Saturday, February 26, 2005

Mubarak wants election reform

It'll be interesting to see if Mubarak is actually serious about this:

"CAIRO, Egypt - Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak on Saturday ordered a revision of the country's election laws and said multiple candidates could run in the nation's presidential elections, a scenario Mubarak hasn't faced since taking power in 1981.

"The surprise announcement, a response to critics' calls for political reform, comes shortly after historic elections in Iraq and the Palestinian territories, balloting that brought a taste of democracy to the region. It also comes amid a sharp dispute with the United States over Egypt's arrest of one of the strongest proponents of multi-candidate elections."

It's also critical to note this tidbit of information:

"The move also comes amid a dispute between Egypt and the United States over the recent detention of an opposition leader.

"Ayman Nour, head of the Al-Ghad Party, was detained Jan. 29 on allegations of forging nearly 2,000 signatures to secure a license for his party last year. He has rejected the accusation, and human rights groups have said his detention was politically motivated. The prosecutor general has denied that charge.

"His detention has been strongly criticized by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and Rice canceled a Mideast visit that had been planned for next week, a decision believed to be in protest of Nour's detention."

Is Mubarak throwing us a bone here, or is he serious about opening up the political process in Egypt? I think the former, but at least Mubarak is "talking" about democracy. There is definitely a change in the winds in the Middle East (thanks in large part to Iraq), but don't expect those winds to blow over the authoritarians overnight. They'll fall when they fall and the Mubaraks know their time is coming.

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