The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

Tomorrow (the Party) is Never Coming

As an addition and in reference to Issandr's post below, the government's latest assault on al-Ghad's paper is only the half of it.
So why is the paper closed. Ahram printing refuses to print it because the party's newspaper papers are not in order.

Exerpts from Reuters story on al-Jazeera

[Ayman Nor's Asst. Wail] Nawara said a party official had signed, under pressure and without authorisation from the party, a letter to the Supreme Press Council, which controls the Egyptian press, asking for the editor-in-chief to be changed.
Changes in editors require the approval of the council, which is controlled by the ruling National Democratic Party.

Nur's wife and party colleague, Gamila Ismail, added: "The Supreme Press Council told us that we are missing some routine paperwork, which is not true."

Nawara said the authorities disapproved of Al-Ghad editor Ibrahim Issa because of his record for candour.

"The government wants to shut us up, and control all our actions because Ghad is not like other parties which simply obey every order they take," Nawara added.

Then adding injury to insult, al-Ghad VP, Mousa Mostafa was arrested in Cairo airport on his return on Tuesday night.

Exerpts again coming from a Reuters Story:

1) "The authorities will not answer questions about the reason for the arrest," Nawara told Reuters.

2) Police arrested Mostafa on his arrival at Cairo airport after a trip to Dubai, Paris and London, Nawara said. He had left Egypt before Nour's detention on January 29. The authorities were not immediately available for comment about Mostafa's case

3) The Egyptian prosecutor general said on Wednesday the charge against Nour was a criminal matter and not political. Nour has denied the allegations against him and said he was the victim of a trap.

Based on these latest developing incidents, I think it is fair to say that some suggested theories for Nor's arrest can be disregarded now.

For example, this is definitely bigger than a former Sec of State and the Council of Foreign Relations meeting with Nor a few weeks ago.

Also, this is much bigger than the NDP doing a favor for the Wafd's Noman Goma (an enemy of Nor's).

The arrests and crackdown on Hizb al-Ghad have more to do with the fact that it was being seen by the NDP as having potential for a semi-autonomous party. Although it would never rival the only party that counts in Egypt, al-Ghad's inability to play the role of co-opted wet sponge as the other legal parties such as the Tugama and al-Wafd led to their downfall.

Now you could charge that the Nasserist did not either. But the Nasserist cannot win seats in parliament either. The idea that al-Ghad might actually attract a bloc and was not playing by the NDP's rules meant it had to be destroyed. It was perceived as a threat even though I don't think it was.

Basically, it is important to focus on Nor and the party's debate regarding the National Dialogue and Nor's insistence that the consition be amended while the other parties backed off from this demand. Was their perceived popularity combined with their non-complilant stance enough to launch this attack, which the government spinning as unrelated events?

Although a-Ghad has some well-know, previously independent members to join, Nor's arrest is a big blow. Now with the newspaper getting hung up like so many before it, what left will likely smolder. I am betting we will see the party's Sec-Gen Mona Makram-Ebied back off if the party's fortunes look like they are not going to reverse.

Even if al-Ghad does eventually emerge from the ashes, it will only be a shadow of its previously perceived potential to mobilize and attract a popular base that could provide an alternative.
This may come off as a bit of a vain self-plug, but....
I wrote an academic article about opposition parties in Egypt back in 2002, I shopped it around a bit before the British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies reviewed it and accepted it. It came out in November 2004 (over 2 years after I had written it). At the time, al-Ghad had just been licensed so my argument was looking pretty dodgy. Not that I am happy about it, but it looks like some of the cases I looked at including the Labor, Nasserist, the Liberals (al-Ahrar) parties as well as the case of Ayman Nor post-al-Wafd may still apply as rules of the game.

The article's citation is:
Joshua Stacher, “Parties Over: The Demise of Egypt Opposition Parties,� British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies Vol. 31, Issue 2 (November 2004): 215-234.

I don't have the finished, edited article. I have not even seen it yet. But it is out there if your interested in how opposition parties are viewed and handled in Masr.