THE ABSURD TIMES — STILL

30 May, 2012 09:46

Posted in Uncategorized by @honestcharlie on May 30, 2012

QUIBBLES ON THE LEFT

(CENTER)

Been there, done that. I’ve been asked why I am not out marching and holding up signs and writing to my Congressman, etc. Been there, done that.

One of the more important things illustrated by the events in Egypt is what happens when the well-meaning get together. Several, meaning anywhere from 3 to 9 worthwhile candidates, any of which would have been an improvement, together got over 50% of the vote. One nearly made it to the final two in any case. So, why didn’t they agree on one? Each thought the other was a trifle wanting in one area or another. So, they blew the entire thing.

Better to be Politically Correct than actually do some good.

Clear choices? Well, now, didn’t we have a clear choice last election? On the one hand, McCain and Palin and the other Obama and an end to the “politics of fear,” getting out of Iraq, fair policy in the Mid-East, and so on. There have been similar choices in the past. A candidate who said we should bomb our enemies into the stone age and one would said we should not be fighting the war. Why were they? Barry Goldwater and Lyndon Johnson, respectively. (Er, Johnson later pointed out that he said “should,” not “would”.”

So, anyway, here is what happened in Egypt, along with President Carter’s clarification of the peace treaty he negotiated between Egypt and Israel, and what it meant for Palestine. Such, unfortunately, will be the result of any other “treaty” that Israel signs.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Report from Cairo: Protests Erupt in Egypt as Mubarak’s Ex-PM Secures Spot in Presidential Runoff

Sharif Abdel Kouddous reports from Egypt, where protests erupted last night after final results were announced in the country’s first-ever competitive presidential election. The top two candidates in the first round of the race are Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood and Ahmed Shafik, the last prime minister under Hosni Mubarak, who was ousted in a popular uprising 15 months ago. "[Shafik] speaks the language of Mubarak’s regime. And what that means is the retention of broad discretionary powers given to the executive and given to security forces, a very strong role for security agency involvement, whether the intelligence services or Ministry of Interior security agencies, to ensure stability and control over protests, which, as far as he is concerned, are the source of instability," says Heba Morayef of Human Rights Watch. Morsi and Shafik will face each other in a runoff vote set to begin June 16. Special thanks to Democracy Now! video producer Hany Massoud. [includes rush transcript]
Filed under Egypt, Mubarak, Arab Spring, Sharif Abdel Kouddous
Guest:
Sharif Abdel Kouddous, independent journalist and Democracy Now! correspondent based in Cairo, Egypt.

