Archive of ‘Egypt’ category

دليل الأحزاب للناخب المصري الشعبي

حزب المصريين الاحرار : والله العظيم ماحناش حزب ساويرس

حزب الجبهة الديمقراطيه  : هو الناس كلها راحت فين؟ ده حتى شادي سابنا

الحزب المصري الديمقراطي الإجتماعي :  يساري علق , ليبرالي معرص

حزب مصر الحرية : عشان مبقاش فيه حد عاوز ياخد حمزاوي

حزب العدل : اللهو الخفي

الحزب الشيوعي المصري : الشعب المصري بيموت في الشيوعية. حيصوتولنا آخر حاجة

حزب العمال الديمقراطي : العمال لهم الأرض وما عليها‬

حزب الغد : أيمن نور فاضي يا جماعة

حزب الكرامة والحزب العربي الناصري: عشان عبدالناصر مش هو اللي وقعنا  في خرة الدولة العسكرية  الديكتاتوريه ده

حزب الوفد : فاكرين لما كنا علمانيين؟

حزب الحرية و العدالة  : يعني عاوزين حزب؟ وماله..نعملكم حزب. المرشد اللي ماسك برضوه

حزب البناء والتنمية :  جواري وجهاد يا معلم. جواري وجهاد

الحزب النازي المصري : إنما بجد لازم تجربوا الصنف اللي احنا بنضربه. جامد آخر حاجة

7 Economic Ideas for a new Egypt

A lot of people complain that the government has no vision in regards to how to bounce back our economy, and is instead acting as if the revolution never happened and everything is Business as usual. For 4 months now I awaited a single decent economic plan, or even emergency economic measures (like temporary welfare packages to the lower classes to be able to feed itself until “stability” takes place, or a stimulus package to the small and medium size businesses to keep them afloat for a few months and not have to fire any people), but of course that’s as likely as them inspecting the old budget or trying to find where the public waste or corruption is in it, and cut those costs. In case you didn’t know, the new budget is like the old budget exactly, except that they are spending more money, and borrowing to cover it up, and not reducing the costs on anything. God knows that after reviewing our budget, I realized that if I was running a business the way the Egyptian government was running its finances, I would’ve been out of businesses years ago. That being said, expecting the government to come up with good plans is as likely as The Police starting to act like respectable responsible humans and go to work without abusing anyone: It’s not going to happen. So , instead of pointing out their flaws, which any idiot with a functioning brain can do, I will offer here some ideas of things we can do. This will cover a whole number of sectors, and the idea is to do more with what we already have and encourage that lost wheel of production to be found and to go round and round again. Let’s begin, shall we?

Idea # 1: LET’S PAY PEOPLE FOR THEIR TRASH!

Here is the concept in a nutshell: We live in a country of 85 million consumers, and they consume lots of goods and produce a huge amount of trash, many of which never gets recycled or used correctly, outside of Cairo’s Zabaleen community, which are the most brilliant people this country has in a while produced. But instead of being Cairo-focused, let’s go nationwide. Instead of people paying to have their trash collected, instead we will pay them money for their trash. We will provide trash cans everywhere that will divide the trash into organic and non-organic (with all of its variations) all over Egypt, and teach people how to separate their trash effectively. Then, once a week, the Trash cars come, and start paying people by the kilo for their trash, provided that they have separated it first. The trucks then leave to one of many huge factories that will be built all over Egypt, where the non-organic trash will be divided and recycled again into plastics, aluminum, papers, etc.. to be sold in the market to factories again, and the organic trash will be taken and processed to produce methane gas that will be turned into electricity that will power up the different production lines in the factory, which would reduce the energy needs of the factory dramatically or possibly eliminate it all together. Zero Waste! This idea will do the following : 1) Put money in the hands of all Egyptians for their trash, and actually give them incentive to pick up any litter anywhere in their neighborhoods, because, you know, there’s money to be made off of it now, 2) Hire thousands of workers- because this will be nationwide- who will drive the collection trucks, collect the trash and pay the people, re-separate the trash at the factory, man the recycling production lines, and sales people who will sell the recycled resources to the other factories or the people and 3) Make Egypt cleaner, reduce the horrible pollution from Trash burning and increase efficiency in the usage of our resources. And if you are worried on the business of the Zabaleen, don’t worry; we will simply subcontract Cairo to them. We won’t mess with their system; just integrate them into the cycle. I spoke to people in the IFC about this months ago, and they seemed really excited about the idea, but I don’t think it went anywhere. I am presenting it here again.

