Monday 30 April 2012

Amazing Tunisian Graffiti: Plant All The Land With Resistance

Apparently, this incredible graffiti is from Tunisia. It is titled: "Plant All The Land With Resistance."

جرافيتي رائع من تونس: "إزرع كل الأرض مقاومة."

How Much Does An Egyptian Member Of Parliament Make?

Egyptian Member Of Parliament (MP) Basem Kamel of the Egyptian Social Democratic Party answered this interesting question on February 29th, but we only noticed today apparently when the "We Are All Khaled Said" page posted it. According to Kamel, an Egyptian MP makes a standard of LE7925 per month (~$1320 at a LE6=$1), LE150 per general session ($25), and LE75 per committee session ($12.5), with sessions grossing an average LE3000 per month ($500).

Best thing about this tweet? The ending. He said: "You have a right to know, and we owe it to you that you know."

I think that this is possibly the first time in Egypt's modern history that we find out the salaries of MPs.

Sunday 29 April 2012

Why Al-Nour Chose Abul-Fotouh?

Picture from AMAY

I don't know.

According to news outlets, the Salafi party voted by more than 80% internally to support the considerably much more liberal Abdel-Mon'eim Abul Fotouh, with around 15% going to the MB/FJPs Mohammed Morsy, and less than 3% going to Selim El-Awwa. The votes took place on three levels, according to a journalist calling Television host Amr Adeeb. Al Nour's MPs, said the journalist, had a poll amongst them, the Salafi Call Council voted amongst itself, and the High Committee of Al-Nour also had a vote. All three votes chose Abul-Fotouh with margins crossing 75%. That same journalist said that El-Awwa and Morsi actually attended the announcement of the results of the votes, while Abul-Fotouh didn't. 

A few explanations were floated around, including (for example) the belief that Al-Nour simply believed Morsy had no real chance of winning, and that they didn't want to back a candidate they didn't see as strong. But one seems to be more interesting. That explanation, which has wide support, argued that this represents a growing fear inside Al-Nour and certain Salafi movements of a complete dominance by the MB and the FJP over both the Presidency and Parliament, and that it was more beneficial and pragmatic to maintain a more competitive political environment, and for Al-Nour to retain its independence. Of course, this is mere speculation. It will be interesting to see if this critical endorsement would affect Abul-Fotouh's relatively progressive rhetoric.

But I don't know.

Egypt Tries To Get Out Of Its Constitutional Crisis

Some news then. This afternoon, SCAF and multiple political forces agreed on what they see as the principles needed to get out of the current Egyptian constitutional crisis. These six principles were, according to Ahram Online:  

  1. Consensus has to be reached over the proportions alloted to each soceital group or faction in deference to the administrative court ruling. 
  2. Consensus has to be reached over any single constitutional article. In case consensus cannot be reached, a two-thirds majortiy must be reached and if such a majority cannot be reached within 24 hours, then a 57-member majority -- out of 100 members -- would be sufficient. 
  3. Each party will choose its own representatives. Religious institutions will also choose their representatives. Al-Azhar will choose four, while Egypt's churches including the Catholic, Orthodox and Anglican will choose six representatives. Ten legal and constitutional experts will be chosen and a member of each judicial institution will also be represented in the constituent assembly. Farmers will be allotted two constituents and workers will also be granted two seats. Public figures including women, students and the disabled will also be assigned seats. 
  4. Efforts will be exerted to finish the drafting of the new constitution before presidential election runoffs are completed.
  5. Egypt's de-facto leader and SCAF head Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi will call both Upper and Lower houses of parliament to stage a joint meeting to elect members of the constituent assembly.
  6. A supervising committee will be formed to include representatives of the Wafd Party, the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party, the Egyptian Bloc, El-Hadara Party and the Ghad El-Thawra Party. The committee will also include independent MPs including Mostafa Bakry and Marian Malak."
 A few extra points:

1- Multiple MPs and spokespersons for the forces attending the meeting said they had overall consensus on the new formation of the Constituent Assembly (CA), but the biggest debate was on the voting percentages within it on procedural and substantive issues (such as choosing the articles of the constitution.)

2- When asked how they reached these final percentages, an Islamist MP from the "Construction And Development Party" speaking on Dream TV said while "believe it or not, we pretty much negotiated until we reached 57%. Someone wanted 60%, another wanted 55%, another wanted 70%. There was just no particular logic behind what we reached." (Note: the number I just quoted now were random examples, as I cannot remember exactly which numbers he used. But it was clear he was giving random numbers for demonstration)

3- Head of the Egyptian SDP Dr. Mohammed Abul-Ghar (who boycotted the meeting because he had "attended many such meetings before, all of them lasting hours without any benefits") said these percentages should be raised, even to 90% if possible. A constitution should be made for "100 years" ahead, regardless of which majority is in Parliament at the time of its drafting. I add my voice to the idea that at least 75% of the members of the CA must approve every item of of the Constitution. In fact, I would rather it be 80% or more. The greater the consensus, the better. I just do not like the idea of an emergency voting percentage of 57%. I see it as absolute nonsense, and another point of future conflict.

4- The same Islamist MP from (2) was saying that during the event, they were discussing names of possible members of the CA. Whenever an independent name was suggested, many of the non-Islamist MPs would insist on getting extra background to be sure he had no clear MB or Salafi affiliations, and so they "would bring out their laptops and search online during the meeting" to make sure he wasn't so.

