Egypt: A Parliamentary Plan 2011

The following post was written by my friend Ramy Yaacoub, which you can find on Twitter @RamyYaacoub (follow him as well) .  The Idea behind this is simple: in the absence of organized political forces besides the NDP and the MB, name recognition of independent players is essential. Given that the Presidential candidates have the best name recognition, and most don’t represent a current party, why not have them run for Parliament (with a list of candidates that are part of their coalition) as well? This way, they bring others in parliament who otherwise wouldn’t have a chance, and showcase their actual electability ( the guy who can;t win a parliamentary seat would never be able to win the presidential one), and allows for their presence on the scene even if they lost the elections. Anyway, that’s an overview, read the details below and share your opinion on this in the comment section if u feel like it. :)

In a post referendum March 19, 2011 Egypt, Parliament will be the only institution representative of people’s choices. As of now, many household figures, namely Amr Moussa, Bastaweesy, Ayman Nour, Baradie, etc have expressed their intentions to run for the presidency. Such names have, somewhat, all agreed in opinion on the need to curb the current presidential powers. Along with the January 25 movement and what I regard as the majority people, the household names have expressed their discontent with the Pharaoh-esque powers of an Egyptian president.  They [the household names] have called for the dilution of presidential powers,  by creating term limits, creating a checks and balances system, etc.

Meanwhile, other forces in the country, as the Islamic political movements, namely Muslim brotherhood, etc, have consolidated their efforts to legitimize the Parliament. Successfully doing so with the passage of the March 19, 2011 referendum, Parliament now has the popular legitimacy required for a three-part-plan for overhauling the Egyptian constitution.  Further elaboration on the three-part-plan will follow later.

The current path to fully fledged constitutional reform and presidential (or the lack of which):

Constitutional Amendment Referendum (Yes) - Amending Electoral & Party laws - Parliamentary Elections - Elected Parliament (Legislative Body)

It is predicted that post assembling a legislative body, they (an elusive they) will hold presidential elections followed immediately by the assembly of a constitutional drafting committee, selected by members of Parliament. Also predicted, the constitutional fruit of that committee will be up for another popular referendum that will either accept or reject the then newly drafted constitution. Should that referendum fail, then the country would revert back to the 1971 constitution. Such scenario would require a separate detailed political plan.

It is clear that Parliamentary elections will indeed take place in the near future (sometime around beginning to mid June 2011). It is also expected that the centrist voting bloc will not have much influence on the Electoral & Party laws amendment process, which will more than likely take place in May 2011. Considering the hurdles ahead, it is wise to consider a dedicated focus on influencing the Parliamentary elections, and furthermore, the first Parliamentary session post the January 25, 2011 uprising.

While it is unclear how the Electoral & Party laws amending process will affect candidacy and elections to the 444 (454 if we consider the ten presidential appointees) seats up for grabs in the People’s Council and less importantly the 174 (264 if we consider the 88 presidential appointees) seats in the Consultative Council, it is safe to predict some, if not significant, changes to the structure of eligibility and voting procedures to Parliament.

Noting one of the first points made in this briefing, household names are betting the house on a presidency that will be subject to constitutional reform sometime in the very near future. Meanwhile, established veterans of Parliament from the NDP and the Muslim Brotherhood, with supreme organizational skills are at a vantage point at this stage. Additionally with the relatively short time provided for unorganized opposition groups to assemble and push political message out, it is crucial to consider utilizing the household names in the Parliamentary elections.

To highlight the level of Parliamentary familiarity and organization with institutions such as the Muslim Brotherhood, I would like to site an example of their Parliamentary efforts. In the United States  congress an esteemed research center is provided and dedicated to the service of members of congress, the Congressional Research Service (CRS). After the more impressive win of Muslim Brotherhood candidates in 2005, the Brotherhood set up an equivalent research center to serve its members in Parliament. Unprecedented in Egyptian Parliamentary history, members of the NDP struggled to catch up with this advantage the Brotherhood created for its team in Parliament. Several scholars agree that if it was not for the corruption of Parliament, this simple tool could have magnified the effect of the Brotherhood in Parliament.

What this brief is proposing is the encouragement and utilization of the household names and their top supporters, advisors, or the like to run for parliament as a counter measure to the strength of the established institutions such as the NDP & the Muslim Brotherhood.  The repercussions could be beneficial beyond expected.

I.   Having household names in Parliament will gain media attention to a legislative body that was deemed a rubber stamp for decades.

II.   The presence of household names in Parliament will give the centrists a more significant leverage in the constitutional drafting process

III.  Being a member of Parliament does not hinder a run for the presidency. In fact, instead of having one winner (the presidency) and several losers. By having the households as members of Parliament initially at the end of the presidential elections, all would be in influential positions to mend the current affairs of the nation.

It is imperative for all centrist parties, and perhaps leftist as well to consolidate brain powers to map out the parliamentary districts of Egypt. An efficient polling methodology should be devised and activated to register accurate statistics to determine potential wins and to highlight probable losses. Finally, an agreement on the division of parliamentary districts should be conducted on high-level leadership basis between all involved centrist-leftist parties.

Ramy Yaacoub

M.A. Candidate, United States Foreign Policy – Middle Eastern Relations 

School of International Service, American University

Playing Politics

Dear Jan25 people,

So today the results of the referendum came out, and as expected the YES vote won. In case you didn’t expect it, well, there were 4 reasons why that happened:

1) How many Egyptians joined the protests at their peak? The day Mubarak left Office, it was estimated 10-20 million in the streets. What’s 20 million out of 85 million again? 25%? That means there are 65 million who never joined the protests from the beginning, and who probably miss the stability and security of the old regime. 75% that is used to say YES and there is no proof that they changed their mentality or behavior. Never-mind those amongst you who also voted yes for their reasons. I am personally surprised it wasn’t lower.

