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REFORMING EGYPT: IN SEARCH OF A STRATEGY
REFORMING EGYPT: IN SEARCH OF A STRATEGY
TABLE OF CONTENTS
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY AND RECOMMENDATIONS i
I. EGYPT’S FALSE “SPRING” 1
A. MUBARAK’S FEBRUARY SURPRISE 1
B. THE SENSE OF MOMENTUM 2
II. THE SEASON OF DISILLUSIONMENT 4
A. THE AMENDMENT TO ARTICLE 76 4
B. THE OTHER LAWS 7
C. THE IMPLICATIONS 8
III. THE WEAKNESS OF THE OPPOSITION 9
A. THE MOVEMENTS FOR REFORM 9
1. Kifaya 9
2. The National Rally for Democratic Transformation 13
B. THE POLITICAL PARTIES 13
1. The party system 14
2. The opposition parties: creatures of the regime 15
3. The vicious circle 17
C. THE MUSLIM BROTHERS, AN AMBIGUOUS PRESENCE 19
IV. RETHINKING THE STRATEGY OF REFORM 23
A. MUBARAK’S JULY SURPRISE 23
B. THE NEED FOR A UNIFYING IDEA AND STRATEGIC DEMAND 24
V. CONCLUSION 26
A. MAP OF EGYPT 28
B. ABOUT THE INTERNATIONAL CRISIS GROUP 29
C. CRISIS GROUP REPORTS AND BRIEFINGS ON MIDDLE EAST AND NORTH AFRICA 30
D. CRISIS GROUP BOARD OF TRUSTEES 32
Middle East/North Africa Report N°46 4 October 2005
REFORMING EGYPT: IN SEARCH OF A STRATEGY
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY AND RECOMMENDATIONS
Egypt’s first multi-candidate presidential election, a response to U.S. pressure, was a false start for reform. Formal pluralism has never seriously limited the dominance of President Mubarak’s National Democratic Party (NDP); extension to the presidential level is a token so long as the opposition is too weak to produce plausible candidates. If the further reforms Mubarak has promised are to be meaningful, they should be aimed at recasting state/NDP relations and, above all, enhancing parliament’s powers. As a start, Mubarak should ensure free and fair November legislative elections. The legal opposition must make the case for these changes and overcome its divisions if it is to become relevant and be able to compete with the Muslim Brothers for popular influence. The U.S. and others should support judicial supervision of elections, refrain from pressing for quick, cosmetic results, and back a longer-term, genuine reform process.
Mubarak’s decision to revise the constitution to permit multiple-candidate presidential elections was unexpected, an effort to neutralise especially external demands for change with a dramatic move. But because it preceded reform at other levels, the legislation bore the stamp of entrenched NDP interests and bitterly disappointed the opposition parties. It did galvanise debate: several taboos went by the board as opposition movements demonstrated in disregard of the Emergency Law and opposition newspapers published outspoken criticisms of the government and the president.
But all this distracted attention from the need for deeper political reform. The outcome was a set of constitutional and legislative changes which fell far short of what was required. Instead of permitting an orderly opening up of political space after years of authoritarian rule over a lifeless political environment, it confirmed the NDP’s domination and determination to allow no serious opposition within the system. The low turnout on 7 September 2005 suggests that Egyptians clearly saw it as such.
After this false start, it is urgent to persuade the authorities to chart a new course capable of recovering public confidence and to prepare the post-Mubarak transition. They are unlikely to be convinced by mere exhortations or doctrinaire criticisms. Opposition forces, therefore, need to reconsider their approach and overcome the shortcomings that their failure to influence developments since February has highlighted.
Outside the legal opposition parties, the running chiefly has been made by a new organisation, the Egyptian Movement for Change, known by its slogan Kifaya! (“Enough!”). But Kifaya has remained essentially a protest movement, targeting Mubarak personally and articulating a bitter rejection of the status quo rather than a constructive vision of how it might be transformed. This has harmed its relations with the parties and precluded an effective alliance for reform. Kifaya has agitated in the streets without seriously attempting to influence parliamentary deliberations on the government’s agenda, while the opposition parties in parliament have lacked effective relays outside it and have been predictably outvoted by the NDP. The result is that neither wing of the secular opposition has been able to make appreciable gains, leaving the Muslim Brothers, despite the handicap of illegality, still the most substantial opposition force in political life.
Because the conditions for a genuinely contested presidential election simply did not exist, it would be a mistake for external actors, notably the U.S., to attach much importance to the way it was conducted. In the short term, progress hinges rather on the legislative elections that will be held in the next few weeks. The election of a more representative and pluralist People’s Assembly in particular could become the point of departure for a fresh and more serious reform project, redound to the government’s credit and provide an effective response to international pressures. It is doubtful that such an outcome can be secured by international monitors; the Egyptian judiciary is far better placed to oversee the elections effectively, as they demonstrated in 2000. It is important that they be authorised to play this role fully.
President Mubarak can do most to ensure that the legislative elections are conducted properly. In announcing his candidacy on 28 July he committed himself to an agenda of further reforms, and he has won a fifth term on this platform. Both internal opposition and external actors should seek to persuade him that it is in the national interest that a truly representative, legitimate parliament be elected and that he can most effectively preserve and even enhance his own authority and legitimacy, not to mention his place in history, by ensuring that this happens.
To the Egyptian Movement for Change and Other Extra-Parliamentary Groups Calling for Reform:
1. Devise a strategy aimed at influencing both the main opposition parties and the governing authorities with a view to promoting genuinely representative, law-bound government and protecting themselves and associated movements against repression.
2. Make the centrepiece of this strategy the demand for a genuinely democratic parliament and advocate this by:
(a) advancing a practical, political case;
(b) engaging reform-minded members of the ruling NDP as well as other parties with the aim of securing the broadest possible support; and
(c) reaching out to other associations and movements of civil society, especially professional associations, syndicates, trade unions and women’s groups.
3. Reaffirm that the movement is not a political party, is not in competition with any existing political party and will not itself contest elections, and refrain from personal attacks on office-holders at any level.
To the Egyptian Government:
4. Recognise that the most important reform required is of the national parliament, in the first instance the People’s Assembly, so that it can play its full role by:
(a) providing for the proper representation of the people and their orderly participation in the political system;
(b) holding government accountable by critically scrutinising policy decisions and the performance of the government and individual ministers; and
(c) supporting independence of the judiciary by acting as a counterweight to the executive.
5. Take necessary measures to ensure that the coming legislative elections are free and fair, including:
(a) authorising the judiciary, on conditions (including the duration of balloting) to be agreed with the Egyptian Judges Club, to supervise the election process across the country and at all levels;
(b) authorising the presence of accredited representatives of all competing parties and independent candidates at polling stations and during the vote-counting; and
(c) suspending all clauses of the Emergency Law that impede peaceful, constitutional political activity, including public meetings and demonstrations, for the duration of the election campaign.
6. Recognise the need, as an integral part of the wider process of political reform, to regularise the status of the Muslim Brothers to permit them to participate in political life and take preliminary steps to prepare for this, notably by:
(a) legalising the Brothers as an association and, pending this, ceasing the arbitrary arrest of Muslim Brothers on the grounds of membership of a banned organisation and releasing all Brothers currently detained on those grounds alone;
(b) considering revisions to the laws on political parties and non-governmental organisations to allow the Muslim Brothers (and other non-violent organisations with a religious reference) to participate collectively in politics;
(c) considering how state supervision of religious endowments and institutions can be dissociated from the governing party; and
(d) engaging the leadership of the Muslim Brothers in an open dialogue on these issues.
7. Repeal the Emergency Law without delay and allow the fullest public debate over and parliamentary scrutiny of any proposed anti-terrorism legislation.
To the Main Opposition Political Parties (the Wafd, the Nasserist Party, Tagammu’, Al-Ghad):
8. Contest the legislative elections on a “democratic unity” platform of political reform that prioritises the establishment of an empowered, representative parliament, by forming a united block (kutla) which:
(a) endorses a single platform and electoral strategy;
(b) negotiates agreement on which party’s candidate will be backed in each constituency;
(c) designates party members at local and regional levels as accredited representatives of the block’s candidates to observe polling and vote-counting procedures;
(d) seeks participation of the smaller legal parties in the block where possible; and
(e) considers where appropriate the option of supporting genuinely pro-reform NDP candidates.
To the U.S. Government, the European Union and its Member States:
9. Recognise that the advent of a genuinely representative and empowered national parliament is the fundamental strategic reform needed to permit real progress towards the rule of law and democracy and declare support for this objective.
10. Recognise that the best way to ensure free and fair legislative elections in the coming weeks is for the Egyptian judiciary to exercise effective supervision of the entire process and for accredited candidates’ representatives to witness the balloting and vote-counting and, accordingly:
(a) encourage the Egyptian government to agree to this and to make the necessary arrangements with the Judges Club and the political parties to facilitate it; and
(b) offer to provide technical and logistical support if this is requested.
Cairo/Brussels, 4 October 2005
Middle East/North Africa Report N°46 4 October 2005
REFORMING EGYPT: IN SEARCH OF A STRATEGY
I. EGYPT’S FALSE “SPRING”
A. MUBARAK’S FEBRUARY SURPRISE
On 26 February 2005 President Mubarak announced his decision to secure a revision of article 76 of the constitution, which defines the procedure for choosing the President of the Republic. His announcement and subsequent letter to parliament made three things clear. First, the principle — never before recognised or operative in Egyptian political life — that the people should elect their president by choosing from multiple candidates at last was conceded, in theory at least. Secondly, this principle would be limited by the requirement that candidates must have the support of members of the two houses of the national parliament, the People’s Assembly (Majlis al-Sha’ab) and the Shura [Consultative] Council (Majlis al-Shura), and of local councils, the precise number of such endorsements to be specified by a law. Thirdly, this requirement would be partially waived for the election scheduled for autumn 2005; while applying to all candidates in subsequent elections; in 2005 it would apply only to independent candidates. Legal parties would be free to nominate candidates from among their own leaders whether or not they had the support of members of the two houses of the national parliament and local councils.
This announcement took the political class as well as the wider public entirely by surprise and galvanised a debate of unprecedented proportions. The President’s proposal was generally (although not universally) welcomed as a step in the right direction but assessments of its wider and longer-term significance varied considerably. Three broad appraisals were offered:
the proposal was a minor step, without significant implications for the coming presidential election, quite insufficient in itself, and needed to be complemented by other measures such as limiting to two the number of terms the President may serve (by revising article 77 of the constitution) and repealing the Emergency Law;
the proposal was in principle welcome, if insufficient, but much depended on the conditions to be specified in the law to be voted by parliament, which could reduce it to a merely cosmetic change;
the proposal, however slight its immediate political effects, would have very important and positive longer term effects, essentially because it would pave the way for a more balanced and representative People’s Assembly.
