Mubarak vs. demos

Why do Egyptian demonstrators hate foreign investment?

'There is unemployment. Battling unemployment requires investment. With these demonstrations that we're seeing, the investor will flee, meaning unemployment will spread,' Mubarak, 77, said in the interview with the Kuwaiti Al-Siyassah newspaper, a transcript of which was published by Egypt's semiofficial Middle East News Agency.
`It's obvious that the unjustified demonstrations have no program. They are staged just to create a state of unrest that drives out the foreign investor. There are those who want to hurt our economy, but they won't succeed.'
The Muslim Brotherhood has led many of the protests, although Mubarak questioned whether Egyptians would accept the ideas of the banned but popular group, which advocates an Islamic government.
`The people here are past the phase of misleading and they understand how things go,' he said.
Without naming a specific group, Mubarak said some people `want to rule through rabble-rousing and to impose (their) views and enjoy the current freedom to impose dictatorship.' He added: ``This will not happen.'


Yeah, it's the demonstrators who want to impose dictatorship.

Update: A few more tidbits from the Al Siyassa interview -- comments in square brackets are mine.

I have been thinking about reform since the beginning of my current term, that is even before the topic was raised on the local scene. The political parties were talking about an amendment in 2006. I wondered if the political parties would be ready for an amendment.
No one expected, even the Americans, that I was going to announce the amendment during my speech in Menoufiya. It's a decision I made without any pressure, domestic or foreign. I was only motivated by the fact that the moment had come to go ahead with this reform. There were no demonstrations yet [not true, the first Kefaya demo was two and a half months beforehand] and I could have kept silent and waited until the following year, as the opposition was asking [that's what the NDP was asking in its dialogue with the opposition, the opposition only flirted with the idea after it was led to believe it was their only choice], to proceed with reform.
The Kefaya movement does not worry me. It's a movement for sale -- I know very well who is behind it. The same goes for the Muslim Brotherhood, the Nasserists and the others. What interests me is the majority of citizens. With the current rhythm of demonstrations, investors will flee. Unjustified demonstrations aim only at thwarting investment, which will worsen the unemployment problem.


It is forbidden under the law to create religious political parties. A religious party can always act through other political parties. But will citizens accept the beliefs of the Muslim Brotherhood, even if they hide behind another party? People will not be fooled... I am well aware of what's going on. The Americans must believe that I am aware of their contacts with the Brotherhood. The Brotherhood seeks power to keep it forever. Once in power, they would create chaos.


It must be stressed that it is not the post of president of the republic that appeals to me. I consider the presidency a heavy burden. But I still have a duty I must assume with complete honesty and sincerity


Kefaya has published a statement denying Mubarak's allegations which stresses that it is a national movement based on volunteers and that it does not receive any foreign funding. It also threatened to take Mubarak to court for libel.

In the meantime, the Nasserist organ Al Arabi published an attack on Mubarak for his interview in which editor (and Kefaya leader) Abdel Halim Qandil that what is behind Kefaya is not a foreign conspiracy but rather "the dictatorship of Mubarak's regime, which is at roots of what got Kefaya started. He then goes on to list the achievement of the regime, which he sees as "corruption, waste of public funds, no respect of human rights and a surge in the number of political prisoners."

It's one of Egypt's little wonders that Al Arabi, which has massive debts to the state-owned Al Ahram printing press, has not been shut yet. Watch this space.
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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.