2) Cairo is not Egypt. This may seem obvious to others, but let me repeat that point again: CAIRO IS NOT EGYPT. Stop your  Cairo-is-the-center-of-the-universe chauvinism. 25 million live in Cairo, 60 million live elsewhere. And, let’s be honest, the NO vote people did not manage to get their message across to the people effectively. There was no real TV campaign, no real grassroots campaign and no actual debate. Some individual efforts here and there, but no real coordination. This has to change.

3) The Military & the MB & the Salafis & the NDP were pushing for a YES vote. The Military, as always, just wanted to get out of this mess as quickly as possible, and the YES vote meant just that for them without having to face any real headaches. The rest knew that a YES vote gives them the best chances to win the Parliament and thus re-write the new constitution, and they had the money and the organization and tools to push for it. You didn’t.

4) You no longer represent the people. You really don’t, at least when it comes to their concerns. Your concerns and their concerns are not the same anymore. You care about the revolution, & the arrest of NDP figures & getting the country on the right track. They care about economic security, the return of stability and normalcy the fastest way possible. They only have the military now as the organized force running the country & providing some security, and you are pointing out-correctly, mind you- that the military is detaining your friends and colleagues and torturing them and violating their rights to protests, and you want them to stand up against the military, the only force in the country in their perspective that is keeping Egypt from descending into total chaos. Yeah, that will win them over.

Mind you, this is not totally your fault. There are some things you are just not paying attention to, besides that you have been losing the people steadily. The First of which are the original demands. Remember those? Remember all the millions that went down for the minimum wage and you completely swept this under the rug to engage in a battle with State Security and the military? How many of the original demands have been met so far? Why is this not a bigger issue?

You are also not noticing that the Military doesn’t like you very much, and really, why would it? The Military likes stability, and we started a revolution which brought down a regime that put them first of everyone in the country and instead managed to get them to not only abandon their stable life-style under Mubarak’s rule but to start working harder than they ever had in years. You think they care about you or your demands? You don’t think that they won’t go after every single one of us when the time comes? This is not paranoia..this is simple logic. A force that can bring down a regime can take down the next one or even bring down the military structure itself; why allow that force to continue to exist or have popular support if you can take that away? In case you haven’t noticed, the military only listens when we manage to amass lots of people, and could care less when we only manage to get a couple of thousands. They don’t like you or your ideas, and they cave in when they do in order to maintain stability & their image as the public’s saviors. And you know all those times you keep mentioning that the Military is part of the old regime? Well, they are noticing it, and they don’t like that either. Why wouldn’t they attack you, allow propaganda against you, tell people that you are immoral, armed and/or on drugs, arrest you, beat you or torture you? What’s in it for them if you succeed?

How is any of this a surprise to you?

So, now what? Well, now is the hard part. This is the part where we stop playing revolution, and start playing politics for the sake of the country. This means caring more about perception and public support over righteous and legitimate demands. Do you know what that means? Well, if you do, but think that the revolution must continue on the street, well, congratulations, you are the reason why we are losing. If you don’t, well, please relax and keep an open mind, cause this is about to get really uncomfortable.

1) You have to get over the referendum results now, & see it as the gift it is: Oh yes, we lost, and it’s great news. Why? Well, because first of all, we managed to find out how many people are really with us, and which areas or locations we need to focus on (All of Egypt..Imagine?) and the percentages from those areas. We now have actual statistics, people. We know each district by vote. We know how many people we have in every voting district. We have a nation-wide base. Sure, 20%, is small, but it’s not insignificant, and you can totally build on it. And now you also know what tactics the MB and the Salafists use to mobilize the vote. We now know how they intend to play this, and this gives us an incredible advantage, cause we still didn’t play yet. You wanna start? Congratulate them on the results of the referendum. Call everyone you know who voted yes and enthusiastically congratulate them. Offer to host referendum parties if you can even. Don’t lose them even if you disagree with them. The wall you build now over this could exist come election time, which is when you will really need every vote. In case you didn’t notice, this was just a test-run.

2) You have to focus on the people & their issues, and push yours aside for now: Yes, you will have to address the economy. Yes, you will have to offer constructive solutions to the Police problem that isn;t simply “clean them up”. Yes, you will have to lay off the military criticism and, as horrible and hard as this might be, to put the issue of those who are detained, jailed, tortured or beaten by the military on the back-burner for now. Yes, I know that they are our brothers and sisters, but I also know that this is how they are distracting you. They are making you focus on small battles instead of focusing on the war. How many of us were tried or arrested? 50? 100? 10,000? We are talking about  the hearts and minds of about 85 million, and you are not doing shit to win them. Win the public, and all of your friends will be released immediately. Continue to lose the public and you will eventually join them. Simple, really!

