Saturday, December 24, 2005

Ayman Nour gets a five year prison sentence on forgery

The news is just out on the Ayman Nour court case. It´s not good. He recieved a verdict of five years in prison for forgery. This really resembles the Saad Eddin Ibrahim case in 2000. It´s the ¨perfect¨ christmas gift to people working toward achieving democratization. I was hoping for a orange christmnas, but knew in my heart of hearts, that this would be a blue christmas. My heart goes out to Ayman and his family in this dark hour. The promises of the new thinking in the NDP is echoing very hollow at this particular moment in time, the verdict comming after a week of new promises on progress in democratization and freedom of expression. One election promise still waiting for implementation is the cancellation of the Emergency laws, in place more or less since 1967. This would be the most important step en route to democracy. But of course any hope for the current political leadership evaporated on the 25th of May this year, proven false once again in early December, so the probable outcome is the scraping of the emergency laws, while a new anti-terror law curtailing the space of freedom in much the same way, will come in to practice.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Voter turnout 26%

The Egyptian Minister of Justice, Abul Leil presented the results of the elections on Saturday. The voter turnout was 26%. The results of the 432 seats contested(12 still to be decided, due to violence and irregularities).

NDP 311
Independents(According to Abul Leil´s vocublary) 121
This is the 121 seats he´s talking about:
Muslim Brotherhood 88
Opposition parties 9
Independents 24(probably NDP-independents)

In a related story, the president has appointed the 10 seats of parliament at his disposal. The appointees are 5 women and 5 Copts, the president´s seats are usually used to balance the parliament in favour of those two groups who in almost every election turn out to be underrepresented. Hala Mustafa wrote an article in the WaPo prior to the elections, pinpointing the less than satisfactory numbers of women(6) and Copts(1) on the NDP candidate lists.

Ayman Nour on Hunger strike, while awaitng verdict

Ayman Nour said, when entering the courtroom on Monday, that he´s been on a hunger strike for the last 48 hours, he also went on a hunger strike, when in prison in February. Nour suffers from diabetes, and a heart condition. The verdict could come as early, as today.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Aymnan Nour´s trial possible verdict today

Ayman Nour The talk of the town just three months ago, now defeated in the contest for the Bab al Shaáriyya constituency. In the biggest enigma of the elections, Nour lost in the first round of the parliamentary elections. In Bab al Shaáriyyaa, where he has been returned to office twice. He was taken into custody again three days ago and the verdict could come today. Here is the Human Rights Watch statement about the trial

Photos, and statements of third run-off violence

Here is some fellow blogsites that have the best photo coverage of the violence , misrdigital as usual, Baheyya and the Sandmonkey. Beside the 8 people dead, there was widspread violence by police and Balthagiyya(thugs),and the people wanting to vote naturally fighting back. poll stations cordoned of by police and state security, intimidation of voters and candidates and their representatives.Here is the Amnesty International statement calling on the government to set up an independent investigation. The EOHR first statement talks among other things about 355 polling stations that was cordoned off for some parts of the election days, and of polling stations were only people with NDP-membership cards got in to cast their vote, apart from the governates with fatal casualties, Suhag and al Arish(North Sinai)also saw irregularities covering the same spectrum. According to Reporters withoutout borders,the media was also targeted , reporters from al Masry al Youm, a al Jazeera crew was prevented from doing their work. The talented AP reporter Amr Nabil was hurt, while covering clashes between security forces and vould be voters in Zagazig, this is just a small sample. Judges and monitors where also targeted.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Three killed in election violence in Egypt

