A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Monday, August 30, 2010

Stranger and Stranger: Saad Ibrahim Signs Gamal Mubarak Proxy

Okay, this gave me a double-take and then a triple-take: Saad Eddin Ibrahim has signed a proxy supporting the nomination of Gamal Mubarak for the Presidency.

Yes, I checked and it's not April 1. Yes, that's really him in the picture, and there are lots more pics of the signing at Al-Yawm al-Sabi‘ as well as an account (Arabic).

The AP account notes that he says he didn't "endorse" Gamal, he only supported his right as a citizen to run. This Al-Masry al-Youm report calls him "the most prominent opponent of tawrith" (the passing of the Presidency from father to son), and quotes him as saying he supports every Egyptian's right to run for the Presidency, and has also signed a proxy for Mohamed ElBaradei. (Link is in Arabic.) Perhaps it really is a statement for pluralism.

Yet he also gave the pro-Gamal forces a huge PR coup; he's savvy enough to know they would play this up heavily. Hassan Nafaa, a backer of ElBaradei, was quoted in the AP report as saying: "He's either lost his mind or there is a deal with the ruling regime . . . This is a miserable fall for Saad and no one is going to believe him anymore."

Naturally one wonders if this was some sort of quid-pro-quo for his being allowed to return to Egypt from exile earlier this month. He's long been a critic of tawrith, and he's long been outspoken, even to the point of going to prison and going into exile, so a sellout to the regime doesn't seem likely. I'm reserving judgment for now; I've known Saad on and off for years and am not sure if he was really trying to make a point or what, but it seems clear the Gamal folks are going to milk this for all it's worth.

If you missed it while I was away, Issandr El Amrani's weekly column for Al-Masry al-Youm English last week was about "Gamal Mubarak's Non-Campaign" and opened with the words, "How strange Egyptian politics are becoming." He can say that again; I'll eagerly await his take on this, and post more as I see it.

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