I’m not sure what either Ethan Zuckerman or Evgeny Morozov would make of this, but this is quite the revolutionary web crowdsourcing project. Piggipedia is an effort by Egyptian Flickr users to pool their photos from the revolution and identify the plain-clothes cops and private thugs responsible for the worst of the violence, with a view to prosecuting them or failing that, just ostracising the hell out of them. I presume this is also going to be a rare deployment outside China of the human flesh search engine. If sex infects new media like a virus, yadda yadda William Gibson feh, just wait ’til you see how revenge does.
Question: if Iraq hadn't been invaded back then, would we be seeing the same kind of thing in Baghdad as we saw in Cairo yesterday? I don't think you can definitively say yes. If revolutions were predictable, they wouldn't happen at all. But it seems equally impossible to say that it couldn't have happened in the light of events over the last two months. Of course, between 2003 and whenever it did happen the Iraqis would have had to put up with Saddam. But given what they've had to put up with since then that would not necessarily have been the worst option.
Pechter Middle East Polls has a new Egyptian opinion poll out, commissioned by AIPAC’s think tank, WINEP.
It’s from Cairo and Alexandria rather than the whole of Egypt.
52% dispapprove, 15% approve of the Muslim Brotherhood.
27% for, 37% against annulling peace treaty with Israel.
35% support Mubarak, Suleiman or the PM Shafiq, as president, 26% Amr Moussa, 3% El Baradei, 1% Nour, 1% Babi, the leader of the Muslim Brotherhood.
But 57% approve, 17 disapprove of the The Egyptian national association for change, the opposition parties who are part of the protests.
The Brotherhood has mostly rural support, and I bet other cities are less secular.
I guess WINEP supports the revolution? They don’t even acknowledge the poll’s not representative.
You can’t draw too many conclusions from this poll, but I wonder if the opposition’s proposed a yearlong transition before new elections partly because they wanted a chance to establish themselves and organize. I also have a gut feeling that if they do have regime change, they’ll end up with Amr Moussa as president at some point, he just seems like a better politician than anyone in the opposition. He was smart enough to cautiously side with the protesters quite early.
Maybe this will make democracy more palatable to the military and the US. I wouldn’t expect Egypt under someone like Moussa to become a model democracy. At best a Iraq/Turkey style pluralisism mixed with authoritarianism, at worst a democratura. Liberal dissidents like Nour rarely become heads of government for some reason.
One could be forgiven for wondering how cheering it is for Mubarak to be replaced by a military council, but the key thing that happened yesterday isn’t that Mubarak left – he was already gone, he just didn’t know it.
Suleiman prabably became the regime’s most influential figure when he was made vice-president, and when Mubarak delegated most of his authority to him, he looked like the undisputed leader of the government. (At the very least, before yesterday, he was formally in charge, and even in the dictatorships, institutional setups, and constitutional rules often matters, even in a partly lawless enviroment. ) The US, for reasons they know best, had pushed for and encouraged Suleiman taking over. The protesters of course weren’t happy with that, and when the regime relented and kicked Mubarak out, they had once again yielded, and strengthened the protesters. But it also constituted a change of power. While this isn’t quite regime change, the leadership have gone from Suleiman and his government to a military council led by Mohammed Hussein Tantawi, the commander-in-chief of the armed forces.
I’m not clear on Suleiman’s role in this new setup, but presumably he’s been entirely sidelined, esp. considering his hardline quotes so close to the resignation. That could only be a good thing.
By his statements on the 9th and 8th, saying Egypt wasn’t ready for democracy and saying a opposition takeover would be a coup, and would not be tolerated, he confirmed would should have been obvious, that he is a hardliner and not at all keen on yielding power. Suleiman, like Mubarak, and most figures in the regime, sincerely believe that their kleptocratic dictatorship is in the best interest of Egypt. If the revolution fails, Suleiman could, and maybe still can, become the leader of his country. If there is genuine regime change, even in the event of a managed transition he stands a greater chance than most regime figures of eventually being forced into exile or being prosecuted, having been directly involved in repression and persecution. The military council is probably not enthusiastic about democracy, but have less to gain and less to fear, and may not be as intransigent.
Tantawi, who leads the council, sounds even more intransigent in his attitudes, but he doesn’t look like longterm dictatorship material or as someone who’d dominate the council or be as nimble as Suleiman.
On the other hand, a lack of nimbleness and politcal skills coupled with the fact that the military can’t now both distance themselves and support the regime could make an escalation more likely.
