Tag Archive: Egypt

Sep 15 2012

Time to Reevaluate Middle East Policy

The attacks on US and Western embassies expanded today to nearly 20 countries in the Middle East, North Africa, and some Muslim countries in South East Asia. Angered over a irreverent You Tube video that insulted the founder of Islam, the Prophet Mohammed, angry protesters stormed American, Germany and British embassies and consulates.

At least two protesters are dead and several dozen injured when protesters stormed the US embassy in Tunis, Tunisia:

Several dozen protesters briefly stormed the U.S. Embassy compound in Tunisia’s capital, tearing down the American flag and raising a flag with the Muslim profession of faith on it as part of the protests. Protesters also set fire to an American school adjacent to the embassy compound and prevented firefighters from approaching it. The school appeared to be empty and no injuries were reported.

Earlier, several thousand demonstrators had gathered outside the U.S. Embassy, including stone-throwing protesters who clashed with police, according to an Associated Press reporter on the scene. Police responded with gunshots and tear gas. Police and protesters held running battles in the streets of Tunis. Amid the unrest, youths set fire to cars in the embassy parking lot and pillaged businesses nearby.

The state news agency TAP, citing the health ministry, said both of those killed were demonstrators, while the injured included protesters and police.

In Sudan, the German and British embassies were targeted along with the American embassy in Khartoum:

Police in the Sudanese capital fired tear gas to try to disperse 5,000 protesters who had ringed the German embassy and nearby British mission. A Reuters witness said police stood by as a crowd forced its way into Germany’s mission.

Demonstrators hoisted a black Islamic flag saying in white letters “there is no God but God and Mohammed is his prophet”. They smashed windows, cameras and furniture in the building and then started a fire.

Staff at Germany’s embassy were safe “for the moment”, Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said in Berlin. He also told Khartoum’s envoy to Berlin that Sudan must protect diplomatic missions on its soil.

Witnesses said police fired tear gas at thousands of protesters to stop them approaching the U.S. embassy outside Khartoum.

In the Yemen capital of Sanaa, four protesters have been killed in demonstrations and a US Marine contingent, similar to ones being sent to Egypt and Libya, has been dispatched:

Twenty-four security force members were reported injured, as were 11 protesters, according to Yemen’s Defense Ministry, security officials and eyewitnesses.

Protesters and witnesses said one protester was critically injured when police fired on them as they tried to disperse the angry crowd.

The protests in Sanaa are the latest to roil the Middle East over the online release of the film produced in the United States.

As evening came, the number of protesters dwindled and tensions began to ease, after a day in which demonstrators breached a security wall and stormed the embassy amid escalating anti-American sentiment.

No embassy personnel were harmed, U.S. officials said.

Reports that the attack in Benghazi, Libya may not have been related to the protests over the anti-Islamic video:

BENGHAZI, Libya – A Libyan security guard who said he was at the U.S. consulate here when it was attacked Tuesday night has provided new evidence that the assault on the compound that left four Americans dead, including the U.S. ambassador to Libya, was a planned attack by armed Islamists and not the outgrowth of a protest over an online video that mocks Islam and its founder, the Prophet Muhammad.

The guard, interviewed Thursday in the hospital where he is being treated for five shrapnel wounds in one leg and two bullet wounds in the other, said that the consulate area was quiet – “there wasn’t a single ant outside,” he said – until about 9:35 p.m., when as many as 125 armed men descended on the compound from all directions.

The men lobbed grenades into the compound, wounding the guard and knocking him to the ground, then stormed through the facility’s main gate, shouting “God is great” and moving to one of the many villas that make up the consulate compound. He said there had been no warning that an attack was imminent.

“Wouldn’t you expect if there were protesters outside that the Americans would leave?” the guard said.

h/t to David Dayen at FDL News Desk

Meanwhile, oil prices which climbed after the Federal Reserve announced it’s stimulus plan, rose even more due to the instability in the region.