In the run-off of the third stage of parliamentary elections, two Muslim Brotherhood supporters where killed in Dumyat when police fired rubber bullets and used teargas, according to medical sources. Official sources confirms the two deaths, but stresses that the police where not involved. In the nearby village of al Khiyata a man was killed when police used live ammunition according to the Egyption Organization for Human Rights(EOHR). According to al Jazeera ,a fourth man died of wounds sustained when shot by security forces outside a polling station in al Sharqiyya. If confirmed , it brings the death toll of electoral violence to seven people. In Zagazig the police cordoned one of the voting stations and beat and showed women, who where among 25 women trying to break trough the police cordon at the polling station ,to get in to vote. At another polling station in Zagazig, supporters of the Ikhwan was met by thugs with machetes and knifes. In Badawi,close to Zagazig the police used rubber bullets to disperse stonethrowing youth. The Interior ministry spokesman ,Ibrahim Hammed claimed that everything was going normal, apart from ten polling stations where Muslim Brotherhood thugs was causing disturbances. According to official sources in Cairo 600 people have been injured , and 80 arrested.

Today is the third and final run-off in the parliamentary elections. 127 seats are supposedly contested and 35 MB candidates competes for seats. From the start of the elections on the 9 of November, at least 1200 supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood has been arrested. Despite this, the success story of these elections are the MB, who has already increased their seats in Parliament fivefold ,from 17 to 76, something nobody expected, probably not even the MB itself. Issam al Eryan, perhaps their most charismatic and dynamic leader, newly released from prison, has stated that if the Brotherhood gets over 70 seats, they will try to legalize it. This of course is one of the taboos in Egyptian politics , and both the leadership in Cairo and Washington are firmly against it for now. The NDP has done almost as bad as the last time, and has once again reversed it´s threat of banning renegade NDP-independents, and instead embraced them in the big partyfamily yet again. The secular has as always(when it´s not boycotting the elections) done a less than satisfatory election, and it´s probably worse than ever.
Six seats will be contested at a later date, due to irregularities and violence in the second round.

Monday, December 05, 2005

HRW letter to Condi

On the second of December,the Human Rights watch sent a letter to Condolezza Rice, expressing it´s astonishment over the press briefing at the State Dep the day before. In the briefing, State Dep press spokesman Sean McCormack answering questions about the third round of the Egyptian parliamentary elections, stated over and over that the administration is “sure” that the Egyptian government wants “an environment where everybody can express their peaceful free will through the ballot box.” The letter from HRW begins like this

¨Dear Secretary Rice,

We are writing to express our astonishment at the statements yesterday by State Department spokesman Sean McCormack regarding state-inspired violence and irregularities in Egypt’s parliamentary elections. Mr. McCormack’s statements, including his assertion that the State Department has “not received, at this point, any indication that the Egyptian Government isn’t interested in having peaceful, free and fair elections,” are utterly disconnected from the reality of what is happening in Egypt today. They make a mockery of the policies you and President Bush have articulated on numerous occasions this year regarding the importance of respect for democratic freedoms in the Middle East generally and in Egypt in particular¨. Ever since President Bush´s speech on the 6 of November 2003, and accentuated in his inauguration speech, followed by the state of the union and Secretary Rice´s speech in Cairo in June, the expections has been high on the administration to live up to their grand words of democratization in the broader middle east and to Egypt in particular, But quite the the opposite has been true in most cases. In tandem with these grand words the third annual Arab Human development report focusing soley on democratization was alledgedly held hostage by Egyptian and American government objections to some specific wording in parts of the report concerning the new political trend in Arab governing circles, hereditary republics(the Egyptian case) and critique concerning the Israeli and Iraqi ocupations. This of course after the Bush administration had used the first two reports to cherrypick ideas for their MEPI projects. While Secretary Rice was more than frank in the press conference with Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Abu al Gheit, and cancelled her trip to Cairo in early February , just days after, ever since there has been ambiguity in the approach to Egypt. HRW raised concern after Black wednesday(the referendum on constitutional change to provide for multicandidate presidential elections), when the administration failed to critizise the Egyptian government,either on the NDP-thugs inspired violence, particularly focused on women, or the change in the constitution itself, tailormade to exclude any potential political force posing a threat to the current political leadership. silence was also the prefered diplomatic tool concering the mass arrests of the Muslim Brotherhood, including high profile Issam al Aryan. Instead supporting the ban on the brotherhood, echoing the Egyptian government´s insistance on constitutional grounds.

