Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Fathi Souror: Article 76 to be amended in 2007

The speaker of the Egyptian parliament announced that the highly controversial article 76 of the constitution, regulating presidential elections will be changed in 2007, the year has been dubbed the year of constitutional change and the speaker clainms that we will witness the largest change in the constitution since 1971.

Well, a change is long overdue, but the particular article 76 will face
some kind of cosmetic change for sure, it will perhaps marginally change the number of elected politicians from different governing bodies whose support is needeed for any candidate to be allowed to run for the highest office. Easing the Kafkaesque quest for any candidate, whose not from the NDP a tiny bit.

This is probably to facilitate a somewhat smother presidential election, one that actually will be able to field at least two candidates.

Are the Egyptians supposed to jump for joy now?

Will the new amendment include a reintroduction of a maximum cap of two terms in presidential office? perhaps the most important change in the constitution of 1971.

Why change an article, just two years after introducing it? Allright it was rushed through both houses of parliament, but which important bill isn´t?

UPDATE: I was a bit confused(it was late at night). Of course the legal parties needs five percent to participate, the independents needs the support of at least 250 of the elected representatives in the different political bodies(Parliament, Upper house and muncipal structures.)

The President adressed the issue at a meeting with NDP members of parliament on monday:

"I thought about ammending article 76 before you did, in order to strenghten parties," he said without elaborating on what the changes would be.

This makes the reason for the change crystal clear in my view, strenghten the parties, is not really the reason, the reason is to close the very limitided window for independents(read the muslim brotherhood). While securing the participation of at least one partyconnected candidate, and making a big deal of the change, as a way of listening to the critique from the opposition. The government will be able to portray this as a way of taking the second leap on the journey of deeping and widening the institutions of democratization.

If this will work is a whole different ballgame alltogheter. The right for independts to run for office has been tried in the constitutional court, when Kamel Khaled tried to run as an independent candidate to parliament in 1984, and was rejected. The Constitutional Court came to the conclusion that law 114(1983) violated the right of the independents to equal opportunity. Law 114(1983) was the cornerstone of the PR-system, and any attempt to introduce a system that will bar the independents from running for office, presidential or parliamentarian will probably run into trouble, like in 1984 when the President preemted this by dissolving the parliament, changing law 114(83), and hold new parliamentary elections two years early in 1987.

One last question: If the stated aim is to strenghten the parties, then why not change the party law, making it easier to form a political party would perhaps mean something?

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Pope Shenouda to undergo back surgery in the U.S.

Pope Shenouda III left Egypt today,and is to undergo back surgery in Cleveland, Ohio on monday.

He will have cartilage removed from his spine.

The coptic orthodox pontiff is due back in Cairo in time for the 35th anniversary of his inauguration as Pope on the 14th of November 1971.

More here.

Upon request from a fellow blogspotter and friend, i´m adding a photo, it´s from the AFP

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Umar abd al Rahman´s lawyer gets 28 months in jail

Lynne Stewart, the lawyer of the Egyptian, Umar Abd al Rahman, recieved a 28 months sentence for acting as a go between, facilitating contacts with his supporters in Egypt. The two others in the case Ahmed Abd al Sattar and Muhammed Yousry recieved prison terms of 24 years,and one year and eight months.

¨Prosecutors held that between 1997 and 2002, Stewart and her co-defendants helped Abdel Rahman pass messages to his followers in violation of government restrictions on his right to communicate with the outside world.

In particular, the prosecutors said, Abdel Rahman used the three defendants to exhort his militant Islamic group to break a ceasefire with the Egyptian government.¨

Umar Abd al Rahman himself was sentenced to life imprisonment for his role in the conspiracy around the first world trade center bombing in February 1993, other landmarks(the Holland Tunnel for instance, if my memory serves me right).

Maria Golia on how Egypt´s development projects only benfits the rich

Go read Maria Golias new piece in the daily star, it´s on the topic why Egypt´s development project´s just benefits the rich.

Here´s a soundbite:

¨Instead of responding to the needs of the larger community - for good schools, medical facilities, affordable housing, proximity to viable employment - the decision-making elite that has successfully monopolized Egypt's direction for decades tends to choose the quickest, most self-enriching path. Moreover, it tries to sell its self-aggrandizement to the public as altruistic economic progress. The most commanding feature of Egypt's real-estate development since the onset of the 1990s reform is the fact that it couldn't be less real.¨

She ends like this:

¨Although the government trumpets these investments as economic achievements, it is nevertheless selling a priceless patrimony out from under its citizens' feet, as if it owned this land by sovereign right. Its willingness to award high-bidding foreigners with key developments that cannot significantly better the lot of average Egyptians betrays a failure to prioritize, conceive and finance its own infrastructure improvements. These major sales and their proposed developments should be seen for what they are: not seedling towns or economic cure-alls, but the last resort of an ethically and imaginatively bankrupt elite.¨

MB Secretary General and 14 others ordered released by the Cairo high court

The Secretary General of the Muslim Brotherhood, Mahmoud Ezzat in Jail since 25th of August has been ordered to be released by the Cairo high court on monday the 17th, togheter with 14 others. He was arrested in Kafr Shaykkh togheter with among others senior MB member Lahsen Abu Shanab, who was later released due to medical reasons. They were all charged with belonging to an illegal group.