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Transcript

AMYGOODMAN: Protests erupted in Egypt last night after final results were announced in the country’s first-ever competitive presidential election. The top two candidates in the first round of the race are Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood and Ahmed Shafik, the last prime minister under Hosni Mubarak who was ousted in a popular uprising 15 months ago. Morsi and Shafik will face each other in a runoff vote set to begin on June 16th.
The race was tight, with the top four candidates all garnering between 20 and 25 percent of the vote. But the so-called revolutionary votes, that were neither for Muslim Brotherhood or former members of the Mubarak regime, were split between third and fourth place. Three of the top candidates in the race filed appeals alleging violations in the vote, but they were all rejected by the presidential elections commission. The decisions by the commission are final and cannot be challenged.
Hours after the official announcement, protests erupted in Cairo and Alexandria. The headquarters of Ahmed Shafik was also stormed and set on fire. Democracy Now! correspondent Sharif Abdel Kouddous is in Cairo covering events on the ground. He filed this report.
SHARIFABDELKOUDDOUS: The presidential elections commission makes the official announcement. Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood and Ahmed Shafik, the last prime minister under Hosni Mubarak, are the two top winners in Egypt’s first-ever competitive presidential election.
Hours after the official decision by the presidential election commission, that announced that Ahmed Shafik and Mohamed Morsi are in the runoff, the streets of Tahrir have once again been filled. People are chanting against Shafik. They’re chanting against the Brotherhood. They’re calling for some kind of change. And they’re here to protest.
Tarek Shalaby is a member of the Revolutionary Socialists.
TAREKSHALABY: In Tahrir, there are hundreds growing into thousands maybe, hopefully. I think it’s just a reaction to the official results that have been announced putting Morsi first and Shafik in second place. And I think it’s just a lot of people expressing discontent, one way or the other. Maybe a lot of people feel that there was fraud. Others have boycotted and just don’t trust the system, and they’re just taking the streets. Others can’t believe that the Egyptians have chosen—if they choose to believe it, have chosen Shafik and Morsi to be the final two. So I think it’s a combination of a lot of things. It’s very difficult to generalize.
SHARIFABDELKOUDDOUS: Not long afterwards, the campaign headquarters for Ahmed Shafik is stormed and set ablaze.
Outside the campaign headquarters of Ahmed Shafik here in Dokki, there’s a chaotic scene. Firetrucks are here. They put out a fire. People are blaming the Muslim Brotherhood for what happened here. People are blaming revolutionaries. They’re calling for people to respect what they say is the will of the people, respect the ballot box.
In Egypt’s first democratic presidential election, the outcome is a deeply divisive one. More than 23 million Egyptians took part in the landmark poll last week, a turnout of 46 percent. The race was very close with the Brotherhood’s Morsi coming out on top with 25 percent of the vote, followed by Shafik with 24 percent. The unanticipated first round result has been called "the nightmare scenario" by Cairo-based journalist Issandr El Amrani.
ISSANDR EL AMRANI: I do think, for a substantial number of people who were, I’d say, pro-revolution, as it’s defined here, that they had hoped for an outcome that wouldn’t be this binary choice that Hosni Mubarak had warned of so long: if it’s not him, it’s the Muslim Brotherhood.
SHARIFABDELKOUDDOUS: The so-called revolutionary votes were mostly divided among the candidates who placed third and fourth in the election: Hamdeen Sabahi, a Nasserist whose dark horse candidacy surprised many by capturing 21 percent of the vote, and Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh, a liberal Islamist who garnered 20 percent. Many had expected the Brotherhood to do well by virtue of the group’s vast grassroots network. Abdullah Al-Arian is an assistant professor at Wayne State University.
ABDULLAH AL-ARIAN: On the one hand, the Muslim Brotherhood has demonstrated a strength, a real ability to mobilize its own base. It has an unparalleled organizational structure and hierarchy. It has unparalleled discipline within its ranks, which brought it the 25 percent or so that they demonstrated in this first round.
SHARIFABDELKOUDDOUS: What came as more of a shock was the success of Ahmed Shafik in the election. As Mubarak’s last prime minister, he was forced out of office by popular protests just three weeks after Mubarak stepped down. In his race for the presidency, he has campaigned on a law and order platform, vowing to use brutal force to restore order within a month and says he’ll act as a bulwark against Islamists in government. Heba Morayef is a researcher for Human Rights Watch.
HEBAMORAYEF: He speaks the language of Mubarak’s regime. And what that means is the retention of broad discretionary powers given to the executive and given to security forces, a very strong role for security agency involvement, whether the intelligence services or Ministry of Interior security agencies, to ensure stability and control over protests, which, as far as he is concerned, are the source of instability.
SHARIFABDELKOUDDOUS: A former air force general, Shafik is seen as the candidate of the Supreme Council of Armed Forces that has been ruling the country since Mubarak’s ouster. And experts say his campaign was boosted by Mubarak’s old party networks.
ISSANDR EL AMRANI: There still remains, I think, patronage networks that perhaps we didn’t see it work in the parliamentary elections, where the old NDP, the former ruling party, networks did not perform well. But they seem to have come back with a vengeance in this election.
SHARIFABDELKOUDDOUS: As the preliminary election results began to emerge, allegations of voter fraud and violations quickly surfaced.
