The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

Omar Suleiman's gall

I have to confess I was skeptical about Omar Suleiman's run in recent days, especially when you consider the press reporting it was only going on a statement he'd allegedly made to MENA and he has yet to appear on television or in public talking about his campaign. But we're getting more confirmation with this interview with al-Akhbar, as reported by Reuters. I have a hard time seeing Suleiman win (unless the election is rigged) but he can certainly be useful in stirring up anti-MB sentiment to other candidates' advantage — especially if he uses some of the documents and recordings he no doubt has saved from his years as spy chief. 

Quite galling to see him try to pretend he has democratic credentials, though:

In the interview, Suleiman also projected himself as an opposition figure within the Mubarak regime, saying he had objected to many policies, laws and "what transpired" in 2010 parliamentary elections, which were probably the most rigged vote since Egypt's 1953 overthrow of the monarchy.

"Those who think that my candidacy for president means reinventing the former regime must realize that being the head of the General Intelligence Agency or vice president for a few days does not mean that I was part of an institution against which people revolted," Suleiman said.

The 75-year-old Suleiman said he has received death threats from "elements" of the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist groups since he announced his candidacy on Friday. "Those who think that these threats will make me change my position or force me to abandon my candidacy for the presidency are deluding themselves," he said.

For several years before the January 2011 uprising, people close to Suleiman would whisper to whoever would listen that Omar Basha was against the NDP businessmen, against vote-rigging, and most laughably against torture and police brutality. It was part of the effort to position him as a man with both experience and some sort of liberal credentials. It was ridiculous then and it's ridiculous now. It's worth remembering that, just as it's worth remembering that after the uprising many of those who count in Egyptian politics today were very happy to be negotiating with Omar Suleiman, most notably the Muslim Brotherhood. If I remember correctly, the only prominent person who refused to was Mohamed ElBaradei.