You’re sitting in a café with your friends. A foreign stranger walks in and being the ever-hospitable Egyptian, you invite him to your table. You garrulously bemoan the state of the nation, prices are high, there is a gas shortage, a dastardly plot against the military is being hatched underground – in the metro. The stranger’s interest is piqued, and he texts this information to his foreign intelligence handler.
Ludicrous as this may sound, this is the plot of a state-sponsored ad doing the rounds on Egyptian television channels, warning against talking to foreigners armed with tweet-ready smartphones. The ad is a window on the toxic discourse that has engulfed Egypt since the ouster of the dictator Hosni Mubarak, in those heady days of February 2011.
What has come out of a botched transitional period overseen by the ruling military junta, the supreme council of the armed forces (Scaf), is an extremely polarized society and political process that has culminated in a choice between two options the majority did not want, the old regime that was supposedly overthrown and its age-old antagonists the Muslim Brotherhood. Read more…
It may not be sexy or glamorous but that maybe why it’s so vital, municipalities may be the last hope for success for this revolution after parliament was usurped by Islamists and Mubarak-era faces with very few young faces.
At least that is the thinking of the people behind a new initiative called Ma7liat (Municipalities), who feel that this is the last solution to ingratiate Egyptian youth – especially those who participated in the revolution – in the political process.
“There was a political decision for there to be no change after the revolution,” says the founder of the initiative Mostafa Shouman, “if revolutions don’t change anything they do create opportunities for change. Municipalities are politics at its most basic, basic services at street level, so we want to introduce the youth to that and then they can go on to parliament.”
Municipal councils are the local micro units of government, concerned with the services required in districts and neighborhoods, roads, utilities, waste disposal and so on. Under the previous regime, they too were appropriated by the defunct National Democratic Party (NDP) and were used as a method of patronage for retired military and police officers. Read more…