Does Egypt want change or more of the same?

March 12, 2011 - 0:0

After years in the political wilderness heading up the glorified talking shop known as the Arab League, Amr Moussa is back on the national scene in Egypt.

Following weeks of public speculation and private deliberation, the popular and charismatic one-time foreign minister has announced his intention to run for Egypt's recently vacated top job, Khaled Diab wrote in The Guardian.
“I am ready to nominate myself for the presidency. I see this as a duty and a responsibility,” he told the independent Egyptian daily al-Masry al-Youm.
Although the vast majority of Egyptians aspire to transparency and good governance, the instability of recent weeks has created a certain amount of anxiety and apprehension, leading many to cite their immediate priorities as being “political stability” and “security for the masses”.
Thus, many believe that the Arab League chief and former Egyptian foreign minister could not well be the best candidate to engineer a stable transition to democracy.
Previously, Moussa was Egyptian foreign minister and before that a veteran diplomat for Cairo. Moussa is best known for his work as Egyptian ambassador to the UN in supporting George H.W. Bush’s efforts in removing Saddam Hussein from Kuwait.
Although he has ostensibly tried to keep himself immune to the rampant corruption and rot which surrounded him, but Moussa is regarded as a member of the Mubarak’s old guard.
Despite his obvious strengths, one must say that that Moussa's weaknesses are far more troubling. Although he never personally indulged in the excesses of the former regime, he has been and remains a Mubarak loyalist.
Many Egyptians strongly believe that Amr Moussa was “kicked upstairs” to the Arab League by Mubarak who was envious of and feared his popularity. Moussa was first elected to head the organization in July 2001. At the time, Egyptian media speculated that Mubarak endorsed Moussa’s move to the Arab League to “eliminate” a possible presidential rival. His current term in the Arab league expires in two months.
While opposition figures in the recent developments in Egypt have risked life and limb, or at least their reputations and security, to push for reform, Moussa has never openly criticized the old regime nor was he involved in any meaningful manner in the revolution.
During the 18 days it took to topple Mubarak, Moussa sounded more like Catherine Ashton expressing the EU's dithering position when he urged all sides “to show restraint”, rather than a possible people's choice as their future leader.
Moreover, there is the chance, though he is not popular with the army, that his popularity with the people and loyalty to the past would be used by the military to provide a democratic facade without real democracy.
It seems worthwhile to look at what released WikiLeaks cables reveal about the U.S. perception of Moussa. The U.S. has close ties with Egypt and gives much military aid to Egypt.
According to WikiLeaks cables released in WL central website, the people in Egypt revolting against Mubarak have the upper hand right now, but any leader appointed to lead Egypt would likely have some support from the U.S.
At least since 2006, the issue of who would succeed Mubarak has been a foremost issue for the U.S. And, as indicated by cable Nm. 09CAIRO874, the U.S. has noted Moussa could be a possible candidate for taking over the presidency.
Well, if not Amr Moussa, then who?
According to the Guardian, other names doing the rounds include former IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei and the head of the al-Ghad party Ayman Nour. ElBaradei has the advantage of being a non-partisan figure around whom the opposition have rallied, especially prior to the revolution, while Nour is young and has the credibility of having been at the forefront of Egypt's struggle for democracy which landed him in jail for having dared to run against Mubarak in the 2005 elections.
Who will become Egypt's next president will, hopefully, be for all Egyptians to decide later this year. But with the range of established political figures being so uninspiring and in the spirit of the fundamental change awakened by the revolution, the conditions for running should be so eased that the young leaders of the revolution and even unknown citizens with well thought out platforms can run and perhaps become the next president.
Some view the absence of clear presidential candidates as a problem which, at some levels, it is. But if Egyptians choose someone to lead them who is not part of the political class, then they may just create a true “government of the people, by the people, for the people” -- and perhaps even reinvent democracy itself.
(Source: The Guardian & agencies)