Tag Archives: Elections

AND WHAT HAPPENED TO EGYPT?

I’m never sure why the media does or does not cover important events occurring around the globe. The best that I can tell is that when there are no riots, large-scale explosions, or military interventions, it all news slips behind the local sports page or a report on how to make a pecan pie. As of late, Egypt ended up behind the pies.

However, the political situation continues to boil in the land of pyramids. If you haven’t kept up with the latest shifts, here’s the current setting. General Abdel al-Sisi resigned the military and became a citizen. As was predicted on this blog some months ago, Sisi is now making a bid for the presidency. Military and security agencies continue to control the country and have virtually wiped out the Muslim Brotherhood (MB). The MB were declared a terrorist organization with over 500 members sentenced to death. Sisi also brought harsh reprisals on Hamas, a close ally of the MB. How these dramatic changes will play out is the new question of the day.

The past three years of revolution would seem to suggest that Egyptians do not want a return to Mubark’s style of an authoritarian regime. (the reason why Sisi resigned his position with the military) Neither do they want former president Mori’s backdoor approach to creating a Muslim state (like Iran) and putting all of his old cronies in office. However, after Sisi was promoted to Field Marshall, he demonstrated that he rules with an iron fist. Military troops hit hard any protests against his rule. The years of political and social unrest appear to have created wide-spread support for Abdel Sisi because citizens recognize that he won’t tolerate any nonsense (unfortunately, or opposition).

Political relationships have radically changed. Sisi pushed away from Turkey, but grew significantly closer to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Because of the criticisms from Washington and delays in recognizing the new government, Sisi made a trip to Moscow looking into the Russians supplying arms. This action was taken in the face of the USA’s continued supply of foreign aid. Surprisingly, Egypt improved better relationships with Israel. The Morsi regime had hinted at cancellation of the peace treaty with Israel which would have been a disaster for Egypt. Sisi’s new doctrine and the pressure placed on Hamas was welcomed with joy in Israel. Both Egypt and Israel renewed their efforts to shut down the radical jihadists creating problems for both countries in the Sinai peninsula. These efforts have proved significant.

Undoubtedly, Sisi will win by a landslide in the upcoming election. Egypt desperately needs to end the violence and instability that has wrecked the country and sent tourism to the bottom. However, Sisi’s heavy-handedness has raised fears that he may turn into a despotic pharaoh with a return to a Mubarkic style of governing. No small issue!

The world will be observing what follows the predictable election and the Egyptians have already demonstrated a willingness to react violently to disappointments. Let’s hope Abdel Sisi proves to be a good guy this time.

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EGYPT TEETERING ON THE EDGE

            Early in June, I reported on the deepening crisis in Egypt and reported President Morsi was facing serious issues. With Ethiopia proposing to build a hydroelectric dam on the Blue Nile, Egypt could end up with a water crisis. Morsi warned that Egypt would not tolerate having their water supply threatened, but the alternative might be a war. In June, I pointed out that the Morsi government had been a serious disappoint for many Egyptians. Now that situation has exploded in the streets.

            Three days of protests against Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood have turned violent with five Brotherhood members killed by gunfire. Unfortunately, gunfire has become more common on both sides of the conflict. The Brotherhood lines up to support Morsi while the opposition refuses to back down. The country is again in an uproar. American student Andrew Pochter was killed by stabbing. The reverberations from his death have only begun.

The first election in the entire history of Egypt stretching back to pre-historic times is now a year old, but the promises and hopes in the balloting process have not paid off. In the past two years of postrevolutionary crisis, the streets have never been so tense as they are today. It now appears that any sense of unity has disappeared.

The tension has risen to the point where even the United States government is expressing concern about the safety of the embassy. While the Obama administration refuses to express opinions about the leadership of Egypt, it is preparing for the worst.

Adding to the fragility of the political process, the police are fundamentally in a revolt among themselves. The Murbarak’s feared security forces still exist within the Interior Ministry, but are angry over the reversal they have witnessed following the collapse of the Murbarak regime. However, the police have agreed among themselves that no protection will be provided for the Brotherhood headquarters.

In the streets, the populace is divided between those who supported the aristocratic policies of the past and extreme right-wing views of the Brotherhood. Unfortunately, the vast Egyptian masses have lost all confidence in the leadership of the Brotherhood.

The wild card remains the military. Playing their cards close to the vest, they have not openly supported Morse. Fundamentally, they have issued statements saying they will intervene if matters get out of hand. As of July 2, the military has given Morsi 24 hours to get matters under control. Even the leftist opposition have left their own hints suggesting a military coup would be the  only way to solve the Morsi crisis.

Apparently, the fundamental issue on the streets is over who will run the country and set the rules. The Muslim Brotherhood haven’t given up, but are not trusted to do more than create a theocracy like Iran. On the other side, the old Mubark leaders are feared as a return to the past. In turn, the people are circumventing the ballot box and flooding the streets in a riot mode.

Where is it going? No one knows. But you can bet it will be a hot summer in Egypt.

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WHAT’S NEXT IN ISRAEL?

            With Israel’s national elections now concluded and the air beginning to clear, we can ponder where Israel is going next. The Israeli turnout proved to be significant. Far from disinterested (as some predicted), the numbers indicate that the public is not only paying attention but remains concerned about what the politicians have in mind. In the US national election, 57% responded while in Israel 66 percent of the population voted. Their message to the government was clear: Change.

            While Prime Minister Netanyahu survived the election, he was still the loser.  Last year Time  magazine published an edition that declared Netanyahu to be the “king of Israel,” such is clearly no longer so. The electorate told him they wanted changed within the government and how he got things accomplished. Equally significant was the loss of Tzipi Livni’s Party. While she vowed not to get out of politics, she is no longer seems as a significant challenge to the Prime Minister’s office. The bottom line iss that the election signaled a clear shift to the right.

Israeli politics is significantly different from the American scene with only two parties. The outcome of our national elections declares one group to be the dominant force for the next four years. Obviously, Obama’s victory knocked the wind out of the Republican party’s sails and Washington now has a different tone. Not so in Israel. With a number of political parties, the winner must pull together a coalition. If one group doesn’t like the way decisions are being made, they can drop out without toppling the government. Prime Minister Netanyahu is now in the process of trying to pull together an agreement either with Lapid or the Labor party. What he does in the future will be significantly affected by how these agreements are worked out. At this point, it is too early to tell.

While it did not create a great ripple in the United States, information was leaked in Israel that President Obama and the new Secretary of Defense John Kerry are planning trips to Israel in the next few months with Obama’s trip scheduled for March 20. After the tensions of last summer, the unfolding Arab spring, and the fact that Romney was a strong favorite by the Israeli electorate, the new two leaders have much to talk about. However, in the entire region expectations are not high for much change.

No one is predicting that President Obama can bring Israel and the Palestinian Authority to the bargaining table. There is an expectation that the United States will soon release $200 million to the nearly bankrupt Palestinian Authority. In addition, there is talk of Israel postponing further settlement construction in the West Bank in exchange for a Palestinian cancellation of claims against Israel in the International Criminal Court. Obviously many alternatives could be on the table.

However, no believes the White House will throw its weight behind the necessary confrontations to produce change. At this time President Mahmoud Abbas is struggling to survive a financial crisis while being further cornered because he is a secular moderate in an Arab world that is increasingly more religiously radical. Abbas dug his own hole when he went to the United Nations to seek an international status for the PA. Consequently, Israel stopped funneling moneys to the PA as they had done previously.

What’s going to happen?  Probably not much until after March 20.

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