Rejoice. Mubarak has gone.

But what comes next?

Rejoice, rejoice. The man who tortured and terrorised his people for 30 years; the man who used dogs to rape inmates of his prisons; the man who was propped up with $1.3bn of US military aid each year . . . He's gone. Resigned. Stood down. Toppled. By people power. God bless the brave people of Egypt, of Cairo's Tahrir Square, who have inspired us all.

Once they took to the streets on 25 January, it was only a matter of time. As the New Yorker's David Remnick pointed out in a blog post last night:

The delusions of dictators are never more poignant – or more dangerous – than when they are in their death throes. To watch Hosni Mubarak today in his late-night speech in Cairo, as he used every means of rhetorical deflection to delay his inevitable end, was to watch a man so deluded, so deaf to the demands of history, that he was incapable of hearing an entire people screaming in his ear.

But Mubarak has quit, leaving his vice-president, the former intelligence chief, Omar Suleiman, in charge. So what happens now? The danger is that Mubarak may have gone but the Mubarak regime stays in office. Others, including the neoconservative commentator Douglas Murray, with whom I appeared on Question Time last night, worry that the Muslim Brotherhood will seize control of the country.

But as Olivier Roy, one of the world's experts on Islamism, points out in the New Statesman's cover story this week, these uprisings in the Arab world have not been led by Islamists; on the contrary, Islamists have come late to the party. And as Bruce Riedel, former CIA official and adviser to Presidents Bush and Obama, pointed out last month:

They [the Obama administration] should not be afraid of the Muslim Brotherhood. Living with it won't be easy but it should not be seen inevitably as our enemy. We need not demonise it nor endorse it. In any case, Egyptians now will decide their fate and the role they want the Ikhwan to play in their future.

I'm no fan of the Muslim Brotherhood, nor do I share its political or theological views, but I do think it is important that we try to understand the MB rather than just dismiss or denounce it. Try some of these links for a more informed and intelligent alternative to Murray's scaremongering:

– "Don't fear Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood", Brookings Institution

– "The Muslim Brotherhood after Mubarak", Foreign Affairs

– "The moderate Muslim Brotherhood", Foreign Affairs

– "The Muslim Brotherhood: should we engage?", New Statesman

– "Wolves or sheep?", Economist

– "Egypt can bring in the Brotherhood", Financial Times

– "What the Muslim Brothers want", New York Times

But the events in Egypt are about much more than the Muslim Brotherhood or the politics of Islamism in the Middle East. We are witnessing the glorious triumph of a peaceful and popular revolution in the most populous Arab country in the world. Let me end by once again quoting from Remnick's excellent blog post:

The drama is far from over and its course is far from predictable. But there is no doubt of its revolutionary importance to the Middle East. Saad Eddin Ibrahim, who was among the most prominent activists to spend time in Mubarak's prisons, told me the other day that the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt were proof that Arabs – particularly young Arabs – want no less than what other people want. They refuse powerlessness, they refuse kleptocracy, they demand the rule of law. "This is a revolution of the 21st century," he told me. "It is a young person's revolution, and we can only hope that it will not be stolen, somehow, by an older generation or a newer Mubarak. We have to hope this empowerment will transform the Arab world.

Mehdi Hasan is a contributing writer for the New Statesman and the co-author of Ed: The Milibands and the Making of a Labour Leader. He was the New Statesman's senior editor (politics) from 2009-12.

Getty
Show Hide image

The failed French presidential candidates who refuse to endorse Emmanuel Macron

While the candidates of the main left and right parties have endorsed the centrist from nowhere, others have held back. 

And breathe.

At 8pm on Sunday night France, Europe, and much of the West let out a huge sigh of relief. After over a month of uncertainty, scandals, rebounds, debates and late surges, the results of the first round of the French Presidential Election was as predicted: Emmanuel Macron (24 per cent) will face off against Marine Le Pen (21 per cent) in the second round of the election on the 7 May.