The third of these assessments was in one way the most interesting as well as the most optimistic, in that it pointed beyond the issue of presidential elections to the proposal’s broader implications. Diaa Rashwan explained:
President Mubarak’s decision is very important for the Egyptian political system. It will affect other institutions, the People’s Assembly, the local councils and the political parties. In the People’s Assembly, it will no longer be necessary for the NDP to keep its two-thirds majority, so elections can be freer; this may not be approved this year, but it will be for 2011. Concerning the local councils, for a long time these have had no importance at the national level, only at the level of local administration, services, etc. Now political forces will have to take these seriously and be present at this level.
B. THE SENSE OF MOMENTUM
Rashwan’s analysis of the implications for the People’s Assembly was shared by the NDP’s Mohamed Kamal, who told Crisis Group, “the NDP will be less sensitive about maintaining a two-thirds majority in parliament. Now it does not need that, although I am sure it will fight for every seat”. Writer and commentator Mohamed Sid Ahmed agreed, arguing that, for the NDP, “60 per cent of the seats in parliament would be more stable than 90 per cent”. For the Wafd Party, Mounir Fakhri Abdelnour told Crisis Group that the proposed amendment
is much more than significant, it is fundamental. Article 76 is the cornerstone of the whole regime. The amendment will have profound implications and also severe implications, because of the uncertainty. It is a fundamental change. We support and approve it.
Meanwhile, other developments during March and April contributed to a sense of momentum and guarded optimism which even the small-scale recrudescence of terrorism did not dampen. On 13 March, Al-Ghad party leader Ayman Nour, who had been stripped of his parliamentary immunity and arrested on forgery charges on 29 January, was released from prison on bail pending trial. The Kifaya movement continued to hold demonstrations, benefiting at first from a measure of tacit indulgence on the authorities’ part. Not to be outdone, the Muslim Brothers in late March also started organising demonstrations, although in their case paying for this audacity with the arrests of hundreds of their members, including senior leaders.
The widely respected Judges Club, which represents Egypt’s 8,000 judges, entered the fray: on 2 April Counselor Yehia Ismail, who had served as president of the judicial supervisory committee during the 2000 legislative elections, declared that judicial supervision was useless unless conducted throughout the entire election procedure, from voter registration to vote counting, and without interference from the ministry of interior. The Judges Club subsequently declared that its members would refuse to supervise elections unless these conditions were met. Stirrings of activism began to manifest themselves in syndicates (professional associations) and universities, where student demonstrations echoed Kifaya’s agitation, and meetings of university professors contested the presence of state security agents on campuses.
These developments appeared to bear out Mohamed Kamal’s claim that President Mubarak’s announcement had “injected energy into the society at large”. Mohamed Sid Ahmed told Crisis Group that “there is a certain irreversibility about what is happening. A different game is being introduced”.
II. THE SEASON OF DISILLUSIONMENT
During May and June the mood darkened considerably. As the amendment to article 76 and the draft presidential election law went through debate in parliament and the Constitutional Court, the initiative passed to the NDP leaders in the People’s Assembly and the Shura Council. The result was to drain the proposed amendment of most of its positive potential, by imposing conditions on the eligibility of presidential candidates that effectively restored the NDP’s control over the election process. Immediately following the passage of the amendment and presidential election law, parliament debated revisions to laws on political rights, political parties, the People’s Assembly, the Shura Council and the press, the resulting revisions bearing the hallmark of the NDP’s partisan self-interest. All these laws in their final form, like the amendment to article 76, were passed with opposition MPs voting against. Thus, the entire agenda of so-called “reform” passed into law without securing the consent of any force or interest outside the ruling party, a fact which strongly suggests that internal, as opposed to external (primarily U.S.), pressure played little part in prompting President Mubarak’s original initiative.
A. THE AMENDMENT TO ARTICLE 76
The amendment as voted by the People’s Assembly on 10 May and ratified by referendum on 25 May conforms to the general principles outlined by President Mubarak in his 26 February speech and letter to parliament, but imposes stringent conditions on their operation:
it requires all presidential candidate nominations to be supported by at least 250 members of the representative bodies, including 65 members of the People’s Assembly, 25 members of the Shura Council, and ten members of local councils in fourteen governorates, the remaining twenty to be drawn from any of the above;
it waives this set of conditions for all legal political parties desiring to field candidates in 2005, but maintains them for all independent, non-party candidates; and
it provides that in all presidential elections after 2005, only parties which (i) are active (i.e. not “frozen”), (ii) at least five years old and (iii) have won at least 5 per cent of the seats in the People’s Assembly and 5 per cent of the seats in the Shura Council may field candidates, and that those candidates must have held a senior position in the party leadership for at least a year.
Thus, in 2005, there was no barrier in the amended article 76 to existing legal parties fielding candidates to compete with the ruling NDP’s candidate (President Mubarak). But independent candidates faced a very high barrier, given the NDP’s massive control of both houses of parliament and local councils. This was enough to prevent the Muslim Brothers from fielding a candidate as an independent, as well as to rule out the candidacies of intellectuals known for their critical views, notably the prominent academic Saad Eddine Ibrahim and the feminist writer Nawal Al-Saadawi.
But the most important implication is that it will be extremely difficult even for legal parties to field candidates in future presidential elections. Not one of them has anything like 5 per cent of the seats in either of the two houses of parliament, and there is no reason to assume that this will be significantly changed by the next legislative elections. The Wafd, which among legal opposition parties won the highest tally of People’s Assembly seats (six) in the 2000 legislative elections, would have to more than quadruple this in the 2010 legislative elections to field a candidate in the 2011 presidential election.
The constitutional requirement of 5 per cent of the seats in both houses, therefore, will make it easy for the NDP to ensure that its candidate faces little or no competition and give it a powerful and continuing incentive to guarantee this by doing everything in its power to deny to any legal opposition party 5 per cent of the seats. Alternatively, the regime and the NDP leadership may choose to use the 5 per cent requirement to keep the opposition parties divided among themselves, by informally agreeing to allow one of them to increase its tally of seats to the required level but using this favour (and the tacit threat to reallocate it subsequently) as a lever to secure docility on other matters. In either eventuality, the new constitutional requirement provides no incentive to the NDP to accept, let alone embrace, a new, genuinely pluralist and democratic, political game.
Thus while the new procedure for choosing the president no longer requires the NDP to preserve its huge parliamentary majority to ensure that two-thirds of the People’s Assembly supports the nomination, it gives the party every incentive to try, one way or another, to preserve very nearly the same scale of dominance of the two houses.
The amendment also established an “Independent Commission for the Supervision of the Presidential Elections” and stipulates that the presidential election will be completed in one day, thus making effective judicial supervision across the country impossible.
Finally, a most important and remarkable aspect of the amendment to article 76 as finally voted is the fact that these extremely stringent conditions of eligibility and the controversial composition and prerogatives of the presidential election commission were included in it at all. It was open to the authorities to specify these matters in the presidential election law instead and they were initially expected to do so. By enshrining them in the constitution itself, they have made revision far harder, an index of their future intentions as well of the value they place on national consensus.
An immediate consequence of this decision was that the amendment, instead of enjoying a substantial measure of cross-party support, was vigorously if not bitterly opposed by all opposition parties represented in parliament. The depth of feeling can be gauged from the fact that not only was the amendment widely described as “meaningless”, but numerous leading figures went so far as to say that the previous system of referendums or plebiscites under the old article 76 was preferable. This judgment was not confined to opposition parties; a well-known NDP member, Dr Osama Al-Ghazali Harb, voted against the penultimate version in the Shura Council on the grounds that it went against the spirit and purpose of the amendment as originally put forward. On 17 May, three leading opposition parties, the Wafd, Tagammu’ and the Nasserist Party, held a joint press conference at which they called for a boycott of the 25 May referendum on the amendment. On the same day, the General Guide of the Muslim Brothers, Mohamed Mahdi Akef, declared that the Brothers would also boycott the referendum and called on all Egyptians to do so.
According to official figures, 53.6 per cent of Egypt’s 32 million registered electors took part in the referendum, with 82.8 per cent voting “Yes” and 17 per cent voting “No”. Opposition papers subsequently cast doubt on the turn-out and claimed vote-rigging had occurred and that some citizens did not know what they were voting for. Subsequently the Independent Committee for Monitoring Elections (established by a consortium of Egyptian human rights organisations) challenged the official figures and criticized the voting procedures. On 1 July, a report prepared by a committee of judges and counselors established by the Egyptian Judges Club criticised numerous aspects of the referendum, notably that it had not been subject to serious judicial supervision. For many observers, however, the most striking events of 25 May were the violent attacks on peaceful Kifaya demonstrators in two different parts of Cairo, in which women were particularly targeted, and several subjected to horrifying and protracted indecent assault, apparently by NDP activists, under the indulgent eye of the police.
The prospect, which some observers saw in the first weeks following President Mubarak’s announcement, that the revision of article 76 would remove the NDP’s need to enjoy overwhelming control of parliament in order to retain the presidency and thus open up the legislative branch to a more balanced and substantial form of political pluralism appeared to have evaporated.
B. THE OTHER LAWS
In June and early July, parliament enacted a series of laws governing political activity, beginning with the presidential election law made necessary by the constitutional revision and following with revisions to the laws concerning, respectively, political parties, political rights, the People’s Assembly and the Shura Council. These laws unquestionably disadvantaged the opposition parties and reflected both the NDP’s determination to preserve its overall control of the political system and its illiberal outlook.
The Presidential Election Law enacted by the People’s Assembly on 16 June 2005 limited the election campaign to 21 days, instead of the 28 requested by opposition parties, and voting to one day, despite the fact that this would make proper judicial supervision impossible.
The revised Political Parties Law enacted on 4 July revoked the stipulations that parties should not contradict the principles of Islamic law or the ideals of the 23 July 1952 Revolution and provided for new parties to be legalised automatically unless the Political Parties Committee (PPC) registered its refusal to license them within 90 days of notification of formation. In other respects, however, it is less liberal than the previous law. It requires applications for authorisation by new parties to be supported by 1,000 signatures, from at least ten of the 26 governorates, instead of the 50 signatures previously needed, and to include documents detailing sources of party funds; it also prohibits parties from publishing more than two newspapers and from receiving foreign funding. In addition, it modified the composition of the PPC, which considers applications by new parties and oversees the behaviour and activity of existing ones, and, instead of relaxing the PPC’s control over the political parties, it actually increased this, notably by empowering the PPC:
to freeze a party’s activities (i) if the party, or one of its leading members, begins to espouse principles differing from the original party line, or (ii) if freezing the party in question is “in the national interest”; and
to ascertain that parties are pursuing “democratic practices” and “the national interest” and to refer those found to be in breach on either count to the Prosecutor-General, who may bring a case before the Parties Court (an affiliate of the Supreme Administrative Court).