It’s officially wheels up for Hosni Mubarak. Rather, that particular landmark was reached an hour ago:
I can also see mubarak residence airport. 5 helicopters used to be there, only 1 left on the ground & it’s running
Anyway, the promised statement, as fashionably late as usual, arrived and it confirmed his resignation. This after an incredible afternoon during which Nile TV’s newsreader argued on air at length with the crowds outside the TV headquarters, before apparently apologising for their past coverage after an Army spokesman read out the resignation letter. From Sultan al-Qassemi of The National‘s twitter feed:
Fascinating: Egypt State TV is speaking live with anti-Mubarak protesters surrounding the State TV building http://yfrog.com/gyahfhpj
The news anchor is pleading with the angry protesters “You know there was a period of chaos, we all want there to be more freedom of speech”
Protesters surrounding State TV building: We demand an apology for your coverage of Bloody Wednesday! On air Anchor : Calm them down please
[Sultan Al Qassemi]:The State TV anchors are terrified. There are tens of thousands of protesters surrounding the building who are unhappy with the coverage.
Egypt State TV anchor is speaking to a go between “Please assure the protesters. Please”
And then, from Port_Saeedy:
The next message recorded the arrival of the Army spokesman. The on-air apology happened in Tunisia, but I’m at a loss for a historical example of a TV station actually arguing with the general public in real time and losing without any actual violence being used.
There appears to be a critical moment approaching in Alexandria, where the revolutionaries have been camping around the Northern Military District HQ since Mubarak’s speech last night. A huge crowd has formed at the president’s residence in the city and at the naval base, where naval personnel have been reported to be passing out food and drink to the protestors. (This has also now been reported in Cairo.) However, the palace gates and the approach along the beach are guarded by a group of tanks. There have been some parleys between the crowd and senior naval officers using a loudspeaker truck. The tank guns are trained towards the crowd, but elevated as if to engage a distant target, rather than depressed to fire at point blank. (Now that’s what I call a mixed message.) In the last few minutes a file of what appear to be either sailors, marines, or perhaps police marched out of the gates.
Across Egypt, the mobilisation has been bigger than ever today. Large crowds have moved onto the TV centre, where they have blockaded all access. However, a skeleton staff was apparently left on site last night, and they continue broadcasting. Elsewhere in Egypt, some local affiliate TV stations have been forced off the air. In another move in the TV wars, a new TV channel has appeared calling itself Tahrir – the Revolutionary Youth Channel, operating ironically over a transponder on Nilesat channel 10949.
Another huge demonstration has set up camp outside the presidential palace in Heliopolis. Senior army officers were reported to be parleying with groups of demonstrators there. And, apparently, the protestors are very chic. Al-Jazeera just reported the arrival of a large group of bikers, so this may depend on your tastes. Meanwhile, it’s been repeatedly rumoured that Mubarak is already off, at least as far as Sharm el-Sheikh.
In an index of how the revolution is progressing, an imam in Tahrir Square this morning preached that the “state of Ahmed Ezz” would be lifted as well as the state of emergency. Ahmed Ezz is the man who held a monopoly of steel distribution in Mubarak’s regime and became a fabulously rich symbol of, as they say, power, corruption, and lies. He was a minister until very recently when the government suddenly discovered his corruption, and was threatened with criminal charges during last night’s surreal telethon.
At the same time, part of the demonstration outside the TV centre now consists of strikers from an arms factory in Helwan, according to Hossam el-Haramawy.
However, this is surely one of the only times in history that a revolutionary mob has welcomed the presence of paratroopers.
An “important statement” is expected from “the presidency” at any moment, but after past experiences, you wouldn’t hold your breath. It may be significant that the message is going to come from the presidency rather than the president, or it may not.
Update: Al-Jazeera is reporting that the presidential plane has been sighted in Sharm el-Sheikh, and that state TV has announced that he has left Cairo, bizarrely quoting “foreign news agencies” (which of course they are not meant to be allowed to use, according to last night’s statement!).
Asef Bayat at OpenDemocracy argues that we’re looking at the post-Islamist era, by analogy to Fareed Zakaria’s post-American world, and suggests that the politics of Islam are changing. The jihadis wanted to fight the Far Enemy in order to undermine the Near Enemy. Now it seems that the Near Enemy can be dealt with, and without the jihadis at that. And the Big Two religious political movements – politicial Shi’ism, and Wahhabism – are suddenly much less relevant.
Interview with a crack Egyptian blogger.
Want to know why the Saudis offered to make up the US military aid if Mubarak stuck around? Wonder no more. Here’s an Egyptian blogger’s response to the idea. Note that Egypt has a long standing foreign policy aim of competing with Saudi Arabia as the leading Arab power. About as much help for Mubarak as an endorsement from Binyamin Netanyahu – but then he got one of those, too.
Learn about the Brothers.
Feminism in action in Tahrir Square; an absolute must-read.
The White House seeks advice from…not obviously the right people.