ABDULLAH AL-ARIAN: Of course, there are very widespread reports of violations and all kinds of irregularities with the vote. Several of the losing candidates have already called on the elections commission in Egypt to actually not authenticate these results until a thorough investigation has been held. There are numerous reports that hundreds of thousands of government and state employees who were not authorized to vote were given false documents to actually be allowed to vote in favor of Shafik. There are other reports that whole villages were given large sums of money to basically vote in a particular way.
SHARIFABDELKOUDDOUS: While the top three candidates filed appeals alleging violations, they were all summarily rejected by the presidential elections commission two days later. The Carter Center was one of three international organizations accredited to witness the vote. Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter said his group was not able to monitor the entire process because authorities only granted the observers permits one week before the vote, and observers were not allowed to witness the aggregation of ballots.
JIMMYCARTER: This is the 90th election in which we have been involved as observers for almost a quarter of a century. And we have had restraints placed on us as witnesses that have never been present before. There is no way we can certify that the entire process has been proper. But what we’ve observed, I would say, has been encouraging to me.
SHARIFABDELKOUDDOUS: At the press conference, Carter also pointed out a unique aspect of Egypt’s presidential election.
JIMMYCARTER: This entire process has been exciting and gratifying, but it’s a first time that I have ever participated in an election for president of a nation when there were no description of future duties of the president who was being elected.
SHARIFABDELKOUDDOUS: The presidential elections are being held without a constitution in place. The country is being ruled under a constitutional declaration issued by the ruling military generals last year, and it remains unclear what authority the newly elected president will have when the military council hands over power on June 30th.
Further muddying the waters is the fact that Ahmed Shafik almost didn’t make it into the race at all. Last month, the Muslim Brotherhood-dominated parliament passed a law to ban former senior members of the Mubarak regime from running, but the presidential elections commission allowed Shafik to take part.
ISSANDR EL AMRANI: The presidential election commission, that makes all decisions regarding to this race, decided not to apply the law in his case. Now, there could be legal reasons, that the law came after the beginning of the registration period. But it’s still very puzzling when a democratically elected parliament has issued a law and the current executive authority, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, has approved that law, that it should not be implemented, especially when you combine that with the fact that under the current system the decisions of the presidential election commission cannot be appealed.
SHARIFABDELKOUDDOUS: Both Shafik and Morsi are now looking to pick up supporters from the other front-runners who finished behind them in the first round of the vote. Both candidates face an uphill battle.
Mohamed Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood’s candidate, is set to go into a runoff against Ahmed Shafik, the former member of the Mubarak regime. The Muslim Brotherhood is now looking to gain support from some of the revolutionary forces and the liberal forces that they distanced themselves from over the past year and a half.
ABDULLAH AL-ARIAN: They had a turnout of support of roughly 47 percent in the parliamentary elections, but now, since then, we’ve seen that support dip almost by half, to only about 24 percent, in the presidential elections. How they’re going to make up that loss of support, I think, is one of the critical questions facing the Muslim Brotherhood. The reason for that drop in support has been the perception, widespread among all of the revolutionary segments, all of the different movements within the revolution, that the Muslim Brotherhood has really just been looking out for its own interests, that at certain times when it suited the movement and the organization and its political wing, that it has cooperated with the SCAF government at the expense of the revolutionaries. And at other moments, when its own personal interests were being threatened, they then joined with the revolution against the government or against the SCAF.
SHARIFABDELKOUDDOUS: Mohamed El-Sawy is a member of parliament with the Hadara Party. He briefly served as culture minister in Shafik’s cabinet, yet he says he’ll vote for Mohamed Morsi to prevent Shafik from reaching the presidency.
MOHAMED EL-SAWY: I’m really convinced, long ago, has been my life dream to get rid of being a state that is run by military people. I’m not ready to keep on living in a state that is a semi-military state.
SHARIFABDELKOUDDOUS: Voters now face a choice: the Brotherhood candidate or the member of the old regime? It’s become a polarizing question that has deepened divisions in Egypt. Rasha Azab is a prominent activist and protester. She boycotted the first round of the vote and is boycotting the runoff.
RASHAAZAB: [translated] The revolution should have known from day one that our path is far away from elections. We should know that elections or the ballot box won’t make the revolution. The ballot box, in reality, toppled the revolution in Egypt. The elections are a return to Mubarak’s regime completely, hierarchically, up to the post of the president. The president is being returned in the same old way. Everything is in the hands of the military council. Mubarak was the weakest link in the chain. Mubarak, who is now in hospital, is nothing. The regime is still there and still performing. The only difference is we will change from Mubarak to Shafik or Morsi.
SHARIFABDELKOUDDOUS: The presidential election was supposed to mark the final step in Egypt’s turbulent transition. But the outcome of the first round has only sparked outrage and brought protesters once again to the streets of Cairo and elsewhere. Just weeks from the so-called handover of power from the military to a newly elected president, the future of Egypt is as uncertain as ever.
For Democracy Now! I’m Sharif Abdel Kouddous with Hany Massoud in Cairo, Egypt.
AMYGOODMAN: In a moment, Sharif interviews President Jimmy Carter, in a minute.

