"Let nothing human be alien to me"- Terence

Friday, February 19, 2010

El-Baradei in Cairo

Our friends at The Majlis have a post about the return to Cairo of young Egypt's newest political hero, former IAEA head Mohammed el-Baradei.  El-Baradei has announced that, given a free and fair election, he plans to run for President in 2011.  The last Presidential elections in Egpyt were marred irrevocable by intimidation and arrest, with Putin-style tactics.  These were also the first real Presidential elections, as before Hosni Mubarak was subject to a referendum on whether or not he should keep his job (correct answer: yes).

This will be interesting.  El-Baradei has a good reputation in Egypt as someone who speaks truth to power.  He also has international renown, so it will be considerably more difficult for Mubarak to get away with silencing him (going back to the Russian analogy well: think how Putin is unable to arrest Garry Kasparov, only in this case imagine Kasparov has a decent following).

But setting aside all scenarios where the game is rigged for Hosni, or (more likely) his son Gamal, and el-Baradei actually wins.  Will he be able to do anything?  The bureaucracy is just as sticky and difficult as it always has been, and the ability of a reformer to cut through that might be severely limited.  The stifling nature of the system is just as bad today as it is presented in Tawfik al-Hakim's Maze of Justice (a wonderful darkly comic novel). But who knows?  Maybe something fresh can help shake the dust of the stagnant, tired Mubarak years, with their gray emergency-rule coat.   And if people can be excited about a democrat, we might not have to fear the Mubarak standard of "if not for me, the Brotherhood".

But, hell, I don't know.  It is Friday, and I am optimistic.  One thing we know for sure, though: if this run happens, it will be interesting to see how the right wing noise-machine, who so vilified al-Baradei for not saying there were WMDs in Iraq, deals with this.  He is challenging an Arab autocrat...but we don't like him for 2003.  I for one look forward to the contortions. 

1 comment:

  1. I am optimistic on Egypt as well. Although Egypt will not change overnight, any new leader not named Mubarak will be a big psychological step forward for that country.

    If the largest Sunni Arab country can democratize, it has the potential to be a game-changer in the region. And Egypt is soo close.