Manifesto for Egypt

Article excerpt

Byline: Mohamed ElBaradei

The manifesto by Mohamed ElBaradei first appeared on Newsweek.com and The Daily Beast, published on the eve of the opposition leader's return to Egypt. The text was widely distributed and, on his return, ElBaradei was placed under house arrest. As NEWSWEEK went to print, he was still being detained.

When Egypt had parliamentary elections only two months ago, they were completely rigged. The party of President Hosni Mubarak left the opposition with only 3 percent of the seats. Imagine that. And the American government said that it was "dismayed." Well, frankly, I was dismayed that all it could say is that it was dismayed. The word was hardly adequate to express the way the Egyptian people felt.

Then, as protests built in the streets of Egypt following the overthrow of Tunisia's dictator, I heard Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's assessment that the government in Egypt is "stable" and "looking for ways to respond to the legitimate needs and interests of the Egyptian people." I was flabbergasted--and I was puzzled. What did she mean by stable, and at what price? Is it the stability of 29 years of "emergency" laws, a president with imperial power for 30 years, a parliament that is almost a mockery, a judiciary that is not independent? Is that what you call stability? I am sure it is not. And I am positive that it is not the standard you apply to other countries. What we see in Egypt is pseudo-stability, because real stability only comes with a democratically elected government.

If you would like to know why the United States does not have credibility in the Middle East, that is precisely the answer. People were absolutely disappointed in the way you reacted to Egypt's last election. You reaffirmed their belief that you are applying a double standard for your friends, and siding with an authoritarian regime just because you think it represents your interests. We are staring at social disintegration, economic stagnation, political repression, and we do not hear anything from you, the Americans, or, for that matter, from the Europeans.

So when you say the Egyptian government is looking for ways to respond to the needs of the Egyptian people, I feel like saying, "Well, it's too late!" This isn't even good realpolitik. We have seen what happened in Tunisia, and before that in Iran. That should teach people there is no stability except when you have government freely chosen by its own people.

Of course, you in the West have been sold the idea that the only options in the Arab world are between authoritarian regimes and Islamic jihadists. That's obviously bogus. If we are talking about Egypt, there is a whole rainbow variety of people who are secular, liberal, market-oriented, and if you give them a chance they will organize themselves to elect a government that is modern and moderate. …