3) Offer solutions that appeal to the public and get you support: I know, I know. You would think demanding accountability and the end of corruption would get you all the public support you ever needed, but, nah. They spread lies about you while you are running around trying to find your jailed friends and not responding or engaging back, and whatever goodwill you got for the revolution, well, it’s EGYPT’s revolution now. Everyone has the “January 25″ stickers on their car, which means that your achievement is now their achievement, and thus you get no credit. Ok, start earning credit again. START SELLING THE MINIMUM WAGE for example. In a country where 40% live under 2 $ a day, how is it possible not to get support for a proposal that would guarantee every egyptian 1200 EGP a month, especially in these economically turbulent times? You wanna demonstrate? Demonstrate for the Minimum wage, and many egyptians will join you, thus showing you have public support again. If the Military Council says yes to the minimum wage, Good, you not only gave people freedom, but also got them extra money in their pockets every month, which they LOVE, and as an added bonus you obliterated the myth that you don’t care about the economic hardships of regular Egyptians. That can’t suck. If they refuse, well, that’s good too. It will show that the military doesn’t care for the economic hardship of the poor, while you do , which makes you with the people again. And while they are there all dissapointed at the not-so-benevolent  supreme council, you start letting the people know what else they have been up to. You don’t need to lie to manipulate and sway public sentiment to your side, you just got to pick your timing.

4) Start organizing yourselves into an offline grassroots movement, Zenga Zenga style: This one might seem self-evident, but how to do it is the tricky part.

  • First of all, find your people all over Egypt, and start registering them and training them. Start with the Polling data alongside those you know through life, facebook or Twitter. You will find them
  • Secondly, organize yourselves into different units: The Internet-Unit (to lead efforts on reaching out and organizing the base on the net), the door-to-door Unit ( Go to every neighborhood, knock on 10 apartments and talk to people), the Phone Unit ( Use telemarketing techniques: call people and talk to them about the revolution. Have a training for the phone unit and conversation scenarios. Reach everyone again), the local Media Unit (those are your Intelligence and propaganda arms. They keep you abreast of the news of the areas they are in, let you know who are the people to watch out for and which are the ones to support and they are responsible for catering the media message to the needs of the locals) and the election observers unit (self-explanatory really). The more organized your people are, and the more trained they are in your talking points and counter-arguments, the easier it is for them to sell their ideas to the people.
  • Thirdly, Create the coalition of new parties in order to bring in all those new ragtag parties together and make them a cohesive block that could stand a chance in the parliamentary elections by having one party’s members vote for other Parties’ candidates in precincts that they are not running their own candidates in, and they will do the same in return. Every vote counts.
  • Last but not least, FUNDRAISE ALL THE TIME. We need the money. The NDP has all the money they stole from the country and the MB has all the money they get from Saudi & Qatar, so we need to get our own. Hit up for donations everyone you know in Egypt  who isn’t interested returning the corrupt to power or having this country turn into a theocracy. Contact your relatives and your friends abroad. Create Festivals and events whose tickets will fund your operations. There is no campaign finance legislation in place, which the MB is totally abusing, and we can as well. Let’s do that until we have enough of a majority to place in a law in place that would make this entirely unpleasant situation we currently live in behind us.

5) Start reaching out to Imams and Priests now: I once suggested that we need to reach to Imams and Priests in order to get them on our side, and I was hissed at for wanting to mix Politics with Religion. Well, as much as I agree with that sentiment and truly wish we live in a country where people don’t vote based on religion, ehh..welcome to Egypt. We are religious people, and whether we like it or not, Imams and Priests are community leaders. We have to engage them, get them on our side and have them help us with the hearts and minds of their flock. An easy place to start are the individual churches and the Sufi festivals (Fun Fact of the Day: the Sufis are 16 million in Egypt. I KNOW!), get those two groups, and then focus on all the local imams that are in your area. If you manage to convince 1 Imam in every 5, you already caused them to lose a sizable part of their base. Try to convince 2 :)

6) Know thy enemy: We need to compile a data-base on all the NDP names we know in every district, and then research their history and public record in the parliament. We need to get the history of all the known MB MP’s in the egyptian parliament and find out what bullshit policies they were pursuing during their tenure there. We need to know how popular they are and how much dirt there is on them. We need to know who their financial backers are and what businesses they own. A lot of the info is already available online. Let’s compile it and learn from it. This will be useful later.

7) Prepare for the propaganda war: The other side has already started the Propaganda war over the refrendum, using lies and fear-mongering to get people to vote their way. I am not a fan of lying or fear-mongering, but I have no problem using the truth as a weapon to hammer my agenda home. Tell people the truth: Tell them of the MB’s record in the parliament- how they wanted to ban books and music videos and the net. Tell people what Hamas- the MB of Ghaza- did t the population the moment they seized power (No music, No shisha, no concerts, no free media, intimidation and fear). Start creating banners accusing them of being agents for wanting to sell the country’s soul to the Gulfies, and start asking loudly where their seemingly endless money comes from during this economic crisis. Play on nationalism and national Unity. Joined demonstrations of muslims and christians that congregate in front of the MB Supreme Council’s office, and do a sit in there until they vow to stop using sectarian tones and ads, and when they vow, throw it in their face every time they use a religious slogan. Go After the Salafis as well. If they call you infidels, you call them Taliban. Remind people when they used to throw acid on girls for showing some legs or on their face for not wearing a Niqab. Remind people of the days when they used to target them and kill them, or when they used to crash weddings for being Haram or burn video stores and christian jewelery stores. Keep repeating everywhere you go that Egypt will never be Afghanistan, and people will start repeating that every time they see a Salafi or an MB member trying to use religion to his advantage. Start putting them on the defensive. They are weaker than you think, and the ways to neutralize them are endless.

