Thursday, May 31, 2012

The pros and cons of all options you have in round 2

Voting Morsy

Pros:

- You will weaken the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF). Losing the presidency will put SCAF in a very awkward position. They will have to either seek to renew their understandings with the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) or try to impose some “National Security Council” that will act as SCAF’s arm inside the presidency.

- You will stop Shafik! A remnant of Mubarak’s regime. Shafik is an ardent supporter of Mubarak and a hater of the revolution. He will mostly return us back to pre-revolution Egypt. This is the Egypt he believes in.

- Shafik is merely a puppet of SCAF. By denying him the presidency you weaken the military rule that have ruled us for the past 60 years. You will not end the influence of the army generals, but you’ll just weaken them.

- You will vote for meeting the demands of the revolution provided that the MB were sincere in returning back to the revolutionary force and putting the interests of the revolution above that of their organization. Highly doubtful of course, but who knows, may be the MB learned something from the presidential elections. They might seek national consensus this time after knowing that they don’t have a monopoly over the vast majority of voters.

- Morsy is a civilian. He doesn’t have guns to kill you with. He doesn’t have APCs to crush you under. If the MB will refrain from using their civilian militias (which we encountered in Tahrir and at the parliament), it will be easier to protest against Morsy. Protesting against civilians was always easier and safer than protesting against a military junta.

- The MB, the ONLY organized and richest political organization in Egypt, only garnered 25% of the votes in the presidential elections. Only 200 thousand votes separated them from Mubarak’s prime minister! Why did the MB get far lesser votes than the parliament elections? Because the people saw them in power. Put Morsy in the presidency and they might end up losing more ground.

Cons:

- You will give the MB everything. The Coptic Orthodox Papacy and the seats around your dining table will be the only seats not filled by the MB and their Salafi cohorts. And we’ve all seen what happens when the MB get everything.

- In an MB-controlled country, they will try to bring every institution under their control. There won’t be an establishment that can balance their power. An example was what they wanted to do to the Constitutional Court by trying to pass a law that would render it ineffective. In an MB country, the street will be the only place you can go if you want to protest their supreme leader since everything else could be under their domination.

- There is a universal law that states: you can trust an angry 57 years old transsexual prostitute that got kicked out of Amsterdam’s Red Lights District but you can never trust the MB or trust what they say!

- I believe Egypt can never be Iran nor Saudi especially after the MB saw how the majority of Egyptians are willing to vote against them and even against Islamists . The MB candidate got 25% of the vote in the presidential elections, and the political Islamist candidates got 43% of the vote. However do expect some laws here and there. FGM, lowering the age of marriage, making it harder to obtain Khula, porn ban, etc. In an MB controlled country, there won’t be anyone who can stand against them especially if they managed to bring the courts and Azhar to their knees.

- A vote for Morsy is a vote for Khairat el Shater. An Ahmed Ezz but with a beard.

Voting Shafik:

Pros:

- You will create some sort of balance in the executive branch of government between the parliament and the presidency.

- Who can better watch what a thief does and expect his next moves? The police? No. Only another thief can anticipate what his fellow thief will do. It is sometimes good to put two gangs together, watching over each other. One gang will monopolize everything and devour us.

- If you’re already uncomfortable with a political Islamist party controlling parliament, you might want to see a non-political Islamist in the presidency.

- Putting SCAF and MB in the same cage. They will tear each other apart if they didn’t renew their understandings, weaken each other and Hamdeen Sabahy becomes president in 2016!

Cons:

- Shafik will return us to square one. It’ll be as if we have not done a revolution. He will empower our brutal police and State Security especially if the presidency remained in control of the ministry of interior. He will not be another dictator because I believe Egypt will not be ruled by a dictator anymore, but he will bring back many of the aspects that shaped Mubarak’s regime.

- A vote for Shafik is a vote for SCAF and their continued meddling in our civilian affairs.

- If you’ve been to the square in the past year and a half, if you’ve been in Mohamed Mahmoud, it’ll be very difficult for you to vote Shafik.

- If SCAF and the MB did not reach a new understanding, the parliament and the presidency will be in continual rivalry and won’t achieve anything for the country. That might be a good thing though. That wi’ll weaken them both in the coming 4 years.