There is obviously something radically wrong with American and Western foreign policy towards the Middle East. President Obama’s policies in the region are no different that past presidents over the last 100 years. The US has lost much of its stature in the region with it heavy handed reliance on military force to resolve problems in the Middle and Near East since September 11 and expansion of it drone attacks on alleged terrorist targets. The US needs to completely reassess these policies and take into consideration the culture and economic needs of the region.

Jul 11 2012

The Egyptian Game of Chicken: Morsi v. The Miltary

Egyptain Pres. MorsiJust before the last round of presidential elections in Egypt that put Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohamed Morsi in office, the Egyptian Supreme Constitutional Court, which is still packed with the Mubarak regimes appointees, ruled that the parliamentary elections were invalid. The ruling military then dissolved the lower house until new elections could he held. Sunday, in defiance of the ruling, President Morsi decreed the the old parliament to reconvene until a new parliament was elected:

The move was the first in a series of decrees planned by Morsi against the military, according to Morsi’s former campaign media coordinator Sameh El-Essawy, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party. [..]

And hints of a deal seemed unlikely after Morsi’s decree, which stipulated that parliament reconvene and continue its duties until a new assembly is elected, scheduled for 60 days after Egypt drafts a new constitution. Morsi’s decree directly contradicts Scaf’s wishes, and underlines his determination to take control of the country’s executive.

Morsi’s decree is a reversal of the Scaf decision to dissolve parliament, not the SCC ruling that deemed it invalid, said El-Essawy. “He reversed the Scaf decision, using the same executive powers they had. He has not reversed the court ruling which he respects and that’s why a new parliament will be elected after the constitution,” he said.

The Egyptian Parliament reconvened for five minutes on Tuesday for just one vote:

The parliamentary speaker, Saad el-Katatny, convened a session of the lower house on Tuesday morning but it lasted only five minutes, during which time he stressed that parliament had the utmost respect for the law, and would do nothing to subvert it. MPs then voted that parliament would refer the matter of its ability to convene to the court of cassation in Cairo, and would not assemble until a judgment had been given.

As the drama was being played out, demonstrators against the dissolution of parliament gathered in Tahrir Square. Meanwhile, anti-parliament protesters congregated on the other side of town in the eastern district of Nasr City to voice their objection to its return.

Tuesday’s assembly was boycotted by a sizable number of liberal MPs while an independent MP, Mustafa Bakri, had already announced his formal resignation from parliament due to its unconstitutionality.

Then just hours after the chamber’s brief session, the Supreme Constitutional Court stepped in

“The Supreme Court has once again reiterated that the parliament is dissolved,” our correspondent said. “It’s the third decsion by them saying that Morsi’s decison to reinstate the parliament was illegal. They cannot say it in any more certain terms than that.”

“They’re saying that the parliament sessions cannot continue, which would mean legislative powers would stay in the hands of the armed forces – in this power struggle between the military and the president.” [..]

Lawyers representing Morsi criticised the court’s latest decision and said Tuesday’s ruling was a political move that would further complicate the crisis.

“This ruling is null and void,” lawyer Abdel Moneim Abdel Maqsud told reporters while another member of the team, Mamduh Ismail, called it a “political decision”. [..]

Morsi’s decree was hailed by those who want to see the army return to barracks, but it was criticised by those who fear an Islamist monopolisation of power as a “constitutional coup”.

As noted in an editorial in the Los Angeles Times, this is just the first of many confrontations between Morsi and the military:

In reconvening the People’s Assembly, Morsi insisted that he wasn’t flouting the decision of the court but rather reversing an executive action taken by the military council in the absence of a civilian president. Indeed, the overarching issue in this dispute is whether the armed forces are prepared to yield power to the elected representatives of the Egyptian people. [..]

To some extent, the military’s power – along with economic realities – may have inclined Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood to a more pluralist and moderate course. But if the generals overplay their hand, they will lose popular support and antagonize Egypt’s allies, including the United States, which provides the military with $1.3 billion a year in assistance. Both Congress and the Obama administration have put the generals on notice that those funds are in jeopardy if the transition to democracy is thwarted. An attempt to shut down a reconvened parliament would be interpreted inside and outside Egypt as just such an obstruction.

