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Ayman Nour
Ayman Nour
As news of Ayman Nour release have made their way around, several interesting points are being made. First off, Marc Lynch notes that most Egyptian coverage does not see this timing as coincidence. The Egyptian coverage, “ties it directly to Mubarak’s desire to improve relations with Washington by removing an ongoing irritant and offering a fresh start with the Obama administration.”
Friday, February 20,2009 07:50
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As news of Ayman Nour release have made their way around, several interesting points are being made. First off, Marc Lynch notes that most Egyptian coverage does not see this timing as coincidence. The Egyptian coverage, “ties it directly to Mubarak’s desire to improve relations with Washington by removing an ongoing irritant and offering a fresh start with the Obama administration.”

Secondly, as the Arabist points out, it was perhaps Mubarak’s way of saying “’look: Bush tried for four years to pressure me. But I do things on my own timing and any pressure is counterproductive.’ The message is, before Obama and his administration settle into a clear approach on Egypt (I don’t think the NSC staffer on Egypt has even been appointed yet), that if the same US approach to Egypt continues, it will only generate headaches. “

 Looking ahead, there are two important points to note: First, as  Eric Trager points out:

Nour is returning to a very different domestic political climate than the one he last experienced in 2005.  For starters, his Ghad party — the most prominent opposition party in the 2005 elections — is in tatters.  As I noted back in July, the regime has split this party in two factions, bestowing legal recognition on a puppet faction headed by businessman Moussa Mustafa Moussa, who has sued Nour’s faction for using the name of the Ghad party illegally.  Moreover, the headquarters of Nour’s Ghad faction were burned in November 2008 and its official newspaper was shut down.  In short, before Nour is able to contend again in national politics, he will have to sort out critical issues challenging the viability of his party.  Right now, there seems to be one thing in his favor: based on my discussions with Ghad leaders, Nour’s faction appears unified behind him.

 And finally, many pundits ask what this means in terms of American pressure on Egypt to politically reform. Hopefully the Arabist is wrong in saying, “So, most probably, we will see US pressure on democratic reform die down, since policymakers will find it difficult to get support for another direct confrontation with the Egyptian regime.”

Freedom House also released a statement yesterday welcoming Ayman Nour’s release from prison but urged President Mubarak to release Egypt’s remaining political prisoners and “open up the country’s political system to allow genuine competition leading up to the 2010 parliamentary and 2011 presidential elections.” The statement also highlighted the cases of exiled democracy advocate, Saad Eddin Ibrahim, and Karim Amer, who is serving a four-year prison sentence for writing blogs critical of the Mubarak regime.


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