Idea #2: LET’S GET OUT OF CAIRO NOW!

I love Cairo. Well, I love Cairo at night. Like maybe from 10 pm till 4 am. The rest of the time, I am starting to hate Cairo: It’s a city overloaded with people (25 million residents, 1/3 of Egypt’s population almost) and Cars, and the centralization of all resources and business on the expense of the rest of the country has not benefitted anyone: The Cairo people are unhappy with how overpopulated and polluted their city is, and complain daily about the hellish traffic, and the rest of the country believes Cairo takes up all the economic development to itself. And the thing is, even when the Cairenes try to leave Cairo, they just go to 6 October or New Cairo, which are Cairo suburbs, and thus Cairo-centric as well, which now means that the traffic isn’t just in Cairo, it’s also facing anyone leaving Cairo, making Cairo a Blackhole of soul-sucking and misery. Let’s change that dramatically by moving entire industries to other areas of the country, and thus creating new cities, new pockets of development, and get people out of Cairo for good and for real this time (none of that 6th of October Crap). For example, let’s move the entire IT and technology industry to the North Coast, and build a huge IT and Technology focused city – our very own Silicon Valley- right behind all of those touristic villages that we only use 3 months a year. That whole area already has paved roads, communication lines, utilities connected to it for those touristic villages, so we will simply need to scale up the existing infrastructure instead of building it from scratch, and it will provide the restaurants, shops and clubs in the area of round the year customers. The IT people will love it, because it takes them out of the city and places them on the beach, the shop owners will love it because it will provide more sources of income for them, the population there will love it because it will mean more jobs whether in construction, factories or companies that will be erected, and the owners will love it because many of them will rent their property all year long instead of a measly 3 months, which will provide them with a higher return on their investments, and a ton of new service-based businesses (banks, car dealerships, retail stores, etc) will open up to serve this new and high-earning population. Another industry we could move elsewhere could be the movie industry, which we could move to Sinai, where huge studios can be built to cater for the Egyptian cinema industry and international cinema companies who will want to film in Egypt instead of Morocco, and thus also hire thousands of people. All the artists, directors, music composers, production people will be moved there, and thus creating the Egyptian Hollywood. And it won’t just be for cinema, it can host the entire media industry, including TV stations, Music companies, and production houses. A city for the arts, on the beach, attracting business and tourism. I would live there, leaving Cairo behind to rot forever! I think you would too.

Idea #3: LET’S GIVE THE EGYPTIAN GOVERNMENT A CORRUPTION COLONIC!

It’s an idea I presented before here, and let’s present it again: The biggest hurdle against new businesses creation is the amount of corruption that exists in all levels of government, which means that if you want to start a new businesses, you have to pay a lot of bribes on many levels. A friend of mine once told me that Egypt is unique in the sense that while in most countries you pay bribes to get more than what’s rightfully yours, in Egypt you pay bribes to get what’s rightfully yours, and it’s true. Hell, if you want to open a new restaurant, there are about 18 different bribes to 18 different government officials that you must pay in order for them to let you open and hire people. If we hope to live in a better country, we need to remove all the bribe-taking individuals from our entire government, and our very scared Businesses men – who paid their fair share there- can lead the way. I want the Businessmen to unify and call for a truth and reconciliation initiative, where they will report every single bribe they paid to a government official in exchange for amnesty, and call on the rest of the population- because he didn’t have to pay some sort of a bribe to get things done here?- to do the same, and thus flush out every single corrupt government official out of the government once and for all, and highlight the weak points in Egyptian bureaucracy that allow such corruption to take place, and take measures against it, and simplify the process. This will also allow the government to get rid of many of its corrupt employees, which means that more openings in government jobs will become available, and the government can reduce its really high salary costs without bothering with early-retirement plans for people who are criminal parasites and have held the economic development of the country hostage for years. And if the businessmen or anyone for that matter, benefitted from that system, they should pay back the money they made off such corruption to the government or society, by funding social projects that benefit the country. Everybody wins!

Idea #4: LET’S HAVE A REAL SPORTS INDUSTRY!

