x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

A new dictatorship for Egypt?

Five factors are contributing to a new form of one-man rule in Egypt, contrary to the goals of the revolution, a pundit argues. Other topics: Palestinian prices and Lebanese independence.

The five factors that are creating a new type of dictatorship in Egypt after the revolution

Egyptian media reports of President Mohammed Morsi's activities have been replete with hypocrisy, a sign that the process of "manufacturing a dictator" is in full swing, Egyptian novelist Alaa Aswani wrote in an opinion piece in the Cairo-based Al Masry Al Youm.

The writer listed five main factors of the coming dictatorship.

First, the machine of dictatorship. Mr Morsi has inherited the entire system of the former president, Hosni Mubarak. This includes devices to torture, arrest and murder as well as a corrupt media built on allegiance to the regime and government bodies to sing the president's praises.

After Mr Morsi took office news editors, regional governors and a minister of information, all indebted to the Muslim Brotherhood, were appointed. Now a new emergency law is being prepared to serve the new president. Reliable sources assert that senior officials at the state security service are ingratiating themselves with the Brotherhood leadership and apologising for their crimes under the Mubarak regime.

Second, human weakness. No matter how modest a man might be, power can lead him to accept even hypocritical applause, and deem every compliment true. Mr Morsi's ordinary visit to China was portrayed in the media as a world-changing feat. And an unknown association granted him an international peace award.

Third, the secret group. "President Morsi belongs to the Muslim Brotherhood, a secret organisation shrouded in mystery," Aswani wrote. "We do not know the borderlines between the presidency and the Brotherhood's Guidance Bureau, nor those between the president and the Brotherhood leader."

How many members are there in the Brotherhood? Do they have a military wing? Do they receive foreign funds? All these questions remain unanswered, the writer noted.

Fourth, religious legacy. "President Morsi is an Islamist, and so he evokes Islamic heritage in his speeches and views. This is understandable. But the problem is that the citizen-ruler relationship in the Islamic heritage involves two contradictory concepts."

One concept is tantamount to democracy, and best exemplified in Caliphs Abu Bakr and Omar, who set an example of the ruler as an ordinary man at the service of citizens. But the other concept teaches people to obey even an unjust corrupt ruler.

Fifth, Stockholm syndrome. Egyptians who got along well under Mubarak still sympathise with him, but the eye-opener is that some who suffered still show sympathy. Recently however, some of them have turned towards Mr Morsi and justify all his actions, no matter what they are.

"The mission of the revolution now, in my eye," the writer concluded, "is to prevent the creation of new a tyrant, so that we can build the democracy for which our martyrs died."

Signs of independence from Syria in Lebanon

Lebanon's official independence from France came in 1943; its popular independence, from Syria, in 2005. But the country has never experienced independence in the full sense of the word, due to decades of erroneous political practices that painted subordination to Syria as an act of patriotism, columnist Walid Abi Morshed said in the London-based daily Asharq Al Awsat.

But the situation may be changing, he went on. Recent decisions and official positions in Lebanon indicate a growing confidence in the country's ability to take sovereign decisions independently from external powers. In fact, President Michel Suleiman called for the amendment of agreements with Syria in a way that eliminates ambiguity and guarantees the interests and the sovereignty of both countries.

Najib Miqati, the prime minister, echoed this call and warned against any Syrian military incursions into Lebanon. "Lebanese officials have had it with Syrian assaults on border towns. They realise that Syria's patronising policy towards Lebanon has undermined the state's prestige in many regions," said the writer.

In light of regional developments, a rare and valuable window of opportunity is open for Lebanon to attempt to regain its independence. The Syrian regime is too preoccupied with internal problems to take on an independence movement coming from the neighbouring state.

Palestinian Authority to blame for its plight

Faced with angry popular protests that started in Ramallah and spread to most cities in the West Bank, the Palestinian government was compelled to revoke its decision to increase the prices of fuel, and announced a series of measures aimed at assuaging the rage, the pan-Arab daily Al Quds Al Arabi noted in its editorial on Thursday.

The Palestinian Authority blamed the protests on Israel's continuous pressure to stifle the Palestinian territories' economy.

However, the peoples' revolt against price rises suggests that they had been satisfied with their conditions until the contested decision, and that it is possible to return them to the same state of satisfaction and "hibernation" once the decision is revoked.

Aside from the Palestinian government, most governments around the world, rich and poor, usually adopt austerity measures when faced with financial constraints. But not the Palestinian officials, who go about enjoying their luxurious living standards unabashed, as if their government sat on endless riches.

"Palestinians have only themselves and their authority to blame for their miserable current situation. It is up to them to begin changing the shameful reality that brought the world's criticism upon them and turned them into whimpering beggars."

* Digest compiled by The Translation Desk