Mesir: Pangan, Minyak, Revolusi Oleh M Jusuf Kalla

Oleh M Jusuf Kalla

Wakil Presiden RI (2004-2009)

Mesir, yang mempunyai sejarah panjang dengan peradaban yang tinggi sebanding dengan China di Asia Timur, sangat bangga pada masa lalunya. Orang datang ke Mesir pada dewasa ini umumnya ingin melihat masa lalu itu, piramida, Sphinx, dan lain-lain, sehingga sering orang mengatakan bahwa Mesir masih dihidupi oleh Firaun yang membuat piramida-piramida itu.

Begitu juga pendidikan, terkenal Al-Azhar yang merupakan universitas tertua di dunia yang menjadi kebanggaan dan menerangi dunia Islam sampai sekarang. Pendapatan per kapita Mesir hampir sama dengan Indonesia, yaitu 3.000 dollar Amerika Serikat (AS) per tahun.

Mesir, yang berpenduduk sekitar 83 juta orang dengan Sungai Nil yang memanjang, sebenarnya negeri yang subur, khususnya sepanjang aliran sungai yang sering banjir. Apalagi dengan Bendungan Aswan yang dibangun pada tahun 1950-an oleh Rusia, yang memberi air untuk lahan pertanian yang luas.

Sampai tahun 1990-an, negara ini masih swasembada gandum dan beras, malah bahan pangan pokok diekspor untuk negara-negara Timur Tengah. Kita pernah mengimpor beras dan gandum dari Mesir pada tahun 1980-an.

Mesir juga mempunyai minyak walaupun tidak sebanyak Arab Saudi atau Kuwait. Produksi tertinggi dicapai pada tahun 1996 dengan volume 900.000 barrel per hari. Sejalan dengan naiknya harga minyak setelah tahun 1970-an, hasil minyak tersebut dipakai untuk menyubsidi harga pangan untuk rakyat yang cukup besar.

Akibatnya, rakyat juga tidak terdorong untuk meningkatkan produksi pangan sehingga produksi pangan terus menurun dan sekarang Mesir sangat bergantung pada impor gandum dari Amerika dan Australia serta beras dari Thailand dan Vietnam.

Di lain pihak, produksi minyak yang mencapai puncaknya pada tahun 2006 menurun sampai 600.000 barrel per hari pada tahun lalu. Jumlah ini tidak mencukupi untuk menutupi kebutuhan dalam negeri sehingga subsidi bahan bakar minyak pun meningkat dengan tajam.

Continue reading


Egypt: calls to halt aid to stop regime backlash, compel reform

Egyptian security services today raided the offices of several pro-democracy and human rights groups in Cairo. Several activists were arrested, blindfolded and taken away to unknown locations.

The offices of the Hisham Mubarak Law Center and the Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights were raided. Police confiscated office computers and the mobile phones of several staff members.

The government’s violation of Egyptian citizens’ freedom of assembly and expression is an unacceptable violation of universal norms, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said today.

“It’s especially at times of crisis that governments must express their adherence to these universal values,” she insisted.

“I urge the government and a broad and credible representation of Egypt’s opposition, civil society and political factions to begin immediately serious negotiations on a peaceful and orderly transition,” she said.

During the raids, police accused the pro-democracy activists of being agents of the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas and Mossad, the Israeli secret service – a stunning example of the activists’ political promiscuity or the police’s intellectual confusion.

Continue reading

Egypt: NGO raids hint at imminent crackdown?

It may have been a bad couple of weeks for what political scientist Vitali Silitski calls the Authoritarian International, but signs are that the world’s autocrats aren’t giving up.

Disturbing reports from Cairo suggest that security forces today raided the offices of several leading human rights and civil society groups. According to The New York Times:

Egyptian security police raided the Hisham Mubarak Law Center, where many nongovernmental organizations operate, according to witnesses in Cairo. The police ordered people at the center to lie on the floor and disabled their mobile phones, the witnesses said. Two people were being interrogated.

The regime is also harassing independent media, giving rise to concerns that it may wish to suppress media coverage of an impending crackdown on pro-democracy protesters.

