Thursday, 18 July 2013

Coup or Revolution. Does it matter?

Well yes it does.

The reason you differentiate sandals from sneakers is to know whether you need to tie laces. Likewise the distinction between coup and revolution defines how you react. So...

Was it a revolution?

Of course it was.

Millions of people demanding change took to streets all over the country with very valid grievances. Rising prices, fuel shortages, power cuts, government incompetence and a failing economy affected everybody day in day out. Criticism of the government was met with stubbornness and intransigence boding foul for the future. Furthermore, autocratic, power-grabbing measures including a November, God-like constitutional decree and a December divisive constitution were threatening everybody’s future and Egypt’s very identity.

The people on the street were not a homogeneous group and claims that felool or Christians or anti-Islamists led the fray are ridiculous.  Egyptians of different ages, income classes, religions, political affiliations and geographies were all present.

They had different drivers but shared a single goal, defined clearly on the Tamarud petition: changing the president through early elections.

Morsy and the MB failed to deliver on their campaign promises. More critically they failed to fulfil the demands of the January 25th revolution and therefore they needed to go. So much so, that for many, this is an extension of the original revolution. The streets again demanding change.

So yes, very clearly, this is a revolution.

Was it a military coup?

Of course it was. The Chairman of SCAF, Minister of Defense and Military Production, Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces unilaterally suspends the 64% approved constitution, removes the first ever democratically elected President in Egypt’s 7,000 year history, puts him, his family and advisers under house arrest, installs a new temp president, gives said temp God-like constitutional decree powers (ring a bell?), dissolves the elected Senate, shuts down opposition TV stations, arrests their owners and employees and detains some 300 of the President’s party.

The military had its reasons for taking all these measures, but none of these measures, with the exception of early elections, was a demand of the revolting millions on the streets. In the days that follow it becomes clear that the temp President is no more than a place holder and that all strings are held and pulled, by the military.

So yes, very clearly this is a coup.

Conclusion.  It was a revolution AND it was a coup. So how to react?

Only one way.

We must resist the coup as if there were no revolution and support the revolution as if there were no coup.

Resist the coup

The coup means the military has decided that civilian Egyptians are incapable of running the country in a way the military finds acceptable. It means we have been re-infantilized, our budding political processes nipped, our dreams of democratically running the country rudely awakened by the guys with the tanks. It means to recurrently press “pause” right at the moment when the late Omar Soliman reflects rhetorically and philosophically “Everybody wants democracy. But when?”

It means a quick return to – if you believe we ever left –the patriarchal control of the military and its less subtle nephew the police. It possibly means witch hunts for Islamists first then other opposition, whoever they may be. It possibly means human rights abuses galore (virginity tests anyone?) It likely means a setting back of the clock, hopefully to some year within this current decade and not much earlier.

This must be resisted in every non-belligerent way. Police brutality cannot be allowed to return. Corruption cannot be allowed to return. Those who for decades raped and pillaged Egypt’s economy and its politics cannot be allowed to return.

Our military must be preserved outside of the political game. Their preferred position seems to be above and beyond politics, which is not exactly the same thing.

Support the Revolution

On the other hand , a revolution as we have learned over the past 30 months, is a fierce but fragile creature full of potential and fraught with weakness.

We must learn from yester-revolution’s mistakes. Here are the main seven lessons.
  1. No piggy-backing. The old regime cannot be allowed to take credit for, or benefit from, this revolution. The clean slate the MoI claims is a glaring example, there are many others.
  2.  No infighting. As quickly as possible, and at serious signs of good will, all parties, including the MB, must be brought back to the table.
  3. BUT. No noble expectations this time. Nobody should be in any doubt that only promises which carry penalties and which we are capable of enforcing will be kept.
  4. The revolution must have a voice. A huge lesson here is the role of media. It cannot be ignored. Media creates perception. Perception is everything. The revolution must have its media. Not felool media. Not Islamist media. Not foreign media.
  5. No side-battles. It is imperative to maintain laser-sharp focus on our goals: Bread, Freedom, Social Justice and Human Dignity.
  6. We must build political parties around these principles. Parties that are well-financed and organized. Parties capable of winning elections.  
  7. We must identify and support new leaders who believe deeply in these values, leaders who are willing and able to inspire Egyptians
A Blessing. Optimism.

In a way, this coup-revolution revolution-coup is a blessing.

Everybody is learning in Egypt. At break neck speed.