So far, the Mohamed Morsi 0 – Egyptian Military 1.  

Jun 21 2012

Egyptian Democracy Postponed

Why is the New York Times surprised? I’m not.

Egypt Delays Declaring Winner of Presidential Election

by David Kirkpatrick

CAIRO – Egyptian election officials said Wednesday that they were postponing the announcement of a winner in last week’s presidential runoff, saying they needed more time to evaluate charges of electoral abuse that could affect who becomes the country’s next leader.

The commission had been expected to confirm a winner on Thursday and, based on a public vote count confirmed in official news media, to have named Mohamed Morsi, of the Muslim Brotherhood.

The surprise delay intensified a power struggle between the Muslim Brotherhood and Egypt’s military rulers. It came just days after the generals who took over upon the ouster of Hosni Mubarak reimposed martial law, shut down the Brotherhood-led Parliament, issued an interim charter slashing the new president’s power and took significant control over the writing of a new constitution.

Amid allegations of fraud from both sides, both candidates have declared themselves winners, although, the unofficial count show that Morsi is the clear victor by a million vote margin. The presidential commission, which has the final say, is investigating the allegations while rumors abound that they will invalidate enough of Morsi’s votes to make Safiq the winner. On of the allegations being investigated is that the Muslim Brotherhood gained access to a government printing office and pre-marked at least one million ballots for Morsi.

This is the view of the situation from the Muslim Brotherhood on the political and economic impacts for Egypt as reported by Evan Hill via Al Jazeera:

Jihad el-Haddad, an aide to Khairat el-Shater – the movement’s first choice for president and a man seen as its de facto leader – said the Brotherhood is “done negotiating”. [..]

The Brotherhood is now ready to push the military to the brink, he said.

Its leaders are well aware that the bungled transition has cost the country several billion dollars in lost investment and aid, much of it tied to having a democratically elected government, and even more in foreign reserves spent to keep the Egyptian pound afloat.

Further unrest would likely cause a currency devaluation, pushing up the prices of food and household goods and raising the spectre of a “hunger revolution,” Haddad said.

Meanwhile, alternative premises have been found where the parliament can meet on Tuesday for its regular session, he claimed, in defiance of the military council, which has ordered the armed guards surrounding the parliament building to deny entry to MPs. [..]

Both sides know the economic and human cost of a return to the mass protests and street clashes that have marked the past 16 months, and their ongoing negotiations indicate both are probably more malleable than they make themselves appear.

Washington has responded to this crisis with some concern:

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said the US expects the military to “support the democratic transition, to recede by turning over authority”.

“The military has to assume an appropriate role, which is not to try to interfere with, dominate or subvert the constitutional authority,” she said.

Privately, US officials expressed concern that a Shafik victory could have dangerous fallout, with protests and ensuing instability that could lead the military to take even stronger measures.

The big problem is that the allies of the military, Mubarak-era officials and secular opponents of Islamists also hold sway in the judiciary, the prosecutor’s office and the election commission.

Even if the military turns over control to a civilian government by the end of June, it will still retain unprecedented powers and that is a huge problem.

Jun 19 2012

Deep Faults and Lines in the Sand

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose

Other than the names and faces of the actors, not much is different in either Greece or Egypt after much analyzed and anticipated elections this weekend. In Greece, the center right is still faced with the dilemma of forming and holding together a coalition government to deal with the economic crisis that threatens to take down the Eurozone. While is Egypt, despite the historic election of an Islamic president, the military still maintains a tight control and all the power.

Greek elections: Antonis Samaras faces tough task to forge unity

The fault lines are so deep that even if a government is formed, many believe it will be a miracle if it survives for long

[..]The ambitious politician faces the Herculean labour of forging a government of “national salvation” at a time of unprecedented crisis. Not since the collapse of military rule has the country come so close to resembling a failed state. Following almost three months of political paralysis – before and after an inconclusive poll in May – Greece’s public finances are in tatters, its public administration is in disarray and its austerity-weary people are beaten down. It is now for Samaras to pick up the pieces. [..]