So why this disconnect between vision and reality? Perhaps yesterday´s Washington Post can give us a clue. The first strategic goal of this government, has been, and is likely to be untill January 2009, The war on terrorism. Egypt play´s an important part in this. A second reason is Egypt´s role as a ¨leader of peace¨ It´s role in Gaza and it´s help in facilitating talks between different palestinian fractions(among them Hamas and Islamic Jihad), and the new love story between the Egyptian and Israeli government, manifested in joint ventures, Gas projects and Mubarak´s insistance on Sharon being the man who will bring about peace, to the point that it makes you wonder if he has moved ahead and is now part of the Kadima party election strategy. One can perhaps also wonder if Scott McCormack has switched jobs with his Egyptian counterpart.

So the double strategy of security issues first and Egypt´s important role visavi the Palestinians and warmer ties with Israel, has been the reason for the US administration putting the democracy option on the backburner, and it´s not likely that it will regain momentuem, other than in public relations regards, the current parliamentary elections will be hailed as the most democratic elections so far, just as the presidential elections was viewed in a very positive way, if President Mubarak sticks to his election campaign promise to end the emergency law(eventough most likely substituting it with something in the same draconian spirit). This will also be hailed as a positive step.
Other issues,more important than democracy promotion will be the focal point for this administration for the rest of this administration. Iraq, The Israeli-Palestinian track, the search for UBL, and the war on terrorism, but also damage control, in Iraq and on the domestic arena, with probable democratic gaines in mid term elections, the problems faced by Katrina, and the more controversial policies in the war on terrorism, the reasons for going to war in Iraq in the first place, etc etc.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Egypt awakes

Ahdaf Souief has a piece in yesterday´s Guardian. A personal diary of the changing political and social climate, stretching From the referendum on art 76 on the 25 of May, untill the current parliamentary elections. Focusing on the opposition. A really good piece. Those of you, not familiar with Ahdaf Souief, and her work should try reading her fantastic novels - In the eye of the sun and The map of Love. You can find them here

Friday, December 02, 2005

MB in 35 runoffs

According to Muslim Brotherhood sources 35 of the 49 MB candidates in round will be competting in the runoffs. If this turn out to be official, then the likelyhood that they would break the 100 MPs treshold is still there. The killing in Baltim, the arrests of MB-activists, the police using teargas and all the usual election routines.This is the official American line
about the elections

The picture is from the viillage of Bossad in the Nile Delta yesterday, people trying to get in to vote, dispite police cording the station off,

A picture can say more than a thousand words Posted by Picasa

Thursday, December 01, 2005

The Christians of Egypt 9 or 8 million or less ?

Two days ago i wrote about Usama al Baz lecture at the Swedish Institute of Foreign affairs, where he stated that the christians in Egypt amounted to 9 million. This is to my knowledge the highest figure stated by any government official. In a interview that al Baz gave to the Swedish news agency tidningarnas telegrambyrå later that day, published in the second largest morning paper in Sweden Svenska Dagbladet the number of Christians in Egypt was reduced to 8 million.
The subject of how many Christians live in Egypt has been the subject of confussion and controversy. The census of 1976 claimed that out of Egypts´s population of 38.1 million the Christians share was 2.3 which makes it 6%. This figure correlates with Mustafa al Feqqis number of 700 000 in 1912. Saad Eddin Ibrahim stated that they amounted to 8% in 1995 and Adel Hussein claimed that they where two million in 1997. Refaát Said said in 1997 that ¨We count everything in Egypt: cups, shoes, books. The only thing we don´t count are the Copts. They have been two million since 1945. No one has died ; no one has been born,¨
Officials from within the Christian community claims the figure is much higher, and that The Christians is not represented in sufficent numbers in the govrnment, Parliament or in the upper echelons of the state burueucracy.