That’s all for now, but let me remind you of one last thing before you go: You are more powerful than you know. You brought down Mubarak and his regime. You changed this country, gave it a future, and there is no way in hell you will allow those who use people’s ignorance to hijack it. They aimed to scare you yesterday, and instead they pissed you off. They pissed off the smartest, most fearless and most capable group of egyptians this nation ever gave birth to, thinking that you will see beards and yelling and you will run away screaming. They thought wrong. They miscalculated. They fucked up. And they will find that out soon enough. We gave them our hand in friendship, we gave them the benefit of the doubt and we wanted them equal partners in the building of this country’s future, while they were busy plotting against us with the NDP of all people. Well, moral clarity time: The NDP and the Islamists are two faces to the same coin, and neither can be allowed to control this country ever again. It’s time to quit being distracted, and start organizing and engaging people NOW. War has been declared on all of us, and we will be damned if we lose now. Just like the NDP, we will fight them until we can’t.

And in case you are wondering: We will win!

The Free Republic of Egypt

Dear Free People of Egypt,

It’s a lovely day to be talking to you all in a Mubarak and NDP free Egypt. It’s been quite the undertaking, and many people were terrified, injured or killed, but we somehow managed to do it. Congratulations on that to all of us. Pats on the back, everybody!

Naturally, we (the revolutionaries) still don’t think the battle is over. The Mubaraks are still free, so are Fathy Surrour, Zakaria Aazmy and Safwat ElSherief, alongside with all the corrupt NDP officials in all branches of government, not to mention all the state security and police officers who spent the last 3 decades terrorizing, monitoring, torturing & killing those they were supposed to protect. The Political prisoners and detained Jan25 protesters are still unlawfully in prison, the stolen money is still in foreign countries, and the Minimum wage of 200 dollars a month for all Egyptians is still not enforced. There is also the matter of transparency of the government (financially & operationally and having the country run by civilians instead of a military Junta, a new constitution to be drafted instead of one that gives absolute power to the head of state, political freedoms to all Egyptians, enforceable bill of rights to all Egyptians, equal rights to all women, equal political rights to Egyptians living abroad and/ or born or married to a foreigner, freedom of the media, etc..etc.. I don’t want to bore you, but, yep, lots of work is yet to be done, and it’s taking far too long by those in charge to get done, which is making us unhappy. And Unhappy protesters usually protest. It’s just a fact of life.

But we are hearing that some of you are unhappy with all this protesting. We are hearing that you think we are kids with no purpose or jobs, who are currently destroying the country and the economy by all of our protesting and demands. We are hearing that you just want stability & security, and that we are not listening to all of you or your concerns and that we are no different than the dictator we just toppled. Please be assured, this is not the case here, because you are our people, and your concerns are the same as our concerns. We must admit that we are surprised by such accusations, & some of us are not taking it well, while others don’t have time to respond because, let’s face it, trying to find out whether your friends are killed or not, and trying to free them from being court-martialed in the new democratic Egypt, all the while addressing a the new referendum, and the issue of Copts getting murdered, churches being burned and such other sectarian strife issues that plague us, well, it could become a consuming full-time job. Our sin might be that we are so used to fighting those small (in your opinion) battles that we are not focusing enough on explaining our point of view to you and how we are on the same side. For that we apologize and we hope you forgive us. Now, on to your concerns.

You are concerned about the lagging state of the economy and the losses that were caused by the revolution and all of our protests, and you just want everybody back to work, without asking yourself how is it that our economy was so weak that all it took to destroy it was less than two months of protests, while a country like France has nation-wide protests all the time, and their economy isn’t collapsing because of it. You are also forgetting that that the other main causes of the lag in economy is the complete & total corruption in all government institutions (state, municipal & local), the military curfew that’s completely destroying our logistical operations and Tourism, the absence of Security (more on that later), and the total confusion of (the many many many) foreign investors- who want to come to Egypt now and invest- in regards to who they could talk to in order to come here and invest, given that the civilian government has no power and the military council isn’t exactly approachable.

You are concerned about the thugs attacking and robbing you of your property & demanding the return of the police & security, but you are forgetting that the police (who acted no different than the thugs except having a shiny uniform) used to rob you every single day. And about those thugs who are terrorizing you, who let them out of their prisons in the first place and then refused to arrest them? Oh yes, I remember, the Police. Silly us for demanding that they get held accountable for their actions. We should beg them daily- like you- to come back to work unconditionally after they betrayed their oath to protect us & put us all in grave danger. Our bad.

You are concerned about your kids getting killed by thugs (who, again, reminder, are unleashed by the police), but you were not concerned that they were getting killed daily by the polluted water, the poisoned meats & fruits & vegetables, the completely unsafe roads & public transportation options, the complete and utter catastrophe that is health-care and Egyptian public hospitals, where far more people die than get better and where any Egyptian would rather not step a foot inside if they can afford to go to a private Hospital (which isn’t always incredibly better). Lest we forgot, even the grandson of our former President died in one of them. But yes, the thugs are the problem. Our bad.

You are concerned that the Islamists are going to take over the country and turn it into Afghanistan, and yet don’t seem concerned with taking concrete steps to ensure that this won’t happen without impeding their rights. A good way to do so is to demand the overhaul of the Egyptian education system, the end of bigotry & discrimination against minorities in all job positions (private or public), the removal of hate-inciting Imams or Priests from Mosques and Churches, and in case all of the aforementioned are too much for you to handle, you could simply stand for religious freedom and equal rights to all in Egypt, especially Egypt’s Christians, who in case you didn’t hear are getting attacked and their churches are getting burned and you don’t seem to care. We would recommend you take a small visit to the Maspiro protest and talk to “those people” and understand the issues at hand, but we also should understand that this would take some time from your busy schedule of complaining about us ruining everything. Our bad.

