US pro-democracy conference warns of political ‘explosion’ in Egypt

New York–Participants at a conference titled “The Future of Democracy in Egypt” currently being held in New York agreed on the second day of meetings that Egypt is “boiling” as a result of its political conditions, and warned of a possible “explosion” due to the lack of democracy and freedoms and the government’s insistence on renewing the state of emergency.
Yehia elGamal, a legal expert participating in the conference, organized by the Alliance of Egyptian-Americans, described the government’s decision to extend the state of emergency as comical, saying that ordinary laws already impose the harshest possible punishment on drug dealers, which is death by hanging. Besides, el-Gamal added, the term “terrorist” is subject to several interpretations.
The main purpose of a constitution is to safeguard freedoms, however, the Egyptian Constitution does the exact opposite, ُelGamal added. He pointed out that the Constitutional Court played a positive role in the 1970s and 1980s as it managed to protect rights, but its role began to shrink from 2000.
El-Gamal said that he had presented a bill to the People’s Assembly proposing that all Abrahamic religions should be a source of legislation. The amendment to Article 2 of the Constitution–which was introduced during the time of President Sadat–was intended to “woo the people and play on their emotions,” he said.
Osama elGhazali Harb, president of the Democratic Front Party, rejected accusations levelled at expatriate Egyptians who are often described as “agents” wishing to harm Egypt’s public interests. On the contrary, Harb argued, expatriate Egyptians play a major role in Egypt’s democratic transformation.
Two factors are detrimental to the future of Egypt’s regime, according to Harb: the health of President Hosni Mubarak and the return of Mohamed ElBaradei who might run in the presidential elections.
Gouda Abdel Khaleq, a leader in the leftist Tagammu Party and professor of economics at Cairo University, said Egypt has seen 50 years of “frozen democracy.” Abdel Khaleq added that Egypt and South Korea had equal growth rates in the 1950s, however a South Korean citizen currently receives an average income of US$28,000 a month while his Egyptian counterpart receives an average monthly salary of US$1077.
Abdel Khaleq added that all countries of the world which liberalized their economies have managed to liberalize their politics, with the exception of Egypt.
He went on to say that the Egyptian regime suffers a “crisis of legitimacy” since it is incapable of fulfilling its pledges.
Hassan Nafaa, coordinator for the National Association for Change, said that Egypt’s political system hasn’t changed since the 1952 revolution. Nafaa added that Mubarak had a reasonable level of support at the beginning of his rule especially in light of the promises he made not to say for long as president.
According to Nafaa, Egypt’s upper class, which is the most influential and closest to Mubarak, is opposed to democracy since it doesn’t serve their interests.
Saad Eddin Ibrahim, head of the Ibn Khaldun Center for Development Studies, attended the conference but did not deliver a speech or participate in the discussions. Al-Masry Al-Youm learned that some members from the Egyptian delegation met with Ibrahim to persuade him not to attend the conference so that nobody would think he was associated with the organization of the conference, which could be embarrassing to the organizers of the conference.
Ibrahim, for his part, said he received an official invitation from the organizers, though they later denied this. “Nobody can prevent me from attending a conference that serves Egyptians,” Ibrahim said.
Translated from the Arabic Edition.

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