Geopolitics

Why Mubarak Will Survive The Protests. And What Happens If He Doesn’t

Analysis: To help hold on to power, the Egyptian leader can count on the army and fear of the vacuum his departure would bring.

In October, Hosni Mubarak is slated to mark 30 years as Egypt's leader. As the country's omnipotent president, he didn't even appoint a vice-president, as his predecessors had done. With thousands of Egyptians taking to the streets against the regime, Le Figaro spoke with Jean-Noel Ferrie, an Egyptian affairs specialist about how Mubarak has managed to become one of the longest standing leaders in the world – and what his forced departure would bring.

Opposition to Hosni Mubarak has always existed, explains Jean-Noel Ferrie of France's national scientific research center (CNRS). And though the criticism and public demonstrations have reached a new level, Ferrie cautions against quick comparisons to what happened in Tunisia. "It would be wrong to compare his unpopularity with Ben Ali's."

Mubarak came to power after the assassination of Anwar Sadat in 1981. With his military background, and stature as a hero during the 1973 war, he won the army's support, which has been a key element in the regime's survival, right up to the present moment. "It is unlikely that protesters can oust him without facing the military first," says Ferrie. There is another reason Mubarak can count on the army's support: the military is very rich and controls many companies, and doesn't want to jeopardize these advantages.

Demonizing the Muslim Brotherhood

The political scene is also at a standstill. The November 2010 parliamentary elections showed that the rulling National Democratic Party (NDP), led by Mubarak, wasn't ready to give more space to the opposition. In 2005, relatively freer elections than the past saw the Muslim Brotherhood gain ground, obtaining 88 seats. This time around, the ruling party made sure that didn't happen. There was so much fraud in the first round that most opposition parties, including the Muslim Brotherhood, decided to back out. As a result, the NDP now has a comfortable majority – 494 seats out of 508 – a situation that makes even some ruling party members uncomfortable.

The Muslim Brotherhood is indeed Mubarak's historic archrival. Ferrie says the group scares the regime because "they give the impression that they form an important bloc and aren't ready to compromise." The electoral success in 2005 left Mubarak and company "stunned," Ferrie says. "They could not accept how well the Islamists did."

The Brotherhood became popular through a network of charities, which came in where the State was absent. Its members are regularly arrested. "The government keeps up the pressure so they don't go too far," says Ferrie. Between his hold over NDP and repression of the Brotherhood, Mubarak has killed all forms of credible political alternatives. "Like all authoritarian regimes, he went for a scorched earth policy," says Ferrie. "If Mubarak falls, he won't necessarily be replaced by the Muslim Brotherhood, but it will be chaos."

The challenge of succession

The lack of a credible opposition is what guarantees Mubarak the support of many international powers. He focuses his rhetoric on the threat of the Muslim Brotherhood to make the West believe that they are the only other alternative. "Nobody wants that. Neither Europeans, who don't want religious extremists in power, nor Americans who want to maintain peace between Egypt and Israel."

The regime has hardened as it gets closer to the question of the 83-year-old leader's succession. Transitions are always tricky for authoritarian regimes. Mubarak will probably seek a sixth term in September, but many experts believe he won't finish it. Instead he'll try to give his seat to his son Gamal, who embodies a more reformist and liberal branch of the NDP. But he could suffer from not being an army man. "If Egyptians refuse Gamal, nothing guarantees that the army will turn against the street in order to support him."

Read the original article in French


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Society

What It Means When The Jews Of Germany No Longer Feel Safe

A neo-Nazi has been buried in the former grave of a Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender – not an oversight, but a deliberate provocation. This is just one more example of antisemitism on the rise in Germany, and society's inability to respond.

At a protest against antisemitism in Berlin

Eva Marie Kogel

-Essay-

BERLIN — If you want to check the state of your society, there's a simple test: as the U.S. High Commissioner for Germany, John Jay McCloy, said in 1949, the touchstone for a democracy is the well-being of Jews. This litmus test is still relevant today. And it seems Germany would not pass.


Incidents are piling up. Most recently, groups of neo-Nazis from across the country traveled to a church near Berlin for the funeral of a well-known far-right figure. He was buried in the former grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender, a gravesite chosen deliberately by the right-wing extremists.

The incident at the cemetery

They intentionally chose a Jewish grave as an act of provocation, trying to gain maximum publicity for this act of desecration. And the cemetery authorities at the graveyard in Stahnsdorf fell for it. The church issued an immediate apology, calling it a "terrible mistake" and saying they "must immediately see whether and what we can undo."

There are so many incidents that get little to no media attention.

It's unfathomable that this burial was allowed to take place at all, but now the cemetery authorities need to make a decision quickly about how to put things right. Otherwise, the grave may well become a pilgrimage site for Holocaust deniers and antisemites.

The incident has garnered attention in the international press and it will live long in the memory. Like the case of singer-songwriter Gil Ofarim, who recently claimed he was subjected to antisemitic abuse at a hotel in Leipzig. Details of the crime are still being investigated. But there are so many other incidents that get little to no media attention.

Photo of the grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

The grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

Jens Kalaene/dpa/ZUMA

Crimes against Jews are rising

Across all parts of society, antisemitism is on the rise. Until a few years ago, Jewish life was seen as an accepted part of German society. Since the attack on the synagogue in Halle in 2019, the picture has changed: it was a bitter reminder that right-wing terror against Jewish people has a long, unbroken history in Germany.

Stories have abounded about the coronavirus crisis being a Jewish conspiracy; meanwhile, Muslim antisemitism is becoming louder and more forceful. The anti-Israel boycott movement BDS rears its head in every debate on antisemitism, just as left-wing or post-colonial thinking are part of every discussion.

Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

Since 2015, the number of antisemitic crimes recorded has risen by about a third, to 2,350. But victims only report around 20% of cases. Some choose not to because they've had bad experiences with the police, others because they're afraid of the perpetrators, and still others because they just want to put it behind them. Victims clearly hold out little hope of useful reaction from the state – so crimes go unreported.

And the reality of Jewish life in Germany is a dark one. Sociologists say that Jewish children are living out their "identity under siege." What impact does it have on them when they can only go to nursery under police protection? Or when they hear Holocaust jokes at school?

Germany needs to take its antisemitism seriously

This shows that the country of commemorative services and "stumbling blocks" placed in sidewalks as a memorial to victims of the Nazis has lost its moral compass. To make it point true north again, antisemitism needs to be documented from the perspective of those affected, making it visible to the non-Jewish population. And Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

That is the first thing. The second is that we need to talk about specifically German forms of antisemitism. For example, the fact that in no other EU country are Jewish people so often confronted about the Israeli government's policies (according to a survey, 41% of German Jews have experienced this, while the EU average is 28%). Projecting the old antisemitism onto the state of Israel offers people a more comfortable target for their arguments.

Our society needs to have more conversations about antisemitism. The test of German democracy, as McCloy called it, starts with taking these concerns seriously and talking about them. We need to have these conversations because it affects all of us. It's about saving our democracy. Before it's too late.

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