The Sports industry in Egypt is a paradox that I can’t figure out, especially the football industry. Here is what happens: The Sporting clubs, with their football teams, are technically owned by the government, and the government funds them with half a billion pounds a year directly, without the money ever going back to the government, but rather to the Football Union. The Money from the games of the Egyptian leagues, the sponsorships and the TV broadcasting rights never goes back to the government, but rather to the corrupt Football union, whose budget- comprised of all the aforementioned items and the money it gets from the government- is its own to manage and waste, based on their personal preference, without any oversight, and thus they can fund a club like Ahly highly, while give peanuts to a club like ElEsmaely. This is why many clubs have to rely on charity from its fans to get players and compete, while their board of directors get to allocate their budgets towards benefitting themselves, friends or family members. And let’s not even talk about government institutions Football teams. Has no one ever wondered why the hell does a government owned Oil company like Enpi have a football team? Or Why does the Police, or the army, or the border guards have one? Isn’t that a waste of public resources and money? YOUR MONEY?

Instead of that stupid structure, let’s do the only thing that makes sense: The Government must stop wasting money on the sporting teams of the Oil companies and government institutions, and offer the rest of the actual sporting clubs up for privatization, selling 80% of their shares for example, and keeping 20% as a silent partner, or giving it to the members. Can you imagine how much money the government can make from selling a team like AlAhly or Zamalek to investors? Billions. Money that they can use to fund the criminally under-funded sport-centers and-god forbid- our Olympic teams. And those investors who will buy the clubs will start running the football teams correctly: We are talking real broadcasting rights negotiations, Factories creating sports merchandising, and team and club development, which in turn will develop the cities the clubs are in (Have businessmen build new stadiums for example, instead of lamenting our shitty government-built ones). Hell, we could then afford actually buying expensive international players and have them play in the Egyptian league: Imagine Ronaldo playing for the Alexandria sporting club vs. AlAhly with Messi in its ranks. We would elevate the game, start industries, and maybe even fund other sports, like, I don’t know, Basketball. All of it taxed. As for the Football Union, it would be comprised of the reps of club owners, who will make sure that no club gets favorite treatment over another, and that the resources are not wasted, because it will be THEIR MONEY. We could change the game, forever!

Idea #5: LET’S FUND OUR COUNTRY!

We agreed that we can’t depend on the anything, fine. Let’s fund our country ourselves. Let’s create “Patriotic Funds”, a huge fund per governorate that everyone can buy shares in, and that will take the money and invest them in two things: investment projects that the governorate needs, and development projects like schools or hospitals. The Income generated from their investment projects will find the development projects and provide a modest return of maybe 5% for their investors, who will be ok with it since they will see their governorate creating new jobs and factories, and having new decent public schools and hospitals getting built. Schools and Jobs for their kids. Or, we can have a law that states that every business should donate a tax-deductable 2 or 3% of its revenue to an actual social project ( a school, a hospital, infrastructure of an underdeveloped area), instead of PR campaigns like the current Egyptian companies do with their CSR budgets, and the government can supervise the projects. Simple!

Idea# 6: LET’S BRING THOSE EGYPTIAN EXPATS BACK FOR A VISIT!

This is an idea that a young enterprising man named Ahemd Fattouh said to me once, and I will present it here: Why not create a special Friday event, where we call on all Egyptians who live abroad to come down to Egypt and have their own Tahrir experience? And what better time to do this other than next September for the elections? Instead of worrying whether or not they will be able to vote, we should invite those Egyptians abroad to come back to Egypt for a week to vote and enjoy the country’s beaches or touristic sights. By doing that they will 1) ensure that their votes count and 2) provide a much needed boost to our Tourism industry, which desperately need it now. If you get 2 million out of the 12 million Egyptians who live abroad back, and each spends 3000$ on the trip, that’s 6 billion dollars entering the country right there. And we will host festivals and concerts to celebrate their homecoming and their participation, and enticing them to come back for, I don’t know, new years, or quite possibly for the Jan25 one year anniversary celebration next year! The world will see that Egypt is now safe to come back to, and if the tourism companies provide good packages to entice the tourists, our tourism will come back full force!

Idea # 7: LET’S PROVIDE OUR PEOPLE WITH FOOD SECURITY!