Jimmy Carter on Monitoring Egyptian Elections, U.S.-Egypt Relations, Future of Camp David Accords

The Carter Center was one of three international organizations accredited to witness Egypt’s historic presidential election last week. Its mission was led by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter. Two days before the official election results were announced, Democracy Now! correspondent Sharif Abdel Kouddous interviewed President Carter in Cairo about the landmark vote. “It’s unprecedented to have presidents elected before the president’s duties are defined, but I think it can be done successfully, and I believe it will," Carter says. He adds that the Carter Center will be in Egypt "for the writing of the constitution and even for the referendum, where the Egyptian people can decide to approve or disapprove the drafted constitution." He also discusses the role of the military in post-Mubarak Egypt and the Camp David Accords. [includes
rush transcript]
Filed under Egypt, Arab Spring, Mubarak
Guest:
Jimmy Carter, former U.S. president and co-founder of the Carter Center.

Related

Links

Rush Transcript

This transcript is available free of charge. However, donations help us provide closed captioning for the deaf and hard of hearing on our TV broadcast. Thank you for your generous contribution.Donate >

Transcript

AMYGOODMAN: The Carter Center was one of three international organizations accredited to witness Egypt’s historic presidential election last week. Its mission was led by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter. Two days before the official election results were announced, Democracy Now! correspondent Sharif Abdel Kouddous interviewed President Carter in Cairo about the landmark vote, the role of the military in post-Mubarak Egypt, the Camp David Accords, and more.
SHARIFABDELKOUDDOUS: President Carter, welcome to Democracy Now!
JIMMYCARTER: Thank you. It’s a pleasure to be with you.
SHARIFABDELKOUDDOUS: What is your assessment on the first round of the presidential elections in Egypt?
JIMMYCARTER: Well, we can’t make a final judgment about the entire process, because the Carter Center’s role here has been limited. We were approved quite late. We could not make comments to the press. We didn’t get a chance to see the preparation of the ballots and the voters list and the conduct of the campaign, the qualification of candidates. So we were excluded from all that. But we did see the voting days, and we did see the counting of ballots in the polling stations. But we were also deprived of a right to witness the final tabulation in Cairo when all of the ballots were brought together. So, with that limitation, I think that the Egyptian people would agree with us that basically it was a good process and that there was no allegation that I have heard that any problems in the voting was designed to hurt one candidate or to help another candidate. So, overall, we’re pleased.
SHARIFABDELKOUDDOUS: Do you think you can have a freely elected government under military rule, especially one that’s viewed by many as an extension of the former regime? Some of the young revolutionaries have boycotted for this reason.
JIMMYCARTER: Well, I met with some of those leaders after the election day was over. And I think they are now preparing to listen to the two candidates, whoever they might be in the final count, and to try to present their demands or their requests to the candidates and then decide whether or not to participate in the runoff election and which candidate to support. And my guess is that no matter who the two final candidates are, when the election commission makes its final decision, that both of those candidates will be eager to have the support of people who did not support them in the past—women’s groups, very liberal groups, Christians, young people and so forth. So, it’ll be a good process, compatible with democratic elections everywhere.
SHARIFABDELKOUDDOUS: Well, you met with the generals. Are you confident—
JIMMYCARTER: Yeah.
SHARIFABDELKOUDDOUS: —that the military will hand over full authority to a civilian president?
JIMMYCARTER: Well, I think they will have some demands. I recommended in the press conference that they might look at America and see what we do and treat the military that way with the election—elected officials—that is, a president and a congress having unquestioned domination over the military, but with the military treated with respect, which we do in my country—I was in the military for 12 years myself—and with the budget and laws that relate to the military and the foreign policy established by others, not by the military. So those kind of things, I think, will be orchestrated, if not immediately, then over a period of a very few months or years.
SHARIFABDELKOUDDOUS: The United States backed the Mubarak regime for years, with $1.3 billion in military aid. Last year, Congress added a restriction on that aid that conditioned it on the State Department certifying that Egypt’s military rulers are making a successful transition to democracy. Earlier this year, the Obama administration issued a national security waiver to bypass that restriction and to continue military aid to Egypt. This came in the wake of the NGO crisis in which U.S. NGOs were raided. This came in the wake of continued crackdowns on protests that left protesters killed and many more wounded, with thousands of civilians put on military trials. What are your thoughts of this continued U.S. policy of funding, providing military funding to the Egyptian government despite these kinds of abuses?