The illiberal nature of these changes is self-evident: they increase the already extraordinary power of an organ of the executive branch over the outlook, policy and activity of parties. But this is only half the story. The current head of the PPC in his capacity as President of the Shura Council, Safwat Sherif, is the Secretary General of the NDP; another of the PPC’s senior members, Minister of People’s Assembly Affairs Kamal Shazli, is also a leading member of the NDP. And the three “independent public figures” who now figure in the PPC are to be appointed by the People’s Assembly, which the NDP dominates. Thus the revised composition and enhanced powers of the PPC reinforces NDP domination over the opposition as well as the government. That a state body dominated by the governing party should be empowered to determine whether or not opposition parties are behaving “democratically” or “in the national interest”, let alone remaining true to or deviating from their own political principles, is powerful evidence of the absence of a democratic outlook in ruling circles.
The revised Law on Political Rights introduced new penalties for journalists and newspapers convicted of publishing false information with intent to affect election results and new penalties for any candidate who accepts foreign funding. It also created a commission to oversee elections to the People’s Assembly and the Shura Council; the composition of this commission guarantees NDP control, in practice, of the electoral process.
Finally, the People’s Assembly Law and the Shura Council Law voted on 29 June forbid political parties and candidates from using public buildings such as mosques and prayer sites or research and scientific establishments in their election campaigns.
C. THE IMPLICATIONS
The reforms enacted over the past several months have made no qualitative change in the form of government or political system. Beyond the abstract concession of the electoral principle at the presidential level, which had no substantive effect on the choice of President, the other changes have been secondary. Whatever concessions have been made have been balanced if not outweighed by measures designed to tighten things up. Above all, the massive domination of the party-political sphere and of all electoral procedures by the ruling NDP has been confirmed, if not reinforced, and with it, the systematic confusion of the NDP with the state itself.
This outcome belied the authorities’ proclaimed desire for “consensus”. The measures enacted were virtually all opposed by the opposition parties represented in parliament. The “National Dialogue” between the NDP and the opposition has proved largely a waste of time. But the outcome also suggested that the authorities had no real reformist intentions in the political sphere. While undoubtedly intent on reform in economic policy and in certain sectoral policy areas (such as education), they appeared to consider that these required not a political corollary but rather conservation of the political status quo in all important respects for the time being. Thus, ironically, when senior NDP members told Crisis Group in March 2005, somewhat implausibly, that the President’s initiative did not mark a departure from the NDP’s previous position, they seem in retrospect to have been speaking the simple truth.
This assessment undoubtedly needs to be nuanced in light of President Mubarak’s subsequent statement, in a speech on 28 July 2005 announcing his candidacy, of his intention if elected to introduce further measures of constitutional and political reform, including measures to “create a better balance” between the executive and the legislature and, within the executive, between the presidency and the cabinet, as well as the repeal of the Emergency Law and its replacement by a new national security or anti-terrorism law.
This was arguably a shrewd and imaginative move. Coming at a moment when opposition resentment over the reform legislation was intense and the national mood extremely sombre and anxious in the wake of the terrorist attacks at Sharm El Sheikh five days earlier, it enabled him to recapture the political initiative and to demonstrate his sensitivity to the reformist currents of domestic opinion. Instead of standing simply on his record, he cast himself as the candidate of further reform, in a manner which, once again, took the opposition entirely by surprise.
A purely cynical interpretation might see Mubarak’s speech as merely another manoeuvre to take the wind out of the opposition’s sails. Just as the original decision to revise article 76 picked up a longstanding opposition demand for popular election to replace ratification by plebiscite in the choice of president, so Mubarak’s latest promises picked up other opposition demands, notably for repeal of the Emergency Law and a limitation of presidential power. If the experience of these past months is a guide, one can expect these reforms to be conceded formally in a way which empties them of substantive content and thereby conserves the status quo. But whether matters actually develop in this way depends in part on the behaviour of the opposition forces themselves.
The disappointing outcome of the “Cairo Spring” underlined the weaknesses of those forces pressing for substantive reform every bit as much as it revealed the limits of the reformist impulses in ruling circles. The opposition badly needs to draw the moral of its own failure between February and July 2005 to influence the government’s agenda effectively if it is to devise a proper strategy aimed at making the most of the fresh opportunity for reform which may soon arise.
III. THE WEAKNESS OF THE OPPOSITION
The opposition today consists of three main categories. The most radical criticisms of the status quo have come from movements calling for reform which are not themselves political parties; the most prominent has been the “Egyptian Movement for Change” (Al-Haraka al-Masriyya min ajli ‘l-Taghyir), widely known by its slogan Kifaya! (Enough!). Since early June a new movement in this category is the “National Rally for Democratic Transformation” (Al-Tagammu’ al-Watani li ‘l-Tahawwul al-Dimuqrati), headed by former Prime Minister Aziz Sedqi.
A second category is that of the legal opposition parties, of which there are now 21. Only four — the Wafd, Tagammu’, the Nasserist Party and Al-Ghad — are in parliament, however. They participated in the National Dialogue with the NDP until March, when they withdrew on the grounds that it served no purpose. Most of the smaller parties, which have little or no public support, continued to participate, and some even fielded candidates in the presidential election. In doing so, they were not challenging the regime but undoubtedly performing a service to it by giving the election a pluralist appearance and splitting any opposition vote. Regardless of the intentions of their leaders and members, they cannot be said to constitute serious opposition forces and will not be given individual consideration here.
Finally, the Society of the Muslim Brothers occupies a category to itself as the oldest political organisation in Egypt (except for the Wafd). It is the only organisation that can claim to rival the NDP in social presence and influence, and the only political organisation with an explicit reference to Islam, by virtue of which it is banned and subject to frequent harassment.
A. THE MOVEMENTS FOR REFORM
Kifaya came to prominence in late 2004 and has garnered the lion’s share of international media attention since. It is an agitational movement which has distinguished itself by vehement attacks on President Mubarak’s rule and above all by its tactic of holding public demonstrations in central Cairo and elsewhere, in defiance of the law. While this breaking of taboos (criticising the President, daring to demonstrate) is seen by many Egyptian as well as external observers as of historic significance, the movement has few other achievements to its credit and has been in some disarray since late May.
From the outset, Kifaya focused on two main targets: the prospect of continued rule by President Mubarak and what it calls “the monopoly of power”, the concentration of decision-making powers in the presidency. A third issue, ancillary to the first two, has been the prospect, which Kifaya strongly opposes, of Gamal Mubarak succeeding his father. Kifaya has made clear its positions on a number of other issues. It calls for an end to the Emergency Law and all other legislation that hinder civil liberties, release of political prisoners, abolition of the Political Parties Committee, independence of the judiciary and of professional syndicates and trade unions, and freedom of the press. But this litany is widely shared and Kifaya’s support has not seriously diluted its concentration on the Mubarak presidency and its “monopoly of power”. The content of its agitation has been overwhelmingly negative. Rather than press for a specific reform, it has agitated against specific, if prominent, aspects of the status quo. Thus, Kifaya has been in essence merely a protest movement.
As such, it can claim to have had a significant short-term impact; the “Kifaya effect” can be seen in the derived or parallel agitations which have developed, notably the protests by university teachers against the presence and interference of state security agents on university campuses. They also include the emergence of sectoral movements that are either off-shoots of Kifaya (such as “Youth For Change”, “Writers for Change”, “Journalists for Change”, “Workers for Change” and even “Peasants for Change” ) or sectoral responses to secondary issues which have arisen, notably in the context of brutal attacks on Kifaya demonstrators on 25 May and 30 July. Among the latter are Shafeinkum (literally: “We Are Watching You”) which aims to put the behaviour of the regime and its security forces in the spotlight and monitor the elections, and Al-Shar’a Lina (“The Streets Belong To Us”). More generally, there is some evidence that Kifaya’s boldness has stimulated the questioning of authority at other levels of society. But it is also possible that this ferment and effervescence will prove short-lived and that, following President Mubarak’s re-election, traditional routines will be reasserted and practices characteristic of the old order re-imposed.
For Kifaya’s agitation has in reality got nowhere with regard to the issues it has prioritised nor gained any other significant concession from the authorities. Its decision to target President Mubarak and the issue of presidential power was arguably a strategic error. The anti-Mubarak line has made little or no impression on the public, for the very good reason that neither Kifaya nor any other opposition force has had a plausible alternative candidate, and no one has doubted Mubarak would get another term. To attack Mubarak as part of a campaign for someone else would have made sense. But that is not what Kifaya has done. Without positive demands, Kifaya’s anti-Mubarak line has come across as an end in itself. Not only has this guaranteed the authorities’ implacable hostility, but it has also divided potential democratic reform forces and left Kifaya at logger-heads with the main opposition parties, isolated and easy prey for repression.
A more effective form of agitation could have given priority to several alternative issues. Thus, the NDP’s near-total monopoly of the political sphere could have been raised without targeting the president personally but rather in a manner the opposition parties could have supported. Alternatively, mobilisation could have focused on positive demands, such as empowerment of the parliament, thereby addressing the issue of presidential power constructively, by identifying in what way the distribution of political power should be reformed, instead of merely attacking the architect and beneficiary of the current distribution. Agitation for the empowerment of parliament might have been less immediately electrifying for domestic opinion and attracted less international attention but it would have tended to unify the opposition, since all parties would stand in principle to benefit, and a unified opposition campaigning over this issue would have stood a far better chance of eventually awakening popular support. Crucially, such agitation would have breached the Muslim Brothers’ near monopoly of the proposal to give more power to parliament and could, therefore, have laid the basis for the development of a non-Islamist opposition capable of competing with the Brothers.
Finally, while going its own way and expressing its indifference to, if not contempt for, the opposition parties, Kifaya from the outset has been fishing for support primarily within the same small microcosm of the political class to which the parties and virtually all their active members belong. Most of its demonstrations have been held in the same few venues in downtown Cairo; as Diaa Rashwan commented to Crisis Group, “observe the demonstrations: where are the masses?” There is a strong case for the view that Kifaya has been incoherent and has lacked an appropriate strategy.
This shortcoming is almost certainly congenital. The movement originally dates from late 2003 and is in essence an evolution of the anti-Mubarak agitation which was already under way in 2002-2003. This was largely Nasserist in outlook, with the Nasserist weekly Al-’arabi setting the pace and various leftist groupings providing reinforcement. While it included calls for constitutional reform, there can be little doubt that this criticism of the Mubarak presidency was primarily rooted in hostility to its foreign and domestic policies (the retreat from Arab nationalism and anti-imperialism and the embracing of neo-liberal economics at the expense of the Nasser era’s paternalist and egalitarian socialism), as distinct from its undemocratic features. While its founders made efforts to enlist activists of other political viewpoints, it is arguably an alliance of Nasserists and Communists which has constituted Kifaya’s core leadership and set its agenda.
