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Egypt’s New Political Map—Issues and Players

By Geoffrey Cook, TMO


European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton (L) and Iran’s chief negotiator Saeed Jalili pose for the media before their meeting in Baghdad May 23, 2012.

REUTERS/Thaier al-Sudani

Santa Rosa (Calif.)—We have been discussing the crisis in the Persian Gulf for some time now.  Meanwhile the threat of war between Israel and Iran has been diffused – at least for the moment – we can safely go on to other pressing topics.  Still, your reporter would like to go back to that threat, and to see how it has dramatically changed things on the ground in the greater region(s) at a later time.
Your reporter would like to focus on the upcoming Egyptian elections on May 23rd-24th, and that first round should be completed by the date of the release of this publication (Thurs.).  The expected second round of this election is projected is (tentatively) scheduled for the 16th-17th of next month.

Strangely, almost everybody who is anybody comes through Berkeley, a city of slightly over a 100,000 on the Pacific peripheries of the American “Empire” – containing one of the two leading University “towns” in this nation.  (Your reporter is actually composing this article from the dateline above about fifty miles north of both San Francisco and Berkeley.) Our subject today is Mohammed Kamal, who was a former reformist leader of Egypt’s late ruling National Democratic Party (the N.D.P.) which was founded by Anwar Sadat in 1978 — and was overthrown in 2011 during the Egyptian Revolt (“Spring”) of last year.

The N.D.P. held unlimited supremacy in national politics– de facto a single party state with autocratic tendencies under a façade of a pro forma multi-party structure from Anwar Sadat’s ascendancy to Hosni Mubarak’s overthrow.

Kamal began that Egypt is still an unstable entity.  There is a struggle amongst the three competing forces responsible for the overthrow of the Mubarak régime with differing perceptions for the future – idealistic (mostly) young citizens on Tahrir Square, the  Islamists (the Brotherhood, etc.) and the Army.  In general, it is good for the people of the Nile that the Mubarak regime is gone and the institutions of 1952 — for better or worse — have departed, also. 

The Muslim Brotherhood has gained ascendancy which, in truth, has been a fact for the past several years.  They have the best organized political machine over the entire societal landscape.  They will be extending their governmental patronage above a much broader swath countrywide although, further, other players now must be consulted.

When the military hands over the reins of rule to the elected (civilian) president after the elections, they wish to do so honorably as well as to maintain their (considerable) economic interests.

The liberals are not a viable alternative to the Islamists for they only won 14% of the seats in the newly elected (post-)N.D.P. Parliament – for the former is currently too fragmented to be a potent political power.   The liberals, too, are sectarian, (strongly Coptic Christian) in their outlook, and they are weak in contemporary Egypt.

The forthcoming President to be elected (today) will probably not be Partisan per se, for, as averred above, none of the major parties will endorse the primary candidates for that post.  That includes the Muslim Brotherhood and the Army.  At the time of the interview, Professor Kamal who is presently employed by Cairo University, confirmed that the then six proffered candidates, three held Islamist beliefs; the others not, and none of them represent the “grass roots” who actually overthrew the ancien regime on the streets of Cairo and Alexandria, but the nominees in contention all are endeavoring to establish patronage with the dominant Islamist political parties for the accomplishment of their facis.   Therefore, although the President will be elected on a non-parochial principal, he will, in reality, be beholden to the Islamist political movement.

The newly convened Parliament shall be commissioned to compose a fresh Constitution.  There will be much debate on whether the reformed document should be secular – to be inclusive of the Copts as well as minority non-Islamist Islamic denominations – or reflect solely the political aspect of Islamist’s “theology.” of Islam in and of itself.  The central discussion, though, will be the form of the ancient/nascent commonwealth — either Presidential or Parliamentarian.  Mohammed Kamal predicts that the President and the P.M. (Prime Minister) will share power.  Further, that there will be no civilian oversight of the military.  Thus, he predicts that this liaison will be dealt with in a military-civilian commission.

At the moment, there are grave  economic challenges for this primeval expanse which the recent Revolt has only exacerbated.  Fiscal resources are shrinking, and the incoming government will have to  address this through a process of re-nationalization.  (Your commentator is interpreting Mr. Kamal’s words as a rejection of Globalism and Neo-liberalization which your narrator assesses to be a positive reaction by-product of the “Spring” for the Pyramids, for the tendencies of these two concepts has brought us to a near-depression worldwide!) There are high expectations riding through this primordial land.  We do not wish to be a democratic “failed State!”  (A descriptive theory your  critic thoroughly rejects.)  In post-Revolutionary Egypt, people do fear for their physical safety.  As of January 2011 the policing structure has collapsed because of their past brutal enforcement of the will of the State.  The Professor avowed that they will have to build a police force that is a reformed construct that will defend and protect the democratic resolve and rights of their residents!

We have to erect a more representative commonweal.  The Muslim Brotherhood has to establish itself in its own distinctive manner.  As a reformist, Dr. Kamal leans heavily towards a more secular Constitutional position, “We have to separate the political from the religious!”  The minority (25%) of our body-politick have already instituted self-censorship since the Islamists represent seventy-five percent of the dominant infrastructure. 

Over foreign policy, “Public opinion should become more of an influence.”  Cairo most likely will not negate the treaty with Israel, but will manipulate it as a bargaining stratagem for economic aid (from the U.S and other NATO nations).  Further, the Islamist government should become more zealous for their Palestinian “Asian” Arab neighbors. 

Kamal emphasized that Egypt is changing, and will not go back to the authoritarianism that had dominated its post-Colonial period.  Egypt is dramatically a different place today wherein public opinion is highly considered, and he proclaimed that his nation possesses an independent critical media.  The Brotherhood has to moderate to succeed.  Although, ideologically they wish to rule independent of the Presidency, there will be a tussle for the control of external affairs.  At the same time, the younger cadres of their Parties will in course come to the reigns with more experience in ruling while retaining what works within their base ideology. 

The idealistic youth, who began the Revolution, are obviously frustrated with the turn of affairs, but are divided amongst themselves; therefore, they have been unable to exert influence.  The Military has attempted to incorporate them into the body politic, but the Army was rebuffed.  A portion of civil society is amenable to the economic “reforms” of the past decade, but could not accept the political demands of the transitional regime.

The current government is purposely technocratic since the Muslim Brotherhood has always stood in opposition, and has no experience in forming a ruling coalition; subsequently they favor a President from outside their Party.

The national economy is in tatters; consequently, the political instability walks with fiscal volatility.  When this double-edged weapon is foiled, prosperity and society-wide concord will return again to his riverine terrain.  Most importantly, the challenges of corruption must be resolved!

The previous reform that allowed the N.D.P. to enter the political spectrum was not clear cut.  Yet, during its past existence it never held the Executive.  In fact, Mubarak would only listen to the political players of his aging generation, and refused to connect with the Middle Class while the Military abandoned the (secular) Constitution

“The emerging generation over [lower and upper] Egypt is upbeat,” and he intimated, they eventually will come to preeminence.  On the whole, they are (moderately) are religious but not fanatical.      


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