The twilight of the Mubarak regime

The Egyptian parliamentary elections this year and presidential elections next year could mean gigantic changes in the Middle East - for good or bad.

Egypt is not a democracy by any stretch of the imagination. Emergency powers granted President Mubarak back in 1980 following Sadat's assassination have never been rescinded so the Egyptian president rules with an iron hand.

His justification - one the US has accepted for decades - is that the alternative to Mubarak's authoritarianism would be the Muslim Brotherhood's Sunni style Islamism complete with complications for Israel that would ratchet up tension in the region substantially. Egypt is armed with modern weapons courtesy of the US and if they were to return to belligerent status with Israel, it would make the Middle East a tinderbox once again.

So perhaps it's understandable that many in the west would look to former UN IAEA chief and Nobel Peace Prize winner Mohammed ElBaradei as something of a savior when it comes to preventing the victory of the Muslim Brotherhood in any open race for the presidency.

ElBaradei maintains that he will not run for office unless a "constitutional revolution" allows for a free and fair election. This proviso has not stopped him from raising his political profile through a growing schedule of public appearances and statements to the international press. As his support has steadily grown, so too has the depth of his message. To his fellow Egyptians, he has assumed the mantle of political progressive. His central theme to the world, however, is cautionary -- namely that the West's generous support for oppressive and authoritarian Arab regimes in the fight against radical Islamism is at best counterproductive, and at worst, potentially ruinous.However, ElBaradei will likely continue to play his political cards close to the vest. In a nation that's short on democratic experience, barring an implausible change in Mubarak's stance against political opposition, ElBaradei may have to content himself with the role of Egypt's Critic-in-Chief. That would not necessarily weaken his message.

In his words, "The West talks a lot about elections in Iran, for example, but at least there were elections. Yet where are the elections in the Arab world? If the West doesn't talk about that, then how can it have any credibility?"

Mubarak fears democracy more than the Brotherhood so it is possible ElBaradei will remain outside the ring. 

In the meantime, Mubarak is in poor health and may not last until the elections next year. If he were to die, there is no clear heir apparent - even his son Gamal is not seen as a serious candidate at this time - which could lead to a period of confusion and upheaval in exactly the part of the world that can least afford it.

 

The Egyptian parliamentary elections this year and presidential elections next year could mean gigantic changes in the Middle East - for good or bad.

Egypt is not a democracy by any stretch of the imagination. Emergency powers granted President Mubarak back in 1980 following Sadat's assassination have never been rescinded so the Egyptian president rules with an iron hand.

His justification - one the US has accepted for decades - is that the alternative to Mubarak's authoritarianism would be the Muslim Brotherhood's Sunni style Islamism complete with complications for Israel that would ratchet up tension in the region substantially. Egypt is armed with modern weapons courtesy of the US and if they were to return to belligerent status with Israel, it would make the Middle East a tinderbox once again.

So perhaps it's understandable that many in the west would look to former UN IAEA chief and Nobel Peace Prize winner Mohammed ElBaradei as something of a savior when it comes to preventing the victory of the Muslim Brotherhood in any open race for the presidency.

ElBaradei maintains that he will not run for office unless a "constitutional revolution" allows for a free and fair election. This proviso has not stopped him from raising his political profile through a growing schedule of public appearances and statements to the international press. As his support has steadily grown, so too has the depth of his message. To his fellow Egyptians, he has assumed the mantle of political progressive. His central theme to the world, however, is cautionary -- namely that the West's generous support for oppressive and authoritarian Arab regimes in the fight against radical Islamism is at best counterproductive, and at worst, potentially ruinous.

However, ElBaradei will likely continue to play his political cards close to the vest. In a nation that's short on democratic experience, barring an implausible change in Mubarak's stance against political opposition, ElBaradei may have to content himself with the role of Egypt's Critic-in-Chief. That would not necessarily weaken his message.

In his words, "The West talks a lot about elections in Iran, for example, but at least there were elections. Yet where are the elections in the Arab world? If the West doesn't talk about that, then how can it have any credibility?"

Mubarak fears democracy more than the Brotherhood so it is possible ElBaradei will remain outside the ring. 

In the meantime, Mubarak is in poor health and may not last until the elections next year. If he were to die, there is no clear heir apparent - even his son Gamal is not seen as a serious candidate at this time - which could lead to a period of confusion and upheaval in exactly the part of the world that can least afford it.

 

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