The military are learning that massive change needs popular support and that power is tenuous.

The MB are learning that you just can’t do things this way. They must change. They need to open up and learn to trust and share.

The liberals are learning they have to actually work to get things done. That real power needs direction and leadership otherwise it is easy to have your efforts and even your ideals usurped.

We are all learning the power of media and the scarcity of truth. We need to individually and collectively create filters that are beyond personal preferences.

One of the biggest lessons that I am not sure has been delivered is that we are all here to stay. The MB are not going to all be hanged or jailed. The liberals aren't all going to run off to Canada. We’re all here to stay. 

Let us all not widen the gaps more than we can hope to bridge soon.

Optimistic? Of course I am. We have switched the lights on and commenced class. 
Not once. Twice. 

Thursday, 13 December 2012

The Four Futures of Egypt

Looking into Egypt's coming years, I see no sign of Iraq, Iran or Saudi Arabia and certainly none of Lebanon.

Four other countries do loom though depending on the interactions between the key players on Egypt's political playground.

Briefly these players are: the army, the "Islamists", the "revolutionaries", the "liberals", Mubarak regime remnants and of course the 40 million or so Egyptians who belong to none of these teams. (Inverted commas indicate the caricaturish nature of these groupings).

I will purposefully ignore the 40 million spectators, because they do little more than cheer when a goal is scored or scream foul when the referee makes a poor call.

Here are the four countries Egypt may metamorphose into. They are in no particular order. Parallels may not be exact, but the form and flavour are clearly there.

Scenario 1: Islamists "win"

Should the MB led government manage to hunker down and ride the storm then align with the army and together either co-opt or "remove" the liberals, revolutionaries and old regime die-hards from the scene, we are likely moving in the direction of Pakistan.

That's where a quasi-Islamic government leads the country with the army, intelligence apparatus and security forces in tow. What little opposition exists, does so in silence and/or impotence. Presidents and prime ministers come and go but the general picture remains the same. While some may romanticise  the idea of an Islamic and nuclear Egypt, others may dread the collusion of army and semi-theocracy.

 2: MB et al wake up and smell the revolution. Revolutionaries wake up and smell reality.

It is also possible that the current spate of unrest will end up with no clear winner. This may lead to a moderation of all positions. The FJP could decide it is wiser and more profitable to reach out to other players. The liberals/revolutionaries could decide it is best to accept the fact that in any popular vote, the Islamists likely have the upper hand - having started grass-roots work decades ago. The army will most likely take a neutral position in such a situation assuming its most critical demands are met. Naturally this is the scenario least favoured by remnants of the old regime. A conciliation among current conflicting parties means they have no crack to place a wedge in. Should all these "ifs, coulds, mays and mights" come to life, we are likely moving in the direction of Turkey.

That is where a moderately Islamic, ostensibly secular government shares some power with the liberal secular Kemalist parties and both keep the army at bay.

Scenario 3: Revolutionaries "win"

Should the current turmoil lead to the overthrow of President Morsy by the revolutionaries, liberals and Mubarak's remnants through continuous demonstrations, large scale civil disobedience and low but consistent and rising levels of violence, Egypt may turn into the Algeria of yester-decade.

It is there that the Islamic Salvation Front party was leading first round parliamentary elections but was denied its impending win and democratic right to govern. "Les generalles d'Algerie", through the National Liberation Front, were neither neutral enough to stay off the pitch nor adventurous enough to stage a full-fledged military coup and decided to cancel further election rounds.

The disgruntled Islamists, having played by the rules only to have them changed halfway, waged a guerrilla war on the government and the army. The army and the various security forces fought back. This led to a decade of violence between the state and the Islamists with deaths on both sides totalling an estimated 2% of the population. For Egypt that translates to some 1.6 million dead.

Scenario 4: Nobody wins. Chaos. Army intervenes.

It is also possible that none of the previous scenarios will come into play. Perhaps the MB will not be able to weather the storm but the revolutionaries/liberals/Mubarakists will be unable to wrest power from them. Maybe neither side will moderate their position and explore the middle ground. Those yearning for a return to Mubarak's Egypt would love to see such a scenario unfold. Their interests would go unharmed, they will revive their pre-revolution situations and all's well that ends well. To push in this direction they could well foster continuous unrest on Egypt's streets, more bloodshed, more deterioration in the economic and security situations hoping that at some point, the army will yell: "Enough!"

