Old Egypt's candidate for the Arab League

Mustafa al-FiqiWhen Amr Moussa announced that he would be stepping down as Secretary-General of the Arab League to run for the Egyptian presidency, several names surfaced as to who might replace him. Shockingly, Egypt was considering unsavoury Mubarak regime characters such as Moufid Shehab (a top NDP official and sometimes foreign affairs troubleshooter) to replace him. That was shelved, but only to have Mustafa al-Fiqi become the official Egyptian candidate. This should be an outrage.

Al-Fiqi is a former presidential aide who has for two decades played the role of foreign policy expert in parliament. He has been a go-to person for foreign delegations and held various positions related to this function, including on the National Council for Human Rights (even though he was a staunch supporter of the Emergency Law). He profusely praised Mubarak in the president's last days in February, and has now neatly realigned himself with the revolution.

Read More

Iraq's elections: anything goes

 The Economist has a round-up of Iraq's election results and this nice chart. The bottom line:

The parties may still have to wait several more weeks while voting disputes are resolved and seats in parliament allocated. A complex formula will boost representation for women and minorities (including Christians) and award extra seats to the largest parties. Only then will the winner be revealed. The group with the most seats will not necessarily have won most votes.

The slowness of the count contrasted with the frenetic pace of negotiations in Baghdad’s hotel lobbies and party headquarters. No alliance came even close to an outright win. Messrs Maliki and Allawi both face an uphill struggle to find a winning coalition. Their most obvious partners are the Kurds, who are part of the present government and will seek to stay on to defend their regional privileges. With two suitors wooing them, they will demand extra concessions.

But the Kurds are no longer the sole kingmakers. Assuming they act as one block, including a newish reform party called Goran (meaning Change) as well as the two older ones, their 50-odd seats would still not be enough to give either Mr Maliki or Mr Allawi the 163 seats they need to command a majority in parliament.

So the Iraqi National Alliance, an umbrella group for Shia religious parties that campaigned strongly against both men, may hold the final balance. Within that alliance, Mr Sadr has a role. But another part of the National Alliance, the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI), could also play a part, even though it did badly in the election, getting only a dozen seats. As part of Mr Maliki’s current government, ISCI will also be keen to stay on board, enjoying the perks and patronage of office. But it strongly opposes Mr Allawi’s anti-Iranian stance and in the past has quarrelled with Mr Maliki too. In any case, ISCI alone is too small to swing the balance.

Having not really followed Iraq's politics since the invasion, I'm feeling it's time to take an interest again now that they are at least partly running things themselves, with all the glorious complications of that country's politics. And they've already made a comeback to the Arab regional scene by doing the classic Arab state thing at the Arab League summit: they are boycotting (a good Jazeera wrap-up btw) because Qadhafi held a meeting with Baathists. And to think they were originally meant to host...