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Egyptian court orders the National Democratic Party dissolved

There has been momentum this week to seek retribution against the former holders of power in Egypt.  Al Jazeera is reporting on the latest step, disbanding the National Democratic Party and turning its assets over to the government.  The vote to hold new elections at an early date looked to benefit the NDP, as well as the Muslim Brotherhood, because the NDP maintained the infrastructure necessary to organize for a national election.  There is a concern that parties currently forming lack the capacity to contest an election at the early date.  Dissolving the NDP should have major ramifications in upcoming elections.  I have not yet seen any discussion of whether or not the NDP can successfully continue on after a name change and a face lift.

Changes to Egyptian Constitution Approved

41% of Egyptian voters approved changes to Egypt’s constitution this weekend that set in place some of the reforms demanded by groups integral to the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak. The changes call for legislative elections in June followed by presidential elections in August. Among other changes is an amendment that limits presidential terms to two four year blocs (designed to prevent any other instance of one-man, long-term rule, like Mubarak’s). Some commentators believe the constitutional changes favor established political organizations like The Muslim Brotherhood, as the upcoming elections leave little time for new groups to emerge and thus effectively campaign for power.

The Muslim Brotherhood meets with the Egyptian government

Al Jazeera is reporting on a new development in Egypt; the Muslim Brotherhood is now meeting with the current regime.  This is a change from the MB’s previous position that they would not enter discussions until Mubarak had already resigned.  Also noteworthy is that Mohamad ElBaradei is being left out of the discussions.  Some excerpts from the article:

Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, cautiously welcomed the inclusion of the MB in talks, but said the US would “wait and see” what results the dialogue yields.

ElBaradei, however, told the American television station NBC that he had not been invited to the talks. He slammed the negotiations for being “opaque”, saying that “nobody knows who is talking to whom at this stage”.

An Al Jazeera correspondent in Cairo described the news of the MB joining the talks as “highly significant”.

“They are interested in talking about the resignation of president Mubarak,” he said. “They want parliament resolved, they want those responsible for violence of the last few days put on trial … and wanting to be able to peacefully protest.”

Frank Wisner, who has acted as a White House envoy by carrying a message to Mubarak, said on Saturday that Mubarak “must stay in office to steer” a process of gathering “national consensus around the preconditions” for the way forward.

 

On the Muslim Brotherhood

The New York Times posted this article about the Muslim Brotherhood.  It focuses on describing the group itself, rather than providing details of their current role in the protests.  Here are some excerpts:

Its size and diversity, and the legal ban that has kept it from genuine political power in Egypt for decades, make it hard to characterize simply. As the Roman Catholic Church includes both those who practice leftist liberation theology and conservative anti-abortion advocates, so the Brotherhood includes both practical reformers and firebrand ideologues.

“The Brotherhood hates Al Qaeda, and Al Qaeda hates the Brotherhood,” said Shadi Hamid, director of research at the Brookings Doha Center in Qatar. “So if we’re talking about counterterrorism, engaging with the Brotherhood will advance our interests in the region.”

Mr. Hamid said the Muslim Brotherhood’s deep hostility to Israel — which reflects majority public opinion in Egypt — would pose difficulties for American policy. Its conservative views on the rights of women and intolerance of religious minorities are offensive by Western standards. But he said that the group was far from monolithic and that it was divided between those who would never accept Israel’s right to exist and those who accepted a two-state solution in which Israel and Palestine exist side by side.

Asked about the Muslim Brotherhood,Robert Gibbs, the White House spokesman, said Monday that the United States would work with any group that showed “adherence to the law, adherence to nonviolence, and a willingness to be part of a democratic process, but not use that democratic process to simply instill yourself into power.” Some experts on the Brotherhood say the group has met the requirements of nonviolence and participation in elections in Egypt for decades.

 

Israel worried about the future of Egypt

Egypt has been, since 1979, the most important Arab ally of Israel.  The peace deal has been critical to Israeli security, and some would argue key for the Israeli economy as well.  This Al Jazeera article explains the present anxiety that Israel feels towards the political upheaval in Egypt.  They want desperately for the peace deal to hold with whoever emerges as the Egyptian leadership.  Fortunately for Israel the Muslim Brotherhood has not yet begun to take a leadership role in protests.   Thus far, Israel has backed Mubarak.  The United States had, but appears to be switching its stance, hoping to save face with whomever comes to power.  One wonders if Israel ought to adopt the same strategy, rather than being seen as Mubarak’s last supporter in the eyes of the eventual new leadership of Egypt.  From the article:

Israel’s primary concern is that the uprising could be commandeered by Egypt’s strongest opposition group, the Muslim Brotherhood, and its allies, who would presumably move Egypt away from its alignment with the West and possibly cancel the peace agreement with Israel.

“[…] Israelis, have been overtaken by fear: The fear of democracy. Not here, in neighbouring countries,” Sever Plocker, an Israeli commentator, writes in the daily Yediot Ahronot.

“Its as though we never prayed for our Arab neighbours to become liberal democracies,” Plocker writes.

Political opposition movements turn away from Islamism

This New York Times article discusses the new turn of political opposition and protests away from Islamism.  Focusing on Egypt, it explains that largely secular Tunisia’s tossing an autocratic leader out of power achieved the desired short-term outcome of groups like the Muslim Brotherhood without leveraging Islam.  So there is now some rethinking going on:

“Ideology now has taken a back seat until we can get rid of this nightmare confronting everyone,” said Megahed Melligi, 43, a longtime member of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt who said he quit the group three years ago out of frustration. “This nightmare is the ruling party and the current regime. This is everyone’s nightmare.”

There are some key Big Picture questions coming out of what occurred in Tunisia.  The popular one is “Will other leaders begin falling too?”  But for me this one is more important – “Is Islamism as a vehicle for reviving the Middle East to past greatness about to collapse, as did socialism and Arab nationalism?”

Protests in Egypt

Last month Egypt held parliamentary elections that many viewed as rigged, or at least heavily violated.  Al Jazeera reports that parties on Egypt’s left and right agree that the elections were not fair.  One plan appears to be the formation of a “parallel parliament.”  President Mubarak will be reelected next year, but the opposition hopes to prevent the easy transfer of power to his son, Gamal, at some point in the future.