Should that happen, it will not be for the first time since the January 25th revolution. Last time round, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces was forced into a temporary caretaker governor position and decided to honour "temporary".

If the messiness continues they may intervene on a somewhat less short-term basis. Should that happen, we will be moving in the direction of rather familiar territory. The country we will most resemble in this scenario is geographically identical to ours, it has the same composition of political players, the same economic problems and the same history. The only difference is temporal. That country is Egypt 1952.

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Five Facts Beyond Good and Bad. SCARY

Much has been - and I am sure, will be - said written of the rights and wrongs of the past two years. And much has been and will be said about who's to blame and what could have been or should have been, if only this or that.

But with the political scene in Egypt as it is, with opposing groups taking unbridgeable opposing stands, how this is relevant at this dangerous juncture is beyond me. Who did what to whom and who to blame for what is irrelevant. 

Who is responsible now though, is very clear.

Responsibility lies with the President. The buck stops with him. He who took it upon himself to guide Egypt into the future.

As things stand right now, that future is scary.

Not because the liberals may never unite and stop bickering and get themselves organized; sooner or later, they probably will. And not because the MB et al will turn Egypt into Afghanistan/Pakistan/Iran/Saudi Arabia; they probably won't. Not even because we are moving blindly, but at full speed, towards a more-likely-than-not soon-to-be-approved constitution which many are unhappy with and which by most reasonable accounts is not what post-revolution Egypt had hoped for and deserves.

All of the above is just more material for discourse i.e. not scary. More discussion, more blame throwing, more endless eloquent lines added to each side's argument. It doesn’t scare me.

What does scare me is the extreme and deepening polarization in my country.

We are at a point where on one side some are calling for boycotting MB owned businesses – yes, a la Israel-aimed Palestinian BDS movement - while on the other, some are advising liberals who dislike the way things are to leave - as if Egypt were their private club and not all of our country. 

This is not a sustainable situation. We have to learn to live with, talk to and (I dare dream) cooperate with each other.

The deeper these positions get entrenched - and all evidence points in that direction - the harder it will be for them to get de-trenched. And de-trenched they will have to be, regardless of who "wins".

The following five facts necessitate de-trenchment. 

1. Neither side is going away any time soon.

What both sides seem to be thinking is that by "winning" they will somehow eradicate the opposition. Just before the presidential elections, happy rumours were raging among the Shafik crowd that as soon as he wins, there will be a massacre of MB leadership and survivors will be thrown back into jail "where they belong".

Likewise among the MB/Salafists many believe that once the referendum is over (and they win), the liberals will just shut up and/or disappear. As if the mere cosmetic of an approved constitution will lead to change in people's minds and dreams.

You know what? It's not happening. We're all here to stay.

2. Both sides have sincere hopes and beliefs

Through a steady "demonization of the other" process, both sides now fail to understand that "the others" are sincere in their positions. Being lucky enough to have (and unlucky enough to have lost a few) friends on both sides, I can assure you this is true.

On the one hand, the MB and their supporters have a sincere belief that if only we were to have an Islamic constitution, things will get better for all of us (there are strong theological - let alone logical - arguments against this, but this is not the venue for them).

On the other, the liberals point to the prosperity of secular nations and the failure of theocracies worldwide as evidence of the veracity of their claims (again, there are many arguments against this line of thinking, and again, this is not the venue for them). 

You know what? It is as impossible to expect a Salafy to forget about Sharia as it is to ask a liberal to forget about personal freedoms. (Between you and me and imho, the two platitudes are just about completely compatible).

3. This is Egypt! Accept it

Whether or not we like it, Egypt is home to both these sets of Egyptians. The "MB can only win votes by handing out oil and sugar" mantra may or may not be true, but its truth or lack of it are  irrelevant. The fact is some  40% of the population lives on less than $2 a day, and any time you give such a person a jerry-can of oil and a few kilograms of sugar you're a good guy. Similarly the silly question "what ill has God ever done to you that makes you hate his Sharia?" is equally irrelevant. Many Egyptians want the freedom to decide their level of religiosity or lack of it without it being mandated by law. 

Egypt, as has been made crystal clear over the past 24 months, houses us all. 

4. The Economy is a Time Bomb

Of all the statistics that came out of the presidential elections, the one that scared me most was the 50% of eligible voters who never even bothered to go to the polling stations.

Think about this for a second please.

