Saturday, November 05, 2005

Dubious Democracy on the Nile

Hala Mustafa is a veteran political analyst and a member of Gamal Mubarak's circle. Among other things, she is skeptical that legalizing the Ikhwan would have a constructive result. However, a more nuanced discussed about the Ikhwan's status is necessary. For half a century the Ikhwan has been outlawed. So, the question is may it be given legal status (versus the present quasi legal status) without allowing it to create or comprise a political party? Certainly, the answer is yes. Thus, the Brothers could enjoy legal status but would not be eligible under the revised Article 76 or the Constitution to run a presidential candidate. Why might this be a good idea? Because it would signal a willingness on the part of the regime to permit the Ikhwan to operate legally provided they play by the rules of the game while preserving the regime's grip on the system. This is not democracy but it is a measure of serious political reform.
Dubious Democracy on the Nile
"Legalizing the Muslim Brotherhood is not the magic solution to these problems, and it is dangerous to reduce the broad challenges of Egypt's democratic transition to this one issue. While all political forces have a right to representation, the early legalization of the Brotherhood would probably only contribute to the further "Islamization" of politics, which has been used in the past as an excuse to maintain the status quo.

"Debate on reform in Egypt must look beyond elections, which can be expected to reflect that status quo. Change must take place through constitutional reform that will restructure political life to allow new and dynamic parties to compete with Mubarak's NDP. Egypt also needs more civil freedoms, more rights for women and minorities and a reshaping of the political elite to include a greater diversity of voices."

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