Abstaining:

Pros:

- If a lot of people abstained, the legitimacy of the elected president will be minimized.

- You will be following your conscience if you don’t want to vote for either candidates.

- You will relieve yourself of the guilt you might feel if you voted for any of the two candidates.

Cons:

- Those abstaining should be the vast majority of eligible voters, I would say 70%, in order to have an effect on the next president’s legitimacy

- Abstaining will not prevent either Morsy or Shafik from becoming president.

Ruining your vote:

Pros:

- You will make a statement and feel better about afterwards.

- The pros of abstaining are also the pros of ruining your vote

- If a large number of voters ruined their vote, the next president will know that there is a base of voters who stood for hours in the queue just to tell him that he is not wanted. Ruining your vote sends a more powerful message than abstaining.

Cons:

- Same as the cons of abstaining

- When they will announce the number of ruined votes, people will not know how many of these ruined votes were the results of mistakes done on the ballots and how many were intensional ruined votes. Plus, you will be counted among the turnout votes and thus will give legitimacy to the elections as a whole.

Regardless of the option you’ll opt for, we’ll still be saying:

Down with military rule يسقط يسقط حكم العسكر

Down with the rule of the supreme leader يسقط يسقط حكم المرشد

Two you cannot trust, the generals and the Ikhwan اثنين مالهمش امان, العسكر و الاخوان

  Posted by BP at 10:58 am Comments (25)
Saturday, May 26, 2012

Why I am Optimistic After Egypt’s Presidential Elections Results

As I was leaving my office to go vote, I had absolutely no idea whom to vote for. I decided that I will take the 40 minutes car drive as a last opportunity to ponder the different candidates. I made various phone calls to friends to get insights, they each told me to vote for their candidate.

I reached the polling station and stood in the queue; still I had no idea whom to vote for. I didn’t want to vote for Aboul Fotouh because of various reservations I have detailed here. I didn’t want to vote Hamdeen Sabahy because I bought into the conspiracy theory that he was indirectly supported by the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) to undermine their enemy Aboul Fotouh.  I didn’t want to be a part of that dirty plan because I still respect Aboul Fotouh as someone who steadfastly supported the square and the revolutionaries.

The queue started to become shorter and I found myself at the doorstep of the polling station. I paused a little and dashed out of the queue! I still needed sometime to think.

I called a  journalist friend of mine and begged her to just tell me whom to vote for. She told me to either vote for the candidate I believed in or to vote politically and strategically. I decided to vote for the candidate I believed in and casted my vote for Khaled Ali; the young leftist lawyer whom I believe has a bright future ahead of him. So I basically voted for the youth and the future.

As results came pouring in, I discovered that once again the Egyptians proved me and other analysts all wrong. They voted in a way that no one had foreseen. And personally, in spite of everyone’s doom and gloom about the second round, the results showed me that there is light at the end of the tunnel if the right things were done.

In this post I will not talk about the doom and the gloom, I will not talk about the horrible Shafik vs Morsy scenario we’re in now, I might do that in another post. But here I want to simply detail to you all the reasons why we should be optimistic and cherish our victories instead of just being so consumed about the current nightmarish situation the second round has bestowed upon us.

The Sabahy Blitz

Yesterday I got a phone call from a colleague at work who voted Shafik because of his fear of the MB. I expected him to start the conversation by telling me how paranoid he is with Morsy being in the second round. He instead started his conversation with these words: did you see what Sabahy did?

What Hamdeen Sabahy managed to do in such a short period of time and with such meager campaign funding was so profound and astounding. I didn’t want to vote Sabahy because I feared to be part of a dirty conspiracy theory aimed at taking votes away from Fotouh. Yet it seems that Fotouh was the one who took votes away from Sabahy and not the other way round!

Ladies and gentlemen, Sabahy won in Alexandria; the bastion of the Salafi movement. He did not just win in Alexandria, he swept through it! It was a landslide.