Late on Monday Samaras announced he had agreed with the head of Pasok, Evangelos Venizelos, to build a coalition, with negotiations expected to be concluded by Tuesday. Once bitter political rivals, the socialists, who came in with 12.3% of the vote, say the creation of a government of “national co-responsibility” is vital if Greece is to be steered through the crisis.

Combined, the two parties would control a comfortable majority of 162 seats in the Greek parliament. [..]

But fault lines in Greek society are so deep that even if a government is formed many believe it will be a miracle if it survives for long. To secure further rescue loans Athens has agreed to pass an extra €12bn in budget cuts, measures seen as vital if its economy is to reclaim competitiveness. And on Monday creditors led by Germany appeared in little mood to relent.The fiscal adjustment programme might be relaxed but “only marginally,” several officials said. “Greek society simply cannot endure any more measures,” insisted (New Democracy MP Kyriakos) Mitsotakis. “It’s not a question of what party is in office, it is a fact.”

German Chancellor Andrea Merkel, emboldened by the Greek center right narrow victory, has continued her hard line stand on enforcing the Greek deal

“The Greek government will and must naturally follow through on the commitments that were made,” Ms. Merkel told reporters at the Group of 20 meeting in Los Cabos, Mexico, disappointing those in Athens who hoped for a signal of new flexibility toward Greece in the wake of the vote. “There can be no loosening of the reform steps.”

At least Greece has a Parliament. Egypt on the other hand is once again on the verge of revolution as the Muslim Brotherhood threatens to take to the streets once again in protest over the military usurpation of power:

The ruling generals sought for the first time to sell the public on the decision to dissolve the Brotherhood-led Parliament on the eve of the vote. In a nearly two-hour news conference that was edited before it was televised, two members of the military council insisted that they regretted dissolving Parliament, but that they had been forced by a court ruling from judges appointed by former President Hosni Mubarak.

And although they have now issued an interim Constitution keeping legislative and much of the executive power for themselves – and even said later Monday that they would appoint a general to run the new president’s staff – the generals promised to hold a “grand celebration” when they turned over power as promised at the end of the month. [..]

In their news conference, the generals acknowledged they would have a monopoly on all lawmaking powers as well as control of the national budget. But they said that the new president – they did not name Mr. Morsi – would retain a veto over any new laws and could name the prime minister as well as other cabinet officials.

The generals have not backed away from the initial charter that removed the military and the defense minister from presidential authority and oversight and defended the imposition of martial, arresting and detaining civilians for trials in military courts. They also took it upon themselves to appoint the new president’s chief of staff and revived a special national defense council packed with loyal military officers, charged with overseeing matters of national security. This is not going over very well with the Egyptian people.

The bright spot in all of these travails, the French who gave newly elected president François Hollande a majority in Parliament on Sunday, which is likely only to embolden his drive for more growth-oriented spending and a retreat from German-style austerity. But if everything you hear about Greece and Egypt sound familiar, it is.

Jun 18 2012

Elections Egypt, France and Greece: Results

The Greeks have decided to stay the course with the center right and have given a victory to the New Democracy Party headed by Antonis Samaras:

New Democracy narrowly beat Syriza, an alliance of radical leftists, winning 29.53% of the vote against 27.12% for the coalition led by Alexis Tsipras. Samaras called the result a victory for Europe.

“The Greek people today voted for the European course of Greece and that we remain in the euro,” Samaras declared in a victory speech. “This is an important moment for Greece and the rest of Europe,” he insisted, saying that Athens would honour the commitments it made in exchange for rescue loans from the EU and IMF. [..]

Across Greece’s divisive political spectrum there was speculation that Samaras would be able to form a viable coalition with the socialist Pasok and the small Democratic left – parties that have also agreed to accept the onerous terms of bailout funds even if they, too, want to renegotiate the package. [..]

Pro-bailout parties now constitute 50% of the electorate. But with the other half also vehemently opposed to the austerity policies dictated by foreign lenders, Greece’s rollercoaster ride is unlikely to end soon. It is now well into its fifth year of recession, with unemployment at a record 22% and worsening levels of poverty leaving thousands of Greeks destitute and homeless. Resistance to further austerity measures is only going to grow.

