The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

Good Old Fashioned US pressure for Egyptian Democratization

In a turn around trip in response to Egyptian PM Ahmad Nazif's visit to the States last week, Laura Bush has come to Cairo.

It seems as if George W. and Hosni are comfortable talking about democratization and "the Process" through proxies.

And because we all know that there has not been much commentary in the news recently about the Arab Spring, there is no need for Mubarak and Bush to meet face-to-face.

So what was Laura Bush up to during her visit to Egypt? She basically endorsed the emasculated constitutional amendment, hung out on Sesame Street and at the Pyramids, and read to some young Egyptian school girls. All in a day's work and for the sake of democracy, I tell you.

here is an exerpt from a WaPo article
First Lady Laura Bush on Monday praised Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's controversial plan for elections this year, even though pro-democratic opposition groups say they would be prevented from participating.
"I would say that President Mubarak has taken a very bold step," the first lady told reporters after touring the famous ancient pyramids here. "You know that each step is a small step, that you can't be quick."
Laura Bush's comments amounted to a timely endorsement of Mubarak's plan to hold the first multi-candidate elections later this year. A referendum is scheduled for Wednesday on the new law, which would require challengers to the president to be high-ranking members of officially sanctioned parties and effectively disqualify independent candidates. Opposition groups, led by the large Muslim Brotherhood, say the election plan effectively blocks a serious challenge to Mubarak, who has ruled Egypt for 23 years and is widely expected to run and win this year. "I think it's a very wise and bold step," Laura Bush told reporters, when asked about complaints from opposition groups.
The U.S. first lady, who spent much of the day with Mubarak's wife, Suzan, pointed to the United States as an example of how free and open democracies do not appear overnight. "He is taking the first step to open up the elections and I think that's very, very important," she said. Critics say President Bush and the first lady should apply more pressure on Mubarak to open up the elections and allow international monitors to police the vote. Under Mubarak's plan, government-dominated committees will conduct the election monitoring.
Earlier, Laura Bush made a cameo on "Alam Simsim," the Egyptian version of "Sesame Street." The show, which the U.S. Agency for International Development provided $8.4 million to help create, is an extraordinarily popular learning show for children under the age of 8, reaching 99 percent of them in urban areas and slightly less in rural communities. The first lady appeared with a furry peach character named Khokha. "Reading in English, Arabic or any other language does expand our minds," she told the audience. A few hours later, she toured a school for girls from disadvantaged families.

Any wagers on a democratic Egypt before 2011 (Egypt's next scheduled presidential elections)?