Democratic Stirrings in Egypt
by praktike at 12:04AM (EDT) on October 25, 2004  |  Permanent Link
I don’t know enough about Egyptian politics to be able to say how unprecedented this is, but it is encouraging:
More than 650 politicians, activists and intellectuals issued a landmark joint statement saying they will push to amend Egypt’s constitution to prevent Hosni Mubarak, the country’s president for almost a quarter of a century, from standing for another term next year.

Mubarak, 76, has been Egypt’s president and leader of the National Democratic Party since replacing his assassinated predecessor, Anwar Sadat, in 1981. His current six-year term ends in October, 2005 and he has not chosen a successor. In four previous presidential referendums, which require Egyptians to vote yes or no, he has been the sole candidate.

Some 689 people, ranging from Islamists to Communists and including 30 lawmakers, signed a petition Saturday in the name of The Popular Campaign for Reforms, an umbrella group formed last month to try to amend Egypt’s constitution to limit a president to holding two terms only.

Among the signatories, including 26 human rights and civil society groups and opposition political parties, was the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s largest Islamic group, which has 17 members represented in the Egyptian parliament as independents.

The petition, a copy of which was faxed to The Associated Press, said maintaining the system of one-man rule in Egypt would be “an obstacle to all opportunities for reform and progress which the country needs in order to face political, social and economical challenges.”

These included curbing the spread of corruption, deterioration of public services, price increases, fall in standard of living and rising unemployment levels, the petition said.

How will the U.S. react? It’s time to see if we’re serious about this whole “democracy in the Middle East” thing.

UPDATE [10:01 AM 10/25/04] by praktike: Issandr El Amrani of the Arabist network is optimistic yet cynical:

The left and the Islamists have taken some time to get together and find common ground, but at least they finally have. The group that’s still missing, though, is precisely the one Western powers would most like to see succeed the military regime: the “liberal” businessmen who have been nurtured for years as a rising force in Egyptian politics and are now – to a certain extent – represented by Gamal Mubarak and his cronies.

Hmmm.

Abu Aardvark has more analysis. Short version: it isn’t unprecedented, and the fact that the reformers appealed to the AP is a sign of weakness. And Gamal Mubarak is being put forward within the NDP as a reformer, but he’s an unknown quantity and he happens to be the son of a dictator, which undercuts his reformist credentials.

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