Whitaker on the amendment

The Guardian's Middle East editor, Brian Whitaker, writes that Egypt must let its people go:

The Mubarak regime has got itself into a mess. Instead of accepting that political reform is inevitable, embracing it wholeheartedly and then claiming the credit, it is resorting to half measures and belated sops to its critics that can only worsen its predicament in the long run.


Mubarak has dominated Egypt's political scene for almost 24 years. He is coming to the end of his fourth six-year term, but it should have been obvious that clinging on to power for a fifth term in a presidential "election" where he was the only candidate would not go smoothly: the world has moved on and that sort of thing is no longer acceptable, even in Egypt.


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Under the rules parliament approved last week, there is apparently no risk at all of cheapening the nomination process because it is virtually impossible for anyone to stand as a candidate without the blessing of Mubarak's NDP. Since these intrinsically unfair rules involve a change to the constitution, voters will be asked to approve them later this month in a national referendum.


It is a preposterous choice: vote yes if you want phoney elections with more than one candidate; vote no if you want to keep the system as it is.


The rest if fairly humdrum, and makes the odd choice of choosing Ibrahim Nafie as a representative Egyptian columnist. He is not. He is the editor-in-chief of Al Ahram, and as such one of the regime's top semi-official spokesmen -- not to mention that the job has made him a multi-millionaire, since he receives a commission on every advertisement in Al Ahram, the Egyptian newspaper of record. He's not exactly in a position to be critical.
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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.