The streets are crammed with banners and posters everywhere advertising different candidates for the coming Egyptian parliamentary elections due on next Sunday 28th, November. The banners and posters carry photos and names of candidates and often a slogan that summarizes the candidate’s plan of action if he is to be elected. For anyone who didn’t know better this might seem as the sign of a fierce and free democratic competition between candidates of different political parties, but frankly it isn’t; this whole show is a one party show disguised in a make-believe democracy.
The national Democratic Party (NDP) is the ruling party headed by Hosni Mubarak, the president of Egypt for almost a world record of 30 long years.
He is been running the Egyptian republic for consecutive six terms now and – God willing or not – will keep on for another 6 years to come. God will decide only on how many years he will still be in power before he departs this earthly kingdom, for he is 83 years old now but in good shape to run a democratic – as it could be – Middle Eastern country.
Egypt is one of the strongest allies to the United States in the region, and it is the first Arab country to sign a peace treaty with Israel in 1979.
The land of the pyramids and a great ancient civilization is being led by an authoritarian rule; everybody knows it including the United States, which has preferred to turn a blind eye to this Egyptian mockery of democracy.
But why is this? How could one man rule for that period of time and still get the support of the west and the United States? Why do Egyptians live up with this authoritarian regime? Even more, why does the United States back up such authoritarianism?
The historical truth is that democracy is new to a lot of countries — recently freed from colonialism — in the Middle East. As a matter of fact Egypt is one of the leading countries in regard to political reforms and it witnessed a promising democratic political life back in the 1930s-40s during the reign of the Egyptian constitutional monarchy which ended in 1952.
With the advent of the republic era, the rule of Egypt dramatically shifted to authoritarian regimes which allowed nothing to grow under their feet, They never allowed the emergence of any truly independent judiciary, media, progressive secular parties or civil society groups — from women’s organizations to trade associations.
So whenever you sweep away the autocratic rule you go in a free fall until you hit the mosque, there is virtually nothing to fill the void in-between. Through the years of suppression, people found out that they can only practice politics — in terms of opposition — in the mosque; it was the only place where they could feel safe to express their political opinions and dream of a better alternative to authoritarianism.
But little did they know when they practiced politics inside the mosque what future held for them. They were contributing to the emergence of another form and may be a more dangerous kind of religious dictatorship, namely theocracy in the shape of Muslim governance promoted by a secret Egyptian organization called the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) which adopts a catchy slogan that says: “Islam is the solution.” It appeals to common people who cannot discern the difference between politics and religion and who forgot — or were never told — that the dark ages throughout history were marked by the rule of clerics.
The authoritarian rule has in a way subscribed to the sprouting of the buds of religious extremism in Egypt. The Muslim Brotherhood has grown bigger over the years that they actually gained 20% of the parliament seats in 2005 parliamentary election.
Being aware of the problem looming ahead, the Egyptian NDP decided not to repeat the same mistake again. The Egyptian regime will not allow MB to gain that percentage of parliamentary seats ever again. The regime will not allow this monster to grow bigger and at the same time cannot get rid of it completely.
This is the dilemma the Egyptian autocratic regime is caught up in: the regime can abort and uproot this dangerous group, but in doing so the regime will probably lose a winning card that usually comes in handy whenever the White House urges the Egyptian ruling regime to allow more freedom to the political life in Egypt.
War on terrorism and authoritarianism in the Middle East
The United States tried to trick everybody into believing that she was trying to unleash democracy when she invaded Iraq. But the war proved that democracy in the Middle East is the last thing on America`s mind. The US only wants to secure the Middle East oil resources and guarantees the stability and expansion of the Israeli regime in the region.
The average American citizen learned to dread one thing out of the so called war on terrorism and that is called Muslim extremists.
American president Obama and Egyptian president Mubarak
So whenever the call of more democracy in Egypt is raised the Egyptian authorities find no difficulty in scaring the Americans of the consequences of the idea as it would undoubtedly bring the Islamists to power and this is the last thing America needs right now.
Neither the US nor Israel wants another Hamas – an offshoot of MB – in the region, so they will keep their support for the ailing Mubarak rule in Egypt, which will probably be passed to his son Gamal who is being promoted as the successor to his father reign in a way that would turn this republic into a monarchy in disguise.
This implicit cooperation with the Americans and the Israelis led the regime in Egypt to turn a blind eye to the atrocities committed by Israel in the region and even helped to tighten the siege imposed on Gaza. So, it is no wonder that the official Egyptian media is keeping a low profile on the “Road to Hope humanitarian aid Convoy” that is passing nowadays through Egypt aiming to cross the eastern Egyptian border into Gaza – hopefully in the coming two days.
It is no wonder that the official reaction of the Egyptian government to the building of an Israeli barrier – that will only help to tighten the blockade on Gaza — along the 140 km border with Egypt is that it is of no concern to Egypt.
The streets of Egypt are witnessing violent confrontations between the Egyptian government security forces and followers of the MB. They are fighting for their own private interests. They both want exclusive political power no matter what.
Both MB and NDP do not have the real support of Egyptians who are left with no alternative for the time being. Most Egyptians tend to stay away from the polling stations since they know beforehand that the elections are already fixed. I only wish they could keep away from following deceiving slogans as well. I hope that most Egyptians would come to realize that Islam is the solution only for Muslim Extremists to rise to power.