Monday, 11 April 2011

Mustafa el-Fiki as Arab League Secretary General

Egyptian televisions were saying this evening that Egypt's nominee to replace Amr Moussa at the head of the Arab League is former member of parliament and ruling party 'intellectual' Mustafa el-Fiki. Assuming this is true, it is the most extraordinary choice. Fiki will go down in history as the beneficiary of one of the most outrageous acts of electoral fraud committed in the parliamentarian elections of 2005. After serving in parliament as a member appointed by President Mubarak, the NDP gave him the Damanhour (Beheira province) seat in 2005, on the assumption he would win. In the event, rival candidate Gamal Hishmat of the Muslim Brotherhood won by a margin of about 25,000 votes. No problem: the election officers merely reversed the tallies, giving Fiki all Hishmat's votes and Hishmat all Fiki's votes. The snag was that one of the judges overseeing the count, the brave Noha el-Zeini, went public with a detailed account of what happened. Fiki just brazened it out, as is his style -- essentially a shameless egotist with no obvious priniciples. Since the revolution, he's been posing as an impartial analyst and public intellectual. Come to think of it, maybe he would be good at the Arab League - he could be all things to all men and curry favour with every Arab head of state simultaneously. Does anyone out there know who exactly chose him and on what grounds? Will the Arab states approve such a controversial choice? Maybe here's a chance for a non-Egyptian to jump in and end the long Egyptian monopoly of the position (broken only when the league moved to Tunis after the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty, as far as I recall).  

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Mubarak speaks, worries about hidden wealth allegations

The statement that former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak released today from house arrest in Sharm el-Sheikh is extraordinary for both its formality and its banality. The old man slips off to the palace that Hussein Salem gave him on the Red Sea coast without so much as a friendly farewell to his people and then pops up two months later with a statement drafted by some libel lawyer! Doesn't he have anything interesting to say after 60 days ruminating over his 30 years in power? No regrets, no apologies, no philosophical musings? Not our Hosni. That was always his big failing - the lack of vision, the failure to understand that running a country of 40 to 80 million people (yes, the population did double over those 30 years) meant more than making sure that the shipments of imported wheat turned up in time, that any possible troublemakers were carefully monitored and that Israel, the United States and Saudi Arabia approved of his performance.
    In case you haven't read his statement in detail (Arabic text here), Mubarak speaks like a retired civil servant who graciously gave up his sinecure for the public good and now insists on defending himself against allegations that he pocketed some public monies now and then. Nothing about the way he ran the country, nothing about the 800 Egyptians his police force and party thugs killed before he graciously agreed to leave, nothing about the way he allowed State Security to torture thousands of people and stick their ignorant noses into everything that moved across the country all those years. He does at least say that he "gave up the presidency" (that's the first time we've heard from him that he agreed to go of his own free will) and has decided to stay out of politics. But after that it's "all about me" - his reputation and the reputation of his family, and the only affront to their reputation that he can see is the allegations that he had large bank accounts and properties abroad, not that he ran a police state and failed to empower real institutions that might have converted Egypt into a modern functioning democracy. And again, here he is boasting about his service to the country in war and in peace like some old blimp who thinks that wearing a fancy uniform with medals gives him  immunity from criticism by some upstart revolutionaries (more of those troublemakers).
    The reactions appeared to be overwhelmingly negative, though no doubt there are many Egyptians willing to sympathize with the man in his dotage. Psychologist Ahmed Okasha was on OTV saying Mubarak continues to treat Egyptians as slaves and subjects, rather than free citizens.
    It's impossible not to see some connection between Mubarak's statement and the very large rally in Tahrir Square on Friday and the demands that Mubarak face trial or leave the country. The military council is again on the defensive after the heavy-handed and ultimately futile attempt to disperse the crowd in Tahrir by force. I passed through the square this afternoon and it remains in the hands of the protest movement, with barricades on some of the main approaches and no army or police in sight. As long as Mubarak's fate remains undecided in this way, the political forces that brought him down cannot sleep soundly.