This does not mean that such elements are not committed to democratic reform, although it should not be taken for granted: some Nasserists are quite open about their interest in the possibility of the army, reinvigorated with nationalist principles, resolving “the Mubarak question” in its own way, perhaps as the armed forces have just dealt with President Ould Taya in Mauritania. The point is rather that their own political and ideological backgrounds have not equipped them with any experience or understanding of how effective agitation for democratic political reform should be conducted. The failure to understand the crucial strategic importance of prioritising a major positive reform demand as the basis for unifying the opposition and securing popular support has severely limited Kifaya’s appeal even within the democratic reformist wing of the political class. As Bahey El-Din Hassan, director of the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS), told Crisis Group:
I am not a member of Kifaya. Kifaya is dominated by pan-Arabists. It focuses only on the President — not our [CIHRS’s] priority. I agree [with their criticisms of the Mubarak presidency], but who is the replacement? So my focus is to change the political environment, not to replace Mubarak or Gamal Mubarak by someone else.
Lacking clear focus on a positive democratic demand, Kifaya has tried to compensate by publishing documents calling for a new democratic constitution, to be drafted by a constituent assembly, and for a national coalition government to manage the transition to democracy. The obvious problem with these notions — however democratic and attractive they may appear in the abstract — is the unbridgeable gap between ends and means: under present circumstances, Egypt’s opposition forces, even if they managed to combine, would be unable to secure the adoption and practical implementation of either. The ideas are essentially utopian, and appear to have been adopted by Kifaya for form’s sake, since they have not figured prominently in its public rhetoric.
As a result, the movement has proved unable to move beyond its fundamentally negative stance, and this has embroiled it in debilitating controversies. Its hostility towards the regime led it to call for a boycott of both the 25 May referendum and the September presidential elections. This impelled Kifaya to devote its energies to purely negative campaigns on ephemeral issues and thereby demonstrated its limitations as a movement which invariably reacted negatively, by reflex, to the regime’s initiatives instead of trying either to influence these or seize the initiative itself. As well as attracting the wrath of the authorities, this precipitated a division within Kifaya between supporters of the boycott tactic (headed by George Ishak) and opponents and so weakened the movement.
Consequently, the original “Egyptian Movement for Change” has been losing control of the agitation it launched, as autonomous groupings have appropriated the “Kifaya!” slogan and organised their own demonstrations. In recent months, two independent groups, “Youth for Change” (Al-Shabab min ajli ‘l-Taghyir) and “the Popular Campaign” (al-Hamla al-Sha’abiyya) have eclipsed much of the older generation of activists involved in the original movement. A Trotskyist group, the “Revolutionary Socialists” (al-Ishtirakiyyun al-Thawriyyun), has also come to the fore and, if anything, reinforced the intransigent and rejectionist nature of Kifaya agitation. This has further alienated much of the older generation of more realistic socialists who supported the original movement.
The Kifaya agitation, in both its original and more recent, derived variants, has reached a crossroads. Now that President Mubarak has promised to do something about the concentration of power in the presidency, it is very possible Kifaya will be rendered redundant. As long as it fails to advance positive propositions concerning how power is to be redistributed from the presidency to other institutions (such as the prime minister’s office, the Council of Ministers, and above all the parliament), it will have nothing against which to measure Mubarak’s promises or proposals and no alternative to offer to them or to the perspectives of the more radical, younger activists — and its own survival will be in doubt.
2. The National Rally for Democratic Transformation
The movement of former Prime Minister Sedqi (1972-1973, under Sadat) includes in its leadership former Foreign Minister Dr. Murad Ghaleb; a professor of constitutional law, Dr Yahia Gamal; a professor of politics and well-known columnist, Dr Hassan Nafaa; the editor of the weekly Al-Ousboua, Mustafa Bakri, who is the movement’s official spokesperson; and former Housing Minister Hasaballah El-Kafrawy. It announced itself at a press conference in Cairo on 4 June 2005, and its founding conference, at the Lawyers’ Syndicate in Cairo on 13 July, was attended by over 500 people, including Muslim Brothers General Guide Mohamed Mahdy Akef and Kifaya’s George Ishak.
The National Rally distinguishes itself from Kifaya by lack of personal animus against the Mubaraks but above all by tactical prudence. It is not interested in organising demonstrations, and its concern to stick to peaceful methods leads it to envisage a strategy of persuasion aimed at the present regime. It is by no means confident this will work, however. Hassan Nafaa told Crisis Group, “the safest scenario is to try to convince Mubarak to act, but we think this is a non-starter”. In other words, the National Rally appears unsure of its strategy and has not really gone beyond a preliminary statement of its views.
From the outset, it argued that the country’s acute economic and social problems are the result of bad government, that the present regime is characterised above all by “corruption and tyranny”, that it has elevated the former into a “technique of government” and that a new constitution is needed. In his address to the 13 July conference, Aziz Sedqi called for:
a campaign to eradicate corruption (including prosecution of officials) and establish transparency;
repeal of the Emergency Law or at least its suspension during the elections; and
full judicial supervision of all elections.
He also attacked the 25 May referendum results as fraudulent, argued that all the reform legislation passed was accordingly invalid, and called for a boycott of the presidential elections, although the movement subsequently changed its position on the last point. At the same time, he insisted that the parliamentary elections would be the real test for democratic forces and called for all organisations to prepare for them as a unified force in order to pressure the government to organise them fairly.
However, the main thrust of the movement seems to be its critique of corruption. While this has played to Sedqi’s own strengths and resonates with a wider public, it has not been accompanied by specific, practical proposals, beyond suggesting the formation of a “Committee for Eradicating Corruption”. Instead, the National Rally has tended, like Kifaya, to advocate democratic and constitutional reform in the abstract. Hassan Nafaa told Crisis Group:
In order to have real democracy, it is necessary to rewrite the whole constitution. The 1971 constitution is now obsolete. A new constitution is needed which enshrines the principles of democracy, transparency, the separation of powers, and the necessity of checks and balances.
The National Rally has called for “a general meeting of all the national and democratic forces in the country” to draw up a new constitution but no such meeting appears to be in prospect.
B. THE POLITICAL PARTIES
An overriding question is whether or not any regime will tolerate, no less encourage, the development of political institutions beyond the control of the government itself….Since the Nasserist period, all such groups in Egypt have been extensions of the political regime itself, with little effective independence.
1. The party system
The substantial political pluralism which existed in Egypt under the monarchy from the end of the First World War was abolished by the Free Officers following their seizure of power in July 1952. Today’s very limited party-political pluralism is not a revival of the earlier system but the creation of the Free Officers’ regime in its post-Nasser phase. It has been tailored to the requirements of the regime, has functioned to preserve the status quo, and cannot be the source of a serious reform impulse.
The current party system dates from 1976, when President Sadat broke the Arab Socialist Union — the sole legal party — into three distinct parties. He and his government retained control of the centre grouping, which subsequently became the National Democratic Party. The leftwing fragment, led by former Free Officer Khaled Mohieddine, became Tagammu’ (short for the National Rally for Unity and Progress, Al-Tagammu’ Al-Watani Al-Wahdawi Al-Taqadumi) and the rightwing fragment, led by former Free Officer Mustapha Kamal Murad, became the Liberal Party, Al-Ahrar. In 1977, a second leftwing party, the Socialist Labour Party (Hizb Al-Amal Al-Ishtiraki) was authorised, and in 1978 the original party of liberal constitutional nationalism, the Wafd, banned since 1954, was re-legalised as the New Wafd Party. In this way, Sadat played a divide and rule game on the regime’s left and right flanks. Only one additional party was legalised during the 1980s, the Umma Party (1984), but eight new ones were allowed in the 1990s, and six have been authorised over the last five years.
While this multi-party system enables the regime to claim that it is pluralist, indeed democratic, it actually demonstrates the severe limitations of the pluralist principle when unaccompanied by other conditions of democratic government. For the pluralist system has not seriously qualified the very undemocratic nature of the state; far from placing the NDP under the pressure of healthy political competition, in practice it does the opposite. The supervisory control exercised by the state (through the Political Parties Committee and other administrative and legal mechanisms) enables it to manage the system in such a way as to organise competition only among the also-rans — the opposition parties locked in permanent and more or less futile rivalry with one another — while sparing the NDP from any serious challenge. Abu ‘l-Ala Madi, the leader of the (unauthorised) Wasat [Centre] Party and a founder of Kifaya, told Crisis Group:
The regime has been controlling the opposition parties for the last twenty years. Most parties accept this — they are not really in opposition. So opposition is developing outside the parties — notably Kifaya.
The NDP, being the permanent party of government, has a monopoly of state patronage and is easily able to maintain the bulk of its electoral support on this basis. The only other force with patronage at its command is the Muslim Brothers, who derive a substantial amount of support from the social services they provide through various associations. But the Brothers are illegal and thus prevented from capitalising on their social base to constitute a real electoral challenge to the NDP, beyond the limited number of parliamentarians they are able to elect as independents. The legal parties control no patronage whatever and, crucially, have no prospect of acquiring any; they can offer virtually nothing to the electorate, which overwhelmingly ignores them.
The weakness of the opposition parties at the national level is, if anything, exceeded by their weakness in the elected councils which play key roles in the system of local government. Mustafa Kamal El-Sayed told Crisis Group:
The law regulating the elections for these councils is quite a strange one. It allows for electoral lists, but no individual candidacies, and if a list gets 51 per cent of the vote, it wins 100 per cent of the seats. [As a result] the local councils are completely dominated by the NDP.
Moreover, the constitutional requirement that elections to legislative bodies be subject to judicial supervision is prevented from operating in the case of local councils on the grounds that they are part of the executive rather than legislative branch of the state.
This matters all the more because local opinion can be a significant political force. As Sarah Ben Nefissa told Crisis Group, “the electoral game at the local level is not a foregone conclusion”. This was vividly demonstrated in the 2000 legislative elections, when controversial choices of candidates by local NDP sections prompted many disappointed NDP contenders to run as independents against the official NDP candidate and win. (Immediately after their election, these independents rejoined the NDP in the People’s Assembly, where the party’s leaders welcomed them with open arms.) The inability of opposition parties to make headway in municipal and regional elections ensures that political divisions at these levels are played out within the NDP instead of enabling them to put down roots and acquire government experience. The absence of significant party-political competition at the local level is a fundamental factor in the opposition’s chronic weakness at the national level.
In this way, formal pluralism works to guarantee the NDP’s permanent monopoly of power and preclude serious accountability. It ensures that society is denied genuinely representative and accountable government and fosters arbitrary abuse of power and widespread corruption. This is connected to the fact that the parties mostly originate in executive fiat.
2. The opposition parties: creatures of the regime
The Arab Socialist Union, from which the NDP, Tagammu’ and Al-Ahrar all derive, evolved from the Liberation Rally, established by the Free Officers’ regime in 1954. Both the Liberation Rally and its ASU successor were in reality state apparatuses. They were not political groupings which had formed within the parliament, nor autonomous movements developed by elements of society, nor the expression of a particular ideology or program vision; they were set up by an essentially military regime to perform legitimating and co-opting functions on its behalf.