5- SCAF Head Field Marshall Tantawi, said the Islamist MP, had said that they would not leave the meeting until they come out with some real consensus of some sort

6- There seems to be a general consensus on using the defunct 1971 Constitution as a base, pretty much maintaining the first four chapters of it, possibly verbatim. The main question will be the division of powers between the Parliament and the President. According to various sources, the MB wants a mixed system inspired from the French model, but would rather Parliament elect the Prime Minister instead of the president appointing him; and also, they reportedly don't want the President to have the power to dissolve parliament. While I understand the logic of the first idea, I feel that the elected President should be a strong and powerful office, and should also have the power to dissolve parliament if necessary, but with strict constitutional guidelines and limits. In the coming phase, I feel it would be best if power was distributed to more equitably between all branches of government rather than having one branch reign disproportionately supreme (as in the British model, for example.)

7- These "principles" might actually fall apart, and may not necessarily end up being used or adopted. A few MPs speaking on television have reaffirmed that, from what I understand.

8- These attempts towards a more consensual CA would not have taken place hadn't the liberals, leftists, nationalists, and multiple other entities withdrawn from the farcical disaster that was the first CA. They gambled and took a stand against the FJPs attempt at unjustified hegemony, and their protest bore fruit. I hope they do not waste their historic protest on measly victories. Voting percentages in the CA must be increased.

9- While many political forces nominally want to finish the constitution before the presidential elections are over, that remains a nearly impossible task, especially if the elections end from the first round without run-offs.

Friday 27 April 2012

سؤال واحد تقرر إجابته الكثير من الأشياء

هناك سؤال واحد تقرر إجابته الكثير من الأشياء.

هل حدثت ثورة، أم هل أسقطنا نظام مبارك؟

فإن كنا قد أسقطنا نظام مبارك، فإذا فأي نظام يمكن أن يحل محله، و يضع أي شروط يراها للحياة العامة والسياسية وأن يفعل ما يراه.

أما إن كنا قد قمنا بثورة، فلابد أن يسقط كل ما مثله نظام مبارك. فلابد أن يسقط القمع الفكري بأنواعه، والإرهاب السياسي، والإعتقالات الغير قانونية، وتشريع قوانين منافية لأبسط حقوق الإنسان، والنفاق لرجال السلطة، وبطش رجال الأمن في غير محله المقبول والقانوني، وإستشراء الفساد ونمو الفقر، والرغبة في السيطرة على كل مقاليد الحكم في الدولة بأي ثمن، والإقصاء السياسي لكل الأطراف الأخرى بأي صورة ممكنة، والسكوت عن الحقيقة عندما تسطع بنورها في وجوهنا،  وحماية حقوق الأكثرية والأقلية والأفراد، والرغبة في تشكيل ورسم أجهزة وسياسات الدولة حسب هوى الطرف الأقوى بعيدا عن أي تدخل حقيقي للأطراف الأقل قوة، وإعتبار الأطراف المقابلة في العملية السياسية أعداء، وليس شركاء في وطن لهم أفكار مغايرة. ولابد ألا يهدر حق من ماتوا ومن أصيبوا في سبيل هذه "الثورة."

هل حدثت ثورة، أم هل أسقطنا نظام مبارك؟

مصطفى بكري يتحدث اللغة الإنجليزية

الفيديو ده رهيب :)))))

Tuesday 24 April 2012

"لا تترك نفسك لليأس"

عدت منذ عدة ساعات إلى المنزل، ووقفت أمام الباب كعادتي أبحث عن المفاتيح حتى وقع بصري على قصاصة من جريدة، وقعت بالخطأ فيما يبدو أسفل الباب. أحيانا تسقط بالخطأ وريقات من كيس القمامة أثناء جَمعُه، وكانت الوريقة السابقة منذ عدة أيام إعلانا لشركة تعد وعدا مبهرا ب"نسف جميع أنواع الحشرات نسفا مهولا"، بحسب الإعلان. قمت بإلتقاط وريقة اليوم بقدر ما من الفضول، ونظرت فيها وتمعنت، فإبتسمت. فقد كان المقال الصغير والأوحد الكامن في قلب القصاصة:

 "لا تترك نفسك لليأس."

 أترككم مع نص القصاصة الذي عثرت عليه على موقع الجريدة. وبالأسفل ستجد صورة للقصاصة ذاتها، إلتقطها أثناء قيامي بإزالة أجزاء من أطرافها لتصبح أصغر حجما وأسهل في الحفاظ عليها للذكرى.

 الإنسان الذى بلا هدف يظل حائراً ضائعاً كقارب بلا دفة، يتخبط يتعثر يتأثر بالعواصف والأعاصير يجد ذاته مبعثرة مشتتة على صخرة الحياة، يتسلل إليه الشعور بالملل والفتور من أعماله وأفعاله، فلا فائدة ولا جدوى ولا معنى لما يقوم به.. كل يوم شبيه بالآخر من تكرار روتينى لأعمال اعتاد عليها بلا تجديد فيها، فقط العمل لمجرد البقاء لانتظار قدره المحتوم، ينظر إلى أعماله اليومية على أنها تافهة، يستسلم لمنطق الرفض والتمرد والانهيار، وقد تراه فى بعض الأوقات ينظر إلى الحياة على أنها عبثية لعجزه عن إدراك قيمة وجوده!ـ
لا تترك نفسك لليأس يلوث مساحة التفاؤل والأمل الباقية فى حياتك.. غربل أفكارك واختر الصالح منها، واجعل من جهلك فى أرضك المجهولة أمراً خارقاً للعادة حاول اكتشافه.. لا تقف مهما كان الأمر، انطلق من مكانك فقد يكون انطلاقك من مكانك نقطة استعادة التوازن لنفسك، واحضن ما تبقى من عمرك ولا تفرط فيه ولا تدع وقتك يضيع هباء حتى لا يجد الملل مكاناً فى حياتك، فالملل يأتى لمن لا يجد شيئاً يفعله، وإذا وجد هدفاً له لا يعرف كيف يحدده لجهله بالواجب المفروض القيام به تجاهه!.. فالإنسان الحق هو الذى يستقبل الحياة، ويقبل عليها كما هى وكما وجد على حالته، ويجعل من وجوده أسمى معنى، ويدرك عظمة الخالق فى ذلك.ـ