This was the first ever presidential election in the 7,000 year history of Egypt and half those allowed to vote couldn't care less. Barring the thousands (or hundreds of thousands) who decided to boycott, the rest of that 50% is people who are apathetic to the outcome. 

This is the 50% who could care less whether Sharia is applied or whether the constitution specifically mentions Baha'i rights or whether the President is from the MB, the army or whether we even restore the monarchy. They are living hand-to-mouth and so long as there's enough in the hand to fill the mouth, they will neither participate nor, crucially, complain. 

But, and here's the biter, the hand in these last couple of years, hasn't been earning enough to fill the mouth and soon (I hope I am wrong), those who cannot put food on their tables will become angry. Nobody wants to see that.

More pragmatically, nobody will be able to do anything to stop their anger should it erupt.

5. Morsy is an elected President

For better or worse, this is an undeniable fact. He may have won by the slimmest of margins, and there are even claims of foul play, but the fact remains. Dr. Morsy is our first ever elected President. The success of any stupid adventure aimed at removing him without due process will be disastrous. I am happy to report that to date his wisest opponents have not set this as their goal.

His being an elected President doesn't just mean we need to respect the democratic process (flawed as it may have been) which brought him into power.

What it means is that ultimately, he is responsible for closing the schisms which are widening by the day. He must offer confidence building measures (yes we're flat in the middle of conflict-resolution linguistic territory now) to his opponents. He needs to reach out to those who see him and his clan as tyrants in the making and reassure them with concrete steps.

Such steps might look like this:

A.   Given the sweeping powers he has given himself, Morsy can and should alter the acceptance threshold for the Constitutional referendum from 50% to 67%. This is a constitution, 50.0001% just doesn't cut it.
B.    Voting should be Chapter by Chapter rather than wholesale take it or leave it.
C.    Define what exactly the limits are on decrees he can make with immunity/impunity. He has already vaguely hinted that they only include a certain level of decision. We need specificity.
D.   Commit to and implement a bi-weekly state of the union type address where he talks less and says more than he usually does. We need a performance report. What is being done, why, what is the level of achievement. Facts only please, no rhetoric

Such steps would go a long way to starting the dialogue which must be started. Tough positions can and likely will be taken by the opposing parties, but as President, Morsy needs to elevate himself above this conflict and send all Egyptians clear signals of neutrality, wisdom, foresight and levelheadedness. 

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Dear Dr. Morsy. My Conditions for Voting for You.

I am not afraid of the Muslim Brotherhood .

I don't believe you plan to turn Egypt into Afghanistan or Saudi Arabia and force my daughter to wear the veil. I don't believe that you will differentiate between Egyptian Copts and Egyptian Muslims. I don't buy that you will start a war with Israel or ignore Egypt's international commitments. It doesn't bother me at all that you were your party's second choice and I have no worry that the country will be run by the Murshed. None of these threats, for various reasons, rings true for me.

Furthermore, I am convinced that, with very few exceptions, all your party's changes of direction, actions -and  inactions - over the past 18 months were based on logical reasoning (albeit flawed at times) and were carried out with some tactical or political objectives in mind. I am even not unhappy about your cutting the odd deal with SCAF.

I am convinced that all but the most naive will not classify your behaviour as lies, treason to the revolution or broken promises.

I don't blame you and your party for chasing power. Which politician or party on earth doesn't?

You're simply playing the game. That doesn't bother me.

So you see Dr. Morsy, I am not even slightly Ikhwanophobic.

Yet, I cannot simply vote for you.

I cannot risk handing over so much power to one person and his group.

I am concerned that one body, no matter how benevolent, no matter how well-intended, will be in control of parliament and presidency. I understand that you will not immediately have much influence over SCAF/army, the Ministry of Interior, intelligence, judiciary and state media. But that is just a matter of time.

At the same time, I cannot with a clear conscience vote for Mr. Shafik. Not under any circumstances. Not if he were running alone.Not if he were running against the devil himself.

I am not yet convinced that boycotting or annulling are wise options. But , they may become appealing or unavoidable, unless a better option appears.

This better option is to vote for you under specific conditions.

Actions. Not promises.

Promises and assurances are no more solid or binding than political stances which, we all know, may, and sometimes must, change with circumstances.