“There is a concerted campaign to intimidate international journalists in Cairo and interfere with their reporting,” said US State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley today.

The media rights group Reporters Without Borders condemned “shocking attacks on BBC, Al Jazeera, CNN, Al-Arabiya and ABC News journalists by Mubarak supporters who were reportedly accompanied by plainclothes police.”

If the regime is cracking down on NGOs, it is showing a myopic approach to the emerging transition in which a robust civil society will be a vital ingredient in countering authoritarian trends and forces in any post-Mubarak regime.

As one analyst notes today, “Egyptian civil society is rich and complex and has within it a persistent liberal strain.”

Egypt’s rulers should also learn the lessons of an earlier transition with strikingly familiar features:

…a dictator who had ruled for more than two decades — holding himself out as the only guarantor of his nation’s stability and serving as Washington’s steadfast ally — tumbled from power after a brief but intense surge of protests …..

The experience of Indonesia’s democratic transition is especially instructive, writes Thomas Carothers. NGOs played a role in ending authoritarian rule, but civil society strengthening was a vital factor in consolidating the subsequent democratic transition.

Regime change in Egypt is more likely to resemble Indonesia’s transition than the 1979 Islamic Revolution, he argues:

The Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt today is significantly different from the Islamist movement driven by Ayatollah Khomeini that ended up grabbing power in Tehran. It has renounced violence in both word and deed for decades and undergone a significant process of moderation. It lacks a charismatic leader such as Khomeini and has already confronted limits to its popular backing through its unofficial participation in parliamentary elections. The current protests in Egypt have focused on non-religious concerns and not featured Islamist slogans or objectives. The Muslim Brotherhood will certainly play an important role in post-Mubarak Egyptian politics, but Egypt is not ripe for a radical Islamist revolution.


About Demdigest


To comment, get more information, or send material that may be of interest to other readers, please e-mail: Michael Allen at


From insurrection to what? Democratic dilemmas in a new Egypt (Democracy Digest)

Can ElBaradei contain the Muslim Brotherhood?

Don’t rule out the Muslim Brotherhood’s domination of post-Mubarak Egypt, writes Daniel Brumberg. But the Islamists can be contained and moderated if the democratic opposition develops the inclusive politics and strong leadership required to engage the dynamic social forces arising from the current unrest.

At this stage in the revolution unfolding in Cairo’s Tahrir Square and beyond, it is hard to imagine how Mubarak’s regime can last much longer. Indeed, the fact that the crowds have grown by tens of thousands, and that the army is protecting them, suggests that the military is now positioning itself to force Mubarak out.

The predominant thesis set out by several experts, including Olivier Roy in the New York Times, and Asef Bayat in Foreign Policy, is that we are witnessing a “post-Islamist” movement, one that hails in particular from a fragile urban middle class whose socio-economic grievances have become politicized. But if there is much to this thesis, rumors of the inevitable irrelevance of Islamists are greatly exaggerated.

Politics is about organization. I and others have long argued that the reason why Islamists are such a critical force is not that they represent a majority; on the contrary, they are influential because they represent an organized plurality, one that faces an organized state and a disorganized civil society (labor, women’s groups, students, businessmen). Opposition to autocracy may be a strong mobilizing force in ousting a regime, but it is not sufficient to transform today’s diverse masses of protesters into a political force with the organization and staying power to compete politically with Islamists.

In the old days – that is, about a week ago – the organizational weakness of non-Islamist forces in most Arab states created a face-off between the state and Islamists, presenting non-Islamists with a difficult choice: Mubarak or the Brotherhood. That particular choice may now have collapsed. But unless the coming weeks and months see a political reform process that provides real incentives for a plurality of non-Islamist voices to organize and secure constituencies, Islamists may become hegemonic.

I am not suggesting that Islamists are, by their very nature, dangerous, evil or radical. I recognize that they contain within their folds a diverse set of voices. But in a context of mass insurrection, a collapsing state and other organized alternatives not as yet on the field of political struggle, Islamist leaders may be tempted to outbid one other, or rival elites, to establish their populist credentials, thus endowing their movement with a more radical face.

