Thursday, May 15, 2008

Hamzawy/Herzallah part II

In April, Amr Hamzawy and Mohammed Herzallah wrote a Carnegie Policy Outlook paper on the local elections in Egypt. I wrote about it in a blogpost . Yesterday the
duo penned an article for WaPo´s Think Tank Town, with the title: Egypt's Unrest in Perspective.

A sample:

Remarkably, the regime seems to have abandoned the option of using political reforms to defuse socioeconomic tensions. Instead it has consistently tried to contain social strife through a combination of repressive measures that included arbitrary arrests, and minor economic conciliatory measures like expanding the welfare beneficiary pool and raising wages in the public sector. This stands in contrast to what happened in the 2003-2005 period. The political openings of those years followed the economic difficulties the country was experiencing as a result of the government's decision to float the national currency. Among the political reforms introduced in this period was eased control over opposition activities, constitutional amendments allowing multicandidate presidential elections, and toleration of political participation by the major Islamist opposition movement, the Muslim Brotherhood.

A similar wave of political reforms by the regime seems far less likely today, as a trouble-free presidential succession, anticipated for 2011, seems to surpass any other considerations. In fact, developments on the ground suggest that the regime has completely recoiled from the reform agenda and returned to old authoritarian habits.

In the next paragraph Hamzawy and Herzallah mentions the 34 amendments of the constitution(the most thorough change in the current constitution since it was introduced in September 1971), rushed through parliament, before taken to a referendum in March 207 as a serious blow to political reform. It was more than that, it was the Dance of Death for top-down controlled political reform for the foreseeable future, that is post-succession, presumably sometime after 2011. What was packaged and introduced to the people of Egypt as the single most important part of political reform, was in fact the complete opposite. It was an integral part in creating the political infrastructure for a de facto continuation of the dominant party within the ¨democratic facade¨ system that has been serving it´s purpose since the re-introduction to multi-party life in Egyptian politics in 1975-76. Creating a chimera of political reform within the existing system, while closing down practically all avenues for the Muslim Brotherhood, who runs in elections as Independents.

It will also limit other Independents from having a fair chance of getting elected. This will of course also have a side effect in terms of fixing the current problem within the NDP with renegade members of parliament not deemed necessary or good enough for re-election on the NDP ticket whom until now, has had the option of running as Independents against the official NDP-candidate in his constituency(the only reason for me chosing the masculine form is to show the lack of female candidates , despite the rhetoric of the higher NDP-officials) , and in many cases upset the official party candidate in the past two parliamentary elections of 2000 and 2005. Clearing the path for people with ¨new vision¨ .

Nothing in the last 14 months suggests a change in that patern, the way the two elections held after the amendments , Shura and local elections was conducted leaves in terms of obstructing the MB as well as the legal opposition from participating. The prolonged military court case of Khairat ash Shater and harsh verdicts. The way of dealing with the opposition press, bloggers, labour activists and facebookists is indeed no new policy. It´s the new vision , with the same old spectacles. If anything the patern has become clearer.

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