Saturday 21 April 2012

Did I Just Find My Candidate - هل عثرت أخيرا على مرشحي المفضل؟!

I don't know about you, but there is something about this candidate that feels both...familiar, yet captivating. It's as if you've known him all of your life.

المرشح ده فيه حاجة كده... تحس إنك تعرفه من زمان.

(Whoever did this poster was a genius - اللي عمل البوستر ده عبقري)

Thursday 19 April 2012

Bullet Points: What Do Tahrir Protesters Want On April 20th

Tahrir awaiting crowds.

Tomorrow will see protesters descend upon Tahrir Square for the second week in a row. While last week's protest was more dominated by Islamist forces, this one is expected to have a wider participation by various political actors and sides. Despite the fact the main impetus behind the call for the protest is now out of the picture (i.e. Omar Soleiman's nomination was eventually disqualified), Shorouk sums up the six demands that most protesters in the "Friday Of Self-Determination"  seem to still be unified upon. They are, mostly using Shorouk's wording:

1- The ban on the candidacies of former Mubarak-regime figures to the Presidency.

2- The furthering of the goals of the revolution, and pressuring the executive authority to fulfill them  being: "Bread - Freedom - Social Justice."

3- The immediate release of all political prisoners who were arrested during events associated with the revolution, unless they were properly convicted for having committed criminal acts, and forcing the Military Council to stipulate in an official statement that Military Courts would only try military personnel, while civilians would be tried in their normal courts.

4- The amendment of article 28th of the Constitutional Declaration, which gave full powers to the Presidential Election Committee to take binding and non-challengeable decisions.

5- The achievement of a new consensus towards a more representative and fairly-composed Constituent Assembly for the constitution, one that is not dominated by one single political current.

6- The "purging" of high ranking personnel operating within the state's executive bureaucracy who were associated deeply with the Mubarak regime.

One comment remains for the future: too many demands in a protest (regardless of what they are, and regardless of what protest it is) dilute focus, weaken the power of the protest to create pressure, make it more difficult for the general public to articulate opinions and become involved with the debate on the presented ideas or decide on whether or not they want to be part of the protest itself. Less is more.

Quick Guide: Who Are Egypt's Final 13 Presidential Candidates

Out of a total of 23 official Egyptian Presidential candidates, ten were surprisingly disqualified, including three of the strongest candidates and leading contenders (I explain in another post who they are and why they were disqualified). Below is a very quick list of who the 13 remaining candidates are. If you want more info, check the link at the bottom:

Left to right: Abul-Fotouh, El-Awwa and Sabbahy.

1- Abul-Ezz El-Hariry: leftist nominee, socialist and labour activist with a career of nearly 45 years.  He was arrested several times under Sadat in particular, and he was Egypt's youngest MP in 1976. Being one of its co-founders right after the January Revolution, he is running on behalf of "The Popular Socialist Alliance" party.

2- Mohammed Fawzy Eissa: little known law graduate and a former police officer. He is running on behalf of the "Democratic Generation Party."

3- Ahmed Hossam Khairallah: former deputy intelligence director, a surprise candidate. He came from a military background and family with strong Security-oriented credential. He joined the intelligence service until 2005 when he retired after 20 years of service, reaching the post  of Information Director. He is running on behalf of the "Democratic Peace Party."

4- Amr Moussa: former Foreign Minister between 1991 and 2001 and Arab-League Secretary-General until 2011. He is considered the front runner, though his support base appears fragile for some. He is considered by many as the "safe" candidate due to his identity as a recognised statesman, but his critics argue he was too close to the Mubarak regime, was only pushed aside when his popularity eclipsed Mubarak's, and that he appears at times to be more of rhetorician than a doer. He is running independently after obtaining more than 30,000 citizen endorsement signatures.

5- Abdel-Mon'eim Abul-Fotouh: medical doctor, former member of the Muslim Brother Guidance Bureau from 1987 until 2009, was expelled from the MB for deciding to run for President, when the MB was still committed to not fielding a Presidential candidate. He has a long history of political struggle and activism , became famous after confronting Sadat on a televised debate about the former president's crackdown on popular politics and Islamists. He is considered to be a progressive and liberal-leaning Islamist, and is a favourite of many pro-revolution voters. He is running independently after obtaining more than 30,000 citizen endorsement signatures.

