x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Limited joy in Egypt

People are pleased that the army has been constrained, but many worry about the Muslim Brotherhood's plans, an Egyptian writer says. Other subjects: French diplomacy and Palestinian electricity.

Most Egyptians are happy with Morsi's recent decisions, but still have reasons to be worried

The latest moves by Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi have brought joy to most pro-revolution people, but unfortunately the joy was incomplete, Egyptian novelist Alaa Aswany opined in the Cairo-based newspaper Al Masry Al Youm.

Egyptians in favour of the revolution are delighted that Mr Morsi has dismissed Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi and General Sami Annan, and nullified the constitutional declaration. By doing so, Mr Morsi becomes a real president with all the powers necessary to establish Egypt's second republic.

Joy greeted the news that for the first time in 60 years, Egypt finally has an elected civilian president who was able to end military rule.

But their happiness is marred by the fact that the long-awaited end of military rule has given rise to a Brotherhood-controlled Egypt. Their apprehensions are well-founded and can be summed up this way:

Mr Morsi belongs to the Muslim Brotherhood, a movement steeped in mystery in its behaviour, organisation and funding. It is not authorised and its budget is not subject to control.

The president must convince the Brotherhood leadership to "open the black box of the organisation" to dispel the concerns of millions of Egyptians.

With the nullification of the constitutional declaration, Mr Morsi has granted himself the right to form a new constituent assembly should any developments prevent the current one from carrying out its duties. This power is undemocratic and unaccepted, the writer noted.

The ministry of information is known to be a bad creation of authoritarian regimes which seek to control public opinion and justify the actions, even crimes, of dictators.

The revolution demanded that this ministry be abolished and a media supreme council be established to foster media standards and ethics, only to be surprised by the president appointing a leading Brotherhood figure as minister of information.

In democracies, media outlets criticise the head of state, and are not held strictly accountable for such criticism, however harsh or wrong it may be, he said. The libel and defamation laws are strictly enforceable when it comes to ordinary people but should be tolerant when it comes to presidents and ministers.

But in Egypt, editions of the daily tabloid Al Dostor were seized and its editor was referred to the court, charged with insulting the president and with other familiar loose claims such as incitement to sectarian sedition.

These worrying facts invite the same questions again: Are we faced with a president who is determined to deconstruct dictatorship so that power rightfully returns to the people? Or is the president just using the tools of dictatorship to his advantage by removing military rule and implanting the Brotherhood?

France belatedly looks for a solution in Syria

The current visit by the French foreign minister, Laurent Fabius, covering Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey, is President François Hollande's way of telling his increasingly vocal opposition that Paris is sparing no effort to find a solution to the Syrian crisis, columnist Randa Taqiy Al Din wrote in the London-based newspaper Al Hayat.

Arab states as well as members of the UN Security Council have been scrambling for an answer to the 17-month-old Syrian crisis, but to no avail, she wrote in her column yesterday.

President Hollande, who leads a socialist government, has been criticised by the right and accused of lethargy regarding Syria.

Pressured domestically, and armed with a skilful ambassador to the UN in Gerard Araud, France might be eager to exploit its chairmanship of the Security Council this month and try to lead the charge against the regime of President Bashar Al Assad of Syria, the columnist noted.

"Mr Araud has [recently] delivered a speech about the Syrian crisis … that was proportionately as critical as the speech of former foreign minister Dominique de Villepin when France, under President Jacques Chirac, declared its refusal to take part in the war on Iraq."

That said, the writer added, only the coming days will tell if anything concrete will come out of the French foreign minister's visit to the region.


West Bank electricity firm nears bankruptcy

Al Quds Electricity Company (QEC), one of the few remaining Palestinian landmarks, is nearing bankruptcy, and if "no goodly Arab hand intervenes" its failure will severely affect many Palestinian lives in Jerusalem and the West Bank at large, the Palestinian newspaper Al Quds cautioned editorially yesterday.

The company is between a rock and a hard place. On one side, Israel is threatening to cut its power supplies over late payments. On the other, a number of Palestinian individuals and some small communities in the West Bank are stealing power from it.

"As if QEC gets it for free," the paper noted. "It just goes to show that some are completely lacking any sense of conscience … and couldn't care less about what may become of one of the most vital Palestinian institutions."

QEC has been forced to procure its power supplies from Israel, "because Israeli authorities have barred power generators from arriving at the company's stations, or have stalled the installation and operation of generators," the paper said.

The size of the company's debt is such that it might be impossible to settle without the joint intervention of the Palestinian Authority, UN agencies and generous Arab nations, the newspaper concluded.


* Digest compiled by The Translation Desk