While polls have been predicting this face-off for a while, the shocks of Brexit and the election of Donald Trump had thrown polling predictions into doubt. But France has a good track record when it comes to polling, and their surveys are considered some of the most reliable in the world. The irony is that this uncertainty has meant that the polls have never been so central to a campaign, and the role of polling in democracies has been a hot topic of debate during the election.

The biggest surprise in many ways was that there were no surprises. If there was a surprise, it was a good one: participation was higher than expected: close to 80 per cent – on par with the Presidential Elections of 2012 – whereas there were concerns it would be as low as 70 per cent. Higher participation is normally a bad sign for the extremes, who have highly motivated voters but a limited base, and who often do better in elections when participation is low. Instead, it boosts the traditional parties, but here instead of the traditional right-wing Republican (Fillon is at 20 per cent) or Socialist parties (Hamon at 6 per cent), it was in fact the centre, with Emmanuel Macron, who benefited.

So France has so far not succumbed to the populist wave that has been engulfing the West. The contagion seemed to be spreading when the Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi lost a referendum on reforming the constitution, but the fightback started in Austria which rejected the far-right candidate Norbert Hofer in its Presidential election and voted for the pro-European, former-Green independent candidate Alexander Van der Bellen. Those hopes now rest on the shoulders of Macron. After having dubbed Angela Merkel the leader of the free world during his farewell tour of Europe, Barack Obama gave his personal blessing to Macron last week.

Many wondered what impact Thursday night’s shooting on the Champs-Elysées would have. Would it be a boon for Marine Le Pen’s anti-immigration platform? Or even right-wing François Fillon’s more traditional law and order approach? In the end the effect seems to have been minimal.

In the second round, Macron is currently predicted to beat Marine Le Pen by more than 60 per cent of the vote. But how does Le Pen almost double her vote in the second round, from around 20 per cent to close to 40 per cent? The "Republican Front" that saw her father off back in 2002, when he received only 18 per cent of the vote, has so far held at the level of the two traditional political parties. Both Hamon and Fillon have called to vote for Macron in the second round to stop the Front National - Hamon put it nicely when he said he could tell the difference between political opponents, and opponents of the Republic.

But not everyone is toing the line. Sens Commun, the anti-gay marriage group that has supported Fillon through thick and thin, said that it will not call to vote for either party – a thinly veiled invitation to vote for Le Pen. And Nicolas Dupont-Aignan, a conservative, Catholic and anti-EU right wing candidate, whose 5 per cent is the reason Fillon didn’t make it to the second round, has also abstained from calling to vote for either. It is within this electorate that Le Pen will look to increase her vote.

The other candidate who didn’t call to vote for anyone was Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who fell back on a demagogic position of saying he would follow the wishes of his supporters after having consulted them. But as a spokesperson for the FN pointed out, there are remarkable congruities between their respective platforms, which can be categorised as a populism of the left and a populism of the right.

They in particular converge over the question of Europe. Aping Brexit, both want to go to Brussels to argue for reform, and if none is forthcoming put membership of the Eurozone to the electorate. While Le Pen’s anti-Europeanism is patent, Mélenchon’s position is both disingenuous and dangerous. His Plan A, as he puts it, is to attempt reform at the European level. But he knows fine well that his demands, which include revoking the independence of the European Central Bank and putting an end to austerity (the ECB, through its massive programme of quantitative easing, has already been trying to stimulate growth) will not be met. So he reverts to his Plan B, which is to leave the European Treatises and refound Europe on a new basis with like-minded members.

Who those members might be he hasn’t specified, nor has he explained how he would leave the EU - at least Le Pen had the decency to say she would put it to a referendum. Leaving the European Treatise has been in his programme from the beginning, and seems to be the real object of his desires. Nonetheless, having set himself up as the anti-Le Pen candidate, most of his supporters will vote for Macron. Others will abstain, and abstention will only help Le Pen. We’ve been here before, and the last thing we need now is complacency.

 

0800 7318496