In France, exit polls indicate that Socialist Party of François Hollande has won a solid majority in both houses of the Parliament, eliminating the need for a coalition government. The conservative National Front has won four seats. The party leader, Marine Le Pen lost her bid for a seat but her 22 year old niece, Marion Marechal-Le Pen is believed to have been elected in the southern region of Carpentras. Former presidential candidate and M. Hollande’s ex-partner, Ségolène Royal has lost her bid for a seat in the National Assembly.

The Socialists and other left-wing parties came out on top in last Sunday’s first round of the vote, winning 46 per cent to 34 per cent for (former president Nicholas) Sarkozy’s UMP party and its allies. [..]

The polls showed France’s Socialists winning between 287 and 330 seats in Sunday’s runoff vote – almost certainly enough to secure a majority in the 577-seat Assembly. [..]

The Greens, who are close allies of the Socialists and already in government, were expected to win up to 20 seats.

The vote was also a key test for Marine Le Pen’s anti-immigrant and anti-EU National Front (FN), which took 13.6 per cent in the first round; far above the four per cent it won in the last parliamentary election in 2007.

There are no results yet for Egypt. But there is news and it is not good for the Egyptian people no matter who wins. This is the report by Leila Fadel and Ernesto Londoño in the Washington Post:

CAIRO – Shortly after polls in Egypt’s landmark presidential vote closed Sunday night, Egypt’s military leaders issued a constitutional decree that gave the armed forces vast powers and appeared to give the presidency a subservient role.

The declaration, published in the official state gazette, establishes that the president will have no control over the military’s budget or leadership and will not be authorized to declare war without the consent of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces.

The document said the military would soon appoint a body to draft a new constitution, which would be put to a public referendum within three months. Once a new charter is in place, an election will be held to chose a parliament that will replace the Islamist-dominated one dissolved Thursday by the country’s top court.

Currently, exit polls show Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohamed Morsi, ahead of former prime minister Ahmed Shafiq in the presidential runoff vote.

Jun 17 2012

Elections Egypt, France and Greece

The Big Three elections that are taking place this weekend in Egypt, France and Greece. The outcome of these elections will not only effect the people of those countries but will have global impact as well.

In Egypt, the second day of voting for president is expected to be heavier than yesterday. Many Egyptians, not trusting the safety of their ballots held overnight, decided to hold off and vote today. Their choices are between between a conservative Islamist, Mohamed Morsi, the candidate of the Muslim Brotherhood and Hosni Mubarak’s former prime minister and long time friend, Ahmed Shafiq.

The prevailing mood among voters was one of deep anxiety over the future, tinged with bitterness that their revolution had stalled. Moreover, there was a sense of voting fatigue, and fears that no matter who won, street protests would erupt again.

Egyptians have gone to the polls multiple times since Mubarak’s fall on 11 February 2011: a referendum early last year, then three months of multi-round parliamentary elections that began in November, and the first round of presidential elections last month. [..]

The election is supposed to be the last stop in a turbulent transition overseen by the military generals. But even if they nominally hand over some powers to the winner, they will still hold the upper hand over the next president.

The generals are likely to issue an interim constitution defining the president’s authority while they retain their hold on legislative powers, and they will probably appoint a panel to write the permanent constitution.

Since the Mubarak packed Egyptian Supreme Court declared the parliamentary elections unconstitutional and dissolved parliament, the military has imposed martial law. Without a parliament, military council and the new president will get to write the constitution. This is not what the Egyptian people took to the streets planned or want. As Egyptian activist Mona Eltahawy said on Twitter: the choice is between the fascists with guns or the fascist with god.

In France, parliamentary elections are today. French citizens living outside France voted yesterday at consulates around the world. These elections will determine how much clout newly elected President François Hollande’s socialist government will have to get France and Europe out of the economic doldrums with a stimulus package from the EU. Much depends on German Chancellor Angela Merkel and just how much she will budge. So far, despite her party’s losses in state elections, it looks like she has dug her heels in forcing unwanted, and admittedly counterproductive, austerity measures on everyone.

