The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

Did Rice Meet with the Opposition?

Most of the papers, without getting to who said what, portrayed US Sec of State's visit with with Egyptian figures following her AUC speech as "meeting with opposition".

This is an overblown characterization.

First of all, in a conversation with someone in attendance, Rice was said to have done little talking and a lot of listening. Hence, given the fact that only one substantial opposition figure was there, the chances that he was drowned out among the "reformers" and "supporters" of the NDP is not a far fetched assertion.

Who was the opposition?

Ayman Nor was in attendance for Hizb al-Ghad (as was Hisham Kassem in an individual capacity but also with al-Ghad).

Anyone Else?

The rest of the figures present at the meeting were - if not overtly part of the ruling NDP - "independent" figures that maintain good, and in some cases, very deep contacts with the president's party.

For example:

Hossam Badrawi - who is often referred to as a "reformist" - is a close associate of Gamal Mubarak and the education head of the NDP's influential policies secretariat. He is a member of the National Council for Human Rights (NCHR).

Mona Zulfiqar is a lawyer and noted for pressing the government to change the law to allow women the right to divorce. Her links to the NDP are strong. She also serves on Suzanne Mubarak's National Council for Women and the Boutros Boutros-Ghali headed NCHR.

Monir Fahkry Abd al-Nor is a Wafdist MP but I have personally seen him in public roundtables praise his colleagues in the NDP while they return their admiration for this "great" opposition figure. Abd al-Nor, according to some, is the equivalent to a Colmes complement to Sean Hannity on Fox News. Abd al-Nor serves on the NCHR.

Osama Ghazali Harb was also in attendance. Harb is the editor of al-Siyasa al-Dolwiya journal and works for al-Ahram Center for Strategic and Political Studies. He is an appointed member of the Shura, NDP policies secretariat member, and on the NCHR. Recently, Harb received some attention as the only NDP member in the Shura to vote against amending article 76 of the constitution. Yet, to label him opposition is a misnomer.

Tasiyr Mondor is a professor of medicine at Azhar University. It is unclear if she is affiliated with the NDP or not. Does anyone know if she is on the NCHR?

Bahey al-Din Hassan runs the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies. He also serves as an opposition member of the NCHR. While not an NDP member, and often critical, he is not an overt opponent of the government.

This was not a meeting with the opposition. It was one opposition figure and a bunch of people closely connected to the hall of power.

So it worked out well for everyone. The Egyptian government felt secure that the opposition was safely diluted by having its official and unofficial reps there. Meanwhile, the press could advertise on behalf of Rice and her democratizing mission that she did her part by meeting Ayman (without meeting those who are not looking so favorably on the US administration's grand regional design).


Perhaps but I am just one guy sitting behind a computer who wants to see a plan of action if Egypt's presidential and parliamentary elections don't turn out free and fair.

There are lots of folks on the government's NCHR. Any guesses what that means?