Egypt's New Prime Minister: The Wrong Man At The Wrong Time

Op-Ed: The military's recent decision to appoint Kamal al-Ganzouri as prime minister is the latest bad sign from Egypt's ruling class. Ganzouri, who already served under Mubarak, is the wrong choice at a time when citizens are clamoring

Ganzouri speaks to the press
Ganzouri speaks to the press
Issandr El Amrani

CAIRO - The recent decision by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) to appoint Kamal al-Ganzouri as prime minister is a telling move. It is telling in its lack of imagination, in its proof of a state elite that can only accept one of its own at the helm, a man they understand will serve the state. "L'etat, c'est moi," said Louis XIV. "L'etat, c'est nous' seems to be the SCAF's motto.

One could think of no less apt a choice for the post at a time when hundreds of thousands are clamoring for more independent and visionary leadership. Ganzouri was prime minister between 1996 and 1999, and was known for his autocratic style, his tendency to micromanage government and his repression of the press and civil society.

To be sure, Egypt's generals had a choice to reach out to a political figure such as Amr Moussa or Mohamed ElBaradei, who have some street credibility, and who would have demanded that they surrender at least some of their authority. Instead they chose to take out the mothball-of-a man whose chief asset is that he is a faithful government servant, a consummate insider, familiar with the intricacies of that great machine of state that, even before the revolution, had begun to fall apart. It is their hope that Ganzouri will keep this machine going, and probably their calculation that only men cut out of his kind of cloth can keep it under control and keep it chugging along.

Ganzouri is a career public administrator and economist who cut his teeth in government during the Sadat era. He briefly served as a civilian governor of the province of Beni Suef, a rare appointment at the time. Like Hosni Mubarak, he hails from Menoufiya, and became a minister soon after the assassination of Sadat, holding various posts until he became prime minister on January 4, 1996.

Autocratic micromanagement

Some believe Ganzouri was let go because he opposed Mubarak on several issues, and had become a threat to the president. Like the idea that Amr Moussa's popularity as foreign minister was a threat to Mubarak, this is easily dismissible drivel: in fact, neither man ever took a public stance against the president, faithfully endorsing all of Mubarak's policy choices, as the public record — as opposed to rumors and journalistic speculation — shows.

The reason Gazouri was under quasi-house arrest all these years is not a rivalry with the former president, however. It was Ganzouri's autocratic micromanagement of his own cabinet, and his attempts at castrating other ministers that caused a good part of the Mubarak regime to turn against him.

Ganzouri was a hyperactive, dynamic prime minister, passing more laws and launching more initiatives than any other premier under Mubarak. But he came from a tradition of central state planning and put a break on the reforms demanded by the structural adjustment plan that Egypt had adopted in 1991 at the urging of international financial institutions.

Perhaps the most important thing about the Ganzouri appointment is that it brings back a man from a bygone era. Egypt is a very different country today than it was in the 1990s, and not just because Mubarak has been overthrown. The country is more fragile, more exposed to the global economy, its institutions are failing and the public's trust in the state is at an all-time low for this historically centralized country. No doubt, Ganzouri is being brought in only for a short term, since there should be a new government in six months, if not after a new parliament is elected. What the SCAF does not seem to realize, politics aside, is that Egypt does not have that kind of time to waste.

Read the full article in Al-Masry Al-Youm

photo - EuroNews

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Art installation "Greetings From Giza" by French artist and photographer JR faces the pyramids of Giza in Egypt

Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

👋 你好*

Welcome to Tuesday, where violence erupts after Sudan's military coup, Australia finally gets onboard with climate change goals, and Harrison Ford stars in Raiders of the Lost Credit Card. From Bogota, we also see what the capture of drug kingpin Otoniel means for Colombia, a country long stained by cocaine trafficking.

[*Nĭhǎo - Mandarin Chinese]


Saving the planet is really a question of dopamine

The elite of the ecologically minded are set to descend on Glasgow next week for the Cop 26 conference on climate change. But beyond debating policy prescriptions, French daily Les Echos explores the role our own brains have on making the right choices for the planet:

Almost every week, a new scientific study alerts us to the degradation of the environment. And yet, we continue not to change anything fundamental in our systems of production and habits of consumption. Are we all suffering from blindness, or poisoned by denial?

In his popular books Le Bug humain (The Human Bug) and Où est le sens? (Where is the Sense?), Sébastien Bohler, a journalist in neuroscience and psychology, provides a much more rational explanation: The mechanism responsible for our propensity to destroy our natural environment is in fact a small, very deep and very primitive structure of our brain called the striatum.

This regulator of human motivation seems to have been programmed to favor behaviors that ensure the survival of the species.

Since the dawn of humanity, gathering information about our environment, feeding ourselves, ensuring the transmission of our genes through sexual intercourse and asserting our social status have all been rewarded with a shot of dopamine, the "pleasure hormone."

Nothing has changed since then; except that, in our society of excess, there is no limit to the satisfaction of these needs. This leads to the overconsumption of food and addictions to everything from sex to social media — which together account for much of the world's destructive agricultural and energy practices.

No matter how much we realize that this is leading to our downfall, we can't help but relapse because we are prisoners of the dopamine pump in the striatum, which cannot be switched off.

