Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Democracy Not Yet

The United States might be having second thoughts about putting all their bets on Egyptian spy chief Omar Suleiman, the new vice president they wanted to see as successor to Hosni Mubarak. The aging intelligence agent might be good for skewering impotent Palestinians on Israel's behalf but when it comes to dealing with millions of empowered Egyptians, the man has the political acumen you would expect from someone who is used to giving orders and being obeyed, not someone who treats his compatriots as intelligent equals. His brief interview with Christiane Amanpour on ABC television contains two faux pas which politically aware Egyptians will not soon forget. Firstly his claim that "it is the Islamic current that pushed these people (the protesters)" is patently laughable to anyone who has spoken to a cross-section of the people in Tahrir Square. But the remark that is most likely to turn opinion against him was this one: "For sure everyone believes in democracy. But when will you do that? When the people have the culture of democracy." It was reminiscent of former Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif's remark in 2005 that Egyptians were not yet yet "mature" enough for democracy. Interestingly both Suleiman and Nazif were speaking to foreign reporters, in the naive belief that Egyptians would never hear their remarks. Nazif's staff tried to lean on reporters to "correct" his remark, but their arguments did not stand up.
    On Tuesday Suleiman spoke to Egyptian newspaper editors and revealed more of his authoritarian and security-obsessed mentality. Here are some highlights of his remarks, paraphrased by the Egyptian state news agency MENA:
The word 'departure' which some of the protesters are shouting is against the theics of Egyptians, who respect their elders and their president. The word is not only an insult to the president, but also to the whole Egyptian people. President Mubarak is one of the heroes of the October war and the military establishment is protective of the October heroes.
    (I say) no to finishing off the regime and no to a coup because that means chaos, which could take the country to the unknown which no one wants.
    The large presence of protesters in Tahrir Square and some of the satellite channels, which are insulting Egypt and understating its value, are making Egyptians reluctant to go to work.
    President Mubarak has complied with a large proportion of the demands which are possible in the time frame available... He favours a real rotation of power and there is no problem achieving this, but we have to think of Egypt's future and who will lead the way in the coming period. It's not the person of the president but  his specifications and his inclinations. We don't want to find there are new requirements in every period. We want studied and stable adjustments.
    The revolution of the youth has some positive aspects but we must not slip into the negative aspects ... Pressures and effects will never be in the interests of society but will be an invitation to more chaos and for the bats of the night to come out and alarm society. We are confident that Egypt is being targeted and this is an opportunity for them and not for change, but all they are interested in is weakening Egypt and creating chaos, the extent of which God alone knows.
    There have to be conditions for those who stand for the presidency, otherwise more than 600 people for example would stand and it would be a farce for Egypt, so the constitutional lawyers must set out what is proper to the position of president.
    One element in the crisis is the shortfall in the capacity of the police after many police stations were destroyed and thousands of prisoners escaped. The ones we are interested in are some hardcore criminals and jihadi groups which threaten security since they still believe that society is 'infidel' and this is a big threat to society and it will take great effort to get them back. The General Intelligence worked hard to have these people extradicted from abroad. They are connected with foreign leaderships, especially al Qaeda.
    A million tourists have left the country in nine days and there is not a single tourist left, and this affects a major resource for the state, since tourism brings the state about $1 billion a month. Growth will fall to 3.4 percent at the most, which means more unemployment and this is one of the threats to national security.
    The president is staying in Egypt and will not leave. He is managing a road map until his term ends and when the new president comes he will make changes as he wants.
    All the youngsters arrested in the recent events have been released and there is not a single prisoner of opinion unless he committed a crime.
    The president is in good health and there is no agreement with (German Chancellor Angela) Merkel on anything. What she announced is flagrant interference in our internal affairs (apparently a reference to rumours that she invited Mubarak to Germany for 'medical care').
    The (Egyptian) media addresses the Egyptian masses, and not just the youth of Jan 25, so that they (the masses) know that the regime can still fulfil its role.
Judge for yourself.

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