Thursday, June 08, 2006

June Issue of Arab Reform Bulletin

This month´s Arab Reform Bulletin includes Arab States: Security Services and the Crisis of Democratic Change. Written by Carnegie´s Amr Hamzawy, here are some soundbites:

¨in Egypt, Tunisia, and Yemen the same phenomenon can be explained by the relative weakness of the ruling parties in the face of the organizational efficiency of the police and intelligence agencies. Moreover, the proliferation of emergency laws and special tribunals frees the hand of the security apparatus from judicial restraints in dealing with domestic political matters. Recent experiences in Egypt—the regime's reliance on security brutality against voters in order to salvage the 2005 elections in the face of Muslim Brotherhood gains, and the vicious manner in which the security services dealt with liberal opposition figure Ayman Nour—illustrate the phenomenon. Because Arab regimes lack effective political tools for exerting influence over society, even when claiming reformist intentions they often resort to their most effective weapon, oppression by security forces.¨


¨The mentality of the security apparatus fears nothing on this earth more than the call for change. The security veto, which represents a fundamental block to movement and renewal within the Arab elite, leaves Arab regimes either with a fragile band of true reformers with no real power, or with larger groups of phony reformers who advance in proportion to their adherence to the security mentality. Understanding this phenomenon can explain in large measure the schizophrenia of the Moroccan, Egyptian, and Jordanian political elites in recent years.¨

Another interesting piece by Georgetown´s currently Cairobased scholar, Samer Shehata, who writes about Egypt: The Gamal Mubarak Paradox:

¨Independent newspapers have had a field day, for example, with Gamal's allegedly secret trip to Washington in May. The headline of the leftist Al Ahali's newspaper read, “Mubarak gives America a choice: Gamal or the (Muslim) Brotherhood.” Banner headlines in Al Usbuu (nominally independent but closely linked to security services) declared “The Secret of Gamal Mubarak's Mysterious Visit,” reflecting popular suspicion about Gamal Mubarak's meetings with President Bush, Vice President Cheney, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley¨ My take on this particular visit can be found here.

And this is how Shehata ends his piece:

¨Despite the ongoing controversy, if Gamal Mubarak were nominated as the ruling party's candidate and stood in controlled presidential elections, he would undoubtedly win. The process would be legal as per the amended Article 76 of the Egyptian constitution. Considering the weakness of the opposition and the Muslim Brotherhood's reluctance to challenge the regime directly, it is unlikely that the inevitable protests would result in anything more than temporary but surmountable turbulence for the regime.

The larger issue is that significant segments of the public would not welcome Gamal's installation and would consider his assumption of the presidency illegitimate. It is difficult to predict the precise problems that might arise from such a legitimacy deficit, for example, whether opponents to Gamal in the military or security services would take advantage of such a situation. The potential for trouble will be increased if Gamal Mubarak becomes president under currently anticipated conditions—with no term limits, no clear plan for political reform, and few economic deliverables for the general population.

Also in the news and views section is a report on the election of a new Secretary General in the Wafd party, the former party leader in parliament, Munir Fakhri Abd al Nour .It´s viewed to be a surprise choice for the number two spot in the party, but in my view this is the obvious choice, both because he is close to the current leadership who ousted Nouman Gouma earlier this year, he himself being thrown out of the party by Gouma, and also going back to a Wafd tradition of having a coptic Secrtary General, something started after the death of Saád Zaghloul in August 1927, when the Secretary General Nahass was elected leader of the party. Makram Ebeid arguably the most important coptic politician(perhaps with the exeption of Prime Minister Boutros Ghali,PM 1910-12)until today. From 1927 throughout the years this has been the case, with Ibrahim Faraj being the SG under the leadership of Fuad Seragedin, and when he died Munir Fakhri Abd al Nour took over, but for some reason Nouman Gouma changed that.

So this is a renewal of tradition, and hopefully a new symbolic begining for a great party with liberal traditions and perhaps, a democratic future.

The other articles in this issue is:

Kurdistan-Iraq: Can the Unified Regional Government Work?
Gareth Stansfield

Kuwait: Struggle over Parliament
Ghanim Al Najjar

Syria: Conflict with West Spurs Economic, not Political, Reform
Joshua Landis


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