6- Hisham Al-Bastawisi: former judge and deputy head of the Court of Cassation, and key figure in the Judiciary Independence Movement during the days of Mubarak. After continuous harassment and intimidatory investigations by the former regime due to his general reformist stance, as well as his and others judges' refusal to supervise the 2005 Presidential elections (which he and the others proclaimed as rigged and fraudulent) he eventually suffered from a heart attack in 2006. Even after the charges were dropped he remained under continuous intimidation and surveillance, eventually moving to Kuwait in 2008 to work there. He returned in the middle of the 18-days January revolution to participate in the protests publicly. He had also previously withdrawn from the electoral race before making a surprise comeback. He is running on behalf of the "National Progressive Unionist Rally Party." (Famously known as El-Tagammu')

7- Mahmoud Hossam El-Din Galal: born to a military family, he was a career police officer. He also worked in the UN Middle-Eastern Human Rights department from 1992-1994. He is running independently after obtaining more than 30,000 citizen endorsement signatures.

8- Mohammed Selim El-Awwa: a commercial lawyer and litigator, dubbed a "moderate islamist and political thinker", he obtained a doctorate from the School Of African And Oriental Studies (SOAS) in in 1972 on the comparative study of punishments in the Islamic and Western legal systems. His father was a disciple of the MB founder Hassan Al-Banna, and El-Awwa was instrumental in defending many MB members against the Mubarak regime.  He often differed with the MB due to primarily the doctrine of strict obedience to leadership, which he refused. He is running independently after obtaining more than 30,000 citizen endorsement signatures.

9- Ahmed Shafiq: former Egypt Civil Aviation Minister, considered as Mubarak's confidante and preferred successor, as well as being Mubarak's last Prime Minister. His candidacy is controversial given his close ties to the former regime. He has a Master's Degree in Military Sciences and a Doctorate in Military Strategy. he is running independently after obtaining more than 30,000 citizen endorsement signatures.

10- Hamdeen Sabbahy: respected Nasserist and populist candidate with a long history of student and political activism and struggle, he is also the founder of the Karama (Dignity) Party (under establishment) and head of the Karama Newspaper.  He came to light in 1977 when he confronted Sadat  about inflation in a famous televised debate with students, and was jailed many times during his career, with the last being in 2003 while he was an MP (and reportedly without the lifting of his immunity) under the charge of the illegal "organising of demonstrations" against the US war in Iraq. He is running independently after obtaining more than 30,000 citizen endorsement signatures.

11- Abdallah Al-Ash'aal: former diplomat who served in places such as Riyadh, Bahrain, Greece and Nigeria, eventually rising to head of the Strategic Planning Unit. He is also said to have authored nearly 70 books on various subjects. He formerly withdrew from the race in support of Khairat El-Shater, only to suddenly make a comeback. He is running on behalf of the Asala Salafist Party.

12- Khaled Ali: left-leaning human rights lawyer, dubbed the "Revolution's candidate", as well the youngest candidate of the list at 40 years of age. He is the founder of the Egyptian Centre For Economic And Social Rights, and is running after obtaining more than 30 endorsements from sitting MPs from either/both houses of Parliament.

13- Mohammed Morsy: member of the MB, head of the FJP (The Freedom And Justice Party, the MB's party), and dubbed by the media as Khairat Al-Shater's "backup candidate." This engineering professor and former MP is running on behalf of the FJP.

For more, please refer to this longer and detailed great guide by Ahram Online on all 23 candidates.

Note: I should update this post soon to add a picture for each candidate, as well as links to their official campaign pages.

You might also want to check out these posts:

A Look Into The Main Posters Of Egypt's Presidential Candidates

Egypt's Presidential Elections still somehow under way, despite all the controversies and roadblocks, now with 13 candidates going forward out of the original 23.  For a break from more serious writing, here is a look at some of the most noteworthy candidate posters out there from the original 23. These are all the official posters, mainly being used on the streets, as well as some used predominantly online.

- Hazem Abu Ismail: independent Salafist candidate, and the most famous poster of all. There have been so many of such posters printed and distributed all over Egypt in such a way that online satire was equally prolific. People made hundreds of jokes about it, as well as making photoshopped images of such posters finding themselves on the moon, all over the Great Wall of China, and on microscopically-imaged microorganisms. It is rumoured that Abu Ismail and supporters printed posters exceeding 40 million EGP in cost (hint: an activist associated with another campaig was raising 16,000 EGP so that he could print 100,000 posters.) Next to it is Abu Ismail's old 2005 Parliamentary elections poster, using much of the same structure. Slogan: "We will live dignified."

 - Mohammed Morsy: described by some as the Muslim Brotherhood's "backup candidate" for having gone into the race in case Khairat El-Shater is not cleared for running for the Presidency due to his legal issues, Morsy still has no official posters. These are the official online posters used on MB websites, including the current welcome screen for Ikhwan Online. Some posters identify him with Al-Shater as basically two sides of the same coin: the MB's "Renaissance Project." That is basically done to increase the appeal of his sudden candidacy. Slogan: "The Renaissance... Will of the people."

 - Khairat Al-Shater: the MB's former deputy guide, said to be its main financier and strongest man, and also its original presidential candidate before disqualification. Posters tried to present a more vibrant image of the man who exhausted from previous imprisonment, health condition and  asuperhuman workload. They also present him as the "architect of the renaissance project." One poster that came out, most likely unofficial, was an online poster (yellow, below) claiming he was "The Joseph Of Our Times, "getting out of prison to rule Egypt." The slogan was also: "The Renaissance... Will of the people."

- Khaled Ali: often described as the "Revolution's candidate", this left-leaning human rights lawyer chose a simpler image, more youth-and-common-man-oriented, in his posters. He is the youngest candidate of all, and is said to be running officially to represent the purer and non-compromising goal of the revolution. Slogan: "We will fulfill our dream."