The reasons why we have a food-shortage in Egypt is due to three things: 1)We have a population that refuses to stop increasing, 2) We don’t have enough farmland to feed this population and 3) we don’t have enough water to create new farmland. Nothing can be done regarding the population thing, since we believe it’s our god-given right to compete with bunnies in terms of birth-rate. Fine, so we have to create new farmland in order to provide food security, which we can’t do without more water. So, it all comes down to water. But the question is: do we really not have enough water? Or are we simply wasting what we have? Well, anyone who works in agriculture will tell you that we waste our water ridiculously, because many farmers insist of just flooding their farmland with water, instead of using irrigation system that will efficiently water their crops without wasting our most valuable resource. Actually, if we make it a law that all farmlands need to have irrigation systems, not only could we cut down our waste, we could have enough water to at least double our farmland with ease! And they shouldn’t pay for it, the government should provide it for them, especially the poor farmers that depend on the Agricultural assurance bank. And while we are at it, here is a question: how come no one has ever used the lands surrounding Lake-Nasser as farmland? We are talking hundreds of thousands of acres, with water access right there. The movement of water in Lake Nasser to farm that land will ensure that we don’t lose 7% of our water reserves to vaporization, like we do right now, because it won’t be sitting still and will be used to farm that surrounding land, and thus increase our farmland and provide us with more produce, which will be sent to factories for packaging and ensure our food security. And since we are talking about Lake Nasser and food security, why not take advantage of the huge amount of fish that lives there? Do you know how much a Kilo of Fish costs in Aswan? 7 LE. Do you know how much it costs in Cairo? 23 LE! We could create an entire fishing industry, build a factory that will put the fish in cartons and ship it in frozen trucks or trains to be sold all over Egypt, feeding everyone cheaply, and to hell with the Cholesterol-inducing super-expensive red meat consumption, which in turn will lower the demand on it and make it more affordable to all Egyptians. New Farmland, new factories, more jobs and food security, and it won’t cost much. Why don’t we do it?

Just think about it!

Regarding that Referendum

One of the most persistent talking points by SCAF recently is that the people chose them to lead during the transitional period, and that the Referendum was really about giving the Armed Forces “the revolutionary legitimacy to lead” us. Now, as you all know, My view on the referendum has been that what’s done is done, and that people chose, and that we need to move on and focus on the election, because we shouldn’t take away from the people the experience of having their voice heard for the first time, even if that’s not true. Unfortunately, due to this persistent talking point, which is always followed by an accusation that the revolutionaries are trying to subvert Democracy by demanding a new constitution or a Bill of Rights first, I find myself unable to keep silent any longer. Fine, you want to talk about the referendum? Fine by me. Let’s go over this!

Now, mind you, this post won’t cover the usual whining of not having enough time for the No campaign, or how the MB told the people that if they vote yes they will go to Heaven, or how the army itself influenced the vote by telling the people that a Yes vote is the best way to move forward, while declining to give us a real choice as to what they will do if people voted NO, making the alternative seem mysterious and dangerous. None of that. I won’t even discuss this report that alleges, due to statistical fraud analysis that the referendum results were tampered with, and that blatant fraud took place. Instead, I would like to go over some facts with you, and let you decide for yourself.

1) The Referendum was proposed as an amendment of 8 articles to the 1971 constitution, thus bringing the constitution back to life temporarily until we create a new one. The voices opposed to this was that the 1971 constitution gave unchecked powers to the President, and we should have a temporary constitutional declaration until the election of a national committee to write the new constitution (which was one of the original demands of the Jan 25 revolution, alongside with a  Civil Presidential Council, which the SCAF promised back then they would fulfill). We were soundly ignored, and the referendum took place, and the Yes vote won, thus technically & legitimately resurrecting the 1971 constitution.

2) The 1971 constitution clearly states that in the event there is no President and no head of Parliament, then the head of the Egyptian Supreme constitutional court would have to be the next President temporarily for 60 days, until new presidential elections are held. There is nothing in the 1971 constitution that gives the SCAF any mandate to legitimately rule us.

3) Upon realizing that, the SCAF instead killed the resurrection of the 1971 constitution without informing us ( which would render the referendum constitutionally illegitimate, since it was done based on false pretenses), and instead announced that those articles we voted on will be part of a temporary constitutional declaration (oh yeah! That’s why we- No People- were gloating at the Yes people in case you were wondering), and then added 55 articles giving themselves the power of the President to rule unchecked and the Parliament to issue laws, and thus the modern SCAF was born.

4) Needless to say, those voters in the referendum didn’t vote to give SCAF absolute and unchecked power, and didn’t vote for the 55 articles they gave us as a bonus on top of the 8 we actually voted on, which also makes the temporary constitutional declaration and the Powers it gave SCAF constitutionally illegitimate as well. That’s two reasons why the referendum and thus resulting rule of SCAF are constitutionally illegitimate for those of you who are still counting.

5) But even if one ignored the first two reasons why this referendum can not be used to justify all the shit that’s been happening for the past 4 months, or if you didn’t care and would have voted to give SCAF the mandate to rule out of trust anyway, well, there is the little problem of how they did alter the text of the very few articles that you actually voted on when they issued the constitutional declaration. Don’t believe me? LOOK AT THIS!

Yep, even the 8 you actually voted on were tempered with. That’s Three reasons why this referendum and the resulting temporary constitutional declaration and the Rule of SCAF are constitutionally illegitimate. And in case you still don’t get it: That’s three times you were made a fool of. That’s three times your democratic will was actually subverted by the SCAF, the people you trust most, in order to ensure that the power in the country isn’t in civilian hands and instead is in theirs.

“But wait”, you will say,”forget all that. You are no better. You don’t want me to choose my constitution via parliament. You want to subvert democracy, create a national committee to write a constitution to your liking, and  impose your ideas on me and my way of life, just like SCAF did. Right?” Well, no, not really.

Voting for Parliament that will vote for a committee that will write the constitution is a novel idea, but there are two problems with it: 1) The supreme majority of , if not all, the people voted into Parliament are not qualified to write a constitution. It’s kind of like having to create a nuclear reactor, but instead of sending your nuclear-physicists, you send you in your cousin who you trust to be good and honest. Great intentions, Most-likely catastrophic results;  and 2) Requiring a 50+1 majority to pick the committee means lots of political haggling will take place, which means that our rights will be up for barter based on a group’s beliefs or political interests. Such political haggling is fine when it comes to laws, because laws can be changed easily, but this constitution is staying for a long long time. So, in essence, you will vote in people that are probably unqualified, and who will follow their own personal beliefs instead of yours, and have them  barter over voting  for a group of people who will then write your constitutional rights, instead of having a list of qualified experts (let’s say law or human rights experts), which you would vote for directly, who then would write the constitution, which is what the vote for the national committee is. The vote for a national committee means that You get to directly choose who writes your constitution, knowing full well that they are qualified for it. How that is subverting your vote, or an abortion of democracy, I have no clue.

Now I am neither calling for you to overthrow SCAF or call for a National Committee for a constitution, or even support us, the revolutionaries. God knows I am gearing up for the election season and will fight on every front I can to ensure that by hook or crook our rights are secured either way. As I stated, this an attempt to counter a talking point that is both false and used as justification for things like military trials and forced “virginity checks”. I am simply reminding you that there are many people who want to take away rights from you or fool you, but we are not one of them. We are disorganized, arrogant, drained, angry, unable to communicate our message clearly and you might not even like the way some of us look like, but we are not liars. Deal with that.

A lot of the ideas in this post are blatantly stolen from a conversation I had with Alfred Raouf, who kicks a whole lot of ass and is a lot smarter than he looks. :P

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!

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. 

Egypt protesting European embassies?

Did they just get the memo that we get mistreated there?

Egypt has protested to European embassies in Cairo
about what it has described as the mistreatment of Egyptians applying
for entry visas.

The Egyptian foreign ministry said the embassies were applying
visa rules arbitrarily, and not treating Egyptians with respect and
dignity.

You know, I would be all for it, but the egyptian government, of all people, complaining that someone is not treating Egyptians with respect and dignity? We 7eyat deen omokom? That's like Bill Clinton scolding John Edwards for lying to the American people.

Ehh..Irony is dead! 

Hitting back at the Iranians

Oh yes, we are, artictically, for the insult they gave the egyptian people by showing a documentary golrifying the assassination of Sadat. How exactly will we do that? By making our own movie of course, called Khomeini, the Imam of Blood.

Mohamed Hassan Al-Alfi, a member of the ruling National Democratic
Party and Editor-in-Chief of its mouthpiece Al-Watani Al-Youm, told Al
Arabiya that he is in the process of writing the script for ‘Khomeini:
The Imam of Blood,’ which will be directed by prominent Egyptian
director Mohamed Fadel.

The movie, Alfi said, will spotlight Khomeini's extremist ideas and how
they threatened Egypt's security during the first 10 years of current
President Hosni Mubarak's rule. It will also show how Khomeini's
ideologies were behind the assassination of Sadat.

Oh yes, that will show them! Wait, it kinda won't, since they do admit that they wanted Sadat dead. So showing off how Khomeini was behind it would only make them happy. You wanna piss them off? Show Persopolis on egyptian TV for a week straight, and make the comic required reading in egyptian schools. Maybe even give Marjane Satrapi a medal. Name a street after he, or something. Don;t make a movie and definitely don;t have Mohamed Fadel direct it, because he will include his talentless ugly actress wife in it, Fardous abdelhamid, and that would just turn people off from ever wanting to watch it. That's just not smart, u know?

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