are seeking an accountable and transparent system of government, with meaningful checks and balances, economic opportunity for all Egyptians and the right to live in dignity and freedom.

The Muslim Brotherhood has been working in the grass roots of Egypt for decades and has secured respect and support, seeking long-term, peaceful change. Meanwhile, the international community must seriously think about supporting the struggle of a nation, which, under the present regime, has an awful record of human rights violations. As Mubarak makes an elusive promise of stability, the rights of Egyptians are being trampled on. Mubarak, basing his rule on repression, has inadvertently made a ticking bomb that can only be diffused through genuine democracy.