• June 17, 2006
  • 22 minutes read

Saad El Din Ibrahim: The Regime Days Are Numbered

Saad El Din Ibrahim: The Regime Days Are Numbered

In an interview with Al Mesreyoun online daily, Director of Ibn Khaldoun Center for Development Studies Dr. Saad Eddin Ibrahim dismissed repots that the US has given the Egyptian regime a green light to proceed with the scenario of power succession, affirming that Washington did not accept the idea. Dr. Ibrahim predicted an imminent end of the regime, which now suffers growing domestic and foreign pressures. He laid emphasis that Washington will accept any candidate elected by the public even if he belongs to the Muslim Brotherhood, as long as chosen through free and democratic election.

Dr. Ibrahim also pointed out that the regime has caught Washington in a difficult situation by reinforcing Washington’s fears toward the rise of Islamists to power while   excluding liberals and political forces.  He recalled that the regime will not but honor its pledges for reform due to continued domestic pressure exerted by judges, unions and the  masses, as well as internationally mainly by the Bush administration. While Dr. Ibrahim expects the failure of the government to impose its policy on the judges after their public support, he called on Kifaya movement to enhance its discourse and overcome the ideological differences within.

Q: You visited Washington recently, what was the purpose of that your visit?

A: I was invited to Washington by the Carter Center for Peace which held a conference to discuss the impacts of 9/11 attacks on democracy and human rights in the US or elsewhere from China to Argentine. The conference also invited several democracy and human rights advocates from around the world who experienced imprisonment in their countries in defense of their principles. The conference concluded that the 9/11 events were taken as an excuse by several countries, including the U.S., to undermine human rights and civil liberties under the pretext of the war on terror. In my visit, I also briefed the US decision makers on the results of the conference as well as the situation in Egypt as far as reform and democracy are concerned.

Q: Was it an accident that your visit coincided with that of Gamal Mubarak?  

A: It was nothing but a coincidence. I was there for the reasons I just mentioned. Gamal requested the visit to the White House to meet with some officials in the administration, which caused a big problem; making white house officials divided whether or not to grant him the visit. Eventually they reached a compromise letting Gamal Mubarak meets with Stephen Hadley, the US National Security Advisor, and planned to have President Bush drops in while passing by to avoid a formal meeting but also to avoid causing tension with the Egyptian government if the White House declined Gamal’s request for a visit. While in Washington, Mubarak the son briefed the US officials on both the political and economic situations.

White House officials, who met with Gamal, were not impressed by his vision for political reform but praised his economic plans. Gamal also failed to make the US soften up its demands to speed up the pace of political and democratic reform and releasing Ayman Nour.            

Q: Some suggest that meeting Gamal Mubarak means an American green light to sell the idea of Gamal’s succeeding his father in power?

A: Absolutely not. American officials are aware of the sensitivity of this issue, and their consent would brew up a crisis between Washington and the Egyptian opposition, which strongly rejects this scenario. From my experience in meeting the US officials, I have come to know that they are ready to deal with any president chosen by the Egyptian people, whether from the opposition or even the Muslim Brotherhood, as long as he has been elected through democratic and transparent elections. I reiterate that the Americans did not give a green light for the issue of succession, nor did they, explicitly or implicitly, discuss the matter with younger Mubarak.

Q: Do you think that the current regime will succeed to eventually nominate Gamal Mubarak to be his father’s successor? 

A: This matter is strongly rejected by the public, which will not allow Egypt to transform into a monarchy or dynasty, and it will be difficult to persuade people the scenario of power succession. The public approval of Gamal running for the presidency election will be tied to a genuine constitutional change opening the door wide for a fair democratic competition and giving equal opportunities to all candidates, rather than imposing a specific scenario that has serious and unpredictable results.

Q: Some political observers believe the regime is successfully using the Islamists as a scare tactic to sway Washington’s away from pressing for reform in Egypt?

A: After Hamas’ victory in the Palestinian elections, which enabled the Muslim Brotherhood to form a government for the first time; the regime has managed to reinforce Washington’s fears toward the idea of the Islamists being in power, while it nibs in the bud any partisan experiment represented by al Wafd and Al Ghad or other parties, in order to maintain status quo and eventually force the U.S. to find itself in a position where it has to choose between either the regime or the Muslim Brotherhood.

While the U.S. administration does not yet feel comfortable with Islamists assuming power; it doesn’t mean that the regime will be allowed to reneging on its pledges of speeding up the pace of reform, especially after the US cut back about 10 % of the annual aid to Egypt as well as slashing $47 million of the US funds which go to the NGOs. Failure of the regime to launch concrete reform within the coming six months will put the Bush administration in an awkward position.

Q: what you say conflicts with the widely spread notion that Washington has betrayed the reform issue for its interests, which made it press reservedly for the release of Ayman Nour?  

A: Washington criticized the verdict against Ayman Nour and still rejects negotiations with Egypt on the free trade agreement until after Egypt has released him.

Q: Many see that the reform march was not a success in Egypt and the region, citing that the reform issue lacks public support, and it is in bad need of foreign help?

A: What you say is true, for the nature of the region peoples does not enable them to adopt and impose reform. Besides, the reform experiences in the world have always been tied to a western agenda. For example, the French expedition on Egypt was the first experiment of reform in the region , followed by the first and second world wars , passing through the Palestinian wars, the 67, 73 wars  and ending with the  Gulf two  wars . These tragic experiences created a vivid and heated political movement with activities, demonstrations, apprehensions and tortures to opposition. However, this is natural on the march to reform Vis a Vis despotic regimes.

Q: With the growing calls for reform, how long, do you think, the regime can withstand such pressures?

A: The current regime can stand pressures for five years after which it would not be able to resist, unless it adopts a genuine change and reform. Unfortunately, the Egyptian regime now is at its worst times; dealing with four sensitive issues at the same time including the Copts, Judges, Ayman Nour, the NGOs and the syndicates. It is evident that the days of this regime are numbered, with its figures feeling threatened by any move from the opposition, as is the case with Ayman Nour and the Muslim Brotherhood. This goes along with the regime’s policy, which sees no other alternatives for ruling other than itself, thus emptying the political arena from any civic parties.

Q: Dr. Usama el Baz, one of the president’s top political advisors and confidant, has affirmed that President Mubarak does not think of retirement because he does not find his right successor?

A: This rhetoric seems to be a chauvinist one, since there is more than one figure able to succeed Mubarak, mainly Ayman Nour, Essam el Eryan, Abdul Monem Abul Fetouh,Tarek el Beshry and Osama el Ghazali Harb. I think that Mr. el Baz made this statement out of complement to the president and the desire to come back to the spotlight.

Q: Will the campaign launched by the regime against judges succeed to intimidate them to change their discourse?

A: The regime cannot tolerate the independence of any branch of the government, and seeks to gobble up all authorities for its interest. However, I believe that the regime will not succeed in controlling the judges because they enjoy significant public support, and succeeded in isolating the regime. Eventually, I believe the regime will concede its current policy due to the will of the people and reform forces.