Ed Husain

The Arab Street

Husain examines politics, society, and radicalism in the greater Middle East.

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Something Foul in Cairo

by Ed Husain
September 27, 2011

Head of Egypt's ruling military council Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi in Cairo September 13, 2011 (Amr Nabil/Courtesy Reuters).

This week, Egypt’s SCAF announced that parliamentary elections will now begin on November 28. Putting aside complaints about the repeatedly postponed, complex, and months-long election process being unleashed on a nation that has high illiteracy rates and little experience of democracy—why is Field Marshall Tantawi suddenly out shaking hands in the streets of Cairo?

In a widely circulated video on YouTube, heavily criticized by Egyptians on Twitter and Facebook, Tantawi is seen in civilian clothing and ostensibly popular on the Arab street.

Is this Tantawi testing Egypt’s political waters? Although there is speculation that the video may be several years old, it is nonetheless causing quite a stir. Egyptian state television commentators went out of their way to praise Tantawi’s appearance as that of a leader. Will he become a presidential candidate for the forthcoming elections? If so, this will be a game changer not just for Egypt, but Washington, DC, too.

To his credit, his spokespeople have denied his ambitions for political office. But we’ve heard that before from many a politician. Whatever Tantawi’s merits and potential support among the Egyptian masses, it is worth remembering that he was, for all intents and purposes, Mubarak’s man. The Egyptian revolution was to rid the country of the old guard – not to reinstate them through the ballot box.

1 Comment

  • Posted by Adel El-Adawy

    I agree with you- Tantawi is Mubarak’s man. But, we cannot control who will run for office. In a democracy, Field Marshal Tantawi (Mubarak regime), Mohamed Morsy (Muslim Brotherhood), or ElBaradei (Secularist) etc. can run for office. We should be focused on setting the rules of the game; hence, amend the current Constitution. The Constitution gave Mubarak too much power. If we create checks and balances on all branches of government, we will be on the right track and prevent any person elected to have too much power. However, I strongly disagree about the way the SCAF has decided to draft the new constitution. I have more elaborate ideas on my blog: http://egyptianstudentabroad.blogspot.com/

    Let me know what you think. I will start following your blog and I hope you will follow mine as well.