Nazif's slip of the tongue

Egyptian Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif, who is due to go to Washington on an official visit (where he will be received by Vice President Dick Cheney and probably mostly talk about economics, since he is not really involved in security or foreign affairs), made a comment yesterday that has left the local press indignant. According to Masri Al Youm, Nazif said:

Egyptians need to become more politically mature. President Mubarak knows full well that there is not enough time for the opposition to field a serious candidate at the forthcoming presidential elections.

He added that these elections will really be "more like a referendum."

But that does not mean that the rules of real presidential elections have not been set. We've taken an important step on the path to reform, which remains long.

These statements were virulently criticized by the newspaper's lead columnist, Magdi Mehanna, who asked that if the elections will actually be a referendum, what good does the current reform serve? Mehanna certainly has a point, and I'm not sure whether Nazif's statement is simple honesty or dismissive arrogance. Well, come to think of it, I think I know.

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,