FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Egypt’s Nuclear Option

by RANNIE AMIRI

“For someone like myself to be unable to run for president, this is a disaster. How can a constitution bar 99 percent of the people from running?”

– Former IAEA Director-General and Nobel Prize laureate Mohammad ElBaradei, in an interview with Egypt’s Dream Television, 18 February 2010.

Mohammad ElBaradei returned to a hero’s welcome and the jubilation of thousands at Cairo’s International Airport last week. Some carried signs reading, “ElBaradei is the whole nation’s hope,” and “ElBaradei for president of Egypt” while others chanted, “You can’t go back, we need you!” and “We want change!”

It must have been a foreboding scene for Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. Such displays are officially prohibited under the country’s Emergency Law and security forces had already warned those planning to greet ElBaradei that any unauthorized gathering would not be tolerated. Despite this, a vast cross-section of Egyptian society including the young and old, liberal and conservative, Christian and Muslim, and poor and wealthy, still showed up to cheer his homecoming.

ElBaradei’s arrival appeared to herald the beginning of campaign season as Egypt gets ready to hold a presidential ballot in 2011. Mubarak has not officially announced if he will seek re-election or not, but there is widespread belief he is grooming his son Gamal to succeed him.

With this expectation, constitutional roadblocks have already been erected to prevent someone exactly like ElBaradei from challenging him.

Egypt’s constitution was amended in 2007 to require presidential candidates to be members of a recognized party for a minimum of one year, and for that party to have existed for at least five. Independent candidates – as ElBaradei would be considered should he run – are forced to secure the endorsement of 250 members from the People’s Assembly (lower house of parliament), the Shura Council (upper house of parliament) and municipal councils. As expected, all are dominated by Mubarak’s ruling National Democratic Party (NDP), essentially precluding independents from running.

ElBaradei thus faces a colossal, entrenched political and security infrastructure that has no appetite for an outsider’s attempt (as Egyptian media has been keen to describe it) at reform. Indeed, the nearly 30-year rule of Mubarak has not seen a single day without the cover of Emergency Law.

Enacted after President Anwar Sadat’s assassination in 1981, these laws give Mubarak’s government sweeping authority to arrest without warrant, detain without charge, censor media and curtail freedom of assembly.

ElBaradei appreciates the challenge quite well. As a result, he has positioned himself less as a presidential contender and more as a facilitator of change:

“I believe that the time has come for Egypt to make a serious move towards real democracy … This is what I am advocating and is my primary goal: creating the environment that enables the Egyptians to feel that they are in charge of their destiny.”

The question many are now asking is not whether ElBaradei will beat Gamal in 2011, but if he will even be allowed to run. He stated:

“I am ready to throw myself into Egyptian political life on the condition that there are free elections, and the first step toward that would be a constitutional amendment under which I can be a candidate and others as well.”

In stark contrast to the conditions imposed on presidential candidates described above, ElBaradei stipulated that any bid of his would be contingent on guarantees of independent judicial review and international oversight of the election by the United Nations.

Many believe that is extremely unlikely to happen.

The strategy of Mubarak’s regime has always been to make people believe they have only two choices: the NDP (re: Mubarak) or the Muslim Brotherhood (which is banned). The last independent challenger to Mubarak, Ayman Nour, was thrown in jail on trumped up charges of forgery after he garnered seven percent of the vote in the 2005 election. Framing themselves as representing stability and continuity, Mubarak and the NDP have effectively left citizens with no real alternative.

With this in mind, ElBaradei recognized he could well be regarded as a type of “savior” and has wisely cautioned against it:

“I am worried that people have reached such a level of despair that they are waiting for one person to save them, but I would like for Egypt to save itself.”

One would assume that focusing on the responsibilities of the Egyptian people and their pressing needs (poverty, lack of access to medical care and education, ending corruption) might find a sympathetic ear. But this has certainly not been the case.

The editor of the widely-circulated government-owned daily, Al-Ahram, said ElBaradei was “ill-informed” and “an American stooge” (apparently unlike his own president). A government minister remarked that ElBaradei knew nothing of Egypt’s problems because of his time spent abroad. Even the opposition Muslim Brotherhood, possibly sensing he may draw away support, have distanced themselves from him.

