Saad's back

Saad Eddin Ibrahim, the Egyptian democracy activist who spent nearly two years in prison because of his activities before being finally acquitted, has published a courageous editorial that is making the rounds in the regional press: Egypt needs a president, not a latter-day pharaoh

First of all, it's worth noting that this is perhaps one of the most strongly-worded editorials on the Mubarak regime to ever be published, and that it comes from one of the most prominent Egyptian intellectuals (even if he is marginalized in Egypt because of his pro-American views.) Secondly, remember that Ibrahim was arrested in 2000 on the day that Al Hayat published his article on "republicarchy" (goumloukiya) and the phenomenon in Arab states of hereditary republics. The article centered on Gamal Mubarak and the possibility that he was being groomed for succession, when that still seemed improbable (it doesn't now.)

Ibrahim's new article focuses on the need for constitutional reform to provide more checks and balances to counter the powers of the presidency, introduce direct presidential elections with a real contest, and implicitly rejects another term for Mubarak. It would be great to see a real campaign asking that Mubarak step down -- petitions such as the one I mentioned recently are a step in the right direction, but this movement needs to gather momentum in the next few months, which the security services won't like. And we've seen what they're capable of doing to people who talk too much...
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Issandr El Amrani

Issandr El Amrani is a Cairo-based writer and consultant. His reporting and commentary on the Middle East and North Africa has appeared in The Economist, London Review of Books, Financial Times, The National, The Guardian, Time and other publications. He also publishes one of the longest-running blog in the region, www.arabist.net.