- Mohammed Selim El-Awwa: an independent candidate, a "moderate islamist and political thinker", his campaign is yet to take on full form. Posters are currently still quite varying, many unofficial. But his official online posters are the ones below. His message and slogan: "If I make mistake, then help me rectify. If I lost my path, then my removal from office is a duty."

- Abul-Ezz El-Hariry: leftist candidate running on behalf of the Popular Socialist Alliance Party. His current Slogan: "The Revolution Continues." Slogan comes from one of the slogans and catch phrases used by revolutionaries after the January revolution, as well as the name of the electoral alliance that brought together younger candidates representing the revolution.

- Amr Moussa: former Foreign Minister and former Arab League Sec-Gen, he is the presumed front runner. Moussa is going for a look that would highlight that he is the "safe, respectable and strong" candidate. First up, you can find the main poster, focusing on his stature. Then, the campaign took another staple picture (found in the second poster) and put it on many posters with different backgrounds and different tag-lines. For example, the one below is him in front of a mosque and a church, with the tag line: "National Unity." The campaign slogan: "We rise up to the challenge."

- Abdel-Moneim Abul-Fotouh: former leading MB figure, current independent presidential candidate. Abul-Fotouh is running on the idea of being the "Consensual Candidate," the one that all Egyptian can unite behind. He has a background in Islamism, yet is also considered progressive. For example, poster three presents him as the "Voice Of Moderation." Second poster describes his alleged characteristics, such as "strong and honest", "religious and open-minded", "a visionary." It is suggested that the choice of orange for his campaign colour is a reference to his relative youth and vitality compared to most candidates. The Slogan: "President Of Egypt." I expected another additional slogan soon.

- Ahmed Shafiq: former close confidante of Mubarak, rumoured to be his preferred choice for successor, he was also the civil aviation minister and the last Prime Minister of the Mubarak regime. His candidacy remains a source of controversy given such close ties with the regime overthrown by the revolution. Shafiq is said to have "the most elegant" posters by a few commentators, yet still criticised for being a bit classist or alienating vis-a-vis less affluent and rural voter. First poster is official, the second two appear to be semi-official somehow. Slogan: Egypt for everyone, and by everyone.

- Ayman Nour: liberal politician, was running (before disqualification) on behalf of the "Tomorrow Of The Revolution Party", and first candidate to oppose Mubarak significantly in a multi-candidate elections in 2005 (imprisoned shortly after), he was a late comer to these 2012 elections. I could not find a proper resolution image of his poster, but I found pictures of them on the streets, and the original picture without the text. He it noted for having said with genuine frustration: "I cannot find a place to put my posters!".. due to Abu Ismail's posters being everywhere. Slogan: "We were a ray a of light... in a time of darkness" (a reference to light since "Nour" means "light") - and "For a free Egypt"


- Hamdeen Sabbahy: independent candidate, Nasserist, Sabbahy has a long history of political activism. He is running on a populist platform, attempting to appeal mainly to less affluent and middle-class voters. Some detractors of the poster have claimed it lacked a more "presidential" look to it, especially for such a respectable candidate. Slogan: "One of us, president of Egypt."

- Omar Soleiman: this former VP and Intelligence chief made a very late entry into the race, only to be disqualified as fast as he had entered. I have searched for an official poster, but couldn't find any. This, however, was the most common poster used and posted by supporters, online and offline. Below it was a better effort by his supporter's Facebook page. Slogan: "The true alternative. Omar Soleiman, President of the Republic." 

- Ashraf Barouma: candidate for the Masr Al-Kinana Party, posters show different sides of the  versatile candidate. Now, Barouma was not really a serious contender (he was disqualified as well), but he was talked about much due to a surname that had some comedic undertones in Arabic as well as (says the poster in casual attire) the fact that he had a mysterious plan to "end poverty in Egypt in...228 days." I don't think Hernando De Soto himself had such a day-by-day plan for poverty eradication. Slogan: "Ashraf Barouma, for leader of Egypt." and "Leadership has many meanings and principles... We have lived them."

- Mohammed Hosny Mubarak: his 2005 campaign posters, for ol' times' sake. Yes I know that, well, technically he's not running...yet.

Tuesday 17 April 2012

Why Do We Perhaps Need To Keep Google Plus Alive

There is little secret that Google's recent venture into creating a rival for Facebook (and also Twitter) has been a disappointment. In fact, one article says that one Steve Yegge, a Google Engineer, published publicly by mistake what was supposed to be a private post, saying that that "the Google Plus platform is a pathetic afterthought." It is also said that, in an act of ultimate irony, even Larry Page himself, being one of the two main founders of Google, went for a month without posting anything on his G+ account. Reportedly, traffic and activity have dropped by more than 50% of the past few months on G+ (from more than 120 million active users to less than 60 million) following a previously cataclysmic rush for the service. While some drop was necessarily expected, it was never expected to be this bad. 

For the most part, users found no reason to either give it dedicated extra time within their busy days, or take time off Facebook and Twitter to give it to Google Plus. You just felt "no need" for such a third network. And in fact, many users (like I mentioned above) have already taken the plunge and deactivated their G+ accounts, often announcing it with sarcastic fanfare on their other network of choice. However, there might be one or more reasons why we might need to keep G+ alive.