The Socialists need 289 MPs in the 577-seat house for an absolute majority, which would allow Hollande to implement his manifesto with relative ease. The broad French left dominated the first-round vote on 10 June, and polls suggest a Socialist absolute majority is possible, though not a certainty.

Even if Hollande’s party does not quite win a majority alone, it looks likely to be able to make up the numbers by forming a partnership with the Greens, with whom it has an electoral accord. This would avoid Hollande having to depend on more hardline leftists who oppose key elements of his programme.

Much will depend on voter turnout. This is the fourth election in France in two months, after the two-round presidential race. Turnout in the first-round parliamentary vote on 10 June was 57%, the lowest since 1958.

One of the key issues is whether the far-right Front National can win seats and sit in parliament for the first time since 1986. The last FN deputy was elected in 1997, but the result was later annulled over funding irregularities.

And probably the most important election is taking place in Greece where a win for the far left Syriza Party may drastically change the austerity policies that have created a humanitarian crisis.

The Guardian has documented the humanitarian catastrophe that followed. Soup kitchens for the middle class, a huge jump in homelessness and mental disease, daily suicides, lack of basic medicines, cancer patients turned away from pharmacies, and hospitals ceasing operation because of a lack of basic supplies. The question on Sunday is not between the euro and the drachma, but between the continuation of these policies or salvation from the greatest destruction a people have experienced in peacetime. If something is leading to the exit from the euro, a probable collapse of the eurozone and a possible world crisis of 1930s magnitude, is not the Syriza policies but extreme austerity and mad economic recipes.

Syriza is totally committed to the eurozone. Its manifesto promises an immediate repeal of all laws enacted by the Greek government after the bailouts. Some of the measures affecting the private sector were never demanded by the troika – the EU, IMF and the European Central Bank – and were introduced by the establishment parties. After that, negotiations will start for a substantial reduction of the debt, which may be followed by a moratorium on servicing the debt until the economy starts growing again.

In a highly symbolic move, the minimum wage and unemployment benefit will return to their pre-austerity levels. Syriza’s anti-austerity and pro-Europe policies represent the best interests of the Greek people.

Many of the results will be available later today, some later in the week since most of these elections are done with paper ballots which take time to count and confirm. We will bring the results and analysis of their impact as they are posted.

Jun 14 2012

Egypt: Court Desolves Parliament, Election Unconstitutional

Egypt’s high court has dissolved the first democratically elected Parliament and declared that former President Hosni Mubarak’s last prime minister, Ahmad Shafiq, can remain in the race for president:

The rulings by the Supreme Constitutional Court, whose judges are Mubarak appointees, escalated the power struggle between the Brotherhood and the military, which stepped in to rule after Mubarak’s fall. The decisions tip the contest dramatically in favor of the ruling generals, robbing the Brotherhood of its power base in parliament and boosting Ahmad Shafiq, the former Mubarak prime minister who many see as the military’s favorite in the presidential contest against the Brotherhood’s candidate.

Senior Muslim Brotherhood leader and lawmaker Mohammed el-Beltagy said the rulings amounted to a “full-fledged coup.”

“This is the Egypt that Shafiq and the military council want and which I will not accept no matter how dear the price is,” he wrote on his Facebook page.

The Brotherhood and liberal and leftist activists who backed last year’s revolution against Mubarak accused the military of using the constitutional court as a proxy to preserve the hold of the ousted leader’s authoritarian regime and the generals over the country. Many of them were vowing new street protests.

Hossam Bahgat, director of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, said in a Twitter post:

According to the BBC, last year’s Parliamentary elections were “against the rules”

The court had been considering the validity of last year’s parliamentary election, because some of the seats were contested on a proportional list system, with others on the first-past-the-post system.

It decided that the election law had allowed parties to compete for seats reserved for independent candidates.

The head of the supreme court Farouk Soltan told Reuters: “The ruling regarding parliament includes the dissolution of the lower house of parliament in its entirety because the law upon which the elections were held is contrary to rules of the constitution.”