Twenty years ago a rogue radical Islamist took control of the poor populous neighborhood of Imbaba and declared the independence of “The Islamic State of Imbaba”. A month ago I was invited to a traditional street wedding there, the only campaign posters I saw were of Hazem Abu Ismael and Mohamed Morsy. The MB and Salafi parties won by a landslide there in the parliament election. Hamdeen Sabahy won Imbaba in the presidential elections.

Sabahy was not just the candidate of many poor farmers and workers who saw in him a replica of the good side of Egypt’s former president Gamal Abdel Nasser; the Nasser who is biased towards the poor and unprivileged, and not Nasser the dictator and torturer. He also managed to garner the votes of thousands of young Egyptians, especially university students, who saw in him the face of their revolution. A friend living in the Delta town of Etay el Baroud told me “the old were voting Shafik; and we the young were voting Sabahy”.

Sabahy was also the choice of the pro-revolution voters who were distrustful of Fotouh and thought of him as too vague on social issues. Interestingly, Sabahy was also the choice of many young upper and middle class voters. He came in second in Heliopolis, first in Nasr City and he ended up winning Cairo and Giza (Greater Cairo) combined!

A new leader has defintitely been born and Sabahy needs to be very careful as to how he will utilize the diverse base that put their trust in him.

40% Voted for Revolution Candidates

35% of voters voted for Mubarak’s remnants. Around 25% for Shafik and 10% for Moussa. Shafik voters were driven by the assumption that he is a strongman capable of restoring security. These are revolution-weary voters who are striving for stability. Their vote is understandable.

Instead of lamenting over the 35% who voted for Shafik and Moussa, why don’t we rejoice over the 40% who got out of their comfort zones and voted for Aboul Fotouh and Sabahy. Why don’t we cherish this victory and work on making the 40% to be 50% or even 60% in the coming years?

Islamists Losing Ground

Do you know what it means that a non-political Islamist wins by a landslide in Alexandria and the poor neighborhoods of Cairo? This amounts to a political earthquake.

In the previous parliament elections, there was no alternative to the Islamists. They ended up taking 77% of the votes. In the presidential elections, the Islamists (Morsy plus Fotouh) took 43%. The MB won 11 million votes in the parliament elections, they took 5 million this time. I read a news report that in Kafr el Sheikh, locals objected to the way the MB were campaigning and a fight erupted which required the army to intervene and put down. Do you realize the magnitude of this piece of news? This is unprecedented. Locals in the Delta region fighting with the MB. WOW.

Egyptians are not waiting eagerly for the person who will shove “God’s law” down their throats, they are waiting eagerly for the person who will help them put food on the table.

If these elections taught us something, it’ll be the fact that we can never really predict the Egyptian vote. Provide alternatives to Mubarak’s remnants and the Islamists and you will always end up with nice surprises. Personally, these elections results were one of them.

  Posted by BP at 5:37 pm Comments (2)
Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Who’s Who in Egypt’s Presidential Elections

Here is my take on the elections’ most prominent candidates.

Aboul Fotouh:

Last weekend I attended his last presidential rally. I was impressed by the diversity of the people who accompanied him on stage. They ranged from actress Athar el Hakim to Salafi Noor party spokesperson Nader Bakar. The crowd was mostly middle class from different backgrounds. I saw girls without hair cover, women in Niqab, teens with spiky hair and men sporting the long Salafi beard.

Aboul Fotouh should be credited for his ability to attract such a diverse following, however, the question still looms: who is Aboul Fotouh? Is he Athar el Hakim? Or is he Abdel Meniem el Shahaat, the Alexandrian Salafi lunatic who endorsed him? Or is Aboul Fotouh  a go between both? We do not know.

The umbrella Aboul Fotouh wishes to represent is huge; he has to settle on a position. He cannot be Athar el Hakim and Abdel Meniem el Shahat at the same time.

Aboul Fotouh always reminds me of this scenario. Imagine if the Islamists in parliament repeated their attempt to pass a law that would literally render the Constitutional Court ineffective. Would President Aboul Fotouh sign the bill? The problem with Aboul Fotouh is that we do not know the answer to this question.

