The Nour- Mubarak Squaredance
Recently I sat down with my friend A. , who happens to be the son of an MP that belongs to an Egyptian opposition party. Me and A. differ on many topics, like the role of religion in politics (he is for political Islam) or the US invasion of Iraq, but we always maintained a respectful relationship regarding one another regardless of how bitterly we fought over a topic. Not to mention, like me, A. loves to hear a good counter argument. He can’t stand people who can’t back up their point of view or talk about things of which they have no real knowledge of and immediately proceeds to rip them a new asshole. I like that about him. We need more people like that in the world. Anyway… The topic of discussion was Ayman Nour and his announcement that he nominated himself for president in the next Egyptian presidential elections after his release from prison. I , while defended him and what he stands for, knew that I knew nothing of his history before the formation of Hezb ElGhad (Tommorw’s party), or how he managed to get that party approved to begin with. A.‘s father happens to be a good close friend of Nour, so I figured I would ask him for the straight dope. The story he told me is one that I can not personally back or verify, but what I can say is that it does make sense in its context and with the stories I heard of him from my own mother. So here I go, relaying what I heard to you and you can decide for yourselves if it sounds legit, or bullshit. Ok? Ok. Ayman Nour is a first time MP who ran originally on the Wafd party, the most prominent opposition party before Hezbelghad, ticket and won. He was a lawyer and a journalist, and he used to write a column in his party’s newspaper. Nour apparently wanted to become the vice–president of the party during the party’s elections and lobbied hard for the position claiming that no one else was more qualified for the post but him, which didn’t make him very popular amongst the party’s powerbrokers. The disagreement escalated and after he lost the elections they went ahead and expelled him from the party. Nour was still an MP, but he no longer had the support or the protection of being a member of a political party, which is why he wanted to create a new party. Now, while he was trying to from a party and getting his application rejected, all of Egypt’s opposition parties- empowered by the US push for democracy in the middle east- got together despite their ideological differences and formed a list of demands from the government that stressed two main points: 1) Amending the constitution to allow for direct and open presidential elections and 2) creating a 2 –term limit for the presidency. They decided amongst themselves that they can concede on the second point and not stress running the elections this time around, if it meant that the first demand got met. Basically they said that they are willing to take on another 6 year term of Mubarak if it means that in 6 years they can have an open elections for the presidency. They figured it would be enough time for them to get organized, to start grooming nominees and setting party agendas and policies. They thought that Mubarak would have no problem agreeing to that, since it means that they will support him and his run for president for another 6 years. Mubarak, unfortunately, did not see it this way at all. Mubarak apparently felt that the opposition were using American pressure on him to embarrass him and challenge his rule, but he couldn’t really do anything about it since it would look really bad in front of the Americans if he resorted to old tactics. Not to mention, the fact that all the opposition parties ( liberal, socialist, capitalist, islamist, Nasserite) managed to organize themselves and establish a united front got him worried, even if their alliance was in essence symbolic. Following the old machiavellian handbook, he figured that the best way to conquer them is to divide them, and in order to do that he needed an opposition party that would infiltrate them and cause problems and make them look divisive and weak. Since all of the opposition parties were already in that alliance and were dead serious about it, he knew that he couldn’t use any of the ones existing in the Egyptian political scene. He needed a new party, a party that would seem to oppose him but would be under his control. And that’s when someone suggested to him the name of Ayman Nour. Nour was the perfect choice for Mubarak for many reasons, but mainly because he was alone and because he drove The Wafd people nuts. If his party gets approved, and then asks to join the opposition coalition, the Wafd people would definitely disagree, which wouldn’t be the same case with the remaining parties, who would see another opposition party joining them to be a good thing. The parties would disagree, in-fighting would start, the opposition’s coalition would crumble. End of story. Mubarak’s plan was perfect, except for a minor detail: he underestimated Nour’s intelligence and desire for power. Nour met with Mubarak, who informed him of his plan and how he will allow him his new party as long as he stays his lapdog and agent against the other opposition parties. Nour pretended to agree, and told Mubarak that he is his man and that he has no problem playing that role for him, since it would ensure him prominence and power. Mubarak thought all is well and gave the green light for the party to be approved, feeling very good about himself and his political suaveness. He stopped feeling this way when 2 days after he got his party approved and officially established, Nour jumped on a plane to the USA to meet with US congress members to inform them that he is the new opposition in Egypt and that he was their democratic alternative to the dictatorship of Mubarak. Mubarak, naturally , was not amused; but little did he know that his headache was just getting started. Nour then proceeded with his next move, which was to give his party credibility with the Americans. He approached Mona Makram Abeid, a known Christian female politician and a descendent of an Egyptian heroic figure, to be his second in command. He then started approaching other MP’s and started convincing them to join his party and very quickly his party become the opposition party with the most seats in parliament. That’s when the Americans really started to notice him and take him seriously. A Pro-US party that has females and Christians in power has been nothing but a fantasy for many people in the US state department, and now , suddenly, it was real, it existed and it was the biggest opposition party in Egypt. “Holy shit people, we need to support those guys ASAP”, someone must’ve said, and support they did. Madeline Allbirght was sent as a special envoy to meet with Nour, the US ambassador David Welch had dinner with Nour at his house. Nour was making the right kind of moves, which is precisely what got Mubarak really worried of him. So he decided to take action and throw Nour in jail on fake forgery charges, thinking that the old methods might work to stop Nour from getting more prominence. Muabark apparently is getting stupid in his old age, because he miscalculated again in 2 aspects: 1) These were the days of Bush, where no US official is willing to look the other way in the middle-east when it comes to democracy; and 2) he underestimated how much the Egyptian people hated him and his government. Mubarak locking him up the way he did made an instant political hero and martyr of Nour in the eyes of the Egyptian people, not to mention gave him serious publicity and attention. Suddenly everyone knew of Ayman Nour and Tomorrow’s party. Things started slowly going from bad to worse for Mubarak: International exposure was cast on Nour’s arrest thanks to Nour’s wife who works as a correspondent for Newsweek in Egypt; a US Department of State briefing mentioned Nour by name; the European countries started exerting pressure on Mubarak to let Nour out; Condi canceled her trip to Egypt. Shit was seriously hitting the fan now and it was all getting propelled in Mubarak’s direction. Mubarak tried to appease the Americans using, again, old solutions, like being a broker between the Israelis and the Palestinians and hosting the Sharm El sheikh summit, but it had little or no effect on the Americans. He knew that he had to let Nour out, but he had to also show that he was for democracy in Egypt, to score points with Bush. So he announced that he would allow for anyone to run against him in the Egyptian presidential elections. Of course, a day before his announcement he orderd that registration to vote in this year’s election to be closed. And after creating such a huge democratic buzz, he released Nour, who still in prison’s cloths, announced his run for the Egyptian presidency. And that’s the story till now ladies and gentlemen. What is the moral of this story you ask? Well, that Nour is a political snake, which in this case isn’t a bad thing. We needed someone who can play the game to get old Mubarak worried and give him a run for his money. Not to mention, the opposition parties are loving it, cause as long as the government is focused on Nour and his party, they are not focusing on them. If Nour loses his battle, it’s no skin off their back, but if he wins, they all stand to reap the fruits of his labor. So it’s all good as far as they are concerned. And I concur. And that, my friends, is all I have to say about this topic today.