February 6, 2011

Egypt: Who's Getting to Talk; Etc.

Suddenly it's all about the Muslim Brotherhood – today, even AlJazeera was pre-occupied with news re- discussions between the Muslim Brotherhood and Mubarak's recently-appointed V.P., Omar Suleiman.

Mubarak wants it to be about the Muslim Brotherhood, and the US wants it to be about the Muslim Brotherhood; because they can each use the Muslim Brotherhood to scare their respective citizens into thinking the uprising is Islamic. And the Muslim Brotherhood isn't going to walk away from a place at the table when offered.

But the Muslim Brotherhood had little to do with this uprising. They didn't start it, and there have never been any Muslim Brotherhood leaders in Tahrir. The protesters as a whole don't consider that the Muslim Brotherhood represents them or has anything to do with what they want. The Muslim Brotherhood doesn't represent anyone except its own members, who constitute a minority both within and outside the square.

The protesters have elected their own representatives. And they and Nobel laureate Mohamed Elbaradei, who joined the protesters in the square early on, have refused to enter talks with Egyptian authorities unless Mubarak's immediate departure is agreed to (see here).

Meanwhile, the military has been trying to crowd the protesters into a smaller area surrounded by barbed wire. Today, entry to Tahrir was limited to one, single-file checkppoint, and the line of protesters seeking to join those already in the square extended half-way across Kasr El Nile Bridge. No cameras were being allowed in, and journalists continued to be obstructed, harassed, and detained.

And from Press TV, "[t]he US is sending warships, including one with 800 troops, and other military assets to Egypt as the revolution in the North African country gains momentum. Officials in Washington have stated that the move is to be prepared in case of an evacuation of Americans from Egypt." More likely, the US wants everyone to know it's positioned to intervene if necessary.

And The Guardian has a good article on the economic context:

Under sweeping privatisation policies, [Mubarak and his "clique"] appropriated profitable public enterprises and vast areas of state-owned lands. A small group of businessmen seized public assets and acquired monopoly positions in strategic commodity markets such as iron and steel, cement and wood. While crony capitalism flourished, local industries that were once the backbone of the economy were left to decline. At the same time, private sector industries making environmentally hazardous products like ceramics, marble and fertilisers have expanded without effective regulation at a great cost to the health of the population.

A tiny economic elite controlling consumption-geared production and imports has accumulated great wealth. This elite includes representatives of foreign companies with exclusive import rights in electronics, electric cables and automobiles. It also includes real estate developers who created a construction boom in gated communities and resorts for the super-rich. Much of this development is on public land acquired at very low prices, with no proper tendering or bidding.

It is estimated that around a thousand families maintain control of vast areas of the economy. This business class sought to consolidate itself and protect its wealth through political office. The National Democratic party was their primary vehicle for doing so. This alliance of money and politics became flagrant in recent years when a number of businessmen became government ministers with portfolios that clearly overlapped with their private interests.
More at the link. The high-rank military are part of this elite – in fact, the military owns much of the non-military economy.

And here's audio re- the roles played to-date by Facebook and Twitter, among other things.

No comments:

Post a Comment