An Al-Ahram columnist recently wrote, “(ElBaradei’s) rosy dreams will fade when he discovers that none of those searching for a loaf of bread … even knows his name.”

I don’t how ElBaradei would respond, but I suspect he would say it is far more important to ensure they have bread to eat than to worry about the person they got it from.

RANNIE AMIRI is an independent Middle East commentator. He may be reached at: rbamiri AT yahoo DOT com.

Rannie Amiri is an independent commentator on Middle East affairs.

More articles by:
May 26, 2016
Paul Craig Roberts
The Looting Stage of Capitalism: Germany’s Assault on the IMF
Pepe Escobar
Hillary Clinton: A Major Gold-Digging Liability
Sam Pizzigati
America’s Cosmic Tax Gap
Ramzy Baroud
Time to End the ‘Hasbara’: Palestinian Media and the Search for a Common Story
José L. Flores
Wall Street’s New Man in Brazil: The Forces Behind Dilma Rousseff’s Impeachment
Patrick Cockburn
The Battle of Fallujah: ISIS Unleashes Its Death Squads
John Feffer
The Coming Drone Blowback
Alex Ray
The Death Toll in Syria: What Do the Numbers Really Say?
Richard Pithouse
We Shall be the Prey and the Vulture
Binoy Kampmark
Trump and the Polls of Loathing
Manuel E. Yepe
A Cruise Ship Without Tourists Arrives in Havana
Jack Rasmus
Greek Debt Negotiations: Will the IMF Exit the Troika?
Ajamu Nangwaya
Pan-Africanism, Feminism and Finding Missing Pan-Africanist Women
Howard Lisnoff
Israel, a Palestinian State and Anti-Semitism
May 25, 2016
Eric Draitser
Obama in Hiroshima: A Case Study in Hypocrisy
Ryan Mallett-Outtrim
Does Venezuela’s Crisis Prove Socialism Doesn’t Work?
Dan Arel
The Socialist Revolution Beyond Sanders and the Democratic Party
Marc Estrin
Cocky-Doody Politics and World Affairs
Sam Husseini
Layers of Islamophobia: Do Liberals Care That Hillary Returned “Muslim Money”?
Susan Babbitt
Invisible in Life, Invisible in Death: How Information Becomes Useless
Mel Gurtov
Hillary’s Cowgirl Diplomacy?
Kathy Kelly
Hammering for Peace
Dick Reavis
The Impeachment of Donald Trump
Wahid Azal
Behind the Politics of a Current Brouhaha in Iran: an Ex-President Ayatollah’s Daughter and the Baha’is
Jesse Jackson
Obama Must Recommit to Eliminating Nuclear Arms
Colin Todhunter
From the Green Revolution to GMOs: Living in the Shadow of Global Agribusiness
Binoy Kampmark
Turkey as Terror: the Role of Ankara in the Brexit Referendum
Dave Lindorff
72-Year-Old Fringe Left Candidate Wins Presidency in Austrian Run-Off Election
May 24, 2016
Sharmini Peries - Michael Hudson
The Financial Invasion of Greece
Jonathan Cook
Religious Zealots Ready for Takeover of Israeli Army
Ted Rall
Why I Am #NeverHillary
Mari Jo Buhle – Paul Buhle
Television Meets History
Robert Hunziker
Troika Heat-Seeking Missile Destroys Greece
Judy Gumbo
May Day Road Trip: 1968 – 2016
Colin Todhunter
Cheerleader for US Aggression, Pushing the World to the Nuclear Brink
Jeremy Brecher
This is What Insurgency Looks Like
Jonathan Latham
Unsafe at Any Dose: Chemical Safety Failures from DDT to Glyphosate to BPA
Binoy Kampmark
Suing Russia: Litigating over MH17
Dave Lindorff
Europe, the US and the Politics of Pissing and Being Pissed
Matt Peppe
Cashing In at the Race Track While Facing Charges of “Abusive” Lending Practices
Gilbert Mercier
If Bernie Sanders Is Real, He Will Run as an Independent
Peter Bohmer
A Year Later! The Struggle for Justice Continues!
Dave Welsh
Police Chief Fired in Victory for the Frisco 500
May 23, 2016
Conn Hallinan
European Union: a House Divided
Paul Buhle
Labor’s Sell-Out and the Sanders Campaign
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail