Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Is it a crisis for the Egyptian regime alone? | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
Select Page

Some Arab satellite channels are always trying to distract us with debates which are far-removed from reality, and do not touch on the essence of matters in our region. The simplest example of this is the current debate about the situation in Egypt, which has been ongoing since the “Day of Rage” demonstrations.

The Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, no matter what his opponents say, is not like Saddam Hussein, or Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, or other rulers in the region. Mubarak is a president with history, part of which the Egyptians themselves are proud of. He is a patriot, with experience of both war and peace. Mubarak is neither a dictator, nor is he democratic, and this is the crux of the matter. The issue here is not President Mubarak, or the rest of the Arab leaders, as much as it is a crisis for Arab republics on the whole.

The crisis concerning our Arab republics is that they are governed by an approach closer to monarchical rule. Yet they are not monarchies, and thus the Arab republic will always find itself at an impasse, whether it is today, or in a few years. Some leaders of Arab republics have even lived through several kings and princes. The kings have changed, but the presidents remained the same. This is the real crisis, whereby the principle of a fixed-term presidency does not exist. Therefore, regimes in the region ultimately arrive at an impasse, using whatever tricks they can, which results in a crisis of legitimacy.

When I blame some of our satellite channels for distracting us from the debate, and distorting our perceptions, this is for the simple reason that we always see a strong focus on Egypt. This is not necessarily true today, because the current coverage is justified, but [satellite channels have focused on Egypt] for a long time. This is largely because the Mubarak regime allowed an unprecedented level of media freedom, compared to our other republics. Take Lebanon for example, where the media does not dare say a word against Hassan Nasrallah-despite the fact he was elected by no-one- or speak out against Iran, where the people have complained of electoral fraud. Our satellite channels ignored what happened in Lebanon when Syria imposed changes to the Lebanese constitution, and extended President Lahoud’s term in office. Matters ultimately came to a tragic end with the assassination of Rafik Hariri and his associates, and the country came to a stage whereby if Nasrallah wanted to become Prime Minster, he would have to be considered a Sunni!

Thus the bulk of debate leaves behind the essence of the problem, and only scratches the surface. The crisis is not specific to the Egyptian regime, but it concerns all Arab republics. If Mubarak’s opponents were blaming his regime yesterday for being an agent of America, how can they blame Washington today for not taking a strong stand against him? They forget that there are other Arab republics, where the situation is worse than that of the Egyptian regime, but matters are still concealed from the media domain. Those who are demanding American intervention [in Egypt] forget that Washington allowed Nuri al-Maliki to take a second term in office in Iraq, despite the fact that he lost the election! Are we experiencing a case of Arab hypocrisy, or are we just lost? What about the Sudanese regime for example, or other republics, both near and far from Egypt?

Here I am not defending the Egyptian regime, but rather this is a call to be rational, and contemplate matters, instead of being emotional. It appears that the only way out [of this impasse] for our republics is to follow the Turkish model. Under this system, the army plays the role of the initial guarantor, and authority, until suitable candidates emerge in field of politics. This happens as a result of constitutional amendments, of course beginning with a defined presidential term. This is what we see forming in Tunisia today, and this is also what appears to be happening in Egypt.