This means that neither the NDP nor the vast majority (if not the totality) of the other so-called parties are really political parties as this term is understood in Western democracies. Some members of the political class are well aware of this. A prominent analyst calls the NDP “a state apparatus”. Academic and columnist Hassan Nafaa told Crisis Group:
The NDP is not a real political party. It is not an ideological trend. It represents only those who wish to be linked to the state. It was formed after Sadat was in power. The president created the party to support the president in power. No separation exists between state and party.
In fact, however, most of the parties which have been legalised since 1976 have similarly been the product of government fiat. The only important exception has been the Wafd, which claims a history going back to 1919. But it is only a partial exception, since it owes its legal existence today to the government, like all the others.
A striking feature is that the parties have very little inner life and consequently very little appeal even to those with an impulse to political activism. Typically, opposition parties are (like the NDP) led by immovable and aging autocrats, who tend to ignore or stifle internal dissent rather than encourage debate and its arbitration by democratic procedures. This is particularly evident in the leftist Tagammu’ party, whose leader, Rifaat Said, is accused by senior figures of ignoring party policy on key questions, but there are comparable divisions within the Nasserist party and the Wafd and indeed within most parties to some degree.
One consequence is the frustration of party activists and a tendency for young, dynamic figures to break away and found new parties. At times, it is the party leaders themselves, unwilling or unable to accommodate younger talent, who have precipitated their departure. Thus, Ayman Nour, a rising star in the Wafd, fell out with its leader, No’man Goma’a, and was expelled in March 2001; after a period as an independent parliamentarian and brief membership in the Misr Party, he founded Al-Ghad. Similarly, Hamdine Sabahy a popular young independent Nasserist parliamentarian who has also been a target of the regime’s repressive reflex, clashed with the party’s leader, Dia al-Din Dawoud, and broke away to found Hizb al-Karama (the Dignity Party), which has yet to be authorised. The founder of the Centre Party (Hizb al-Wasat), Abu ‘l-Ala Madi, who broke with the Muslim Brothers in the mid-1990s to launch his new venture, is in some respects a similar case.
These splits have not been based primarily on ideological or even program differences: Al-Ghad shares the same liberal outlook as the Wafd, and Al-Karama retains the main elements of the Nasserist vision. Rather, the ambitious younger activists who have led these breakaways have, with some reason, held the autocratic leaders of their previous parties primarily responsible for the problem. Ironically, their own behaviour has tended to imitate that of the old leaders. Al-Ghad, for example, has been almost exclusively identified with Ayman Nour; while his qualities as an orator with the common touch are widely appreciated, stand in marked contrast to Goma’a and help explain his higher vote in the presidential election, his party leadership has been highly individualist and autocratic. His former party colleague, Mona Makram Ebeid, said:
Ayman has no way of thinking about structure….[He] does everything. He is the head of the party. He is the editor in chief [of its paper, Al-Ghad]. He is a member of parliament. He is the head of the Board. He does not listen to anyone.
Thus these breakaways have not resolved the problems underlying Egypt’s political stagnation, the primary source of the frustration to which they bear witness. The founding of Al-Ghad, for example, aggravated the fragmentation and thus the political weakness of the liberal wing of the political class, which had already been in severe difficulties given the regime’s adoption of a liberal economic and social agenda. They are symptomatic of a general impasse within political life which the established opposition parties are unable to transcend.
In the words of Mona Makram Ebeid:
Everything that happens in these opposition parties is a mirror of the system and the governing party: the centralisation of power, the undemocratic mentality, the lack of openness to different ideas, the lack of teamwork, the lack of vision, the failure to come up with alternatives, the neglect to build up grass-roots support.
This state of affairs has meant that, notwithstanding Western media hyping of Ayman Nour’s prospects, the opposition has been incapable of producing a plausible alternative to President Mubarak, given the government’s longstanding refusal to allow the Muslim Brothers to function as a legal party.
3. The vicious circle
Over the years, the regime undoubtedly has deliberately connived at the weakness of the opposition parties. But the situation today is not one that can be easily or quickly turned around, in view of the degree of public alienation from political life and the resulting isolation of the political elite. Diaa Rashwan told Crisis Group:
The problem is much deeper than the weakness of the parties.…We do not have a real political demand in the country. For the Egyptian masses, the real demands are socio-economic. Where the masses are concerned, we don’t find big numbers demanding political rights. Political demands concern the Egyptian elite, not the masses. This is why the elite is isolated….It is also why we cannot have a Georgia or Ukraine here. Only external affairs issues — Palestine, Iraq — get the people onto the streets.
However, while the “lack of political demand” can be treated as a given today, it is itself a product of other factors, which can be identified and, in principle, addressed. One has already been mentioned: how the opposition parties are effectively frozen out of competition for control of local government and thereby prevented from informing and mobilising political opinion at the grass roots.
A second factor relates directly to another element of government policy, namely the law on non-governmental organisations, which makes a radical distinction between associations — which must be non-political (article 11) — and parties, and works to keep the two far apart. An association may not have political purposes or objectives, and may, therefore, not have ties with or proclaim its support for a party. Denied the right to develop formal links with the voluntary sector, the parties are kept in a state of virtual social quarantine, which severely limits (if not wholly precludes) their capacity to perform a serious representative function. Meanwhile the NDP, through its control of or identification with the state and government, maintains strong patron-client links with many associations and can count on their electoral support.
A third factor, which powerfully reinforces the first two, is the Emergency Law. It authorises the government to prohibit strikes, demonstrations and public meetings and censor or close newspapers in the name of national security and so is a major, permanent constraint on political freedoms in general and the public activities of the opposition parties in particular.
The most fundamental factor, however, is the extreme weakness of the state’s legislative branch in relation to the executive. That the parliament is not a major arena of decision-making but merely rubber-stamps decisions taken elsewhere (in the Council of Ministers and, above all, the Presidency) has several consequences:
the government is to a large degree technocratic. A significant element of each ministerial team is drawn from business or the professions (doctors, university teachers) and is entrusted with portfolios on the strength of technical expertise, despite having no political experience or standing. Thus, the government stands in an arbitrary relationship to even the notional system of political representation centred on the national parliament and “individuals with the capacity to mediate among diverse groups or mobilise multiple constituencies are in short supply”.
the numerous voluntary associations are oriented directly to the executive — the ministerial departments and administration — rather than the legislature. As a result, many if not most notionally independent voluntary associations and NGOs are the clients in some degree of the executive, which possesses considerable powers of supervision, including the ability to influence the composition of their boards, intervene in and impose binding arbitration on internal disputes and dissolve them outright. They are accordingly prevented from furnishing organised constituencies to opposition parties;
much of society is relatively indifferent to the rigging of legislative elections. The protests of the opposition parties and human rights groups have not been widely echoed; business and organised labour — which have direct access to government — have been wholly unconcerned. Were parliament to become a serious arena of decision-making, this indifference would likely disappear, and opposition parties could increase their tally of seats and acquire the strength to challenge the laws which load the dice against them and guarantee NDP dominance; and
because it is unable to curb the executive, the legislative branch cannot help to guarantee the independence of the judiciary.
The weakness of the national parliament and its consequent lack of authority and standing in public life are made clear by the casual manner and impunity with which the government violates the immunity of opposition parliamentarians when it chooses. They are also routinely reconfirmed by the votes at regular intervals to renew the Emergency Law.
A vicious circle is in operation. The identifiable consequences of the chronic weakness of the national parliament ensure the chronic weakness of the opposition parties and the permanent domination of political life at all levels by the executive branch and the NDP, the two being very largely identified with one another. An important general corollary of this syndrome, which prevents the various parties from having any stimulating effect on one another as well as from exercising any genuinely representative function, is the sheer dearth of political talent. Diaa Rashwan said:
Everyone knows the political parties are in crisis. Should Mubarak not be a candidate, even the NDP would have a problem choosing a national candidate….The parties must become nurseries of politicians.
However, in present circumstances this is largely precluded.
C. THE MUSLIM BROTHERS, AN AMBIGUOUS PRESENCE
The Society of the Muslim Brothers has been prominent in the events of the last eight months but the net effect arguably has been minimal. The Brothers’ general attitude appears to have been one of prudent watchfulness, sceptical of the reform potential of the initiatives taken by others and concerned above all to safeguard their own position and influence.
While they initially welcomed President Mubarak’s announcement concerning the amendment of article 76, they coupled this with statements that it was insufficient on its own and wary concern about the conditions that would be attached. Issam Elerian told Crisis Group that he thought the president’s amendment meant that Egypt was merely following the Tunisian model and added, “we remember Sadat’s very nice amendment to the constitution in 1976 and the talk of a multi-party system then. We are not going to be bitten twice by the same snake”.
Subsequently, as the very restrictive conditions of eligibility became clear in April-May 2005, the Brothers decided the revision had been “emptied of all meaning”, strongly denounced this and called for a boycott of the 25 May referendum. They took care not to call for a boycott of the presidential election, while publicly encouraging their members to vote as their consciences dictated. The turnout and results suggest the Brothers made no serious attempt to influence the election by throwing their weight behind any candidate, preferring to conserve their strength for another day.
The Brothers have been similarly cautious towards Kifaya. They allowed their members to join on an individual basis and at no point overtly opposed its activity. They made clear, however, their differences early on. Elerian told Crisis Group:
Unfortunately the Kifaya movement has the wrong goal; they stress the amendment of the constitution. We support this but we don’t make it the first priority. The priority is to end the situation of martial law and the false multi-party system.
Before long, they began to organise their own demonstrations, a move most probably chiefly motivated by concern not to allow Kifaya a monopoly of the street. These demonstrations marched to the Brothers’ distinctive agenda and slogans (demanding more freedom, real reform and an end to the Emergency Law) and massively dwarfed Kifaya’s, thus reminding all that the Brothers, not the upstart Kifaya, are the real force capable of mobilizing the public.
This lesson was delivered at a price for the demonstrations crossed a red line. The unwritten rule had been that the Brothers could hold occasional big demonstrations on foreign policy issues (Palestine, Iraq, etc.), with regime agreement but a challenge on domestic issues was another matter. The authorities reacted vigorously, arresting hundreds of Brothers on 27 April, up to 1,500 on 4 May and several hundred more on 6 May, the latter including Issam Elerian and three other senior leaders. On 22 May, following the call to boycott the referendum, Secretary General Mahmoud Ezzat was arrested. By early June, the Brothers were claiming some 3,000 members had been arrested, of whom 861 were still in prison, “held in very bad conditions”. Most of these were eventually freed, including Ezzat (28 August). For reasons that are quite unclear, Elerian remains in detention.
Having flexed their muscles, the Brothers then made their own offer of leadership to the reform movement by sponsoring establishment of “The National Alliance for Reform” (Al-Tahâluf al-Watani li ‘l-Islah), intended to unify all reform currents, but this did not get far. Although several organisations and parties, including Kifaya and the Wafd, attended the founding meeting at the Journalists’ Syndicate in Cairo on 13 June, they mostly stayed out of the Alliance, which was eventually reduced to the Brothers and the “Revolutionary Socialist” grouping. It quickly showed its limits when the constituent elements were unable to agree on slogans at a joint demonstration in Cairo on 20 July; the leftist marchers went back on their commitment not to shout anti-Mubarak slogans, at which point the Brothers first drowned them out with Islamist slogans and then, abruptly, abandoned the demonstration.