In the case of Egypt, this possibility is real. After all, the Muslim Brethren have a proven capacity to mobilize quickly. What is more, and in contrast to the leaders of Tunisia’s An-Nahda Party, the Brethren’s leaders have demonstrated a thin commitment to the principle of pluralism.

Indeed, the works of several scholars highlight this dynamic. Dina Shehata’s analysis suggests that the Brethren have been aggressively opportunistic: they have let secularists lead in challenging the regime, only to come in later having hedged their bets. When they do work with secular forces, they evince ideological flexibility when they are weak, and growing intolerance as their leverage grows within the opposition.

Similarly, Shadi Hamid has demonstrated that the Brethren’s tendency to adopt more radical positions increases when they leave the circle of elite politics and begin seeking mass support, particularly among their socially conservative base. Participation absent credible organized competition from non-Islamist forces does not appear to elicit moderation from the Brethren – quite the reverse.

Everyone who wants to see a transition from autocracy to something close to pluralist democracy –including liberal Islamists– must consider the most effective steps for avoiding this radicalizing dynamic. This will require sustained efforts to forge a common set of rules –a political pact to which all groups will pledge commitment.

Equally critical, such an agreement will require remarkable political leadership. Whether Mohammed ElBaradei can be Egypt’s Nelson Mandela, or at least take a page out of Mandela’s inspiring playbook, is an open question.

Finally, the creation of a political pact secured by credible leaders who can bridge the ideological divide is necessary, but it can only be the first step in a vitally needed reorganization of Egypt’s political field, one that will then harness the energy of new social forces. We may be in a post-Islamist moment, but we are not in a post-Islamist transition – not yet anyway.

This is a time of tremendous opportunity for Egypt and for the region. But this moment could also be a prelude to a new phase of internal conflict whose results are hard to predict. Let us hope that Egypt’s democrats, after the exhilaration of these remarkable days, do not wake up with a terrible headache.

Daniel Brumberg is a Senior Advisor to the Center for Conflict Management at the United States Institute of Peace and Co-Director of Democracy and Governance Studies at Georgetown University.



Democracy v. authoritarianism: let the battle of ideas commence (Democracy Digest)

Who said that the democratic idea is losing its luster?

The world’s democracies may have grown a little timid in confronting the resurgent autocrats. But the battle of ideas between democracy and authoritarianism is back on, writes Financial Times analyst Gideon Rachman.

With the waning of the Third Wave of democracy, a backlash against free trade, globalization and democracy promotion “is entirely possible – maybe even likely,” he argues in his new book.

Yet the tumultuous developments in Tunisia, Egypt and beyond are prompting a re-think.

“It is ironic that the democratic movements in the Arab world broke out just as autocracy seemed to be coming back into fashion,” he notes.

The authoritarian backlash won’t let up anytime soon and we’re likely to see continuing regression in emerging and fragile democracies.

Remember the last round of democratic breakthroughs? No, not 1989. The mixed results of the color revolutions confirm that the real challenge lies in consolidating hard-won democratic gains.

“While the public hunger for dignity is unabated, the road from authoritarianism to democracy is rocky and perilous,” David Brooks notes. For external actors, “the real work comes after the revolution — in helping democrats build governments that work.”

About Demdigest

Enhancing Egypt’s democratic prospects: support the process, not the players (Democracy Digest)

Any efforts to back winners or manipulate the political process during Egypt’s regime change will backfire, with damaging, if not disastrous consequences for the country’s liberal democrats, writes Ellen Lust (left), associate professor of political science at Yale University. Promoting democracy in Egypt must focus on building institutions, not boosting individuals.

The current turmoil in Egypt is prompting many analysts to speculate on the likely political settlement and its implications for US strategic interests.  Some observers even suggest that external actors may be able to influence the outcome of the momentous changes underway.