Many of the seats ruled unconstitutional were won by the Muslim Brotherhood.

In his New York Times article, David D. Kirkpatrick noted the consequences of the new president taking power with no Parliament to hold him on check:

The ruling means that whoever emerges as the winner of the runoff will take power without the check of a sitting Parliament and could even exercise some influence over the election of a future Parliament. It vastly compounds the stakes in the presidential race, raises questions about the governing military council’s commitment to democracy, and makes uncertain the future of a constitutional assembly recently formed by Parliament as well.

The decision, which dissolves the first freely elected Parliament in Egypt in decades, supercharges a building conflict between the court, which is increasingly presenting itself as a check on Islamists’ power, and the Muslim Brotherhood.

The ruling, by the highest judicial authority in Egypt, cannot be appealed and it was not clear how the military council, which  has been governing Egypt since Mr. Mubarak’s downfall in February 2011, would respond. But in anticipation that the court’s ruling could anger citizens, the military authorities reimposed martial law on Wednesday.

The ruling is a result of the Islamic dominated Parliament passing a law that barred prominent figures from the old regime from running for office. Critics of the law said that it targeted Shafiq and the court, in its ruling, said that the law lacked “objective grounds”, was discriminatory and violated “the principle of equality.”

Since the Mubarak’s fall, Egypt’s military has promised to hand power to an elected president by the start of July, but with no constitution and now the prospect of no parliament to write one, the new president is unlikely have his powers defined by the time he comes into office. And that has all the earmarks of a disaster for the Arab Spring and democracy in Egypt.

Dec 14 2011

Times Person of the Year: It Is Us, The Protesters

It started with a 26 year old Tunisian street vendor who set himself on fire sparking protests that over threw the government. The protest has spread to Egypt, Yemen, Jordan, Libya, Syria, Israel, Greece, Wisconsin, Ohio, New York City and across the United States to Chicago, Houston, Oakland, Portland, and Los Angeles. Russians have taken to the streets in the largest protests since the overthrow of the Soviet Union that may end the career of Vladimir Putin. It has been a year of protests that have changed the world. And we aren’t done.

Now Time magazine has named me, you, all of us, the Protester, the Person of the Year.

History often emerges only in retrospect. Events become significant only when looked back on. No one could have known that when a Tunisian fruit vendor set himself on fire in a public square in a town barely on a map, he would spark protests that would bring down dictators in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya and rattle regimes in Syria, Yemen and Bahrain. Or that that spirit of dissent would spur Mexicans to rise up against the terror of drug cartels, Greeks to march against unaccountable leaders, Americans to occupy public spaces to protest income inequality, and Russians to marshal themselves against a corrupt autocracy.Protests have now occurred in countries whose populations total at least 3 billion people, and the word protest has appeared in newspapers and online exponentially more this past year than at any other time in history.

Is there a global tipping point for frustration? Everywhere, it seems, people said they’d had enough. They dissented; they demanded; they did not despair, even when the answers came back in a cloud of tear gas or a hail of bullets. They literally embodied the idea that individual action can bring collective, colossal change. And although it was understood differently in different places, the idea of democracy was present in every gathering. The root of the word democracy is demos, “the people,” and the meaning of democracy is “the people rule.” And they did, if not at the ballot box, then in the streets. America is a nation conceived in protest, and protest is in some ways the source code for democracy – and evidence of the lack of it.

We will take to the streets and the ballot boxes and back to the streets until we have won the “war” against the oligarchs, the banks and the billionaires.  

Nov 21 2011

US Now Poster Child For Suppression of Free Speech

The whole world is watching:

Photobucket

h/t Suzie Madrak  at Crooks & Liars

From the Gawker:

How Egypt Justifies Its Brutal Crackdown: Occupy Wall Street

Two people were killed in Cairo and Alexandria this weekend as Egyptian activists took the streets to protest the military’s attempts to maintain its grip on power. And guess how the state is justifying its deadly crackdown.

