May 07, 2005

It's Good to Be Pharoh...

We all know, since it's part of age-old Condoleeza Rice lore, that once upon a time the Sec. of State had some harsh words for Egyptian Prez. Husni Mubarak, and refused to visit his country after an opposition candidate was jailed. So Mubarak got nervous and promised to hold multiparty presidential elections this summer. The End. Victory for freedom and democracy, right?

Er, guess not. Check out Josh Stacher's post on the new draft legislation governing the upcoming elections in Egypt. Far from allowing an open race, there are so many exclusions and restrictions tossed into this bill that it's hard so see anyone other than Mubarak even getting nominated. Josh thinks the bill will probably get tweaked a bit once it passes through parliament, but not by much. As he says, it's a "masterful manipulation of cosmetic reform."

Now Mubarak presumably thinks he can get away with this because he won't be criticized by the United States. We'll see if that's right or wrong. I'd guess he's right. But I'm also not sure I entirely understand Mubarak's rationale here. This is his last election, and from all accounts he's going to win regardless of who else runs, so why restrict popular (er, in Western eyes at least) liberal groups like Ayman Nour's al-Ghad party? Why not instead let them run, give them a good drubbing, and then claim the mantle of semi-legitimacy? Instead he's just going to spark more protests over this latest round of bullshit. Kifaya, indeed. Plus, if Robert Springborg's right, setting a precedent for elections now could prevent the military from blocking his son Gamal's candidacy in 2011.

Meanwhile, a little internet surfing turned up this recent interview with Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif, who says they're going to take things re-e-e-e-e-al slow on the way to democratic reform in Egypt. No kidding: "He suggested that the opposition will not be prepared to run serious candidates until 2011 at the earliest." Uh-huh. Nazif also has nothing to say about recent calls from Egyptian judges for greater independence, or anything, for that matter, about judiciary reform, which, as praktike noted a few days back, is in many ways more important than free elections. But as long as there's no serious electoral challenge to the status quo, I can't see Mubarak pushing very hard for any sort of serious reforms, judiciary or otherwise. He's becoming a master of making concessions to the opposition without giving up any real power, and there's no reason to think that trend won't continue long, long into the future. Unless, of course, the White House wants to say something...
-- Brad Plumer 5:41 PM || ||