Saturday, February 26, 2005


More on Mubarak's Surprise Announcement

Our friend The Great Pontificator has weighed in on Mubarak's startling about-face. Just last month Mubarak said the notion of opposition candidates, as opposed to the traditional "Presidential Referendum", was "unthinkable." But The Great Pontificator sees this as a shrewd move by the Egyptian head of state:

Mubarak, perhaps seeing the handwriting on the wall, has jumped ahead of the reformists. Rather than waiting for demonstrations in the street, which would obviously cast him as a reactionary tyrant bent on maintaining personal power, Mubarak has ordered the single most major reform himself, and has now cast himself in the role as the “father of Egyptian democracy.” Given the inherent advantages of his position, and the likelihood that, like Karzai in Afghanistan, he will benefit from a fragmented collection of small parties as opponents, he has positioned himself to actually be elected, by a confortable margin, in any such open election. It is a public opinion-driving masterstroke.

Let’s not be “Pollyanna” here. The government, and for all intents and purposes, that means Mubarak, is surely going to decide what parties are and are not legal, and will be making all the rules and controlling all the machinery for this election. So his advantages are considerable. Does it amount to a “rigged” election? It certainly could, but I think that is not likely under the circumstances. Given the current international situation, international observers, and perhaps even U.N. elections supervisors, are sure to be involved. And Mubarak, having seized the initiative, has nothing to gain from any ham-handed attempt at fraud or chicanery. For Mubarak, it is the next best thing to a rigged election. But it is still a massive leap forward, and it may be difficult for any future administration to try to backslide.

Like I have said before on this blog and elsewhere, Gorbachev's experience provides a valuable lesson: once the genie is out of the bottle, it's tough to draw the line at "a little democracy".

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