Something is Brewing in Egypt

(Economist) Egypt's desire for change is all too clear, whether signaled by the government's own promises or by the sour, agitated mood on Cairo's streets. Growing numbers of Egyptians want big changes now, and the sooner the better. A case in point was last week's referendum on a constitutional amendment that would allow, for the first time, more than one candidate to run for president. The three main legal opposition parties, plus the influential but illegal Muslim Brotherhood, plus a budding protest movement called Kifaya (Enough!), which wants Mubarak to resign, all boycotted the referendum. Most polling stations seemed empty of all but government employees, pensioners, and a scattering of poor folk, some of whom cheerfully told journalists they thought they were voting, as usual, to return Mubarak for another term. Citizens with relatives in the police say officers received orders to vote as many times as possible. Testing the system, one enterprising reporter claimed to have voted in eight different districts. Yet Egypt's mood is changing. Government heavy-handedness is now met, as never before, by exposure and fierce criticism. Trade and student unions are growing restive. A score of human-rights organizations detail such abuses as torture and arbitrary arrest. Satellite television, beyond the control of the state's terrestrial monopoly, magnifies the scale of dissent. Contrasting Egypt's referendum with the French vote on a European constitution, one cartoonist pictured an Egyptian official telling Jacques Chirac not to worry: "We'll send some of our boys to take care of all those people who voted no."

2005-06-03 00:00:00

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