If President Aboul Fotouh decided to turn against his Salafi voters and adopt a really moderate and realistic stand on Sharia law, he can very well become our Erdogan, our Mahatir Mohamed. Judging from Fotouh’s rhetoric recently, we do not know if he will become an Erdogan or a Mullah Omar.

Amr Moussa:

I call him President Status Quo. Amr Moussa, as president, will maintain the status quo in Egypt. Nothing much will change. The guy is 76 years old! Moussa is the comfortable choice if you are not a revolutionary and if you think Shafik is too felool for you.  Moussa will be the choice of the voters who got tired of rocking the boat throughout the past year and a half.

I believe Moussa will take many of the undecided voters. He is the candidate with the highest name recognition.

Hamdeen Sabahy:

Sabahy will get your vote if you originally wished to vote Fotouh yet you think the latter is too vague and you just cannot get yourself to trust him. Sabahy is the candidate for all those young revolutionaries who do not know what type of president Aboul Fotouh will be, and who will never vote for Moussa or Shafik.

There are rumors that the sudden surge in Sabahy’s relative popularity was because of the Muslim Brotherhood supporting him with cash. There is still no evidence to support this but it is politically understandable especially that Sabahy has little chance of posing a real threat to the MB’s candidate.

Sabahy will not just get votes from those who do not trust Aboul Fotouh. Through his hard straightforward talk and clean past, Sabahy has managed to appeal to a wide array of voters who want to see a change in Egypt’s political life. He has a history of supporting Arab dictators, but who did not support Sadam during the Iraq war.

Ahmed Shafik:

A few months ago, no one would have ever given Shafik any significance. Yet through a well financed advertising campaign, he is starting to pick up especially with voters who are anti-revolution and want someone “strong” to bring the country back to normality (as if the army generals were schoolgirls!).

I still believe Shafik is weaker than Mousa in the rural areas and I consider him the to be the candidate of the upper/middle class voters who are so phobic of the Islamists and do not mind to see Egypt go back to square one.

Mohamed Morsy:

Mohamed Morsy is the candidate of the Muslim Brotherhood members/sympathizers and whoever was bribed by the MB. He is also the candidate of the lunatic zealots who are not backing Aboul Fotouh. I expect Morsy to make it to round 2 simply because he enjoys two things: God and mammon. And it is hard to beat God and money combined!

 

  Posted by BP at 4:04 pm Comments (32)
Tuesday, May 8, 2012

What Did Egypt’s Revolutionaries Do Wrong?

The revolutionary force was never as divided as it was over the dodged Ministry of Defense sit-in in Abasiyah. They were basically split between three groups.

The first believed that Hazem Abu Ismael’s supporters’ march from Tahrir to the MOD was a perfect opportunity for them to put pressure on the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) even if Abu Ismael’s supporters’ demands revolved aroind their candidate (a.k.a their god). The second group said that past year’s events proved you can never trust an Islamist. You can trust an angry transsexual 57 years old prostitute, but you can’t put your trust in a political Islamist. They’ll always eat your flesh and throw away your bones after they take what they want from you. This group refused to join hands with Abu Ismael’s supporters, yet declared their willingness to stand by the protesters’ right to demonstrate if they were attacked by the army. The third group said that such an unpopular sit-in amounted to political suicide and they will not be joining anyway.

The way the MOD sit-in ended and the repercussions it will have on the revolution and the revolutionary force makes us ask these questions: what happened to the Egyptian revolution? Is it going through a period of demise and will eventually remedy itself? Yet the most important question in my opinion is: what did Egypt’s revolutionaries do wrong? We can never expect the revolution to remedy itself without self criticism from the revolutionary force.

In this blog post I will tell you about what I think the revolutionaries have done wrong during the past year.

Leaving Tahrir on February 12

Ask any revolutionary about the single most drastic mistake committed in the revolution and the answer will most probably be this: we left Tahrir right after Mubarak stepped down. The revolutionary force had so much momentum and public support back then, if they have stayed, they could have asked for anything. A constitution, a presidential council, you name it.

I am not a fan of Mohamed Hassanien Haikal, but he said something profound right after February 11 last year. “The revolutionaries reached the moon and asked for a kilo of kebab.”