We get it. We see how we are irresponsible. How we are ruining the country. How we are not concerned about you. We are evil. A cancer that plagued this fine and healthy nation. 25 Khasayer. You are right not to like us. You are right to hold protests against protesting and only 500 of you would show up on a Friday and then claim you are talking in the name of the silent majority. Those millions of us who went down to support those demands are only from every social class and religious background and from both genders. We are in no way representative, especially that the majority of people in Tahrir right now are now the poorest of all the protesters, who are told to go home & live on 20 dollars a month salary until we figure all of this out in 6 month to a year, and all of your Korba Festival buddies are too busy to go there anymore. You want the ones who are still there to go home and leave u alone. After all the ones in Tahrir now are poor. They smell. Can’t have that! Egyptian people are not smelly or poor, of course. Shame on them for defaming us all.

So, since we are such a public menace and refuse to listen to reason, I have a proposal to all of you that will surely make you happy: How about we take all those people who took part in the revolution and supported it, and give them a piece of land in Egypt to create their own failed state on? Maybe somewhere in Sinai, on the beach, say Sharm el Sheikh for example? Yes, give us Sharm and some backland and leave us there, so you can continue living your lives in Peace and stability. We will give you back the Mubarak Family (we are not big fans) and we recommend you give us all those people you don’t like in return: you know those annoying minorities, like the Copts, the Bahaai’s , the Shia, the jews, the Nubians even. Yes, get rid of the races you dislike as well. We will take them all. We will even divide the people up fair and square and ensure that none of us remain with any of you. Ok? Let’s start right now.

You can have Ahmed Shafiq as your Prime Minister and we will take Essam Sharaf as ours.

You can have the NDP and its officials and we will have all the new political parties that are starting up all over the place.

You can have Aamr Moussa as your ideal Diplomat; we will take Mohamed ElBaradei as ours.

You can have Zaghloul elNaggar as your top Scientist; we will take Ahmed Zuweill.

You can have Alaa Mubarak, Ahmed Ezz, Mohamed Abu Elenein, ElMaghraby as your businessmen, and we will take Naguib Sawiris and the Bisharas and all the other businessmen in Egypt who want to run legitimate businesses without unnecessary bureaucracy and bribing 18 different entities to open and continue to run one.

You can Have Adel Emam, Yosra and Samah Aanwar, we will take Khaled Abulnaga , Basma and Yousra Ellouzy.

You can have Tamer Hosny and Mohamed Fouad, we will take Mohamed Mounir, Mariam Aly and Ramy Essam (and we will make sure no one tortures him while he is in their custody).

You can have Farouk Hosny, and we will take the artists that the revolution brought out.

You can have the Supreme Military Council meet your demands on their schedule and discretion; we will take the Revolution Trustee Council any day of the week.

You can have a country where women suffer from oppression, sexual assaults, genital mutilation and honor killing, we will have a country where women are in all positions of power, sexual harassment and FGM absolutely not tolerated, and where one gender doesn’t see that it has the right- in the name of honor- to oppress , beat and violently murder the other gender. We won’t tolerate that happening to our women; you can do with yours what you please.

You can keep a constitution that got amended so much in the past 7 years and still discriminates against many Egyptians and gives the President absolute Power, and we will have one that ensures the rights and equality of all of our citizens (no matterwhere their parents come from or whom they marry) and where there are checks and balances against executive Power.

You can keep an economy that is plagued with inefficiency, corruption, poverty and Monopoly. We will have one where entrepreneurship is encouraged and supported, our country open to all investments, and our workers are guaranteed a living wage.

You can keep a public school system in shambles and half of the population being illiterate, and be forced to pay for public schools and private tutoring for your children. We will have public schools that are well funded and teachers who are well-trained and well paid.

You can have your healthcare system being a complete and total fiasco where apathy and complete lack of concern for the patients’ well-being is what defines it, while our public Hospitals will be properly funded and staffed and those who due to negligence harm or kill a patient will be held accountable.

You can have a country where people believe that being civilized is to go for one day and clean Tahrir Square up, while we will believe that true civilization is ensuring that our government cleans our street up and as for us, well, we just won’t litter.

You can have Your Internal Security services spying on you, arresting you indefinitely, collaborating with terrorists to attack your churches (if you will continue to have any) torturing and/or kill you, and your Police to bully you and blackmail you. Our internal security service won’t do that to us and our Police will protect us, will uphold the law, and, god forbid, reduce crime and put criminals in jail instead of letting them out.

You can have an Army that dictates orders to you; we will have an army that obeys us.

As you can see, what we are asking for is totally unrealistic and we are completely dedicated to destroying ourselves. If we are truly such a problem, we urge you to help us make that happen, so we can get out of your hair as soon as possible.

But if you are insane and unreasonable like the rest of us, please join us and help us. We don’t want our own state, we want to do this here. We want our Country, Egypt, to be the best country it can be. One where we all can live and co-exist; one where the state is healthy and functions and all are represented and have rights. That’s what we always wanted and called for, and we don’t know when that message stopped being clear to you.

We are not saints. We make mistakes and we are not above criticism of any kind. You have the right not to help rebuild the country, and you have the right to criticize those who are trying to do it, but you don’t have the right not to help and only criticize that things aren’t exactly to your liking. If you don’t like something, change it. That was the lesson of the Jan25 revolution after all, you know?

So please, if you agree with our vision, join us, and if you can’t, simply defend us. We have achieved so much, that it would be a sin to stop now.

Help us! We need you!