The collapse of this initiative left the Brothers face to face with the regime and rumours began to circulate of a back-door “deal”. But the low-key stance which the Brothers adopted during the presidential election fell a long way short of supporting Mubarak — something which General Guide Mohamed Mahdy Akef’s public call on the Brothers and their supporters to vote as they wished, but not for “tyrants”, implicitly ruled out. Subsequent remarks by Akef suggested a willingness to consider abandoning the Brothers’ long-standing ambition to become a legal party and renew ties with the Wafd instead. But it is not certain that Akef was speaking for the movement as a whole on this key issue, and the Brothers may be divided over their strategic options.
In short, nothing has been resolved concerning the Brothers’ status and ambiguous political role. That said, while the legal parties have shied away from involvement in the Brothers’ initiatives, their attitude toward the movement’s inclusion in normal political life varies. Newcomers Kifaya and Al-Ghad tend to a clear-cut position. Ayman Nour told Crisis Group, “we respect them and the fact that they are a political current for nearly 80 years now. We are in favour of their being legal”. For Kifaya, George Ishak commented:
I appreciate that they will be a political party; let them show themselves. I believe that, if they were able to compete in an election, they would win 10 to 15 per cent. But for as long as they are forced to remain in hiding, people think there are three or four million of them; this is not true: there are 30,000 to 40,000 of them, no more.
The older parties have tended to be more nuanced. The Nasserist Party favours involving “the Muslim Brothers and the Islamist current” in the political process and “supports a legal party for Islamists” — a position which stops short of supporting legalisation of the Brothers as a party while not excluding this if certain conditions are met. Tagammu’ is clearly split: its leader, Rifaat Saïd, is well known for his opposition to Islamists in general and the Brothers in particular, but other senior figures take a different view. Abd al-Ghaffar Shukr said:
Hussein Abd al-Razzaq and I and others in the leadership see the importance of dealing with the Muslim Brothers and encouraging them to be more moderate, and the importance to Egypt of a civil party [hizb madani] with an Islamic background.
This position is close, if not identical, to the Nasserists’. Outside the formal parties, support for legalisation also appears to have grown within the reformist wing of the intelligentsia. Amr El-Choubaki, an analyst, said:
It is possible to integrate them. But this requires, first, a serious democratic process which integrates political activists generally, and then, on the Brothers’ side, they have to decide, to choose, between al-da’wa [the religious mission] and al-haraka al-siyassa [the political movement].
Substantially the same view was presented by Mohamed El-Sayed Saïd, deputy director of the Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, who insisted that it was important for the Brothers to become “a civil party instead of a religious movement in order to reduce the risk of splitting the country into Muslims and Christians. We have to negotiate with them the transition to a political party”. But he warned this was easier said than done, given the danger that any change might be a matter “only of changing names. For the heart is the heart, motives are motives…”
Saïd’s remark raises the key and very problematical question: what does the requirement for the Brothers to become a “civil” as opposed to a “religious” party mean in practice? If it means they should not be led by clerics (the ‘ulama, religious leaders), this is already the case. If it means they should renounce the religious basis of their political convictions, this is arguably demanding the impossible or requiring them to engage in massive hypocrisy (as Said suggests). If it means they should abandon the religious missionary work — al-da’wa — at the core of their broader social activism, this is demanding that they somehow quarantine their political activity from the other activities which found their social presence, thereby reducing their capacity to provide political representation for their social constituency, or abandon these other activities altogether, a step they almost certainly will refuse to take.
The lack of clarity of opposition viewpoints on this issue is connected to the fact that they are in reality little more than variations on the position of the regime itself, which has refused to countenance “religious parties” as a matter of principle since Sadat’s introduction of formal multi-partyism in 1976. Quite apart from its illiberal aspect, there are two major problems with this principle.
The first is that the meaning of “religious” here is unclear. If the objection is to a confessional party that only Muslims might join, the Brothers can truthfully reply that they have long been willing to accept non-Muslims, notably Copts, as members. If the objection is to a sectarian party expressing hostility towards Egyptians of other faiths, this principle need not imply a ban on religious parties as such, but would be adequately dealt with by a law banning the incitement of religious intolerance. Why a party founded on religious beliefs but which is neither strictly confessional nor aggressively sectarian should be banned is unclear.
The second is that, if the real objection is to the exploitation of the Islamic religion for partisan purposes, the regime itself can reasonably be accused of practising what it deplores. The NDP’s permanent monopoly of political power means that the principle of state supervision of the religious sphere has become confused with the NDP’s control of official Islam and its manipulation of this for partisan advantage. A notable recent instance was when both leading official ‘ulama and the minister for religious endowments called on all Egyptians to vote in the 25 May referendum on the amendment of article 76 — an amendment all major opposition parties opposed — as a religious duty. To sustain the principle that Islam should be above party politics requires at the very least that the NDP itself respect this principle, which in turn requires the state supervision of official Islam to be explicitly and radically dissociated from the NDP.
The regime has seemed on much firmer ground when arguing pragmatically that to legalise the Brothers as a party would be to repeat Algeria’s mistake and destabilise the country. But what destabilised Algeria was not the legalisation of Islamist parties as such, but the decision to legalise the Islamic Salvation Front (Front Islamique du Salut, FIS) in 1989 at a time when other opposition parties were in disarray or did not yet exist, and thereby allow the FIS to acquire a monopoly of radical populist opposition to the regime and bitterly polarise the country. To allow the Muslim Brothers, who are in any case a much more sober and prudent movement than Algeria’s FIS originally was, to compete as a political party would pose little threat to stability once the secular opposition parties have been allowed to establish themselves as significant players with their own shares of popular audiences, such that a proper balance exists in the political sphere.
Achieving this balance will not be easy and will on the most optimistic assessments take several years at least. It follows that early legalisation of the Brothers as a political party would be potentially destabilising and unwise, especially in view of the existence of a substantial Christian minority (a factor crucially absent from the Algerian equation). Egypt’s Copts would almost certainly feel gravely threatened by the legalisation of the Brothers in advance of other broader political reforms. They suffer a significant degree of informal religious discrimination in public life as it is, especially in the liberal professions in which they are prominent, and some, possibly many, view the prospect of further Islamist advances in public life with great anxiety. At present, they largely support the regime and the NDP in return for what they see as its protection against the advance of the Islamist movement; should the regime abruptly legalise the Muslim Brothers before taking other vital measures of reform such as ensure satisfactory representation for Copts through other effective political channels, there is a real risk that some Copts would react by establishing a confessional Christian party.
Thus, as Saïd warned, the possibility of a new political polarisation along confessional-sectarian lines cannot be discounted. It would not represent an advance towards democracy, and it is extremely important that external pressure for political reform should not have the effect of pushing Egypt towards this scenario.
A proper public debate over these matters is yet to take place. As a result, it is unclear whether overall support for legalisation has grown. The position of the government and the NDP remains unchanged. As a senior figure in the NDP’s Policies Secretariat insisted, “we can’t allow them to form a political party”. (The proposal that the Brothers should be brought within the law as an association rather than as a political party, at least in the first instance, has not been given serious consideration to date. ) But, given the pressure that has developed in especially U.S. and British media commentary in recent months, the authorities may find it increasingly difficult to duck the issue, especially if they continue to deny serious prospects of development to the non-Islamist opposition. Some elements of the NDP’s reformist wing seem to recognise that if they do not allow secular parties to spread their wings, they will be forced to legalise the Brothers. Mohamed Kamal, of the NDP Policies Secretariat, said:
In the future, definitely, the issue of the relation of religion with the state will have to be resolved. There is a definite need to integrate [the Brothers] into the political system. Personally, I am against legalising them as a political party. I think the solution is to enhance and strengthen the secular political parties in order to fill the vacuum in the political system that is being filled by the Islamists.
Reliance on the development of a strong non-Islamist political opposition rather than the Brothers’ legalisation as a party appears to be the formal position of the NDP’s Policies Secretariat headed by Gamal Mubarak. As a senior party official put it, they envisage the emergence of a new credible opposition party “in the next five to ten years”. There is no guarantee that this will occur, of course, and the NDP as well as the state with which it is intertwined may well continue to prevent significant development of the secular opposition. As Professor Mustafa Kamel El Sayed explains, a major argument in favour of legalising the Brothers is precisely that:
only this would revitalize the NDP and ensure fair elections. Other parties don’t have large followings, so unless there is a big change in the law on political parties, there can be no revitalisation of Egyptian politics except through the integration of the Muslim Brothers. If there is neither a radical reform of the law on political parties nor an integrations of the Muslim Brothers, then: plus ça change, plus c’est la meme chose.
IV. RETHINKING THE STRATEGY OF REFORM
A. MUBARAK’S JULY SURPRISE
In his 28 July 2005 speech, President Mubarak outlined an entirely new agenda of constitutional and legislative reforms, to:
“reshape the relationship between the legislative and executive authorities in a way that creates a greater balance between them and strengthens the parliament’s role in ensuring oversight and accountability”;
“reinforce the cabinet’s role, widen its mandate and further the scope of government participation with the president in the duties of the executive authority”;
“provide the best electoral system which guarantees an increased chance for party representation in our representative councils, and will consolidate the presence and representation of women in parliament”;
“bring about a new and enhanced concept for local administration, strengthening its powers and furthering decentralisation”;
“entail further checks on the powers of the president”; and
“provides a legislative substitute to combat terrorism and replace the current Emergency Law”.
This is a remarkable agenda. It picks up on the complaints of Kifaya and others about the excessive concentration of power in the presidency and proposes not only to introduce checks on the exercise of presidential power but also to redistribute power to other instances within the executive branch (the prime minister, the cabinet) and to parliament. It also at least appears to envisage reform of the electoral system and of local government and repeal of the Emergency Law and its replacement by anti-terrorism legislation. A notable absence is any proposal to safeguard or restore the independence of the judiciary but, while this is a significant omission, these proposals are more comprehensive and, in principle, more important than the amendment to article 76 announced last February.
In this way, President Mubarak stole a march on the opposition and regained the political initiative. Where Kifaya had merely posed the problem of “monopoly of power”, Mubarak offered a coherent and potentially far-reaching answer to it which, in its reference to parliamentary oversight and accountability, is also, potentially, an element of the answer to the problem of corruption raised by Aziz Sedqi’s movement and others.
In light of the way the legislative program of April-July was steamrollered over opposition objections, it is unrealistic to suppose that Mubarak made this new move in response to domestic pressure. Rather, he was almost certainly responding primarily to U.S. pressure, as expressed by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in her speech at the American University in Cairo on 20 June 2005 and perhaps also as relayed by the NDP’s Policies Secretariat. Important questions arise, including whether he is in earnest about these proposals and how he proposes to realise these reforms if the opposition parties remain shackled by laws, some enacted as recently as June and July.
