Saturday, February 12, 2005

Shifting Sands in Cairo

Mark Leonard, London think-tank talking-head and self-publicist extraordinaire, has a piece in today's FT magazine on the difficult birth of the first legal reformist party in Egypt. This is another indicator of a degree of political turmoil in the Middle East that seems to have been midwifed by the US and to be unambiguously liberal.

One founder says:
"The Pandora’s box has been opened by George Bush. The internal pressures have been reinvigorated and people are speaking out, which they never did so openly or vigorously before. There is a sense of malaise. The question of the rotation of power is on the table. The question of term-limits is on the table. Change is now inevitable. The government can’t say we are foreign stooges because we have been saying these things for years. The Ghad party is a home-grown thing. It is not part of the Bush project.
We are modern. We talk about globalisation, access to the ideas of the west and justice. Young people who felt marginalised can have a platform and a voice. We want to instil a sense of hope, a sense that Egyptians are no less than the Indonesians and Malaysians who have made it. We want to draw people away from Islamism."
This being Egypt, the Mubarak government has been quick to realise the danger and has imprisoned the party's leader and begun trying to smash the organisation. A similar fate befell sociologist and human rights activist Saad Eddin Ibrahim last year, who was sentenced to several years in jail for taking money from that cat's paw of neo-con Zionism, the European Commission.