Mahmoud Salem

(A Jan25 Protester)


Mubarak’s Egypt NO MORE

Today, the people were more resolved than ever to get rid of Hosny Mubarak, especially after last night's provocative statement. I went to the presidential palaces alongside thousands of Egyptians and we surrounded it completely. Within a couple of hours we received the news: MUBARAK HAD ABDICATED!

Now, mind you, he didn't really abdicate..the army overthrew him. That's why we only had Omar Suleiman letting us know this. But it doesn't matter. We will get all the money they stole and use it to rebuild the country.

Tonight will be the first night where I go to bed and don't have to worry about state security hunting me down, or about government goons sent to kidnap me; or about government sponsored hackers attacking my website. Tonight, for the first time ever, I feel free…and it is awesome! :)

Save any and all disagreements with any of the groups that operate them. We will disagree with each other, and that will be sweet because no more dictatorship. Tomorrow we squabble,and…tonite?



Mubarak’s gamble

Earlier yesterday, I spoke to Wael Ghonim and he told me to expect some very good news around 5 pm that night, but he never elaborated what it is. Around 10 am, we heard that Saudi Arabia, alongside UAE and Kuwait, are creating an aid package to Egypt to possibly replace that of the US. Around 4 pm last night, we recieved the news that the President itends to step down tonight and give all of his responsbilities to the VP, Omar Suleiman. The Army then convened and issued its first statement, in a meeting without Mubarak or his VP around 5 pm. Around 9 pm Egypt time, Obama did a speech congratulating the people of Egypt for their march for democracy, so it seemed like a done deal. Finally, an hour later than originally announced, President Hosny Mubarak , against all expectations and information, refused to step down from his post, and said that he refuses any foreign interference in Egypt.  The White House then announced that it has been double-crossed by the Egyptian regime.

 Now, what does this all mean?

Well, 4 main things:

1) Mubarak is not going to leave Office without bloodshed. Any attempt for a peaceful exit has been discarded by his regime, and they are intending to fight the will of the people until the end.

2) Mubarak has burned the image of Hossam Badrawy and the Wisemen council with his speech. Hossam Badrawy, the secretary general of the NDP, was the face of the NDP that announced Mubarak's intenetion to abdicate power later tonight. Now the man has no credibility. Same goes for the Wiseman Council, since Mubarak's speech was focused on how he has met their demands, which don't include him leaving. If most of them don't quit their posts today, I would be greatly surprised.

3) We are seeing the first possible split in the power structure in Egypt: It seems that the Armed forces are in one camp, and the president, intelligence agencies and the republican guard in another camp. If you add to the equation the Ministery of Interior and the protesters, you have 4 players right now in an intensely unpredictable power struggle. We are now awaiting the second statement from the High council of amred forces to clearify their position once and for all. Whether the Army is with or against the people will determine a lot of today's outcome.

4) Mubarak has now put the US in a corner: He double-crossed the White House, and announced his intentions to fight foriegn intervention. Adding to that the news of the arab aid, he is sending the US a clear message: "I could tell you and your aid to go to hell, and get the money from the arabs instead. Where does this leave your precious Israel? If you don't want us to cause problems on that front,  you better shut up about what we will do and get with the program, or else!"

If you take all of those factors into consideration, the situation starts looking intensely ominous. If the regime and the army has split, we could see major fighting and bloodshed today. If the Army is with the President, then they will all turn their guns on the Protesters, who are determined not to live under Mubarak rule for one extra day. It also means that he put on the line the future of the transitional government with Omar Suleiman in charge, because Suleiman's fate seems intensely intertwined with the President now. This has become a fight for survival: it's either the regime or the people. The bad news is, the regime has all the weapon and organization. The good news is, the people are determined and increasing in numbers and the army might step in and save us all unnecessary bloodshed.

It all depends on the army's statement now.

The wait is killing me. 

The Way Forward

Today started with two very important facts: 1) The Mass resignation of important Mubarak regime figures from their posts in the Ruling National Democratic Party, including his longtime crony Safwat ElSherif and his own son Gamal Mubarak ; 2) The number of people who called me asking what the next move for the Tahrir Protesters will be and were disappointed by the lack of a clear way forward to the movement. They feared the protests would lose momentum and this historic moment would slowly dwindle and die.

Now, I am not a leader of this movement, and god knows I would be loathe to name myself as a spokesperson for the 5 million individuals nationwide who have joined these protests. If anything, I am simply a promoter and a participant who is way too proud of the fact that this is a movement with no leaders or representatives. In many ways this has helped the cohesion and unity of those protests: people agreed on a set of demands that promote general democracy, accountability and freedom. Demands that promote self-governing and personal rights no matter what your ideological leanings may be. We thought that was enough, and now we are thinking it might not be after all.

If we are to assess the successes of the movement so far, there have been a few key victories, but not any truly major ones. Mubarak says he won’t run again, but he won’t step down. Mubarak will change the constitution but will use the same parliament that has election fraud indictment tarring over 85% of its members. Even with today’s news, what the NDP did so far has been more cosmetic than actual change. We shouldn’t be appeased by it. Mubarak is still President, Emergency law is still in effect, the parliament hasn’t been dissolved, new elections haven’t been called for and the constitution is still that flexible document that the ruling party can change whenever they see fit. Even though we appear to be winning, we are not by a long shot.

