September 26, 2004

THE OBSESSION WITH AL QAEDA IS A DISTRACTION FROM THE REAL WAR:

Egyptians talk democratic reform: Egypt's ruling party conference yielded no major changes. But formerly taboo issues are being aired. (Dan Murphy, 9/27/04, CS Monitor)

Mr. Mubarak's National Democratic Party (NDP) provocatively called its annual conference last week "New Thought and Reform Priorities." Speaker after speaker, from the president's telegenic son Gamal Mubarak to Mohammed Kamal of the NDP's policy committee, addressed the theme of change and renewal.

"One-party rule is over,'' Mr. Kamal told reporters at the start of the conference. "All the doors are open," he says. And even President Mubarak said in his closing speech he would "spread the culture of democracy."

That and other declarations set off a buzz among Egypt's weak and generally demoralized democratic opposition, who reasoned the government would have to do something concrete - perhaps easing the restrictions on political parties - to at least give its promises a gloss of legitimacy.

The conference left Egyptians with only a few proposals and no real change to the political and emergency laws that have allowed the NDP to rule unchallenged since 1978. But a combination of US pressure and a faltering economy are allowing previously taboo subjects in Egypt to come to the fore.

Should the constitution be amended with presidential term limits to prevent Mubarak from taking a fifth five-year term next fall? If the ruling party is admitting past mistakes, why shouldn't it be removed from power? And why are emergency laws enacted after Anwar Sadat's assassination in 1981 - which allow for indefinite detention without trial and cast a pall of fear over political activists - still in place?

While democratic gains are still a long way off in Egypt, the simple fact that the government is addressing the issue - which amounts to a tacit admission that it hasn't performed either in building democracy or in improving the lives of average Egyptians - gives opposition groups an opening.


Here's the frightening thing about Senator Kerry, he not only doesn't understand that this is integral to the war on terror but has said he'd remove the kind of pressure we're putting on Egypt, preferring "stability" to messy liberalization.

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 26, 2004 8:17 PM
Comments

On the other hand, it's quite possible that Kerry well knows that all these guys are talking out of both sides of their mouths at once....

(He, himself, has intimate knowledge of the syndrome.)

Kerry, the realist.

Posted by: Barry Meislin at September 27, 2004 3:28 AM

"Why Not Victory" Remember that line?

Posted by: Lou Gots at September 27, 2004 8:17 AM
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