Staying in the bubble

A tweep on twitter reported something very profound. She was sitting in a traditional cafe and she saw the people cheer right after SCAF announced they will impose a curfew over Abasiyah. I believe it was very clear the MOD sit-in had almost zero public support and revolutionaries who were drawn into it did not do the revolution any good. On the contrary, they further alienating the people and handed extra points to SCAF.

The revolutionaries are still living in their own self created bubble. They only talk to themselves, they rarely talk to the people on the street. They are all cocooned in their own meetings, facebook pages and on twitter. There has been very little attempt to burst this bubble and talk directly to the public; except the successful Kazeboon (Liars) and Masrena (our Egypt) campaigns that were carried out nationwide at the end of last year.

When I raise this point, fellow revolutionaries often confront me with this rationale: revolutions are done by the minority and we can never expect the majority to support us; they will only cheer when we win just as they did when Mubarak stepped down last year.

The above rationale is partially correct. While it is true that revolutions are done by the minority, and it is also equally true that millions of Egyptians had no problem to give Mubarak the few months he requested before relinquishing power, the revolutionaries who took to the street on January 25th needed the throng that descended on January 28th to break the police force and put Mubarak’s regime on its downward spiral. This throng, because of various post-revolution reasons, are not part of the revolution anymore. This is why revolutionaries are now fighting the might of SCAF alone and often against the will of the “street”. Revolutionaries need to understand that without recruiting this “January 28 throng” once again they will never move an inch towards achieving their demands.

Avoiding Politics

Why did SCAF kill revolutionaries yet they never thought of attacking a demonstration by the Islamists? Because revolutionaries are much more dangerous to SCAF than the Islamists. SCAF could strike all sorts of deals with the valueless political Islamists yet they cannot do so with the revolutionaries. SCAF just cannot bring the revolutionaries around a table and negotiate something with them. These guys are hardcore. They are ready to die for what they believe in. Unlike the political Islamists, you cannot throw the revolutionaries a bone.

This staunch adherence to principles and their unwavering determination to achieve all the revolution’s demands prevented the revolutionaries from channeling their zeal into the budding political life of new Egypt. They tend to regard politics as an “unclean thing” that amounts to treason against the aim of achieving the full demands of the revolution.

Revolutionaries need to understand that Egyptians are currently tired of revolution. They might be revolting in their own factories and other workplaces, but I believe the vast majority are not willing to repeat a January 28th with all its associated repercussions. As a result, revolutionaries have little choice at the moment besides getting involved in the political life. This is definitely not a call to “abandon the square”, or to compromise on the revolution principles, but to put politics in parallel with the revolutionary activities. Fortunately, some revolutionaries have learned this and started to get more involved in politics whether through joining political parties or forming independent movements.

Revolutionaries will achieve very little without getting in touch with the street once again; without regaining the “January 28 throng”. Political parties and movements could be a viable vehicle to rekindle the relationship once again.

Down with military rule. OK. But then what?

“The people want the regime to fall.” That was the chant that characterized the 18 days of the revolution. Right after the first army baton fell on a protester days after victory day, the chant of the revolutionaries changed to “down down with military rule”. However, weary of the revolution aftermath, the masses did not rally behind this chant.

The revolutionaries failed to provide a way forward or a plan if military rule did indeed fall. I was once in a march and overheard a bystander react to the chant by asking a very logical question: who will take over if Tantawi fell?

The chant demanding Mubarak’s downfall on the other hand was more acceptable to the multitudes who joined the revolutionaries on January 28th. There were several scenarios back then that could have followed Mubarak’s demise. The vagueness and the uncertainty that accompanied the anti-SCAF chants made revolutionaries appear as if they were crying their lungs out in a completely different country.

While it was true that there were several initiatives to end military rule presented by the revolution force, they never materialized because of lack of public support and also because the revolutionaries where divided themselves over these intiatives.

It is crystal clear Egypt’s revolution force needs to ponder its future. Things just cannot go on as they are now. The revolutionaries cannot continue to be “sit-in and protest laborers”. Something much change and a new way forward needs to be derived. And it is better to start now before it is too late.

  Posted by BP at 10:44 pm Comments (24)