JIMMYCARTER: Well, I believe that the human rights violations that have occurred in the past will be alleviated in the future. I don’t think there will be abuses like there have been under a military dictatorship. So I would guess that the United States would look with favor on the new government in Egypt as honoring human rights more than in the past. So I would like to see the United States and Europe and Arab countries and the World Bank and the IMF be generous with the grants and loans to Egypt. Egypt has suffered a lot during this revolutionary period, with a loss of tourism and those kinds of things. And I think it would be in the best interest of America and the rest of the nations in the world to see Egypt have a strong economic system.
SHARIFABDELKOUDDOUS: The Muslim Brotherhood candidate, Mohamed Morsi, who’s widely expected to be in the runoff, has said that he would reexamine the Camp David Accords that you brokered in 1978, and saying that Israel has not fully respected the agreement. What are your thoughts?
JIMMYCARTER: Well, I’ve talked to him at length about this. And you have to remember, there are two parts of the Camp David Accords. One was a peace treaty between Israel and Egypt, and that cannot be changed without approval or agreement with Israel. And I don’t think that will happen. I don’t think that that would be violated. The second part, though, was the rights of the Palestinians. And the rights of the Palestinians have not been honored, as agreed by Israel, by Anwar Sadat in Egypt, and by me in the United States. And in the past, I think President Mubarak has been willing to accept this attitude by the Israelis and the Americans—that is, not to give the Palestinians full honor of their rights. And I would guess that in the next Egyptian government, both the president and the parliament, that they will be much more attuned to Palestinian rights. So, the peace treaty will be kept intact. There will be more attention by Egypt now on Palestinian rights.
SHARIFABDELKOUDDOUS: You met with Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal yesterday here in Egypt. You discussed Fatah-Hamas reconciliation, and it was reported that he brought up the U.S. continuing to block reconciliation talks. What are your thoughts on U.S. policy towards Fatah-Hamas reconciliation?
JIMMYCARTER: Well, I think the United States in the last few years has basically deferred to Egypt to negotiate between Hamas and Fatah. And I presume that this is a situation that will continue. The Carter Center is not bound by restraints. We meet with whom we choose, and we choose to meet with Fatah and with Hamas, and with Israel and with Jordan and with Lebanon and with Syria and with Egypt—everybody that’s involved in the future peace for Israel and its neighbors. So, in my opinion, it’s good to see Hamas and Fatah come together. They plan to form a technocratic government. They will not comprise representatives of Fatah or Hamas. And I think that government will prepare the Palestinian community for future elections.
SHARIFABDELKOUDDOUS: Gaza has been under siege for many years now by Israel, but also by Egypt. Last year, the foreign minister of Egypt, after Mubarak’s toppling, said he would open the Rafah crossing. It was reopened somewhat, but not fully. What are your thoughts on Egypt’s policy towards Gaza?
JIMMYCARTER: In the past, it’s been too restrictive. And my hope is it will be opened up in the future so that there’s easy access to and from Gaza from Egypt.
SHARIFABDELKOUDDOUS: Finally, President Carter, do you have hope that things can actually change in Egypt? This has been a very badly mismanaged transition. Many say we’ve put the carriage before the horse. There’s been a lot of abuses over this transitional period. Do you have hope that things will actually improve for the better?
JIMMYCARTER: Yes, I do. The one thing that was a departure from previous plans by the Egyptians was the writing of a constitution before the presidential election. That proved to be impossible, because the first constitutional assembly was not constituted fairly. It was not representative of the Egyptian public. And the parliament and others decided we need to make a new list of the hundred people that will write a new constitution. So it will be done after the presidential election. I don’t see this as a fatal mistake. It’s unprecedented to have a presidents elected—presidents elected before the president’s duties are defined, but I think it can be done successfully, and I believe it will. The Carter Center, by the way, we intend to be here for the writing of the constitution and even for the referendum, where the Egyptian people can decide to approve or disapprove the drafted constitution.
SHARIFABDELKOUDDOUS: President Carter, thank you very much.
JIMMYCARTER: I enjoyed talking to you. Thank you.
AMYGOODMAN: Former President Jimmy Carter in Cairo with the Carter Center. He was observing Egypt’s first-ever competitive presidential election. He was speaking with Democracy Now!’s Sharif Abdel Kouddous.
This is Democracy Now! When we come back, Predator Nation: Corporate Criminals, Political Corruption, and the Hijacking of America. Stay with us. [note: you can go to the website if you are interested
in this last item.  Indeed, you can also get video and audio versions of
all the programs, free, from their site.]

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