February 27, 2005

Egyptian Democratization Watch

As Glenn might quip, this strikes me as big news. Potentially really big. Analysis later. And yes, the devil will be in the details on this one. Still, this is undeniable progress. The Middle East is increasingly taking on the appearance of a region in the throes of profound change. And, dare I hazard, mostly positive ones?

UPDATE: Tom Friedman is, in the main, similarly optimistic and espies varied "tipping-points" in the Middle East (though he is concerned said tipping-points may become "teeter-totters": 'one moment you're riding high and the next minute you're slammed to the ground'. Meantime, Maureen Dowd is busy writing about Condi's "Matrix-dominatrix black leather stiletto boots." Sigh.

Posted by Gregory at February 27, 2005 01:32 AM | TrackBack (5)
Comments

To some extant the devil is not in the details. The details won't matter. It will be like it has been for so many tyrannies. Once Egypt has started to reform there will be no stopping it.

In his Inaugural the President, in a very nice way, more or less ordered Egypt to become democratic. I laughed with delight, and compared it with the Godfather saying it would warm his old Italian heart if you would just do him this little favor...

I figured that in a few years it might actually happen. But a month! Amazing.

Posted by: John Weidner at February 27, 2005 04:47 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Sorry, not the Inaugural, it was in the SOTU. "And the great and proud nation of Egypt, which showed the way toward peace in the Middle East, can now show the way toward democracy in the Middle East."

Posted by: John Weidner at February 27, 2005 06:38 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"To some extant the devil is not in the details. The details won't matter. It will be like it has been for so many tyrannies. Once Egypt has started to reform there will be no stopping it"

With all due respect, that's a doughy pantload.

Egypt has made numerous feints in this direction over the years, and various ME countries have made semiauthoritarianism work. In fact, if the system is that the one-party parliament chooses who gets to run, the field of presidential candidates will be restricted essentially in the same way that it is done in Tunisia, Iran, etc. Mubarak is a master survivor, so he hasn't done this without figuring out how it benefits him. This is a good start, but nothing in this world is inevitable.

Posted by: praktike at February 27, 2005 06:45 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Democracy in Egypt? Hmm. Time to re-read Kedourie's "The Chatham House Version and Other Middle Eastern Studies."

Posted by: George at February 27, 2005 06:07 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Times have changed, Pratike. Semiauthoritarianism won't cut it anymore. The squeeze on Egypt (and a lot of other places) won't stop half-way. That's already the way things are in the former Soviet Union.

Iran and Tunisia are not the future.

Posted by: John Weidner at February 27, 2005 11:19 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

And Condi's Wiesbaden outfit is an emblem of strength and confidence. The kind of confidence that becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, and causes opponents to feel that resistance is futile.

That picture may become an icon of the Oughts (or Zeros, or whatever one calls the first decade of a century). That she got under Dowd's skin shows that it's working. I bet she modeled the outfit for George and Karl, and they all laughed to think of the yelps of outrage from dumpy democrats...

Posted by: John Weidner at February 27, 2005 11:34 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I'm not one for flagrant language, so I'll keep it short. I'm skeptical. The devil really is in the details, and it isn't in what the reform law says, it is in how it is carried out. It doesn't take a Freedom House report to say that all authoritarian regimes use the government as a means of propoganda instead of remaining impartial and dutifully carrying out the law. That has to be kept in mind.

On a sadder note, most of the Egyptian opposition is communist or Islamic leftist.

John, I agree with you that once the ball of reform is rolled, there is no stopping it. Just look at the effects rumbling through Saudi society after the municipal elections. But I have to agree with praktike as well. Egypt along with other manufactured authoritarian states have feigned this kind of thing before, and it has only served to strengthen the current regime's role.

Mubarak's goal through this is not only to strengthen his government, but to legitimize it. Legitimization is a big thing for despot rulers, and they wet their beds figuring out how to get it. The role of the mass media and local press will probably be the determining factor in whether this legislation works in his favor or not.

Posted by: Robert Mayer at February 27, 2005 11:42 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink
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