Here are my conditions and please note, there is not much time:

1. Announcing the names of the 100 people who will form the constitution committee prior to the runoffs. These hundred people should include no more than 15 MB/FJP members and no more than an additional 5-10 parliamentarians. The rest should all be non-MB, non FJP, non Islamist. They must include constitutional experts of course, but also Copts, Nubians, Bedouins, women, revolutionaries, army and police officers, farmers' representative and union officials. It should probably include representatives of the Churches and Azhar too. This list must be announced to the people and guaranteed by SCAF.

2. Announcing, from Tahreer to the Egyptian people, SCAF, MB leadership and MB youth that in case you win, you will appoint the second and third runners up in the presidential elections as Vice Presidents, regardless of who they are. Yes, even if Mr. Shafik is number two, you must commit to appointing him as one of your Vice Presidents. If he rejects, then you must go to the next two candidates. The guarantee of this announcement will be a document you present to the Higher Constitutional Court and/or SCAF, signed by yourself and MB/FJP leadership committing to this and granting SCAF the right to enforce it.

I understand this is difficult, but please remember that even if the disenfranchisement law is not passed, even if Mr. Shafik accepts your offer and even if some of your supporters are angered by such a commitment  Mr. Shafik garnered 5 million votes in the first round which need to be respected and that you will tap into the votes of the third and fourth runners up who, in case Mr. Shafik refuses your offer prior to the runoffs, will both become Vice Presidents in case you win.

3. In the same document and with the same guarantees, you will declare that no decisions you make regarding all matters, may pass without the approval of at least one of your Vice Presidents. Similarly, no decisions regarding the constitution, national security and international treaties may be signed without the approval of both your Vice Presidents.

4.  Announcing the names of four or five non-MB/FJP technocrats, one of whom you commit to appoint as Prime Minister. The guarantee of this is negotiable but may be inclusion in the afore-mentioned document.

These four actions would give me (I speak here collectively for the millions of us who do not want Shafik but worry about an Egypt exclusively led by the MB) the comfort to go out and vote for you.

I would be comfortable that you will not (because you cannot) write a "majority" constitution, that you are willing to share power with two other presidential candidates who some 50% of Egypt has voted for, that there are checks and balances in place to correct you when you make mistakes and that you have done your level best to give me these assurances.

Clock ticking. Your move.

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Five Neutral Criteria for Selecting Egypt's Next President

Well well well. Talk about a rock and a hard place. Just about everyone I speak with is not so much choosing a candidate as refusing his competitor. A mantra currently being repeated is "I am not voting for Morsy, I am just rejecting Shafik," along with its opposite number "I am not voting for Shafik, I am just rejecting Morsy". 

Far from attempting the futile and trying to prove who is a better candidate, the bulk of discussions focuses on who is "less worse." 

For one thing, you can remove that emotional pressure of having to opt for the lesser of two evils, because there are other options. You don't have to choose Morsy just because you can't tolerate the idea of voting for Shafik, and likewise you don't have to choose Shafik just because you hate Morsy. 

You may boycott or annul your vote.

But if - like me - you don't like the idea of the boycott for a reason or another, here are five, non-ideological, Egypt-centric, criteria for helping you (and perhaps me) decide who to vote for. 

1. The Constitution

The only real guarantor of future political diversity and stability, human, civil and minority rights protection, ending of the police state and setting the stage for the development of a modern country is a sound constitution. Which of the two candidates is likely to help produce that? What process will each candidate propose/support for the formation of the constitution committee? Who is more likely to minimise the number of "special" articles favouring this faction or that group or this ideology or that power base? 

2. Freedom of Political Activity

To minimise the risk of Egypt falling under the hegemony of the MB or remaining under the control of the army, freedom of political activity is a necessary ingredient. 
We need to ask ourselves, who, Shafik or Morsy, is more likely to tolerate serious political competitors? Which one will accept the possibility of leaving power in four years, not just in person but as the group they each represent? Who will ensure Egypt can take first steps down the road to real political diversity? Who is more likely to allow forming parties by notification? Who will accept demonstrations and protests? How would each of them react in the face of a hundred, or a hundred thousand, chanting against him in Tahreer? 

3. The Economy & Social Justice

All but a few Egyptian pockets are suffering to one degree or another. Some will have to skip the new Benz to be able to do the Cote d'Azure this summer; others are desperately saving to ensure they can pay school fees in September and others still are struggling to put even one daily meal on the table. But make no mistake, the past 15 months (and the year of the global financial crisis and rising food prices before them) have taken their fiscal toll on everyone. Which of the two candidates can get the economy moving again? To whose call will investors from the Arab Gulf and further afield respond? Who will be able to address the grievances and howling stomachs of the estimated 20%  of the population living below the poverty line (income less than $1.25 per day)? Who is more likely to offer solutions to tackle sky-rocketing prices including basic food items? Who has a stronger, more viable, more balanced economic program? 