First, Facebook and Twitter have been overwhelmingly and increasingly dominating information exchange. While Twitter uses more open information-sharing policies, including the capacity to more easily search tweets and pictures using search engines, Facebook has been closing down more and more. In fact, Facebook has been attempting to absorb people into its own walled-ecosystem for quite sometime now, making it difficult for example for other companies to have access to particular sets of data that would otherwise be accessible at least within the Google Model (there is the question of user consent of course). Facebook has also been trying to replace traditional email with its messaging systems, and also decrease the need for other photo-sharing, online gaming and blogging platforms. While it is remarkable that Facebook is trying to create such a one-stop-shop of integrated services, yet it also challenges with such a strategy much of the rest of the internet, primarily stand-alone-sites which might end up becoming Facebook apps. Interestingly as well, until this moment, Facebook remains a privately held company, allowing them pretty much to control their privacy, data sharing or any other policies much to their pleasure.

Second, there is the critical issue of global activism. Social networks have been phenomenally involved in strengthening and energising protests and promoting causes around the world, from the Arab Spring to the Occupy Movement, and beyond. Twitter has already been forced to apply a (still non-alarmingly-used) degree of censorship on a country-by-country basis, setting an worrying precedent as to what might end up being a floodgate of future possible restriction possibilities.  I remember a week of heated offline and online debate where thousands of us, private users and activists and writers, were debating "what alternative is out there in case Twitter becomes genuinely censored?" 

Facebook has its many problems in that regard as well. For example, it also has complete control over which public pages it deletes if they get enough signals and reports from disgruntled users, sometimes leading to useful and totally legitimate pages being deleted simply because it was mass-signaled by an intellectually opposing camp. Blogposts shared on Facebook aren't as easily read by everyone out there, or are as readily searchable online. There is, of course, the question of "Real ID", wherein Facebook insists that you use your true identity. This actually once led to the closure of the famous We Are All Khaled Said page until one of the (previously anonymous) admins volunteered his identity to Facebook, thus restoring the page but leaving himself exposed to Egypt's security crackdown on activists during Mubarak (not like that stopped now). On a slightly less tense note,  here used as an example of how ridiculous things could get, Facebook even blocks certain words from being used as a profile name, like what happened with Australian graphic designer Beta Yee whose account was challenged by Facebook's verification system repeatedly because she cannot use "Beta" as a name.

The concentration of the flow of information, particularly when it comes to activism, in the hands of two major entities could lead into very a compromising and fragile situation with regards to freedom of information broadcast and circulation. The question of potential "non-neutral" significant takeover by one party or another was also raised after a controversial Saudi billionaire recently bought a hefty share of Twitter, with the social network shortly after announcing its censorship policies, leading many users to claim in anger that both events were connected.

The point is that Twitter and Facebook need to be continuously challenged to open up, develop, and feel they stand to lose much quickly with other alternatives waiting readily out there (the demise of another Hi5 and MySpace should never be impossible). And while I had hoped the "third" and "backup" social network would be independent rather than part of a company that has an economic size larger than certain countries (Diaspora could potentially become that as well), most such alternatives (like Plurk) are lagging behind considerably on technical, financial and other issues..

We need an alternative network to ensure that Twitter and Facebook never exercise unfair usage of their dominant positions in the market, to keep both of them in a continuous state of competition that would end up benefitting the market and the users, to give developers more than one source to market their apps and plugins, thus ensuring that they hold the upper hand (or at least significant batting power) vis-a-vis the networks. More critically, we need such a network because activists and writers need to make sure their capacity to broadcast and share information, sometimes of genuinely urgent nature, is never blocked by unfriendly governments muscling their economic powers over one company or the other. So, perhaps until a compelling alternative presents itself, perhaps we still need to make that occasional Google Plus post every now and then.

And no, sadly, I wasn't paid by Google to write this. But while you're at it, why don't you head over to Diaspora and sign up as well. Here's to, possibly, social network number 4.

Monday 16 April 2012

Video: How And Where Do They Make The iPad

Like your shiny iPad and want to know how and where they make it? There was much recent controversy surrounding the working conditions at Foxconn (already an ominous name), the Chinese factory in Shenzhen where they make many Apple products. Recently, a string of suicides and suicide attempts hit the infamous factory, prompting accusations that it treats its workers like robots, and even forcing the company to install nets in certain parts from where people are likely to jump to their deaths. Despite all of this, it remains considered as one of China's best places to work for a factory job (I have been to Chinese factories in Shenzhen, and I somewhat concur), and in this video you can see 500 people arriving in one day alone to apply for work in Foxconn. Here's a look inside life inside Foxconn and how they make the iPad. As you could tell, this video has a more positive spin.

كابتن ماجي - تقليد كابتن ماجد

الفيديو ده واحد من أجمد ١٠ حاجات شفتها في حياتي :)

Sunday 15 April 2012

Why Would Many Want To Vote For Omar Soleiman

In this Ahram Online Op-Ed, I look into the reasons why some have genuine excitement for the controversial Presidential candidacy of Omar Soleiman.

Who Will Become The President Of Egypt? (UPDATE 2)

(Note: In response to requests, I added brief info about each mentioned candidate at the end of the article)

Nearly 10 days ago I made a statement on Twitter that said that Mohammed Morsy (head of the FJP Party) had a very solid chance to become the next President of Egypt. I was, well, criticised (to put it politely.)

But now, after the preliminary exclusion of ten candidates (they have 48 hours to appeal their exclusion), my statement was taken perhaps a bit more seriously.