Now, regarding the way forward, so far we seem to have two options on the table : 1) For the Jan 25 protests to remain as is: anarchic yet goal-oriented; & 2) the Wisemen’s council , which is currently being promoted as the third option between the Government’s Stubbornness and the Protesters unyielding persistence . They are gaining traction amongst those who do need leaders to represent their views and negotiate with the government, and their proposal is worth considering. The problem with the Wisemen’s council as a third option is this: while it is respectable and contains prominent Egyptian leaders and businessmen, I am not sure what leverage they got on either side or if either side would accept it as a mediating force.

That being said, the status quo just won’t due. This lack of action and organization will be used against us (the protesters) in every way possible. The participants will start complaining about the lack of direction or movement leaders. The government will start complaining that the protesters haven’t offered a single person to represent them and negotiate with the government for them, and that the protesters don’t know what they want. Mind you, this is utter rubbish: It’s not that the protesters don’t know what they want (you can read about their demands everywhere), it’s that their demands are so nonnegotiable for them, that it makes no sense for them to engage in negotiations until a number of those demands get realized. Thus, Gridlock!

So here are my two cents: next time when you head to Tahrir, alongside blankets and food and medicine, please get some foldable tables, chairs, papers, pens, a laptop and a USB connection. Set up a bunch of tables and start registering the protesters. Get their names, ages, addresses & districts. Based on location, start organizing them into committees, and then have those committees elect leaders or representatives. Do the same in Alex, In Mansoura, in Suez, in every major Egyptian city in which the Protesters braved police suppression and came out in the thousands. Protect the Data with your life. Get encryption programs to ensure the security of the data. Use web-based tools like Google documents to input the data in, thus ensuring that even if your laptops get confiscated by State Security Goons, they won’t find anything on your harddrives. Have people outside of Egypt back-up your data daily on secure servers. Then, start building the structure.

You see, with such Proper citizen organization and segmentation, we’ll have the contact information and location of all the protesters that showed up, and that could be transformed into voting blocks in parliamentary districts: i.e. a foundation for an Egyptian Unity party. That Egyptian Unity Party will be an Umbrella party that promotes equality, democracy & accountability, without any ideological slants. It should be centrist, because we don’t want any boring Left vs. Right squabbling at that stage. Once you institute the structure, start educating the members on their rights and their obligations as citizens. Convince them to bring their friends and relatives into meeting. Establish voters’ critical mass , all under that party.

The Egyptian Unity Party, however, will not be a permanent structure, but rather a transitional entity with a clear and direct purpose: create the grassroots organization to take back the parliament and presidency in the next elections. Once sufficient votes and seats have been obtained, the party will amend the constitution to promote civil liberties, plurality, and truly democratic elections. Once that constitution is in place, the party can disband, and its elected members can start forming their own parties and collations, based on their personal beliefs and ideologies, or they can join any of the existing parties, and breathe some life into their decaying carcasses. We will end up with an actual political process and representative political parties that will actually discuss policy and have to represent those who voted for them so that they can get re-elected. Democracy in action. An old but brilliant concept. A way to ensure that no matter what, we will have a huge influence on who becomes the next Egyptian President come election day in September.

I am extremely hopeful we can do this. So far we have proved all the critics and the haters wrong. It’s time to do that again!

Egypt, right now!

I don't know how to start writing this. I have been battling fatigue for not sleeping properly for the past 10 days, moving from one's friend house to another friend's house, almost never spending a night in my home, facing a very well funded and well organized ruthless regime that views me as nothing but an annoying bug that its time to squash will come. The situation here is bleak to say the least.

It didn't start out that way. On Tuesday Jan 25 it all started peacefully, and against all odds, we succeeded to gather hundreds of thousands and get them into Tahrir Square, despite being attacked by Anti-Riot Police who are using sticks, tear gas and rubber bullets against us. We managed to break all of their barricades and situated ourselves in Tahrir. The government responded by shutting down all cell communication in Tahrir square, a move which purpose was understood later when after midnight they went in with all of their might and attacked the protesters and evacuated the Square. The next day we were back at it again, and the day after. Then came Friday and we braved their communication blackout, their thugs, their tear gas and their bullets and we retook the square. We have been fighting to keep it ever since.

That night the government announced a military curfew, which kept getting shorter by the day, until it became from 8 am to 3 pm. People couldn't go to work, gas was running out quickly and so were essential goods and money, since the banks were not allowed to operate and people were not able to collect their salary. The internet continued to be blocked, which affected all businesses in Egypt and will cause an economic meltdown the moment they allow the banks to operate again. We were being collectively punished for daring to say that we deserve democracy and rights, and to keep it up, they withdrew the police, and then sent them out dressed as civilians to terrorize our neighborhoods. I was shot at twice that day, one of which with a semi-automatic by a dude in a car that we the people took joy in pummeling. The government announced that all prisons were breached, and that the prisoners somehow managed to get weapons and do nothing but randomly attack people. One day we had organized thugs in uniforms firing at us and the next day they disappeared and were replaced by organized thugs without uniforms firing at us. Somehow the people never made the connection.

Despite it all, we braved it. We believed we are doing what's right and were encouraged by all those around us who couldn't believe what was happening to their country. What he did galvanized the people, and on Tuesday, despite shutting down all major roads leading into Cairo, we managed to get over 2 million protesters in Cairo alone and 3 million all over Egypt to come out and demand Mubarak's departure. Those are people who stood up to the regime's ruthlessness and anger and declared that they were free, and were refusing to live in the Mubarak dictatorship for one more day. That night, he showed up on TV, and gave a very emotional speech about how he intends to step down at the end of his term and how he wants to die in Egypt, the country he loved and served. To me, and to everyone else at the protests this wasn't nearly enough, for we wanted him gone now. Others started asking that we give him a chance, and that change takes time and other such poppycock. Hell, some people and family members cried when they saw his speech. People felt sorry for him for failing to be our dictator for the rest of his life and inheriting us to his Son. It was an amalgam of Stockholm syndrome coupled with slave mentality in a malevolent combination that we never saw before. And the Regime capitalized on it today.