It is tempting to invest our energies into figuring out those political forces we should work with, those we can sideline and those we must fear if we are to strengthen democracy after Mubarak’s regime.  It draws us to interesting debates: how powerful, moderate, or organized are Islamist forces? What can we expect from the military? Can Mohammed ElBaradei, Omar Sulayman or other ‘friends’ of the West gain support on the streets?

Interesting questions, but the wrong ones – and the wrong approach. We must avoid the temptation to pick winners. Instead, let’s focus on process.

First, we need to reassure Egyptians that we support their struggle for democracy.  Picking and choosing between specific candidates would feed conspiracy theories and undermine voters’ confidence, reaffirming the notion that the US will manipulate events to promote its interests.

Egyptians already have a widespread perception that US aid comes with strings attached:  there are clear red lines vis-à-vis foreign policies (especially Israeli-Egyptian-US relations). Many believe that US support for leaders such as Husni Mubarak, Mahmoud Abbas and others has demonstrated that at the end of the day, freedom and democracy can be sacrificed for regional stability. Supporting individual candidates sends a signal that the US intends to manipulate political actors, and it would discredit those who share liberal democratic values.

Indeed, even opposition activists who develop close ties with the US, some through democracy promotion programs, suffer this problem.  Of course, many Egyptian democrats are understandably protective of their integrity but nevertheless take the view – and the reputational risk – that foreign assistance is often the only source of support for such essential work as advancing human rights, good governance, rule of law or women’s rights. Some groups are willing to accept assistance directly from the US government – from the embassy in Cairo or the Middle East Partnership Initiative, for instance – while others refuse to do so but will accept support from US or European democracy assistance NGOs.  It is a sensitive political calculation for Egypt’s democracy advocates, but even when aid is supplied quietly or through third parties, it can undermine a group’s credibility nearly as quickly as it reaches their account.

Second, we need to remember that radical, anti-American forces are created, not born. They are not fixed, permanent forces, but (as Daniel Brumberg suggests) respond to changing political and economic conditions. The fear that Islamists will take advantage of a post-Mubarak vacuum to establish a radical, “Iranian-style” regime is a real one.  It is particularly significant because Egypt is such a strategic heavyweight in a region where vital security and economic interests are at stake.  Yet that threat is exacerbated if we promote secular forces as a ‘balance’ against Islamists, supporting them while demanding that they reign in their foreign policy at all costs.

In short, the threat is more likely to become reality if we try to repeat the “democracy-building” efforts we undertook with Mubarak – colluding in the pretence of constantly deferred reform while radicalization festers beneath an apparently stable status quo. In that scenario, anti-Americanism will escalate, Islamist forces will radicalize, and the prospect of genuine democracy promotion will be off the table.

Egypt’s leading democrats?

The US must support institutions and processes, not actors. Rather than distinguishing among friends and foes based on ideological proclivities, we need to encourage those who support and strengthen the institutional structures of the state, engage in democratic practices within their own parties, and uphold broader freedoms and liberties.  We need to remember that democracy is made not through elections alone, but by strengthening the institutions that ensure human rights, rule of law, constitutional order, strong political parties, and other fundamental features of democracy.  Ironically, by these criteria, the Muslim Brotherhood—arguably the most democratically run party in Egypt today—should be among them.  It is time to recognize their strengths, and give incentives for ideologically more natural allies to catch up.

The solution is to open dialogue with all actors.  For the past week, while the Obama administration should have been proclaiming unconditional support for those calling for freedom and democracy, it has been playing catch-up with events, discussing the possibility of engaging some interlocutors and ignoring others.  That cannot be reversed.  But, going forward, we can make a concerted effort to follow and encourage the path Egyptians have already forged – establishing broad-based dialogue.

A new era of democracy in the Middle East is a real possibility.  It will require foreign policy adjustments, which will become evident as the pieces fall back into place. It will also require an approach to democracy promotion in the region that avoids the temptation to pick winners and manage the process.  We need to focus on supporting process, not people. Let the people of Egypt do that.

Ellen Lust is associate professor of political science at Yale University and former chair of the Council on Middle East Studies there.  She gratefully acknowledges Julia Choucair-Vizoso for her assistance.