A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Thursday, October 27, 2011

And So it Begins? Tantawi for President?

You may recall a bit of a flap in September when Egypt's Field Marshal Tantawi, a man so rarely seen in public that many Egyptians only learned what he looked like after he became the effective head of state, and who in the first several months after the fall of Husni Mubarak made precisely one public speech, casually strolled through downtown  Cairo in civvies, specifically a business suit. Except for one photo of him at a wedding in what may be the exact same (his only?) civilian suit, no one else had seen a photo of him except in uniform. That raised suspicions he might be harboring ambitions of running for office, despite the fact that he has never shown any political skill, ambition, or charisma (which is, of course, why Mubarak liked him). He has, however, been appearing in public a lot more.

Well, despite his previously undetectable political appeal, a group called "Egypt Above All" has been putting up posters in Cairo and Alexandria calling for Tantawi to run for President. Here's an Arabic Facebook discussion complete with an image of an Arabic article.

Supposedly "a large number of supporters" are advocating a Tantawi candidacy. Well, maybe. Of course, since I've seen little sign of this online or in the press, I wonder if many of that "large number" wear epaulets, especially with at least crossed swords and an eagle on them (Major General in Egyptian rank insignia). Egypt has a lot of Major Generals, and I think I've told the story of how as a mere journalist I had a Major General who not only served as my driver but changed his own flat tire. (In the US Army, Major Generals have enlisted staff for those functions.)

If there's any groundswell for Tantawi from anyone not in uniform, I'd like to see what employment they held under the Mubarak regime.

If the new regime starts to look like the old regime, as it's tending to do right now, I hope they remember that those who brought down one regime have tasted their own power, and Tahrir Square is still there. And not everyone in the Army is a Major General.

I say back to the Barracks as promised. Or back to Tahrir. Even leaving aside the Deutschland über Alles  feel of "Egypt above All" (Misr fawq al-Jami‘).

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