According to Bohler, the only way out is to encourage the emergence of new values of sobriety, altruism and slowness. If adopted, these more sustainable notions could be recognized by the striatum as new sources of dopamine reward. But there's the challenge of promoting inspiring stories that infuse them with value.

Take the photo-collage exhibition "J'agis ici... et je m'y colle" ("I'm taking action here... and I'm sticking to it"), a collection of life-size portraits of residents committed to the energy transition, displayed on the walls of the French coastal city of La Rochelle.

Backed by the French National Center for Street Arts, photographer Martin Charpentier may be employing artistic techniques, but he's also tinkering with neuroscience in the process.

Stefano Lupieri / Les Echos


• Sudan in chaos following military coup: After Sudan's military seized power from the transitional government, defiant anti-coup protesters have returned to the streets of the capital city Khartoum, for a second consecutive day. At least seven people have been killed and 140 injured. Coup leader General Al-Burhan has announced a state of emergency across the country, while the military cut off access to the internet and closed roads, bridges, and Khartoum's airport. Washington condemned the coup and suspended aid, and the U.N. Security Council was expected to discuss Sudan behind closed doors later today.

• Egypt lifts state of emergency in force since 2017: Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, announced the end of a four-year-old state of emergency, undoing powers that had given the government sweeping authority to quash protests, make arrests, search people's homes without warrants, and control everyday life in the most populous Arab country.

• Platforms take down Bolsonaro video linking vaccine and AIDS: Facebook, Instagram and YouTube have removed an anti-vaccine video from their respective platforms posted by Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro. Beyond blocking the video, in which Bolsonaro falsely linked the COVID-19 vaccine with developing AIDS, YouTube went further and suspended the far-right leader for a week.

• COVID update: The U.S. will launch a new travel system on November 8, imposing new vaccine requirements for most foreign national travellers and lifting severe travel restrictions over China, India and much of Europe. Meanwhile, authorities in northern China are reimposing lockdown, and other emergency measures as COVID-19 infections spread to 11 provinces.

• Australia pledges net zero emissions by 2050: As one of the world's largest emitters of greenhouse gases per capita and a major exporter of fossil fuels such as coal, Australia has finally committed to becoming carbon-neutral by 2050. This is a target already adopted by most nations heading to next week's COP26 international climate conference, but that Australia had so far refused to pledge.

• Japanese princess loses royal status over wedding: Japan's Princess Mako married her boyfriend Kei Komuro, giving up her royal status. Under Japanese law, female imperial family members lose their status upon marriage to a "commoner" although male members do not.

Raiders of the Lost Credit Card: A tourist returned the credit card of American actor Harrison Ford, who had lost it in Sicily while shooting scenes for the latest Indiana Jones movie.


"Out of control," titles German daily Süddeutsche Zeitung, reporting on the release of a series of articles by a consortium of 17 U.S. news outlets, called the "Facebook Papers," that reinforce whistleblower Frances Haugen's claims that the social media giant is prioritizing profits over the well being of its users and society.


$1.01 trillion

After striking a deal to sell 100,000 electric vehicles to car rental firm Hertz, Elon Musk's Tesla has joined Apple, Microsoft, Amazon and Google's Alphabet in the club of companies that have reached a $1 trillion valuation.


What the capture of a drug kingpin means for Colombia

While the capture of Otoniel, Colombia's most wanted drug trafficker, made global headlines, Bogotá daily El Espectador writes about the significance of the news for a country that has battled narcotrafficking for decades.

👮 The arrest of the Colombian mobster Dairo Antonio Úsuga David, a.k.a. "Otoniel," is a victory for Colombian intelligence, law-and-order forces and the broader fight against crime. Details of the eight-year-long pursuit of the head of the Gulf Clan, of the tireless and meticulous work, testify to the capabilities that the police and army have managed to develop in the fight against the narco-trafficking that has long been a stain on Colombia.

🇨🇴🇲🇽 Otoniel is responsible for a criminal organization with more than 3,800 members and influence on 12 departments and 128 districts in Colombia (though data from the Bogotá-based Peace and Reconciliation Foundation counts 211 districts). The Gulf Clan sends half the drugs going out of Colombia, and is the main exporter to Mexico. Its ties to the Mexican cartel chief Joaquín "el Chapo" Guzmán are well-documented — and Otoniel had aspired to fill the power vacuum left by Guzmán's capture.

⚖️ Some have observed that the ensuing power vacuum will engender more violence, which is true. But we are, in any case, far from eliminating drug trafficking in Colombia or cutting its tentacles across public life. That shows the limitations of the hard-line response to drugs, when we have seen it is not enough. Still, it is essential in any fight against crime for the state to show its operational capabilities. The message is clear: not even drug overlords are above the law in Colombia.

➡️


"I love Mako. I would like to spend my one life with the person I love."

— Kei Komuro said during a news conference after his wedding with Japan's Princess Mako, the niece of the current emperor and the sister of the likely future sovereign. The princess lost her royal status as a result of her marriage with Komuro, a "commoner."


An art installation "Greetings From Giza" by French artist and photographer JR faces the pyramids of Giza in Egypt, as part of the 2021 exhibition "'Forever Is Now," the first international art exhibition to take place there — Photo: Balkis Press/Abaca/ZUMA

✍️ Newsletter by Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

Send all commoner and royal well wishes to Mako and Kei — and let us know what the news looks like from your corner of the world!

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