This comes about a week after supreme guide of the Muslim brotherhood, Mahdi Akef was refused by the Egyptian authorities to go and preform an Umra at the holy cities of Mecka and Medina, the state security interupts an MB iftar party in Asyut and just days after the latest arrests of 8 MB members in Menoufiyya, last friday, the day before the brotherhood commemorated the centennial of the birth of the founder of the organization , Hassan al Banna in his home village of Mahmudiyya.

Lets hope everything works out for the best, in the past such court orders has been ignored on occasion.

There are still about 40 MB in prison, among them Muhammed Morsy and Issam al Aryan who were both arrested during the protests in support of judges Bastawissi and Mekky on the 18th of May.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

The Israel lobby: Does it have too much influence over US foreign policy?

In September, the London review of books hosted a debate at the Cooper union , New york city. The debate was a follow up on the article published in London review of books in March, by John Mearesheimer and Stephen Walt, this of course being an edited version of their controversial and much talked about researchpaper - The Israel lobby and U.S. foreign policy both of which can be found in one of my earlier postings at the diwan.

The panel was a very distunguished one made up by former Israeli Minister of Foreign Affairs Shlomo Ben-Ami, Martyn Indyk,Dennis Ross,Tony Judt, Rashid Khalidi and John Mearsheimer himself, the event was moderated by Anne-Marie Slaughter.

The debate can now be viewed in full on the net - and you find it here.

Abu Aardvark´s new blog project - Qahwa Sada

Abu Aardvark(Marc Lynch) has a new project upp and running - Qahwa Sada, it´s been up for nearly a month, but apparantly my dose of the Haifa, Nancy,Ruby arms race/culture war has been way too low lately!

The basic idea behind this blog can be found here.

The blog looks very interesting! Make sure to take the time to drop by!

His latest post is on a paper by Carnegie scholars Marina Ottaway and Meredith Ridley, Morocco: From Top-Down Reform to Democratization?

I had the distinct pleasure of listen to Dr Ottoway, when she made a presentation of the Carnegiepaper, Islamist movements and democratization last spring( you can find the full text of the paper here). She´s a former teacher at the AUC.

Alf mabrouk ya Abu aardvark!

UPDATE: Apparently i´m not as late as i thought.

New issue of the MIT- EJMES on the Lebanon war

The summer issue of MIT-EJMES is devoted in it´s entirety to the recent Lebanon war, with the theme headline: THE SIXTH WAR

It includes articles by people like Daily star contributors Jim Quilty, Nicholas Blanford and Augustus Norton , the Middle East Civil society expert, scholar, and blogger, who´s currently living in Cairo.

It´s a 229 pages long PDF file that will keep you busy for a while!

I am also looking forward to read the rewievs on Fawaz Gerges´s The far enemy and Lisa Pollard´s Nurturing the Nation (on Egypt from 1805-1923)

Here is the content of the issue:

Israel's 2006 War on Lebanon: Reflections on the International Law of
Karim Makdisi

Will We Win? Convergence and Israel's Latest Lebanon War
Robert Blecher

How the Rebel Regained His Cause: Hizbullah & the Sixth Arab-Israeli
Reinoud Leenders

The Refugees Who Give Refuge
Laleh Khalili

Nicholas Blanford

The Peacekeeping Challenge in Lebanon
Augustus Richard Norton

Politics and Business, State and Citizenry: Preliminary Thoughts on the
Response to Lebanon's Humanitarian Crisis
Jim Quilty

The Outlook for Economic Reconstruction in Lebanon After the 2006 War
Bassam Fattouh and Joachim Kolb

Deconstructing a "Hizbullah stronghold"
Lara Deeb

Media is the Continuation of War with Other Means: The New York Times'
coverage of the Israeli War on Lebanon
Yasser Munif

Great expectations, limited means: France and the 2006 Israeli-Lebanese
Elizabeth Picard

Israel in Lebanon: The Foreign Policy Logics of Jewish Statehood
Virginia Tilley

Size does not Matter: The Shebaa Farms in History and Contemporary
Asher Kaufman

Irene Gendzier

Lebanon's Political Economy: After Syria, an Economic Ta'if?
Reviewed by Reinoud Leenders

