According to this AFP Google news story, Egypt’s ruling National Democratic Party recently won 92% of the votes in the country’s municipal elections. Of course, the results were never in doubt as the NDP was able to “disqualify” opponents, resulting in a boycott by still others.
Who cares? Well, consider that the British installed a puppet monarchy in Iraq in 1921, and held a bogus referendum showing that the new king had the overwhelming support of the people. Then, in a slowly building crescendo, Iraqis scratched and clawed their way to the point where they overthrew this illegitimate government in 1958. This, by the way, set the stage for the eventual takeover of Iraq by the Ba’ath Party, and the takeover of the country by Saddam Hussein.
One important difference between the gradual shift taking place in Egyptian culture today and that of Iraq after 1921 is that it is being being driven not by nationalists working to displace a monarchy that collaborates with the West, but by Islamists working to displace a dictatorship that collaborates with the West.
Even more ominous though is that Egypt is definitely due for a revolution. It’s coming soon. It took Iraqis about 50 years to develop the political and institutional awareness during Ottoman constitutional rule and subsequent British control to the point where they could take over the government. Egypt’s Islamists have had to endure a secular dictatorship longer than that, and the Muslim Brotherhood has been in operation since 1928 — and has roots going back to the Urabist movement of the 1870s — meaning that is likely better positioned to take over the country than any Iraqi group would have been in 1958. What is more, the Mubarak regime allows Brotherhood members to hold office as “independents,” even though the party is banned.
The only reason Mubarak is still in power is his hold over the military, but one wonders how long that will last. I am convinced that Egypt will become one of the next Islamist theocracies, probably when Mubarak dies. (Here’s an interesting YouTube video from Al-Jazeera that shows the government’s intellectual bankruptcy, and gives you a flavor of the current political scene in Egypt.)
Readers interested in Egypt’s plight, may want to check out John Bradley’s Inside Egypt, which has been called “a blistering overview of what it’s like to live in this autocratic, hopelessly corrupt society.” (I’m currently reading Bradley’s book Saudi Arabia Exposed, and although I think he is too evenhanded in his presentation, the irony is that even when he’s trying to portray so-called dissidents in the The Kingdom in a positive light, to the astute observer he ends up condemning even that segment of the population. There is simply nothing redeeming about Saudi Arabia.) For my top reading recommendations on Egyptian and Middle Eastern history, be sure to join the Powell History mailing list. The next installment is coming this weekend.)