(The charred remains of the HQ of the former ruling National Democratic Party. The pic is taken from a felucca on the Nile)
The campaign in the first free Presidential election following the January 2011 revolution is beginning to heat up a little here.
The big news this week is that the Muslim Brotherhood has come out and said it wants “an Islamic President”- no shock there of course- but there are rumours that the military leadership here (The Supreme Council for the Armed Forces (SCAF) ) may back such a candidate.
This is interesting for two initial reasons.
Firstly it is worth remembering the oppositional role the brotherhood held under the Mubarak regime- and how quickly they have moved to the position of the “mainstream” party of politics since the revolution.
Secondly such talk of a consensus candidate between the brotherhood and SCAF- will feed into the sense among the revolutionary youth and the radicals who still populate Tahrir Square, that the brotherhood has allegedly “sold out the revolution”. Such feelings of revolutionary betrayal are summed up in such political videos as this one;
But this is all complicated and I hope to tease out some of the nuances between presidential and revolutionary politics here in forthcoming articles in the Sunday Business Post and elsewhere.
However on the other side of the world- things seem a little less complicated.
I have been talking to a number of language students from the US here in recent weeks. I think it’s fair to say, they all voted Obama in ’08. And the giddy excitement among them is palpable as they watch the Republicans tear themselves asunder during their bitter primary battle.
Egypt and the “Arab Spring” do not seem to be a big topic in the Republican debates. Of course there are the constant, ritualistic statements of support for Israel from all the major candidates (actually the incessant declarations of love for Israel would almost seem over the top in an internal Likud primary election).
However one contender Rick Santorum- has made some interesting statements on Egypt.
Basically if things had gone the way this guy wanted- there would be no upcoming presidential elections here in Egypt, there would have been no revolution and Mubarak would still be the man in the top seat.
In a speech to the Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) last year, Santorum essentially bemoaned the ‘Arab Spring’.
He said that Mubarak was “our ally, our friend, who hasn’t attacked us…who is not a radical theocrat who wants to control the world.” The U.S. “threw a friend of the United States and Israel under the bus” in supporting the “radicals” in Tahrir.
Now this is interesting for a number of reason- not least it proves that Santorum knows very little about the streets of Cairo- where traffic jams are so severe here that even if Mubarak was thrown under a Cairene bus, it would hardly be going quickly enough to cause him much damage.
Also the idea that US foreign policy during the January revolution was always on the side of the revolutionaries in Tahrir- is questionable indeed.
However my American liberal classmates- think this guy has little chance...although a US political journalist I heard on a New Yorker podcast last week said he thinks Santorum will win the Republican nomination process.
We will see.
(Santorum's comments about Egypt begin at 8.20m)