Hizbullah: Iranian Surrogate or Independent Actor?
Reviewed by Rola el-Husseini

Making Sense of Al Qaeda
Review Essay by John A. McCurdy

David Cook
Understanding Jihad
Reviewed by Amir Asmar

Fawaz A. Gerges
The Far Enemy: Why Jihad Went Global
Reviewed by Mohamed Yousry

Paul A. Silverstein
Algeria in France. Transpolitics, Race, and Nation
Reviewed by Margaret A. Majumdar

Lisa Pollard
Nurturing the Nation: The Family Politics of Modernizing, Colonizing
Liberating Egypt, 1805-1923
Reviewed by Omnia El Shakry

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Power of Egyptian solidarity with Lebanon

This is the true face and spirit of Egyptian solidarity with the Lebanese people, manifested from the start of the conflict by the Arab doctors syndicate´s rapid response units dispatched to help their fellow brethern.

As soon as the Rafiq Hariri international airport´s tarmac was cleared and able to recieve airplanes, the assistant Secretary General of the current party in power, Gamal Mubarak leaped to the rescue of the embattled Lebanese democracy and people, creating an air bridge of one Egyptian military plane.

The picture from the AFP, showing Egyptian workers helping out with a power cable in the village of Kafra in Southern Lebanon, is but a small contribution in the ongoing commitment of the Egyptian government and people to the rebuilding of Lebanon, and strenghtening of the democratic forces in the country, after the adventurism of the IDF.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Doing Business in Egypt,- no way, but perhaps Yemen or Syria?

Business today -Egypt reports that the The annual report from the world bank on the climate of doing business ranks Egypt as No 165 (the full report as PDF)out of 175 economies around the globe. It retains it´s position from last year.

To put it in a regional perspective, the whole arab world is losing ground, except for six national economies, Algeria, Sudan, Yemen, Maroco, Lebanon and Palestine.

Egypt is ranked after countries like warstruck Afghanistan and Iraq.

The biggest positive shaker in the world, is Georgia who changed it´s ranking from 112 to 37 in a year.

Some comfort can possibly be found in the fact that India, one of the booming economies in the world and countries like Italy and Greece have relatively moderate rankings.

This report is one of many, and not all are as gloomy reading as this one, but the important thing is that it´s focus is on the nation´s ability to create an environment for private business, local and international alike that can lead to growing prosperity.

The Nazif government has made attracting foreign investment to Egypt, part and parcel of what they want to achieve and frankly speaking not many will be interested if they still see a lot of the problems supposed to be long gone, still remaining.

If you listen to the goverenment, it sounds like Egypt is on the threshold of paradise lost, and that foreign investors are running their legs off, just to get on the train to Klondike model 2006. If this report resembles reality in any way,shape or form, the Nazif´s government, the NDP brat pack and a large portion of the newly elected parliament has lost their raison d’être. Of course this is not the case, the report is probably just plain wrong.

Here are the specific data on Egypt

Monday, October 09, 2006

Gideon Levy on the mystery of America

Gideon Levy has written a brilliant piece in Haáretz today about the American lack of will to achieve peace and democracy in the region, contrary to their stated aims, the article was appearently triggered by the latest futile roundtrip to the region by Condi.

I intended to write somethinhg on her latest trip myself, focusing on Egypt, but apart from the fact that this time was slightly different from the past trips in rhetoric, nothing new in terms of substance came out(the fact that Egypt will pursue nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, and the endorsement and friendly helpfullness to provide what ever Egypt needs for that purpose was predictable.This will probably make Egypt less eager to talk about Dimona as well. The fact that Iran also has the right to pursue the goal of peaceful nuclear energy, has nothing to do with it..

Ayman Nour was not mentioned this time, perhaps some kind of silent diplomacy? (nobody else either, but that dosen´t surprise anyone anymore). Democracy promotion was finaly put to rest in the mastaba of useful flowery rhetoric in pursuit of strategic intersts. Only a mastaba was built as a way of ensuring a good afterlife, the current administration seem to have a somewhat shorter lifespan in mind, the midterm elections.

So enough of my own rhetoric, and back to the truth of the matter about the mystery of America with the master Gideon Levy:

1/Why does America not try to advance a solution towards peace?

¨Rice has been here six times in the course of a year and a half, and what has come of it? Has anyone asked her about this? Does she ask herself?

It is hard to understand how the secretary of state allows herself to be so humiliated. It is even harder to understand how the superpower she represents allows itself to act in such a hollow and useless way. The mystery of America remains unsolved: How is it that the United States is doing nothing to advance a solution to the most dangerous and lengthiest conflict in our world? How is it that the world's only superpower, which has the power to quickly facilitate a solution, does not lift a finger to promote it?

