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Egyptian Elections, Free and Fair?

7.13.2005

When i posted on the london bombings over the weekend, I pointed toward the need for democratic spread in the Middle East as a means of empowering moderate voices in the society and alienating the extremeses (in effect mirroring what we must do in our system to hard-right/left).
I myself had a debate on the politics.ie forum about the election in Egypt and whether it represented the beginning of the process outlined above. From the beginnning i have been sceptical about the whole affair, i consider it to be window-dressing American Foreign Policy. Then I found this report from Human Rights Watch, which although a few weeks old is no less relevant to the whole debate following 7/7.
The Muslim Brotherhood are an organisation with a very mixed history, in Saddat's time and till this day they are predominantely a social organisation who offer support to the millions of slum-dwellers in Cairo, they operate as a dual religious/charitable organisation in the same way as Christian Aid perhaps. Their problem is that they are prone to oppression as the Egyptian rulers fear their potential electoral power. They are after all a partty with broad populist support among the poor.
HRW is acussing the egyptian government of taking advantage of national security pretext to imprison those of the Brotherhood who organised a mass demonstration against electoral rules in place for the upcoming presidential election. Currently the Brotherhood are omitted from the election (many feel it is due to their odds-on success should they run).
“President Mubarak should use this opportunity to end the practice of invoking national security to stifle peaceful dissent,” according to Joe Stork, deputy director of the Middle East & North Africa division.
The actions of Mubarak have for years given lie to the american myth of spreading democracy and again in his oppression of a party that operates with full popular support he has shown that democracy in the middle east means publicly endorsed autocracy/tyranny. This is unacceptable and any of us who fear international terror have only to look at such actions as detrimental to our own national security.
The case of Egypt is telling for it is here that the whole fundamentalist faith appeared to develop and take hold in the face of widespread oppression of muslims. Many fanatics here point rightly to the role of the west in supporting Saddat and Mubarak, it is here alongside Saudi Arabia that the worldview of Al-qa'ida is developed and openly subscribed to. If we stand any chance of defeating terrorism here and abroad it is in supporting the middle ground, opening up political systems and giving voice to the moderates.
Democracy abroad must not come to mean authorised dictatorship in the 21st century as it did in the last.
RR

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