Saturday, January 16, 2010

Is Democracy Stirring in Egypt?

Since becoming President of Egypt in 1981, Hosni Mubarak has maintained his grip on power through a series of rigged elections, imprisonment of political enemies, and massive government censorship of the press. Despite being considered an "ally" of the United States, there can be no question that Egypt is a dictatorship and President Mubarak is a dictator.

21st Century Jeffersonians, as a general principle, oppose American intervention in the affairs of other countries, noting that these have historically done little good and much evil. But this does not mean we ignore what goes on beyond our shores, and we should always cheer on and provide moral support to those who seek to bring democracy and representative government to their own nations. We saw this nearly happen last year when the people of Iran launched a massive series of protests against fraudulent election results.

In this spirit, 21st Century Jeffersonians should applaud the current activities of Mohamed ElBaradei, the Nobel Peace Prize winner best known to Americans as the former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency. He has been making statements indicated that he may run for President of Egypt when the next election takes place in 2011. If he did so, it would present a significant challenge to President Mubarak, who, at 81 years of age, is reportedly grooming his son Gamal to succeed him when he either dies or leaves the Presidency.

As a Nobel Peace Prize winner who commands immense international respect, ElBaradei could not be treated by Mubarak in the same manner as other opposition politicians (the last candidate to challenge Mubarak in a presidential election, Ayman Nour, was convicted on trumped-up charges of forgery and thrown in jail for four years). Egypt's economy only keeps its head above water with the help of the United States and Europe, and while they have been willing to close their eyes to Mubarak's dictatorial tendancies in the past, it would be impossible to do so with ElBaradei in the picture. His international profile is simply too large.

The prospect of an ElBaradei candidacy has rejunivated the stagnant political scene in Egypt and Egyptians seem excited by the prospect of a credible choice in the upcoming election. With Mubarak and his security forces having ruled Egypt with an iron fist for so many years, and with elections having been long recognized as fraudulent farces, the Egyptian people are hungry for democracy and a real chance to assert their sovereignty, which, after all, belongs to them by natural law.

ElBaradei seems open to the idea of running for President, but has said he will only do so if there were guarantees that the election would be free and fair, including international observers and equal time for all candidates in the Egyptian media. Considering Mubarak's past record, these requirements seem unlikely to materialize. Indeed, the Egyptian constitution effectively limits candidates for President to a few people selected by the ruling party, so it's possible that ElBaradei would not be allowed to run at all.

Again, it is not the business of the United States to stick its nose into the internal affairs of other nations. But we can hope that Mubarak sees the way history is moving and agrees to a free and fair election in 2011. The ideals of Thomas Jefferson may have emerged in America, but they are equally valid the world over.

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