There is a serious danger that opposition circles will fail to ask these and related questions and instead adopt a cynical attitude. The temptation to do so is understandable, given the regime’s record. The vagueness of the proposals, it could be argued, suggest that nothing definite or desirable is in prospect. But to base their response to Mubarak’s agenda on negative experience and a cynical interpretation of his intentions could well be to waste a major opportunity. The conception outlined at Menoufiyah was just that, an outline, in which the President left himself room for manoeuvre. It is entirely possible that, if implementation of this agenda is left to the regime alone, it will produce predominantly token changes. Yet, at a minimum it has opened up for debate a range of fundamental issues and put forward general principles which opposition forces can accept, indeed welcome as Mubarak’s belated conversion to key aspects of their own views. And its very vagueness provides the opposition the opportunity to respond with precise propositions of its own.
This is what the opposition parties and reform movements should now do. The alternative is to adopt a passive, wait-and-see, stance which would tend to minimise the reform potential of the new agenda and confirm the opposition’s irrelevance. But if the opposition is to make itself truly relevant and become a significant player in the new phase of reform now in prospect, it is essential that it draws the main lessons from the experience of the last eight months.
B. THE NEED FOR A UNIFYING IDEA AND STRATEGIC DEMAND
Most if not all of the opposition forces — whether movements such as Kifaya and the National Rally, the legal parties or the Muslim Brothers — have paid lip service to the ideal of unifying their political energies in the quest for progressive reform. In practice, however, unity has been achieved only on the basis of negative ideas (“Enough!”, “Against monopoly of power”, “Against corruption”) or highly abstract notions (“Change”, “Transformation”) or utopian proposals (for example, to rewrite the constitution from scratch). Such notions cannot be the foundation for substantial political unity; such unity as they have prompted has proved ephemeral. Only a clear, positive and realisable proposal can unify opposition energies on a sustainable basis.
Several proposals for reform might reasonably be advocated with some hope of eventually making headway. These include the proposal, supported by most major opposition parties, to abolish the Political Parties Committee as an indefensible constraint on the legitimate rights of constitutional opposition parties and the proposal to reform the system of local elections so as to end the NDP’s monopoly of local government. They also include the proposal to revise the law on NGOs to allow them to develop links with legal political parties and permit associations with political objectives that are not, and do not aspire to be, parties seeking public office through elections but which nonetheless have important contributions to make to political life as sources of ideas. All deserve to be advocated energetically in the coming months but on their own are probably too specific to unify the opposition as a whole.
There is, however, an important demand for political reform which is consistent with the three partial reforms mentioned above and on which most if not all opposition forces agree in principle: the demand for the empowerment of parliament. Three of the main opposition parties — the Wafd, Tagammu’ and Al-Ghad — explicitly support this, as do the Muslim Brothers. It is, as explained, a precondition for ending the rigging of legislative elections, and the development of parliamentary oversight is arguably a precondition for curbing corruption. More generally, the ability of the legislative branch to curb the executive is a fundamental precondition for the independence of the judiciary.
Above all, the empowerment of parliament is a precondition for the renewal of political life and the reinvigoration of parties. It is a demand which President Mubarak implicitly committed himself to conceding, at least in some degree. By doing so, he implicitly acknowledged that, far from weakening the state, it would be in its interest.
The potential significance of this should not be missed. Many democratic reform measures are resisted by governments, in the Middle East and North Africa as elsewhere, because they are perceived as weakening the state. However, redistribution of power in some degree from the executive to the legislative branch can be defended as making for better, more effective and more legitimate government and thus strengthening the state as a whole. The fact that President Mubarak is now an advocate of reforms to achieve “a greater balance” between the executive and the legislature means that opposition advocates can claim to be promoting the national interest, and his government can no longer stigmatise them as disloyal or subversive. This creates the possibility for a real political debate that might conceivably result in a substantial degree of national consensus on the eventual reform.
It is, therefore, open to the opposition to make it their central strategic objective to ensure that the reform ultimately enacted on this matter turns out to be substantial. And in developing a campaign with this perspective, it should have a better opportunity than in many years to attract the attention of the depoliticised and apolitical mass of the population, since the empowerment of parliament is also, and crucially, the precondition for the effective representation of ordinary Egyptians.
It should be possible for the main opposition parties to form an electoral block on the basis of an agreed set of proposals for democratic reform and to seek the support of the electorate for these demands in the parliamentary elections. A multi-party block (kutla) is a familiar tactic in contemporary Arab politics, and there is no good reason for the Egyptian opposition parties to resist this. A unified opposition campaign with these objectives and politically competent leadership could make an impression on the wider population that none of the opposition parties and reform movements on their own have been able to do. The initiative could transform the condition of the opposition as a whole, enable it to overcome its debilitating divisions and become collectively a significant player in the reform process.
If something of this sort does not happen in time for this year’s parliamentary elections, it will be five years before another chance presents itself, and the opposition parties will have condemned themselves to impotence and irrelevance. In light of the severe limitations of the extra-parliamentary reform movements, such a failure by the main opposition parties would confirm the impotence of the opposition as a whole and confront onlookers with the reality that President Mubarak with his new agenda is the only horse running.
For external forces, and especially Washington, to insist on political reform when the internal forces pressing for it were extremely weak, largely unrepresented in parliament and wholly incapable of influencing the deliberative and legislative processes, was virtually to ask for the mere tinkering and purely cosmetic changes which have occurred. If Iraq shows the difficulty of promoting democratic ideals via militarily-enforced regime change, Egypt demonstrates that substantive democratisation cannot result from rhetorical and diplomatic pressure at a time when the internal balance of forces is clearly unfavourable.
The Egyptian authorities have to be persuaded that it is in their interest to allow more freedom of action to constitutional opposition parties and movements which are loyal to the state but opposed to the NDP. This requires them to see their interest in clarifying and rectifying the relationship between state and NDP and establishing a very clear distinction between the two. But it also requires them to recognise that effective government needs the ruling party to be subject to criticism and scrutiny such as only a strong parliamentary opposition can provide and that, for this criticism and scrutiny to be truly effective, it must emanate from an opposition party which is a credible electoral rival. In short, the authorities must be persuaded to accept the need for a peaceful revolution, the abandonment of the repressive instruments of the now decadent Free Officers’ State and the advent of genuine electoral competition for government office permitting, through regular alternation in power, the true enfranchisement of the people.
This may seem a tall order. But it would be a mistake for supporters of democratic reform to act on the assumption that the authorities cannot be persuaded, for the very good reason that major change is actually inevitable.
It is universally understood that President Mubarak has now begun his final term and will leave the political stage in 2011 at the latest. Whoever succeeds him, it can be said with near certainty, will not be able to govern Egypt in the way Mubarak has governed it. The great concentration of power in the presidency, which Kifaya and others have deplored and Mubarak himself has now undertaken to reduce, has not been solely an effect of constitutional texts, but has been built up over the years. Having held a succession of military commands, Mubarak brought considerable managerial experience and a reputation for competence to the presidency, and he has built on that consistently over the last 24 years. His successor will not bring anything like the same personal authority to the office. The concentration of power in the presidency will inevitably go into reverse on Mubarak’s departure.
It is not in the state’s interest that this process be unplanned and anarchic. It is especially important that it not lead to a multiplication of rival power centres within the executive itself. Whether or not Mubarak’s proposals are consciously based on the realisation that some redistribution of power is unavoidable and needs to be managed intelligently in advance, they can be strongly defended on that basis.
Thought-out proposals by the opposition parties and reform movements on this matter can be defended on the same grounds. They should be able to make full use of the argument that, should Gamal Mubarak become a presidential candidate, his succession would gain in legitimacy in proportion to the degree of real consensus achieved between government and opposition on the redistribution of power and prerogatives between the executive and the legislature and between the government and the opposition parties that will have been arranged in the meantime.
Thus, the task of winning reform through political argument and persuasion should not be shirked, however onerous and unpromising it may appear at present. It is open to opposition forces pressing for reform to take the president at his word and put him under pressure to prove that he is in earnest by following the logic of his own declarations. Much depends on whether they do this with the required unity, energy, persistence and intelligence.
In the short term, the legislative elections offer an opportunity to President Mubarak to make a highly significant gesture to the opposition parties that would establish a wholly new degree of confidence in him and lay the basis for a serious and fruitful debate on reform in the succeeding months. This would be to accept the view of the Judges Club as to how the constitutional requirement of judicial supervision of the elections should be interpreted and put into practice.
Western governments and the U.S. in particular should support this idea. It would be a mistake for them to focus on international election monitors, which would be to insist on empowering non-Egyptians and thus confuse the issue. It is the legitimate Egyptian actors — judges, political parties and national NGOs engaged in monitoring — who need to be empowered if the election process and results are to be accepted as valid and thus produce a parliament with the authority to discharge its functions and assume new ones.
Finally, it also is important that the various actors recognise the scale and variety of the problems to be resolved and frame their time horizons realistically and responsibly. In particular, Western governments should neither press unthinkingly for early legalisation of the Muslim Brothers as a party nor endorse the regime’s conservatism and inertia on this question. Rather they should encourage it to address the issue seriously in all its complexities: the need to legalise the Muslim Brotherhood quickly as an association; the need to allow other political parties to develop their social presence so as to reduce the risk of instability; and, in time, the need to allow the Muslim Brothers to participate collectively in political life. What needs to be initiated now is a far-reaching process of genuine, not cosmetic, reform, which deals with the real political problems of the state and devises progressive solutions that, by enlarging the space for debate and fostering purposeful participation, harness a wider range of energies and improve the political climate.
No quick fixes are possible. External pressure to “produce results” in short order should not be applied. Advice is another matter, however. And if the NDP reformers are sincere about wanting to see a credible opposition party emerge over the next five years or so, they would be well advised to recognise that the time to start making that possible is now.
Cairo/Brussels, 4 October 2005
MAP OF EGYPT
ABOUT THE INTERNATIONAL CRISIS GROUP
The International Crisis Group (Crisis Group) is an independent, non-profit, non-governmental organisation, with over 110 staff members on five continents, working through field-based analysis and high-level advocacy to prevent and resolve deadly conflict.
Crisis Group’s approach is grounded in field research. Teams of political analysts are located within or close by countries at risk of outbreak, escalation or recurrence of violent conflict. Based on information and assessments from the field, it produces analytical reports containing practical recommendations targeted at key international decision-takers. Crisis Group also publishes CrisisWatch, a twelve-page monthly bulletin, providing a succinct regular update on the state of play in all the most significant situations of conflict or potential conflict around the world.
Crisis Group’s reports and briefing papers are distributed widely by email and printed copy to officials in foreign ministries and international organisations and made available simultaneously on the website, www.crisisgroup.org. Crisis Group works closely with governments and those who influence them, including the media, to highlight its crisis analyses and to generate support for its policy prescriptions.