My argumentation and line of logic was very simple. First, Khairat El-Shater and Hazem Abu-Ismail, two extremely powerful candidates, were most likely set for disqualification for known reasons, which I outline in this post confirming their current exclusion, freeing a significant base of voters to choose other candidates.

Omar Soleiman (assuming he returns to the race), who many do want to vote for (I also outline why in this Ahram-Online op-ed) mainly seems to have support predominantly within major cities and more developed areas rather than rural and less developed ones, which are a big part of the vote. However, it is very hard to assess at the moment the extent of his true reach as a candidate, and how the previous short period wherein the FJP and Al-Nour have dominated parliament and politics has reflected on them in the cities and outside of them, and by extension how people might compare them to previous regime. One recent poll published in AMAY actually put Soleiman at 20%, the highest for any candidate, while giving Al-Shater only 3%. The poll's reliability is regrettably in question, nevertheless, as are most Egyptian polls. Of course, there is also the possibility that he would eventually be forced out of the elections using the Political Disenfranchisement Law - PDL (Background on the PDL: Al-Wasat MP Essam Sultan presented a draft law to Parliament, banning top ranking Mubarak Regime and NDP figures from running for office, particularly to fight the nomination of Omar Soleiman; law suffers from potential violations of the Constitutional Declaration though.)

Former PM Ahmed Shafiq's base of support as a candidate is also generally concentrated within major cities, though he has been venturing heavily outside of the cities to gain greater support. Of course, he aso could face exclusion through the PDL. But most importantly, Shafiq's chances, as a personal observation, seem to have also dropped considerably after some disappointing recent media appearances that have left a negative-to-weak impression with audience. Another major blow to his chances came after much of his potential voter base (e.g. the unaligned, those worried from the Islamists, those feeling that the country was more stable under Mubarak) seem to have shifted their votes towards Soleiman predominantly, towards Moussa to a lesser extent, and some even a bit to Abul-Fotouh (albeit to an even much lesser extent, being more of the unaligned variety.)

Nasserist Hamdeen Sabbahy and "Moderate-Islamist" Selim El-Awwa both have very limited support as first-choice candidates. Sabbahy is seen as a genuinely patriotic figure, but has very little dedicated support base, and that does not seem likely to change soon. El-Awwa's fan base has also considerably dropped throughout the past several months after failing anchor himself to the Brotherhood, the Salafists, or the Revolutionaries, and for failing to position himself as a candidate within the public sphere. Ayman Nour, assuming he makes it back into the race after his recent exclusion, also suffers from the lack of a dedicated base of supporters that is large enough to form a considerable electoral mass. As things stand, left-wing candidates Abul-Ezz El-Hariry and Khaled Ali also currently have very limited mass appeal and dedicated public support, and are expected essentially to attempt to leave an impact on the level and quality of discourse in the elections and bring awareness to oft-avoided issues rather than realistically seek the seat. Neither Hossam Khairallah, a former intelligence high ranking figure, nor former Judge Hisham Al-Bastawisi also seem to have a real chance at the moment of generating any strong electoral momentum.

This essentially would leave the race between Abul-Fotouh, Mohammed Morsy and Amr Moussa.

Abdel-Mon'eim Abul-Fotouh's campaign is gaining traction and is developing into quite a respectable effort, but support remains relatively limited at the moment. Nevertheless, with the exception of Abu Ismail's much older campaign, I would argue that Abul-Fotouh's base of support is the fastest growing in the country as well, gathering around him quite a collection of extremely diverse and contradicting individuals and groups, a testament to his widening appeal. His campaign is also proving to be a source of attraction for younger and well educated individuals as well. The dropping out of Khairat Al-Shater and Hazem Abu-Ismail would also lead to a still-hard-to-identify number of traditional Islamists voting for Abul-Fotouh, a definite boost to his base.

Amr Moussa, however, is a tricky calculation. The assumed frontrunner, according to one view, was never the certain victor media often presented him to be. Moussa's chances were arguably much higher right after the revolution, when people needed an immediately reassuring and non-controversial figure, and had little time to better know other candidates. But the problem with Moussa's campaign is that few people seem "passionate" about Moussa. In a very Mitt-Romneyesque manner, one friend described him as "the ultimate safety candidate; someone who could do the job, but you still want to wait a while longer before committing to." Thus, while Moussa seems to be ranking highest in a few polls, it is quite premature to sound the victory bells. Also, one should remember that during the parliamentary elections non-Islamist parties polled at a higher number than what they eventually got, and remained so until right before the elections when voters began to "make decisions." I also expect a vicious negative-campaign attack against Moussa, whose speculated details I will not elaborate on at the moment to avoid the potential "putting of ideas into people's minds."

That leaves, of course, the MB's Dr. Mohammed Morsy, head of the FJP. Despite his incredibly high organisational profile and political credentials, Morsy seems to have eluded becoming the public figure he could have become by now. This engineering professor, who completed his PhD in the States, was a Brotherhood MP in 2000 and the speaker for the MB block in Parliament then, might have not immediately come to mind several weeks ago as a front-line candidate. But Morsy, who entered the elections as a backup candidate for Khairat Al-Shater, will nevertheless have the support of the entire MB and FJP membership bases and organisational structures, which have incomparable effectiveness and efficiency as demonstrated during the parliamentary elections (one friend, working as an observer for a competing campaign, spoke at length to me in bewilderment of the "complex" food-delivery and member-swapping-and-resting strategies during the parliamentary elections). It is also widely expected, and perhaps most critical to highligh, that much of the aligned and non-aligned votes that went to the FJP and Al-Nour in parliament would also go to Morsy, who will now have a bit over a month to try and become more of a household name. At this moment, this makes Morsy possibly the strongest candidate, quite ironically. Some will disagree, naturally.

