March 21, 2007

More Than Just "Stirrings" in Egypt

In case you've been living under a rock over the past few days (ie: watching/reading/listening to the American msm), I thought I would bring attention to the latest "birth pangs" of democracy on the Egyptian front.

In brief: the NDP (Mubarak's ruling party) introduced to the parliament amendments to the constitution that seek to cement their control and limit the ability of opposition parties to challenge the status quo. Parliamentarians from the opposition, mainly the Muslim Brotherhood along with some leftist parties, voiced their strong disagreement with the amendments and eventually decided to walk out and boycott the vote which ended up taking place, approving the amendments. Some protests followed, along with a security crackdown, and much speculation about the consequences and the next steps to be taken by the opposition. On March 26th, a national referendum will take place on the constitutional amendments.

The media in the US hasn't paid much attention to these important developments, but the blogosphere is rife with commentary, analysis, and up to the minute news on the situation. I highly recommend the following reads on the current situation in Egypt:

Egypt's Constitutional Showdown and Baathism on the Nile by Marc Lynch:

Amnesty International has described the changes as "the biggest threat to Egyptian democracy since emergency laws passed after the assassination of President Anwar Sadat by Islamist extremists in 1981." That's exactly right. I said this on Friday, but let me say it again, slowly. Mubarak is about to do exactly what he always accuses Islamists of secretly planning: won an election and then used his majority to abolish democracy.
Crackdown By a Clique by Abdel Moneim Abul Fotouh:

Stability cannot be achieved by depriving social and political leaders of civil justice. Nor can it be achieved by resisting democracy and excluding the largest political force in the country from political life. By closing the doors to dialogue, the state is opening a door to chaos and extremism. The consequences will be severe, not only for Egypt but for the entire Middle East.
A Parliament to Watch by Baheyya:

Obviously we’re still a very long way from a real parliament capable of both checking and bargaining with the executive and forging durable extra-parliamentary coalitions. But I can’t shake off the feeling that what happened Sunday portends something new, perhaps even the spark that may ignite the parliamentarisation of Egyptian politics.

Police Crackdown on Kifaya Demonstration by Hossam el-Hamalawy:

The Tagammu was under siege by un-bloody-believable numbers of black-uniformed CSF troops and plainclothes thugs, as well as Gestapo agents and uniformed police generals. In front of the building gate there was a crowd of 200 (mainly left-wing) demonstrators, chanting “Down with Mubarak! Down with State Security!”

Burying Democracy Further in Egypt by Amr Hamzawy and Dina Bishara:

By resorting to outright repression of the Brotherhood, Mubarak is making a mockery of the American push for democracy in the Middle East. Turning a blind eye toward the ongoing crackdown undermines the credibility of an already shaky American commitment to democratization in the Middle East. It also cements the perception among Egyptians that Washington blesses autocratic regimes.

Also on the recent history of Egypt's Kifaya opposition movement is Anthony Shadid's two-part series that ran a few days ago in the Washington Post:
Imagining Otherwise in Egypt
Egypt Shuts Door on Dissent as U.S. Officials Back Away

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