The Crisis Group Board — which includes prominent figures from the fields of politics, diplomacy, business and the media — is directly involved in helping to bring the reports and recommendations to the attention of senior policy-makers around the world. Crisis Group is chaired by Lord Patten of Barnes, former European Commissioner for External Relations. President and Chief Executive since January 2000 is former Australian Foreign Minister Gareth Evans.
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Further information about Crisis Group can be obtained from our website: www.crisisgroup.org
CRISIS GROUP REPORTS AND BRIEFINGS ON MIDDLE EAST AND NORTH AFRICA
A Time to Lead: The International Community and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, Middle East Report N°1, 10 April 2002
Middle East Endgame I: Getting to a Comprehensive Arab-Israeli Peace Settlement, Middle East Report N°2, 16 July 2002
Middle East Endgame II: How a Comprehensive Israeli-Palestinian Settlement Would Look, Middle East Report N°3; 16 July 2002
Middle East Endgame III: Israel, Syria and Lebanon — How Comprehensive Peace Settlements Would Look, Middle East Report N°4, 16 July 2002
The Meanings of Palestinian Reform, Middle East Briefing Nº2, 12 November 2002
Old Games, New Rules: Conflict on the Israel-Lebanon Border, Middle East Report N°7, 18 November 2002
Islamic Social Welfare Activism in the Occupied Palestinian Territories: A Legitimate Target?, Middle East Report N°13, 2 April 2003
A Middle East Roadmap to Where?, Middle East Report N°14, 2 May 2003
The Israeli-Palestinian Roadmap: What A Settlement Freeze Means And Why It Matters, Middle East Report N°16, 25 July 2003
Hizbollah: Rebel without a Cause?, Middle East Briefing Nº7, 30 July 2003
Dealing With Hamas, Middle East Report N°21, 26 January 2004 (also available in Arabic)
Palestinian Refugees and the Politics of Peacemaking, Middle East Report N°22, 5 February 2004
Syria under Bashar (I): Foreign Policy Challenges, Middle East Report N°23, 11 February 2004 (also available in Arabic)
Syria under Bashar (II): Domestic Policy Challenges, Middle East Report N°24, 11 February 2004 (also available in Arabic)
Identity Crisis: Israel and its Arab Citizens, Middle East Report N°25, 4 March 2004
The Broader Middle East and North Africa Initiative: Imperilled at Birth, Middle East Briefing Nº13, 7 June 2004
Who Governs the West Bank? Palestinian Administration under Israeli Occupation, Middle East Report N°32, 28 September 2004 (also available in Arabic and in Hebrew)
After Arafat? Challenges and Prospects, Middle East Briefing N°16, 23 December 2004 (also available in Arabic)
Disengagement and After: Where Next for Sharon and the Likud?, Middle East Report N°36, 1 March 2005 (also available in Arabic and in Hebrew)
Syria After Lebanon, Lebanon After Syria, Middle East Report N°39, 12 April 2005 (also available in Arabic)
Mr Abbas Goes to Washington: Can He Still Succeed?, Middle East Briefing N°17, 24 May 2005
Disengagement and Its Discontents: What Will the Israeli Settlers Do?, Middle East Report N°43, 7 July 2005 (also available in Arabic)
The Jerusalem Powder Keg, Middle East Report N°44, 2 August 2005
Diminishing Returns: Algeria’s 2002 Legislative Elections, Middle East/North Africa Briefing Nº1, 24 June 2002
Algeria: Unrest and Impasse in Kabylia, Middle East/North Africa Report N°15, 10 June 2003 (also available in French)
The Challenge of Political Reform: Egypt after the Iraq War, Middle East/North Africa Briefing Nº9, 30 September 2003
Islamism in North Africa I: The Legacies of History, Middle East/North Africa Briefing Nº12, 20 April 2004)
Islamism in North Africa II: Egypt’s Opportunity, Middle East/North Africa Briefing Nº13, 20 April 2004
Islamism, Violence and Reform in Algeria: Turning the Page, Middle East/North Africa Report Nº29, 30 July 2004 (also available in Arabic and in French)
Understanding Islamism, Middle East/North Africa Report N°37, 2 March 2005 (also available in French)
Islamism in North Africa IV: The Islamist Challenge in Mauritania: Threat or Scapegoat?, Middle East/North Africa Report N°93, 10 May 2005 (only available in French)
Iran: The Struggle for the Revolution’s Soul, Middle East Report N°5, 5 August 2002
Iraq Backgrounder: What Lies Beneath, Middle East Report N°6, 1 October 2002
Voices from the Iraqi Street, Middle East Briefing Nº3, 4 December 2002
Yemen: Coping with Terrorism and Violence in a Fragile State, Middle East Report N°8, 8 January 2003
Radical Islam in Iraqi Kurdistan: The Mouse That Roared? Middle East Briefing Nº4, 7 February 2003
Red Alert in Jordan: Recurrent Unrest in Maan, Middle East Briefing Nº5, 19 February 2003
Iraq Policy Briefing: Is There an Alternative to War?, Middle East Report N°9, 24 February 2003
War in Iraq: What’s Next for the Kurds?, Middle East Report N°10, 19 March 2003
War in Iraq: Political Challenges after the Conflict, Middle East Report N°11, 25 March 2003
War in Iraq: Managing Humanitarian Relief, Middle East Report N°12, 27 March 2003
Baghdad: A Race against the Clock, Middle East Briefing Nº6, 11 June 2003
Governing Iraq, Middle East Report N°17, 25 August 2003
Iraq’s Shiites under Occupation, Middle East Briefing Nº8, 9 September 2003
The Challenge of Political Reform: Jordanian Democratisation and Regional Instability, Middle East Briefing Nº10, 8 October 2003 (also available in Arabic)
Iran: Discontent and Disarray, Middle East Briefing Nº11, 15 October 2003
Dealing With Iran’s Nuclear Program, Middle East Report N°18, 27 October 2003
Iraq’s Constitutional Challenge, Middle East Report N°19, 13 November 2003 (also available in Arabic)
Iraq: Building a New Security Structure, Middle East Report N°20, 23 December 2003
Iraq’s Kurds: Toward an Historic Compromise?, Middle East Report N°26, 8 April 2004 (also available in Arabic)
Iraq’s Transition: On a Knife Edge, Middle East Report N°27, 27 April 2004 (also available in Arabic)
Can Saudi Arabia Reform Itself?, Middle East Report N°28, 14 July 2004 (also available in Arabic)
Reconstructing Iraq, Middle East Report N°30, 2 September 2004 (also available in Arabic)
Saudi Arabia Backgrounder: Who are the Islamists?, Middle East Report N°31, 21 September 2004 (also available in Arabic)
Iraq: Can Local Governance Save Central Government?, Middle East Report N°33, 27 October 2004 (also available in Arabic)
Iran: Where Next on the Nuclear Standoff, Middle East Briefing N°15, 24 November 2004
What Can the U.S. Do in Iraq?, Middle East Report N°34, 22 December 2004 (also available in Arabic)
Iraq: Allaying Turkey’s Fears Over Kurdish Ambitions, Middle East Report N°35, 26 January 2005 (also available in Arabic)
Iran in Iraq: How Much Influence?, Middle East Report N°38, 21 March 2005 (also available in Arabic)
Bahrain’s Sectarian Challenge, Middle East Report N°40, 2 May 2005
Iraq: Don’t Rush the Constitution, Middle East Report N°42, 8 June 2005 (also available in Arabic)
Iran: What Does Ahmadi-Nejad’s Victory Mean?, Middle East Briefing N°18, 4 August 2005
The Shiite Question in Saudi Arabic, Middle East Report Nº45, 19 September 2005
Unmaking Iraq: A Constitutional Process Gone Awry, Middle East Briefing N°19, 26 September 2005
OTHER REPORTS AND BRIEFINGS
For Crisis Group reports and briefing papers on:
• Latin America and Caribbean
• Thematic Issues
please visit our website www.crisisgroup.org
CRISIS GROUP BOARD OF TRUSTEES
Lord Patten of Barnes
Former European Commissioner for External Relations, UK
President & CEO
Former Foreign Minister of Australia
Former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State and Ambassador to Turkey
Member of European Parliament; former European Commissioner
Former South African High Commissioner to the UK; former Secretary General of the ANC
Maria Livanos Cattaui*
Former Secretary-General, International Chamber of Commerce
Chief Diplomatic Correspondent & Columnist, The Asahi Shimbun, Japan
Journalist and author, UK
Former U.S. Congressman
Chairman, Open Society Institute
William O. Taylor
Chairman Emeritus, The Boston Globe, U.S.
Former Political Adviser to King Abdullah II and to King Hussein; former Jordan Permanent Representative to UN
Former U.S. Ambassador and Director of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency
Member of Parliament, Turkey; Chairman Emeritus, Yapi Merkezi Group
Former Ambassador of Venezuela to the UN
Former U.S. National Security Advisor to the President
Chairman, First Eastern Investment Group, Hong Kong
Former NATO Supreme Allied Commander, Europe
Former President of European Parliament
Former President, Switzerland
Former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Denmark
Former Prime Minister of Belgium
Leslie H. Gelb
President Emeritus of Council on Foreign Relations, U.S.
Former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Poland
Former Prime Minister of India
Former U.S. Secretary of Housing; former U.S. Trade Representative
Former Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Affairs Minister, Sweden
James C.F. Huang
Deputy Secretary General to the President, Taiwan
Chair of Inclusive Security: Women Waging Peace; former U.S. Ambassador to Austria
UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions; former Chair Human Rights Commission of Pakistan
Shiv Vikram Khemka
Founder and Executive Director (Russia) of SUN Group, India
James V. Kimsey
Founder and Chairman Emeritus of America Online, Inc. (AOL)
Former Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Kenya
Former Prime Minister, Netherlands
Member of Parliament, Macedonia; founder of Kometal Trade Gmbh
Elliott F. Kulick
Chairman, Pegasus International, U.S.
Novelist and journalist, U.S.
Todung Mulya Lubis
Human rights lawyer and author, Indonesia
Chair of Steering Committee of World Movement for Democracy, Nigeria
Journalist and author, France
Foreign Policy Spokesman of the CDU/CSU Parliamentary Group in the German Bundestag
Victor M. Pinchuk
Member of Parliament, Ukraine; founder of Interpipe Scientific and Industrial Production Group
Former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Thailand
President of Tel Aviv University; former Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. and Chief Negotiator with Syria
Fidel V. Ramos
Former President of the Philippines
Lord Robertson of Port Ellen
Former Secretary General of NATO; former Defence Secretary, UK
Special Adviser to the United Nations Secretary-General on Africa
Former Minister Lebanon, Professor of International Relations, Paris
Salim A. Salim
Former Prime Minister of Tanzania; former Secretary General of the Organisation of African Unity
Founding Partner of Penn, Schoen & Berland Associates, U.S.