There is, of course, one more possibility.

Following the announcement of Omar Soleiman's entry into the presidential race, Hamdeen Sabbahy and others presented an initiative which seems to be gaining more traction than expected. The "Revolutionary Candidate" initiative consisted mainly of bringing together all the candidates that were considered to be aligned with the revolution, and for them to agree on one main candidate that they would all unite around (with one or more other candidates serving as potential VPs). Yesterday morning, the MB/FJP's Mohammed El-Beltagy also said he supported the initiative (in his personal capacity), which is a very signifcant given El-Beltagy's profile within the MB (though he is also known to be his own man). It is widely expected that such an initiative would end up resulting in Abul-Fotouh's selection as the frontline candidate, practically handing him the Presidential seat if the MB also drops out of the race and joins the initiative (which is unlikely). Some speculate that the consensus candidate could be Selim El-Awwa, and rumour that the Brotherhood already is already considering the option. But his increasing decline in appeal seems to have grown too significant to be ignored even by the MB, and Abul-Fotouh would be a much better and more appealing consensual candidate. Of course, if Soleiman remains out of the race, this initiative would end up most likely as scrapped due to lack of raison d'être.

One final note: a recent AMAY poll said about 40% of Egyptians were undecided with regards to who they would vote for. I believe that number, and I think it is even higher.


I have received many remarks on this piece. I would like to highlight and respond to three of them:

1- "But Morsy Is Not Known To Voters": that is true. But much like Khairat El-Shater did an intense media blitzkrieg within the first few days of becoming a candidate, so will Morsy. The media, out of its own free will, will also attempt to highlight and introduce Morsy to the audience as part of its coverage of the elections. The "Brotherhood's Presidential Candidate" will definitely be something exciting for the media, and they will dedicate much air time to him. The Brotherhood's organisational ground network will also make sure that people in rural and other less developed areas will know who Morsy is, and will also position him as the candidate of the Brotherhood and the FJP's "project", letting people feel they are not just voting for one person, but rather for an institution, helping alleviate some of the "but we don't know him" sentiments.

2- "Moussa has been working hard and campaigning outside of the cities, so don't underestimate him": that is true, and it will have a strong impact on his campaign. But the problem is he has done much of his campaigning in such areas very early on, giving his opponents a chance to outdo him and to leave a more recent and stronger impact on voters. Moussa needs to get back on the campaign trail, and revisit some of his major voting areas. As I understand, he has been on the campaign trail.

3- "Abul-Fotouh seems to be too much of an intellectual to connect with the normal voter, right?": mainly received quite a few times from foreign readers. But that is not the case at all. Abul-Fotouh seems to be one of the few candidates who managed to equally connect with all strata of society, without putting on different personas depending on the audience.


Here are brief facts on each candidate mentioned in this piece, in response to requests. Candidates who were not mentioned  They are in order of mention in article:

1- Khairat Al-Shater: former deputy Guide of the Muslim Brotherhood, considered to be MB's most powerful man. He is running after obtaining more than 30 endorsements from sitting MPs coming from either or both houses of Parliament.
2- Hazem Salah Abu-Ismail: a lawyer-turned-preacher, Salafist presidential candidate. He is running independently, after obtaining more than 30,000 citizen endorsements.
3- Omar Soleiman: former Egyptian Head of Intelligence, and former VP for Mubarak. He is running independently, after obtaining more than 30,000 citizen endorsements.
3- Ahmed Shafiq: former civil aviation minister under Mubarak, and Mubarak's last Prime Minister. He is running independently, after obtaining more than 30,000 citizen endorsements.
4- Hamdeen Sabbahy: Nasserist politician, long time political activist. He is running independently, after obtaining more than 30,000 citizen endorsements.
5- Mohammed Selim El-Awwa: considered to be a "Moderate Islamist", a lawyer and an "Islamic Thinker." He is running independently, after obtaining more than 30,000 citizen endorsements.
6- Ayman Nour: liberal politician, and former chief rival to Mubarak in the 2005 Presidential elections. He is running on behalf of the "Ghad Al-Thawra" Party.
7- Abul-Ezz El-Hariri: leftist politician and MP, running on behalf of the Popular Socialist Alliance Party.
8- Khaled Ali: leftist human & labour rights lawyer with strong ties to activists. He is running after obtaining more than 30 endorsements from sitting MPs coming from either or both houses of Parliament.
9- Hossam Khairallah: former high ranking intelligence figure. He is running after obtaining the support of the Democratic Peace Party.
10- Hisham Al-Bastawisi: former Judge and former deputy head of the Court of Cassation. He is running after obtaining the support of the Rally (Tagammu') Party.
11- Abdel-Mon'eim Abul-Fotouh: former MB high ranking member, known to have disagreements with the MB's current leadership. He is running independently, after obtaining more than 30,000 citizen endorsements.
12- Amr Moussa: former Minister of Foreign Affairs under Mubarak until and former Secretary General of the Arab League. He is running independently, after obtaining more than 30,000 citizen endorsements.
13- Mohammed Morsy: high ranking MB figure, head of the MB's Freedom And Justice Party. He is running on behalf of the FJP.