Hot and unnaturally quiet again in Cairo today. It looks like the announcement of the presidential results will be delayed by “a day or two” (the Presidential Election Commission) or “indefinitely” (the Middle East News Agency, same folks who prematurely announced Mubarak’s death last night). Just to wear people down a bit to temper any possible violent reaction – or maybe to allow time for bargaining, horse-trading, you-get-the-presidency-we-get-the-constitutional-commission or something? I don’t necessarily buy the latter theory (what would either SCAF or the Brotherhood stand to gain by negotiating this?) but heard it floated tonight, thought I’d pass it on.
Just came from dinner with a big table full of journalists, Carter Center election monitors, political scientists, etc. They are all exhausted from a very active regimen of waiting for news: running around to Tahrir, MB headquarters, Shafik’s house (apparently he is very warm and cuddly, quite the family man), the Military Hospital where Mubarak is laid up, etc. Lacking new rumors, they’ve moved on to theories.
Earlier I went along with a friend to a reception at the Polish ambassador’s house. Professor Hanaa Abdel Fattah was receiving an order of merit for his contributions to the advancement of Polish literature and theatre in Egypt. Faced with a very depressed little crowd of Brotherhood-fearing artist and intellectual types, the ambassador reminisced about his time in Poland in 1989: “Yes, I remember the foreigners saying this was a fascinating historical moment, but for me — it was our destiny.” And later, less diplomatically: “You know, the things people say now about the Brotherhood, how these people will ruin the country if they gain power… these are the same things people used to say about Walesa and Solidarnosc. And indeed, it did take a few years to get Poland onto the right path.” But of course this only made the Egyptians feel worse. Poland had no third, religious party waiting in the wings to take over from the secular revolutionaries: it was not a three-cornered struggle like this one is shaping up to be. The word on paranoid secular intellectuals’ lips last fall was Turkey; three days ago it was Algeria; now it is pretty much Iran. As in: “You think it can’t happen here? They never thought it could happen in Iran either.”
I have ridden with a variety of interesting cab drivers so far, but the most vehement was the Copt who wanted George W. Bush back because he considered him the protector of the Christians. “Tell them not to re-elect that Obama Hussein (sic). He came to power, and turned a blind eye on the Islamists, and now look what we have all over the world. These people are terrorists. Bush was like this (thumbs up). He protected human rights. But Obama Hussein came to Cairo [in June 2009] and visited a mosque, but not a church. Why would you do that, not visit a church also? And why did he kiss the hand of the Saudi king? Kiss his cheeks, greet him, okay, but kiss his hand? The president of the united states? And now see what these Muslims are doing.”
Oh, and at tonight’s dinner I ran into a colleague from my undergraduate Yale Daily News days. He’s now an editorial writer for a respected national publication. I was like, holy shit, it’s been 20 years. He was like, wait, did I… edit you?” It was hilariously awkward for a second.
I’m with the Copt!