Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Posts Tagged ‘Mohamed ElBaradei’

Egypt: The Elusive Arab Spring

Posted by jonathanfryer on Tuesday, 26th August, 2014

Wafik MoustafaWafik Moustafa bookDuring the first few weeks of 2011 I was glued to Al Jazeera’s English-language TV channel as the revolution in Egypt unfurled and President Hosni Mubarak eventually stood down from power. But this proved to be a hollow victory for the predominantly liberal and often secular young demonstrators who had been so visible in Cairo’s Tahrir Square. Elections led to Mohammed Morsi of the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood becoming the new president, but the new government’s swift moves to islamise the state led to renewed mass protests and Morsi’s ousting in a coup. Now Egypt is led by Field Marshal Abdel Fatah El Sisi, who many critics see as a sort of Mubarak Mark II. In fact, the repression against dissent is even worse now than it was in Mubarak’s final years. But all this was predictable, of so argues the British-Egyptian doctor Wafik Moustafa, in his thought-provoking book Egypt: The Elusive Arab Spring (Gilgmesh, £24.95). Dr Moustafa is unique in having stood for both the Egyptian presidency (against Mubarak) and as a prospective UK MP (for Bootle) — both lost causes, as Mubarak made sure for 30 years that the veneer of democracy eventually applied to quieten criticism from Washington would not threaten him through the ballot box, and Dr Moustafa is a Conservative who had little chance of ousting Labour in Britain’s industrial north west. His book is a very personal take on events, both during the three years of the so-called Arab Spring and in his recounting of Egypt’s modern history, from a liberal, cosmopolitan perspective. He obviously thinks Egypt is the poorer for losing former IAEA head Mohamed ElBaradei from frontline politics (not a view particularly widely shared among ordinary Egyptians) and he is (probably justifiably) harsh on the record of the late Colonel Nasser, whose standing in the Egyptian street nonetheless seems to be rising again, with a little help from El Sisi. The author ranges wider than the Egypt of the title, looking at events across the whole Arab world, as well as specific issues such as the media. The order of chapters is at times a little strange — an account of the Egyptian monarchy coming towards the end of the book, for example — but the late alterations and additions made necessary by political developments in 2013 are reasonably well integrated into the whole, and all in all this is a stimulating read, which will be particularly appreciated by those who are not already Middle East experts and want an accessible and literate overview of Egypt’s situation and the multitude of challenges facing the country’s future.

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Who Is Mohamed ElBaradei?

Posted by jonathanfryer on Sunday, 30th January, 2011

Though this week’s street protests in Egypt have conveyed a clear message, namely that the Egyptian people want President Hosni Mubarak to stand down, the movement has lacked a clear leader around whom it can coalesce. The name that has nonetheless been in the frame for some time has been Mohamed ElBaradei, the 68-year-old former head of the International Atomic Agency (IAEA), who has spent much of his professional life abroad, including a stint as part of Egypt’s mission to the United Nations in New York. He attracted some criticism earlier in the week for not stepping up forcefully as a potential replacement for Mubarak, and in fact only returning to Egypt very late in the process of what one can now call a Revolution, but it woud seem that he has been busy behind the scenes, building a wide coalition of opposition forces. That coalition includes more than a dozen political parties (though obviously not the ruling NDP) and, significantly, the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamic force that is in principle outlawed but in practice plays a significant role in society. The Muslim Brotherhood has endorsed ElBaradei as a spokesman for this new coalition, which could pave the way to his becoming interim President — though for that to happen, Mubarak must stand down. If he wants to escape a worse fate, Mubarak would be well advised to do that as soon as possible, leaving the way open for ElBaradei and a transition to a more open and democratic society which is responsive to the Egyptian people’s real needs.

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