In October 1981, Egypt’s current President Hosni Mubarak was appointed president of the republic following the assassination of President Anwar Sadat during military celebrations commemorating the October 6 victory over Israel in 1973.
Do we mourn that fateful day in the history of the nation, the day Egypt lost its visionary leader at the hands of religious fanatics, or do we celebrate the memory of a victory which eventually gave us back land that was usurped by Israel during Nasser’s reign of terror and illusions of pan-Arabism?
A group of Egyptians decided on Thursday, October 14 to avoid making that choice altogether and instead mark the start of President Mubarak’s 30th year as the head of state. The second longest sitting president in the Arab region — surpassed only by Libya’s Muammar Qaddafi in power since 1969 — and perhaps one of the longest serving of all current national leaders, Mubarak was hailed by this group of roughly 30 supporters as the “man of war and peace” during a brief show of solidarity at Al-Nour Mosque in Abbaseya.
The group, which includes members of the May 4 Movement (a reference to President Mubarak’s birthday) and a group calling itself the Youth Movement for Prosperity, as well as the Popular Movement Against Civil Disobedience, are calling on the incumbent to contest the 2011 presidential elections. Their move is a bid to continue the path of economic reform and a means to stem the “war of ideas” that have infiltrated Egyptian society through the likes of former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency Mohamed ElBaradei and all those calling for civil disobedience and boycotting elections. ElBaradei and his ilk, they say, are trying to import (evil) western values to our (chaste) Islamic society.
Participants hailed Mubarak’s era as a haven of justice, freedom and free and fair elections, emphasizing that they have no affiliation with the ruling National Democratic Party and that their nationalistic sentiments were behind their desire to speak out in favor of the “spiritual father” of all Egyptians and his son Gamal whom they hope will be appointed vice president to continue the victorious path of his predecessor in an era which saw every household equipped with all the electrical appliances people need, according to one participant interviewed by Daily News Egypt.
What I will comment on is how difficult it was to imagine that any supposedly civil/popular movement could fail as miserably as our deplorably fragmented opposition. Despite the emergence of a protest culture since 2005 in a country where citizens had been deliberately depoliticized through 50 years of authoritarian rule, a combination of ruthless security crackdowns, bad organization and a lack of true dedication to the cause of change have led to a point where the same hundred or so activists who survived the heavy-handedness of riot police and state-security investigators became the staple in every pro-reform or pro-democracy demonstration taking place at least over the past year or so.
Sadly the failure of this pro-Mubarak fiasco does not indicate the success of the opposition. If anything, it signals our utter inability to rally around a single cause, whether it’s to uphold the status quo or to trigger complete reform. The failed celebration of Mubarak’s 30 years in power also proves that talk of the power of public opinion to sway political decision-making is no more than textbook rhetoric used on the one hand by the opposition to help it morally survive its humiliating treatment at the hands of security and laws that render it completely ineffective; and on the other hand by the regime to give the false impression that it respects the will of the people and strives to satisfy it.
It’s clear from all the indicators so far that the coming legislative elections, though seemingly more viciously contested than previous ones, will, in fact, be no departure from what we’ve experienced in the past. Whether Amr Adib joins Al-Wafd, Ibrahim Eissa is sacked from Al-Dostor, the Muslim Brotherhood fight to the death or Ayman Nour fakes his own assault makes little difference in the outcome of these elections or of next year’s presidential race.
The attacks and intimidation of the media has already started and it’s no secret who is behind the scenes, controlling the strings in this puppet show.
ElBaradei’s call to boycott this charade may turn out to be the most reasonable path to take.
Rania Al Malky is the Chief Editor of Daily News Egypt.