This piece is an absolute must read. Interesting questions for discussion: The importance of small businesses, or people who are partly small businessmen, partly workers. It’s probably more interesting to think in terms of the boundary between the formal and informal sectors of the economy. I wonder what a revolutionary leftist movement based on the people Paul Amar described will look like? What kind of economic ideas will it use?
Also, the importance of cybercafes as a stereotypical small business, as well as, well, cafes – places of gathering, free speech, and perhaps a little commerce. Or was it the other way around?
And for me that’s about it – I know they’re there, and increasingly it’s clear that they’re the backbone of the movement. The Brothers are half-in, the right-liberals lionised by the neocons are there but they’re no mass movement. Who else should I be reading?
Since my last post, we’ve had the two biggest mobilisations of the Egyptian revolution so far. So much for petering out, even though people blogging from Tahrir Square on Tuesday were complaining about the n00bs getting in the way. For clarity, what I was expecting was that the mass mobilisation would continue, but that the back channel talks would become the revolutionary main effort, with the crowds in support, validating the delegates’ authority, backing up their claims, providing an ultimate deterrent power in the background.
Everyone’s now beginning to notice the role of trade unionists and labour activism in general. In fact, the April 6th movement itself memorialises the deaths of a group of strikers. It’s part of the revolution’s DNA. Today’s callout was part of a massive strike wave – my favourite was the column of diving instructors from the Red Sea coast who arrived in Tahrir Square with a banner reading “Mubarak! Get out before the oxygen runs out!” This movement is not running out of anything – not numbers, not commitment, not ideas, not humour. If it didn’t set out as an Internet revolution, people certainly thought it would arrive at its first objective that way.
Which brings us to tonight’s bizarre speech. It was a strange kind of event – revolutionaries gathering to await the broadcast of what was expected to be a pre-recorded statement, while live TV watched them, and bloggers commented on it. I went as far as checking flights into Dubai from Cairo – the timings for one Singapore Airlines movement seemed possible, and their service standards suitable. Surely, sayid rais couldn’t be waiting at the microphone for the weather forecast to be over and the programme controller to give him the green light? Eventually, after his now traditional delay, he spoke and said (after a great deal of guff) that he was handing over extensive powers to the vice president but not formally resigning.
This has been seen as an outrageous and ridiculous statement, but it wasn’t that far off what had been discussed over the last week or so – because a vice president who becomes president after a resignation doesn’t take over full powers, but the president can define the powers of the VP or any minister (the Kompetenzkompetenz, in German), Mubarak could empower his deputy to prepare for a real election, and then quit. Of course, if he delegated his full powers, it would be a philosophical question of some interest in what way he was still president.
It seems quite clear that no-one thinks this is enough. Further, both the Army and the NDP have as good as promised to deliver the president’s head tonight. For his part, Omar Suleiman demanded that everyone stop watching Al-Jazeera (and also Al-Arabiya, the BBC, Abu Dhabi TV, etc), the day after the Egyptian air force signallers stopped trying to jam Al-Jazeera’s satellite transponder (on the Egyptian-owned Nilesat bird – not the first time that an Arab government has tried to wreck a satellite it owns to silence them).
The general theme, of both the Egyptian political elite and the Western ones being at least a day and often more behind events, remains very true. The so-called Article 139 solution – delegation, then resignation – has been discussed for at least a week. Tellingly, it was also the Muslim Brotherhood’s favoured option. We’ve not heard anything from them tonight.
(PS, this is the first post on Fistful of Euros covering Egypt that is categorised “Transition and accession”. It’s a while since we needed that one.)
A little more about that missile relationship I mentioned earlier. The one between Egypt and North Korea:
At the same time, Egypt has counted on North Korea for military aid in the 1970s and began purchasing Scud missiles from North Korea around the time that Mubarak became president. North Korea also provided the technology for Egypt to manufacture missiles on it own.
â€œCairo is the hub of North Koreaâ€™s missile export,â€ says Choi Jin-wook, who follows North Korean affairs as senior fellow at the Korea Institute for National Unification. Mr. Choi says North Koreaâ€™s embassy in Cairo is headquarters for the Northâ€™s Middle East military sales network and ranks as the Northâ€™s â€œmost important embassyâ€ after its embassy in Beijing.
Choi believes the deal with Orascom calls for North Korea to pay for the telecom network in hard currency earned from the sale of missiles and technology to clients including Iran, Syria, Yemen, and Libya.
Orascom is the Egyptian telecoms firm behind the Northâ€™s Koryolink mobile network. Itâ€™s kind of interesting that Pyongyang would work on something so sensitive with a country which has extensive intelligence co-operation with the US. It apparently has Vice President Suleimanâ€™s nephew on retainer.
But whatâ€™s even more interesting about all this is that it was allowed to go on in the face of what was supposed to be a rigorous sanctions regime against Pyongyang and its weapons sales, also the source of collateral charges of evil against Iran, Syria, Myanmar etc.