The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

Too late for reform

I like Michele Dunne — she has been consistent for a decade on Egypt, and strikes the right tone here. I remember we sat together a couple of months ago and she laughed at the idea that Omar Suleiman could be a transition figure for Egypt. Here she argues that the US should not be backing Suleiman, it should be backing bottom-up transition.

Too Late for Reform Now - Carnegie Endowment for International Peace:

"One of the most striking features of recent U.S. policy toward the Middle East has been that it often appeared out of touch with current realities to the point of being anachronistic—almost quaint. The dogged push for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, for example, flew in the face of truths including the facts that Prime Minister Netanyahu had no interest in reaching an agreement and Palestinian President Abbas was so weakened by the Fatah-Hamas rift that he would be unable to reach an agreement even if a good offer were put on the table. The most recent example of this unreality is U.S. calls for ‘reform’ and ‘national dialogue’ in Egypt in response to the escalating uprising.

Reform? Sorry, the time to call for that was a year ago, five years ago, ten years ago. Egyptians no longer want President Mubarak to reform; they simply want no more Mubaraks. Top-down political reform is now over in Egypt. In its place we are seeing bottom-up change, with all its many risks.     How did Egyptians go from demanding gradual, peaceful, political reform to wanting to overthrow their leader by whatever means possible? It did not happen overnight. Rather, over the last five years the idea of reform became discredited as Mubarak and his inner circle cynically manipulated the concept to enable their own particular brand of crony capitalism while staving off improvements in civil liberties or a real expansion of political contestation. Mubarak allowed some breathing room in the 2005 parliamentary elections, only to follow them with a harsh crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood and on Ayman Nour, who dared to run a real campaign against him. Mubarak delivered on his 2005 pledge to sponsor constitutional reforms in an extremely damaging manner in 2007, actually managing to push through amendments that significantly impaired the political and human rights of his citizens even fur