September 12, 2003 Special Dispatch No. 571

Egyptian Opposition Weekly: Egypt's Problem is Mubarak Himself

September 12, 2003
Egypt | Special Dispatch No. 571

Opposition papers in Egypt are usually highly critical of Egypt's government and ruling party, but refrain from directly criticizing President Hosni Mubarak. However, in his September 7, 2003 column in the Nasserite opposition weekly Al-Arabi, editor Abd Al-Halim Qandil wrote disparagingly of Mubarak. The following are excerpts from his article: [1]

The Longest Incumbency in Egypt's Modern History

"Perhaps it is incorrect to demand of President Mubarak that he make changes [in the government], as the story is not the failure of [Egyptian Prime Minister] 'Atef 'Ubeid's government, of the government that preceded it, or of the one that will follow it. The necessary change begins with President Mubarak himself. The necessary change begins at the top.

"I'm not talking out of personal caprices for which I alone will bear the responsibility. I am not seeking a great battle beyond what I can withstand. We are talking, in my opinion, about constitutional axioms. ...[T]he constitution gives the president quasi-divine powers; he is the president of everything in Egypt. He is responsible for the minister and for the guard. He is the one who is responsible, first and foremost, and solely, for the decisions made in political, economic, and cultural areas. The ministers and the prime minister are a group of clerks in the president's office. [The president] is responsible for success, if there is success, and responsible for failure.

"The main flaw does not lie in the kleptocratic government; it is the bitter fruit of the choices of a regime that has grown old on its seats, the bitter fruit of the lengthy stagnation that has taken over Egyptian life.

"In the meantime, President Mubarak has had the longest incumbency in Egypt's modern history, except for Muhammad 'Ali. President Mubarak began his era with beautiful words on morality and 'shrouds that do not have pockets'; [2] but the story ended with the theft of the shrouds themselves, and there is no criminal investigation examining who took [what] and who gave [them] the keys. This is not our job. The bottom line, unfortunately, looks shocking."

Egypt is Compared to Burkina Faso

"We need to remember only one example. In the early 1990s, the [various] Mubarak governments estimated the worth of the public sector designated for sale [i.e. privatization] at 500 billion Egyptian pounds in the early 1990s. Afterwards, the value of what was sold and what was not sold dropped to a mere 28 billion. The time difference: 10 years. The price difference: 472 billion Egyptian pounds.

"Don't ask where this huge sum went. It's a long, complex, and complicated story that can be justly called 'The Labyrinth of a Country,' and in it, kleptomania can certainly be attributed to people and elements, as well as – and this is the most important – [an] actual kleptomaniac policy. Here I stop, and refrain from stating clearer words.

"These days in Egypt, the sun does not rise in the morning without the state being plundered as it has never been plundered in its history. The public robbery is only one aspect of the picture. The general oppression is far too clear, and obviates any need to point it out. The constitution has taken a long vacation, and it is emergency law that is actually [in force]…

"The [international] role played by Egypt has shrunk to the point of disappearance… and Egypt is compared to Burkina Faso, not South Korea, which we were ahead of in the 1960s. This is a picture that is undisguised, un-retouched, and un-faked. This is a picture with no optical illusions. This is the catastrophic disaster that aroused the rage of great Egypt and turned it into a small farm, an estate that looks tempting to bequeath, an open buffet for thieves…"

The Only Solution is Transferring the Rule, In Its Entirety, To the Hands of the Public

"I assume that the president is dissatisfied with the condition to which Egypt has fallen. He realizes that the solution does not lie in replacing the prime minister or disbanding the People's Council. The only solution is transferring the rule, in its entirety, to the hands of the public. If the president did this, it would be the greatest of his achievements."

[1] Al-Arabi (Egypt), September 7, 2003. Subheadings by MEMRI.

[2] Meaning corruption-free.

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