Saturday, August 28, 2004

Liberalism in Egypt

Hit & Run is carrying an entry by Charles Paul Freund about a liberal party called Hizb al-Ghad ("Party of Tomorrow") that's just been formed in Egypt. Among the ideas the party stands for are

"a free-market economy, respect for the rule of law, good governance, women's empowerment, freedom of expression and an open relationship with the West."
I'd hope Westerners of any mainstream political persuasion would be willing to get behind a party like this one. What's more interesting still is that one of the founders is actually a woman, which I think an extremely positive thing given the exclusion of women from public life in much of the Arab world.

Unfortunately for those of us who would like a culture of peaceful political competition to emerge in that part of the world, however, there are still some mighty obstacles in the way of this party actually getting to participate in the electoral process:
Unfortunately, Egypt's political parties must be licensed by the state. That country has been under "emergency" rule for nearly 25 years, and is not interested in licensing a liberal party.
I'm sure there are any number of Republicans and Democrats who'd love to institute a similar regime in the United States, the better to exclude "illegitimate" voices like those of Ralph Nader and Michael Badnarik.

Anyway, US politics aside, the stranglehold that Mubarak has been able to place on Egyptian politics for more than two decades gives the lie to any claims made that he's some sort of American "puppet"; surely nothing would please the US government more than that liberal, pro-Western parties like Hizb al-Ghad should emerge and flourish on the Egyptian scene at the expense of the Muslim Brotherhood and the old-time Nasserists. The truth is that people like Mubarak and the al-Sauds are playing a double game, using the fear of Islamic extremism to squelch American complaints about their heavy-handed rule even as they use America and Israel as scapegoats for everything that goes wrong under their watch.