Back to Cairo, briefly

BU’s spring semester is over and I am at the Frankfurt airport, en route to Egypt for a brief visit. I’ll only be there a little over a week.  It might look like I’m flying in now in order to report on the presidential election runoff (or, more accurately, on the third round of military coup since the revolution, the first two having been SCAF’s “constitutional declaration” last summer’s and violent crackdown on Maspero/Tahrir last October-November  — and we could make it the fourth if we count the Feb 11 coup itself) but actually — shall I tell you the truth? — it’s because my daughter’s babysitter’s sister is visiting the US from Nepal, so the babysitter took next week off, so Ken and the kids went to Wisconsin to visit grandparents and… I bought a ticket to Cairo. Some politics (not all) are local.

Excited to see friends and actually do some interviews for my literary-historical research project, but… I wonder if the rising tide of ham-fisted authoritarianism will just swamp all other conversations, as it did last November. Lots of outrage flying around. One liberal Egyptian expat friend told me he’s glad about the Supreme Constitutional Court ruling that called for the dissolution of the (MB-dominated) lower house of Parliament.  And, albeit reluctantly, he hopes SCAF pushes forward with the election and Shafik wins. That seems to be what will happen, but no one should be happy about it. Certainly the Brotherhood’s behavior at every point has been arrogant, opportunistic, even craven.  Certainly those planning an election boycott, without some way to be counted and make a statement (e.g., the option of a write-in candidate), will just marginalize themselves. But abandoning any hope of democracy and falling back into the arms of the military, after everything Egypt has been through…!

Can’t wait to arrive and read in. From afar it all seems very confusing and seems legally topsy-turvy: how is it the political isolation law is being ruled unconstitutional only now (and under what constitution?? it’s like playing croquet with a flamingo!), after former VP Omar Suleiman was disqualified from the first round, denying him the chance to split Shafik’s vote? Meanwhile El Baradei has (very belatedly) formed a political party, calling (yet again) for a temporary president and a national salvation government or a presidential council. Calling for it where? On Twitter.  The MB, denied the presidency, will push for a top spot in the Cabinet, maybe a more parliamentary system overall. Meanwhile the putative separation wall between the military and the police has come down, collapsing the difference between foreign enemies and domestic opponents. And so on.

At the newsstand here only the International Herald Tribune had Egypt on the front page (David Kirkpatrick continuing the excellent reporting he’s been doing) — none of the European papers did.  It’s all Greece. Seems they’re up to Angela Merkel’s eyebrows in Eurowoes.


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