4. Fighting Corruption

It has long been my contention that if you were to distil all of Egypt's problems and then filter the distilled product and put it through a fine sieve, you'd end up with: Corruption. Financial, political, judicial and indeed across-the-board governmental corruption were at the core of Egypt and the Egyptians' woes. Which of the two possible presidents do you believe will fight corruption? Which of the two will promote transparency in the awarding of government contracts and in the judicial system? Who is more likely to have the stronger impact on rampant bribery and nepotism? Which of the two can tighten the legal loopholes through which billions are syphoned from state coffers to private pockets?

5. Re-uniting the Country

Last, but by no means the least, Egypt is facing several rifts, between those pro and those anti the revolution, between Islamists and secularists and leftists and right wingers. These rifts threaten to widen and if they do, there is a lot at risk. Which of the two candidates is more likely to reunite Egyptians? Who can narrow the gaps between disparate and estranged groups? Who can provide the leadership needed to put differences aside and work for a common goal? Which candidate, Shafik or Morsy can paint a picture of the future which all Egyptians would like to be in? 

I haven't a clue. If you decide, let me know.

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Presidential Elections: Two Thoughts

Two thoughts go through my mind when I see all these people lined up for an election WITHOUT a pre-determined winner: 1. WE'VE ALREADY WON! and 2. This is a game-changer for the Middle East.
We've already won because this was unthinkable a couple of years ago. Hosny would go (to heaven or hell or home), Mubarak Junior aka Jimmy The Beast would take over and we'd turn into the second monarchic republic in the neighbourhood (the Assads of Syria take the inglorious first spot). We've won, because that nightmare scenario is in the garbage bin of history, right at the bottom of the pile, underneath police brutality, arrests without warrants, torture in State Security cells, blatantly rigged elections, corruption nauseum.
History will not, in this particular case, repeat itself.
Not even if Shafik wins.
And let's face it, that's the only real nightmare scenario here. Another decorated military man with no more credentials than the ability to fly planes (building a billion pound airport on a three billion pound budget is no success) takes the helm attempting to recreate his idol's regime. Not a chance General. You so much as hint at putting a toe over that line and we're back to January 24th 2011 in no time. I suppose I should rephrase that previous statement, if his-story attempts to repeat itself, our-story will repeat itself too. Sharpish!
But let's briefly look at (only) the bright side of the other possible outcomes:
Mousa: Well-known to the outside world, he will likely succeed in quickly comforting Western and Israeli fears and possibly loosening Gulf/IMF/World Bank purse strings. Flexible (to use the euphemism for unprincipled) he will not take any stand which may antagonise SCAF, the MB or anybody else, ensuring more stability (to use the euphemism for stagnancy). Egotistical, he may well try and do a good job if only to nicely round up his CV.
Morsy: Spare tire or no spare tire (Morsi was only selected by MB as their candidate after first choice el-Shater was forced out of the race), the man has the greatest, best-organized machine in the country behind him. The MB/FJP's El-Nahda Project is arguably the most detailed and most realistic among the lot. He will have a (perhaps too) harmonious relation with parliament and for good measure MUST allay fears of MB/Islamic hegemony by steering clear of sectarian/libertarian land mines to ensure a second term for himself and match the success of his party in parliament five years from now.He is the only front-runner with a party and platform behind him.
Aboul Fotouh (my choice) is a centrist by all standards. As evidenced by his supporter pool (includes hardcore Salafis, liberals, moderate Islamists and strictly secular leftists), he is neither too liberal nor too conservative, nor too far to the right or left. He has an excellent opportunity to bring Egypt together on a moderate platform of civil liberties and economic growth based on bridled capitalism with a dash of social justice. He's one of us. I like that. No flash, no nonsense.
Sabbahy: How can you argue against the leftist in him with 70% of the population at or below the poverty line? (Well, you can, but it would be uncool). The man clearly has the worst off in mind and that's got to be a good thing. Besides, he (along with ma man AF) is the one who most comes across as "one of us". It would be a good thing to have "one of us" in power.
The rest of the runners, are no more than that, runners. No chance of getting into the runoffs,
So we've won.
The second thought is a bit further reaching. I can only imagine what must be going on in Saudi, Kuwaiti, Syrian, Sudanese, Yemeni, Moroccan and other Arab heads as they watch us partake in our elections. Envy? Perhaps, but probably also gratitude. we've opened a door which may prove impossible to close.Although there is a lot I dislike (and some I like) about Berlusconi, but the previous Italian PM did phrase it oh so well when after the ouster of Mubarak he declared "There is no surprise, the Egyptians are making history again."
And now I'm getting goosebumps, so I'll stop.