Today, they brought back the internet, and started having people calling on TV and writing on facebook on how they support Mubarak and his call for stability and peacefull change in 8 months. They hung on to the words of the newly appointed government would never harm the protesters, whom they believe to be good patriotic youth who have a few bad apples amongst them. We started getting calls asking people to stop protesting because "we got what we wanted" and "we need the country to start working again". People were complaining that they miss their lives. That they miss going out at night, and ordering Home Delivery. That they need us to stop so they can resume whatever existence they had before all of this. All was forgiven, the past week never happened and it's time for Unity under Mubarak's rule right now.

To all of those people I say: NEVER! I am sorry that your lives and businesses are disrupted, but this wasn't caused by the Protesters. The Protesters aren't the ones who shut down the internet that has paralyzed your businesses and banks: The government did. The Protesters weren't the ones who initiated the military curfew that limited your movement and allowed goods to disappear off market shelves and gas to disappear: The government did. The Protesters weren't the ones who ordered the police to withdraw and claimed the prisons were breached and unleashed thugs that terrorized your neighborhoods: The government did. The same government that you wish to give a second chance to, as if 30 years of dictatorship and utter failure in every sector of government wasn't enough for you. The Slaves were ready to forgive their master, and blame his cruelty on those who dared to defy him in order to ensure a better Egypt for all of its citizens and their children. After all, he gave us his word, and it's not like he ever broke his promises for reform before or anything.

Then Mubarak made his move and showed them what useful idiots they all were.

You watched on TV as "Pro-Mubarak Protesters" – thugs who were paid money by NDP members by admission of High NDP officials- started attacking the peaceful unarmed protesters in Tahrir square. They attacked them with sticks, threw stones at them, brought in men riding horses and camels- in what must be the most surreal scene ever shown on TV- and carrying whips to beat up the protesters. And then the Bullets started getting fired and Molotov cocktails started getting thrown at the Anti-Mubarak Protesters as the Army standing idly by, allowing it all to happen and not doing anything about it. Dozens were killed, hundreds injured, and there was no help sent by ambulances. The Police never showed up to stop those attacking because the ones who were captured by the Anti-mubarak people had police ID's on them. They were the police and they were there to shoot and kill people and even tried to set the Egyptian Museum on Fire. The Aim was clear: Use the clashes as pretext to ban such demonstrations under pretexts of concern for public safety and order, and to prevent disunity amongst the people of Egypt. But their plans ultimately failed, by those resilient brave souls who wouldn't give up the ground they freed of Egypt, no matter how many live bullets or firebombs were hurled at them. They know, like we all do, that this regime no longer cares to put on a moderate mask. That they have shown their true nature. That Mubarak will never step down, and that he would rather burn Egypt to the ground than even contemplate that possibility.

In the meantime, State-owned and affiliated TV channels were showing coverage of Peaceful Mubarak Protests all over Egypt and showing recorded footage of Tahrir Square protest from the night before and claiming it's the situation there at the moment. Hundreds of calls by public figures and actors started calling the channels saying that they are with Mubarak, and that he is our Father and we should support him on the road to democracy. A veiled girl with a blurred face went on Mehwer TV claiming to have received funding by Americans to go to the US and took courses on how to bring down the Egyptian government through protests which were taught by Jews. She claimed that AlJazeera is lying, and that the only people in Tahrir square now were Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas. State TV started issuing statements on how the people arrested Israelis all over Cairo engaged in creating mayhem and causing chaos. For those of you who are counting this is an American-Israeli-Qatari-Muslim Brotherhood-Iranian-Hamas conspiracy. Imagine that. And MANY PEOPLE BOUGHT IT. I recall telling a friend of mine that the only good thing about what happened today was that it made clear to us who were the idiots amongst our friends. Now we know.

Now, just in case this isn't clear: This protest is not one made or sustained by the Muslim Brotherhood, it's one that had people from all social classes and religious background in Egypt. The Muslim Brotherhood only showed up on Tuesday, and even then they were not the majority of people there by a long shot. We tolerated them there since we won't say no to fellow Egyptians who wanted to stand with us, but neither the Muslims Brotherhood not any of the Opposition leaders have the ability to turn out one tenth of the numbers of Protesters that were in Tahrir on Tuesday. This is a revolution without leaders. Three Million individuals choosing hope instead of fear and braving death on hourly basis to keep their dream of freedom alive. Imagine that.

The End is near. I have no illusions about this regime or its leader, and how he will pluck us and hunt us down one by one till we are over and done with and 8 months from now will pay people to stage fake protests urging him not to leave power, and he will stay "because he has to acquiesce to the voice of the people". This is a losing battle and they have all the weapons, but we will continue fighting until we can't. I am heading to Tahrir right now with supplies for the hundreds injured, knowing that today the attacks will intensify, because they can't allow us to stay there come Friday, which is supposed to be the game changer. We are bringing everybody out, and we will refuse to be anything else than peaceful. If you are in Egypt, I am calling on all of you to head down to Tahrir today and Friday. It is imperative to show them that the battle for the soul of Egypt isn't over and done with. I am calling you to bring your friends, to bring medical supplies, to go and see what Mubarak's gurantees look like in real life. Egypt needs you. Be Heroes.


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