Mubarak’s Egypt - ‘End this Corrupt Regime’


‘End this Corrupt Regime’   - That’s what one young man screams into a camera as thousands of people clash with cops on the streets of Cairo. Just how corrupt is this regime.  Mubarak may have started his career commanding an air force against Israel, but in the 30 years in power, he has become another champion of enterprise and the neo-liberal open economy.  Democracy occasionally held up like some beacon has constantly been promised but never really acted upon.  2011 is the year that has scheduled Presidential Elections, but obviously the Egyptian masses aren’t happy with the promises of something better to come.

Hosni Mubarak came to power after Anwar al-Sadat was assassinated in 1981.  Mubarak was the commander in chief of the air force which launched the surprise attack in the 1973 Arab-Israeli war, and by 1975 he was the unlikely vice president to Sadat.

Open economies tend to suit those in power, and so it comes as no surprise to know that the rich and powerful are friendly with Mubarak.  The co-owner of Easter Mediterranean Gas Company, Hussein Salem, is a good friend of President Mubarak.  When not selling Egypt’s natural gas to Israel (Gas started flowing in 2008) he also happens to be a hotel magnate and  arms-dealer.

The estimates run that Mubarak regime has over 17,000 political prisoners.  Unemployment runs at about 26.3 per cent, globalisation has lead to inflation.  $62 billion dollars has flown into Egypt since 1977 from the US in aid.  Most Egyptians get by on $2 a day.

Like all rulers, everything is submissive to survival.  Relations with Israel appear to be quite friendly in the background, up to and including gassing people in tunnels leading out of Gaza, and keeping the border firmly shut at Rafah, even when Israel goes to war against the Palestinians.

Egypt is building a wall 18 meters underground made from super-strength steel in order to seal off all tunnels that lead into Gaza.  The Mubarak regime first of all kept this a secret and now refers to this as ‘engineering installations.’

As Adam Shatz wrote in his excellent report ‘Mubarak’s Last Breath’ in the London Review of Books –

                “Mubarak’s Egypt is often compared to Iran in the last days of the Shah: a middle class squeezed by inflation; anger at the regime’s alliances with the US and Israel; a profound sense of humiliation that is increasingly expressed in Islamic fervour; near universal contempt for the country’s ruling class; a state whose legitimacy has almost entirely eroded.”

Mubarak does not have an enemy in Israel, he has a market.  His enemies are at home.  They are internal and are leftist, human rights activists and above all, Islamists.   This has lead to regular torture of people in police stations and to the establishment of the Ministry of the Interior (MOI)_.  Not much happens with their approval.  It is also estimated that one in forty Egyptians are employed as informers to the MOI.

Mubarak had to come up with some sort of democratic front- to give the veneer that people were being listened too, but because the Muslim Brotherhood won 88 of 160 seats in Legislative elections in 2005.  Since then they’ve been put back in their box.  They were refused the right to run in elections to the upper house, polling stations were attacked and arrests followed. An Emergency law exists which conveniently for Mubarak does not allow freedom of assembly, which curtails the possibility of any political movement or party getting off the ground.

Gamal – son of Mubarak has flown out of the country. He was obviously being groomed as the successor – a man versed in private equity firms, he was a man who could sell off state assets for a profit.  But the recent unrest saw he flea.

US foreign policy is neatly reflected in Egypt.  Recently the US forked over $260 million in what was called ‘supplementary security assistance’ and Egypt also bought 24 F-16 fighter jets plus other equipment worth a reported $3.2billon.  A cosy relationship exists and whilst it would be nice to have a democracy in Egypt – it may not be as easily controlled or bought off as the Mubarak Regime is.  One hand rubs the other and business is good.

All data quoted from the longer article found in London Review of Books – ‘Mubarak’s Last Breath’ Vol. 32 No. 10 27th May 2010