Sunday, 20 May 2012

Is Amr Moussa "folool" ?

The word "folool" has been bandied about for the better part of the last fourteen months and has served as a ketch all for a variety of sinners. Those who served under Mubarak, those who aided and abetted in the corruption of Egypt (financially, politically and even morally), those who benefited financially from their posts in Mubarak's regime, those who have a Master-Slave view of the relation between state and public etc..etc...

But the definition of the term has also been challenged. "Folool" to some minds simply means someone who wants the security and economic stability of  pre-revolution days to return at any cost, or alternatively somebody who given the choice between fascist Mubarak and fascist Islamists prefers Mubarak, or even someone who's just had enough of this revolution that promised so much and has, so far at least, delivered near nothing at all.

To many of us who believe in the revolution, electing a "folool" (by just about any definition) is simply unacceptable.

Over two separate coffees, one a few days, the other a week ago, a young intelligent and highly liberal friend and an older, equally intelligent and slightly less liberal friend said to me, quoting each other almost verbatim "I know Mousa may be the best technical choice, but I just can't bring myself to vote for him." They both had the same pained look on their face.

Upon probing I discovered that "best technical choice" meant the one with the most direct experience for the job, most recognizable internationally and most likely to lure back the investors and the tourists. So why not vote for him? I asked and both, again as if reading from the same script, literally word for word responded "I just can't, it wouldn't be right". I am assuming based on the rest of both conversations that they mean because of his long old regime ties.

Both my friends believe the revolution was a good thing. Neither wants Mubarak's regime and modus operandi back.

So what gives? Is Moussa "folool" or not?

The only smart thing must be to first offer my own personal definition of folool:

It is someone who satisfies three or more of the following conditions:
  1. Served for a lengthy period with Hosny Mubarak in a very senior capacity 
  2. Visibly approved of Mubarak's methods of running the country
  3. Gained financially from and/or contributed to the corruption prevalent during Mubarak's rule
  4. Has a proven view of the relation between government and people which is authoritarian, policing and superior
  5. Has an elitist, arrogant view of the majority of Egyptian people, sees them as ignorant and/or unintelligent, undeserving/incapable of entry into KG1 of democracy school
  6. Believes it was possible to reform Mubarak's regime and that revolution was not inevitable and/or necessary
  7. Contributed directly to the corruption of political life in Egypt and would again
  8. Contributed directly to the demeaning of Egypt's regional/international status and would again
I realise several of these defining characteristics are open to debate, and so they should be (especially in post-revolution Egypt). I also realise that some of the criteria are not conclusive enough. How does one for example confirm Moussa's views on the relationship between the government and people of Egypt? Well, one watches, one listens and one reviews history and then, one decides.

So here it is:

  1. YES (Mousa is Mubarak's longest serving foreign minister with ten years worth of tenure)
  2. YES (Mousa is on record saying "I know how Mubarak manages the country, I would vote for him if he runs for president")
  3. NO. Not so much as an accusation which is near miraculous given the amount of accusations chasing so many of Mubarak's previous cabinet members.
  4. NO. Actually arguable, he's pretty arrogant, but no evidence I have seen confirms that he would continue in this vein of "government as baton-wielding police force". Let's give the man the benefit of the doubt on this one.
  5. NO. Again, arguable, but nothing apart from the wiggling of the forefinger to prove this. Again, benefit of the doubt.
  6. YES. Refer to 2 above.
  7. YES and NO. Is being a senior member of the regime evidence of involvement? I'll leave it to you.
  8. OH YEAH! Moussa, like his ex-boss, is an adherent to the school of thought which basically says "Grovel to the Americans, their Israeli proxies and the Gulf Arabs, for they hold the purse-strings and more".
Final verdict: Moussa is folool, not as blatantly as say Ahmed Shafik or Safwat Sherif, but quite clearly folool. 

He's out for me.