¨Countless trips by presidents and secretaries of state, peace initiatives and peace plans aplenty, from the Roger's Plan to the Road Map, via "reassessment," fruitless talks and flowery declarations, pressure and promises, discussions and decisions - and nothing has happened. And in the background, a fundamental question echoes, without a response: Is America at all interested in bringing about a solution in the Middle East? Is it possible that it does not understand how crucial it is to end the conflict?

As things appear, America can and does not want to.
No government in Israel, and surely not the most recent ones, which are terrified of the American administration, would stand up to a firm American demand to bring the occupation to an end. But there has never been an American president who wanted to put an end to the occupation. Does America not understand that without ending the occupation there will be no peace? Peace in the region would deliver a greater blow to world terrorism than any war America has pursued, in Iraq or Afghanistan. Does America not understand this? Can all this be attributed to the omnipotent Jewish lobby, which causes Israel more harm than good?

On Democracy promotion:

The declared aim of U.S. policy in the Middle East is to bring democracy to the region. For this reason, ostensibly, the U.S. also went to war in Iraq. Even if one ignores the hypocrisy, self-righteousness and double-standard of the Bush administration, which supports quite a few despotic regimes, one should ask the great seeker of democracy: Have your eyes failed to see that the most undemocratic and brutal regime in the region is the Israeli occupation in the territories? And how does the White House reconcile the contradiction between the aspiration to instill democracy in the peoples of the region and the boycott of the Hamas government, which was chosen in democratic elections as America wanted and preached?

The U.S. also speaks loftily about peace. At the same time, its president warns Israel against any attempt to forge peace with Syria. Here America is taking a stance that not only fails to advance an accord but even undermines it. Ever since it began to give Israel a free hand to impose the brutal occupation in the territories, it has become a party that bequeaths undemocratic values to the entire world. Where are the days when there was still concern in Jerusalem about the U.S. reaction before each military operation? Israel then thought twice before every liquidation and each arrest. Every demolition of a Palestinian home and each nocturnal groundbreaking of a settlement raised fears about how Uncle Sam would react. And now - carte blanche. There is a blank check for every belligerent action by Israel. Should this also be called an effort for peace, for democracy?

He ends like this:

n the Middle East, the U.S. has an opportunity to fundamentally change its image, from a warmonger to a peacemaker. And how does the U.S. respond to the challenge? It sends Rice to tell the excited Ehud Olmert how she falls asleep easily on her unnecessary and ridiculous flights to and from the Middle East.

It seems that Levy and Rami Khouri has been spending some time chatting about Condis inflight litterature and sleep back and forth, in this endless charade of diplomatic nonsense.

I could perhaps end by adding a question or two myself:
1/ Why didn´t the American administration boycott the Netanyahu government prior to tyhe Wye-agreement, altough Netanyahu wanted to renegotiate pretty much everything agreed upon in Oslo? As i recall, Wye river was portrayed as a major achievement at the time, largely because it was the first agreement signed by a likud dominated government which gave some concessions to the Palestineans on the West Bank.

But Wye river is also remembered as the comeback meeting of Arik Sharon, then newly appointed Minister for Foreign Affairs and the goodbye from the political scene by a fragile and pale King Hussein, rushed from the Mayo cancer clinic in Rochester Minnesota to salvage the deal at the last minute.

2/ Why didn´t the American administration boycott Sharon when he imadiately tried to kill the road map, by having no less than 14 reservations to the plan?

3/Why don´t the Americans take the Beirut initiative by the Arab League seriously, or at least call their bluff if that´s the case?

4/Why don´t the Arabs take their Beirut initiative seriously?

And finaly - as a tribute to the late President Sadat, days after the 25th aniversary of his death. How come that almost 29 years after Sadat´s plane touched down on the tarmac of Ben Gurion airport, the core issue of Palestine-Israeli peace is not solved?

Of course the Camp David Accords was only implemented as a bilateral agreement, the other part, while talking about UN-resolutions 242 and 338, it also talks about autonomy for the Palestinian people. Sadat in my view, did what he thought best for his people. That he betrayed the palestinians in the process was a fact that he either didn´t think of as a possible outcome, or didn´t care about.

That Egypt was unable to capitalize in any way economically from the peace agreement is largely the fault of the political establishment. The fact that the Egyptian people 29 years later on dosen´t have to think about their sons comming home in coffins is in no small way due to the late President Sadat.

Today, when everybody knows that a sollution is somewhere along the lines of the Oslo, Geneva , Clinton-Taba, Road map or indeed the Beirut initiative, why then must the peoples of the Middle East have to wait a single day more?