“We saw the firm stance the US took against OWS people & the German govt against green protesters to secure the state,” an Egyptian state television anchor said yesterday (as translated by the indispensable Sultan Sooud al Qassemi; bold ours).

The death toll in Egypt has been reported as high as 33 and while as he Gawker points out, the US may not have killed anyone yet but we have militarized our police departments to do what the US military constitutionally cannot and two Iraq vets have been sent to the hospital with life threatening injuries.

Thank you, President Obama, for going where President Bush dared not.

Feb 14 2011

Reporting the Revolution: February 14

class=”BrightcoveExperience”>With Hosni Mubarak gone and rumors running rampant on his fortune, health and whereabouts, promises of democracy and reform from the military, one would think that the revolution was finished. Today, despite threats of arrest and pleas to go back to work, thousands of striking workers took to the streets again in Tahrir Square and across Egypt demanding better pay and working conditions. Even the police held a demonstration. Even though the internet and phone service is working, the press is still being harassed. There have been reports of camera equipment confiscated, reporters taken into custody and the military has ordered Al Jazeera to stop filming the protests. However, the state media has now taken to praising the revolution with proclamations of “the people ousted the regime”.

The military is walking a very fine line trying to get the economy running and a semblance of order so the government transition can progress to elections in September, as hoped. Banks did not open today because of the continuing protests and tomorrow is a bank holiday. The military council has promised that banks will open on Wednesday.

Protests in other countries are getting larger and louder, as the young Arabs grow weary of stifling regimes. There were many large demonstrations in Iran, Yemen, and Bahrain disregarding bans by governments and the strong presence of police and military.

Guardian has a Live Blog from their reporters in Egypt and around the region refreshes automatically every minute. .

The “Jasmine Revolution” that started in Tunisia is growing It is going to be an interesting summer.

Here is a round up of news:

Clashes reported in Iran protests

Pro-reformist marches under way in Tehran despite a heavy security presence and police crackdown.

There are reports in social media sites and non-state Iranian news sites of clashes between protesters and security forces in Tehran, the Iranian capital.

Thousands of demonstrators were marching on Monday on Enghelab and Azadi streets [which connect and create a straight path through the city centre], with a heavy presence in Enghelab Square and Vali-Asr Street, according to these reports.

Several clashes have been reported on Twitter, the micro-blogging site, with claims of some demonstrators being teargassed and others beaten and arrested.

Al Jazeera’s Dorsa Jabbari, in Tehran, confirmed reports that security forces used tear gas, pepper spray and batons against the protesters.

She said up to 10,000 security forces had been deployed to prevent protesters from gathering at Azadi Square, where the marches, originating from various points in Tehran, were expected to converge.

Young Arabs who can’t wait to throw off shackles of tradition

The frustrated generation at the heart of the protests tell how their progress is being stifled by unemployment and corruption

They live with their parents, hang out in cafes, Facebook their friends, study in their spare time, listen to local rappers – and despair about ever being able to get a good, fulfilling job and start a family. The young people at the vanguard of the protests sweeping the Arab world are an exasperated demographic, the lucky ones stuck in poorly paid jobs they hate, the unlucky ones touting degrees that don’t get them anywhere, an entire generation muzzled by tradition, deference and authoritarian rule.

WikiLeaks cables: Egyptian military head is ‘old and resistant to change’

US ambassador to Cairo gives his opinion on Muhammad Tantawi and number two general, Sami Enan

Nothing Egypt’s military council has done in its past suggests it has the capacity or inclination to introduce speedy and radical change. Guaranteed its $1.3bn (£812m) annual grant from the US – a dividend from the Camp David peace accord with Israel – it has gained the reputation as a hidebound institution with little appetite for reform.

Army urges Egyptians to end strikes

Military council calls on workers to play their role in reviving the economy after almost three weeks of turmoil.

Egypt state media changes sides

Loyal government mouthpieces to the end of Mubarak’s rule, state-run media outlets now celebrate the revolution.

Egyptian minds are opened

Upheaval has opened the door to political and economic reform, but its most lasting effect may be psychological.

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