CAIRO: U.S. President George Bush’s praise for a group of top National Democratic Party (NDP) members close to the president’s son and high-profile NDP figure Gamal Mubarak has sparked angry remarks from principal political forces.
Bush’s eager statements were taken to imply support, or at least accommodation, for the much-criticized ruling party. If this is the case, the support empowers the party and, in turn, a government that has been in office for more than 25 years.
In his statements Tuesday, Bush told the press that he is impressed by “young reformers close to the younger Mubarak, who is currently the head of the NDP’s political policies committee. Bush also included Rachid Mohamed Rachid, minister of trade and industry, in his praise.
I ve talked to … a group of young reformers who are now in government. There s an impressive group of younger Egyptians, the trade minister and some of the economic people, that understand the promise and the difficulties of democracy, Bush told The Wall Street Journal in an interview Sunday. Notably, the “younger Egyptians that President Bush seems to be referring to are mostly in their fifties.
George Ishaq, leading opposition leader, commented that Bush’s statements imply support for an “undemocratic regime.
Recently, especially since forces like the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas reached power through elections, the American government has come to follow a policy that “stability is better than democracy, said Ishaq, founder and leader-at-large of Kefaya (enough) movement. “This has dramatically lowered their credibility.
“The American administration speaks of values that only serve their interests, and not the interest of Egypt or its people, says Ishaq. “Bush’s recent statements serve Gamal Mubarak.
Ishaq, like many leaders of Egypt’s independent and opposition forces, have deemed that praising the young Mubarak and his counterparts suggests that the American administration is ready to recognize “the scenario of power succession from President Hosni Mubarak to his son, and even bolster it.
“The scenario of power succession is in effect. The undertone of Bush’s statement says the succession is supported by the U.S. administration.
The notion, says Ishaq, shows that the U.S. foreign policy chiefs cannot be trusted to bring about reform.
“We do not trust the American government, Ishaq tells The Daily Star Egypt. “I assure you that the constitutional amendments will happen in November. Gamal Mubarak will be nominated as a presidential candidate in December. [And] we are against this with full power.
Bush’s statements coincide with fierce debates ongoing between political forces on one side and the ruling NDP on another. As discussion of amendments to the constitution are scheduled to continue in the People Assembly’s upcoming session, independent and opposition MPs continue to say that NDP-affiliated MPs “tailor the constitution to fit their interests and “open the way for Gamal Mubarak and his “party to hold on to power.
Hussein Abdel-Razeq, senior leader of Al-Tagammu socialist party, in agreement with Ishaq, deems the time frame of Bush statements significant. The opposition leader tells The Daily Star Egypt that he finds it “clear that the American administration supports, one way or another, the current Egyptian administration and supports its tendency to impose power succession.
“They want to create a democracy model that suits their vision, Abdel-Razeq says. “They are imposing a democracy that guarantees that the current political group is in contact and accord with American policies and interests.
“This kind of support, contrary to what America believes, alienates the regime and the current political circle of power from the rest of Egypt’s political parties and those whom Egyptian politics may concern, he added.
In his statements to the American newspaper, Bush also mentioned the case of jailed politician Ayman Nour. Nour was indicted last December for forging signatures needed to form his liberal El-Ghad party.
Nour was sentenced to five years in prison.
The national hero, as he was described by some at the time, endured a fierce political battle against other presidential candidates in last year’s violence-marred elections. Nour came in second after Mubarak. Shortly afterwards, he faced trial.
His demand for appeal was rejected, amid much criticism from his supporters.
Although Bush told the paper that members of the U.S. government “were disappointed about the decision to sentence Nour and that they had not given up on his case, his position toward Nour was regarded as weak. The criticism of the regime concerning the case seems to be waning, from the side of the U.S. State Department.
I have spoken to Mubarak a lot about democracy, Bush commented. “But [Mubarak will] make those decisions based upon his own laws, he added.
“I believe that the U.S. government had injured Ayman Nour in the first place, says Abdel-Razeq, referring to the American position on Nour. “Nour was a head of a party . his tone was strong and firm, and he could have gained even more support from the Egyptian people if not for the American support.
“U.S. intervention and the pressure from Washington have injured the image of Ayman Nour in the eyes of political forces and in the eyes of people, the leader said. “It almost alienated him from his people. American support always brings about a negative reaction and a strong backlash.