Mass protests recently broke out in North Africa and the Middle East, with the protests in Tunisia & Egypt garnering more coverage than those in Jordan & Yemen. Yet protests in all four of these countries are bringing about the change that the people desire, at least the people that aren’t in “control” of the nation. The Egyptian protests grew after the Egyptian government shut off the internet, thus blocking much of the communication in Egypt. In Egypt a “march of millions” was planned for February 1st; the Egyptian military has stated they will not fire on the protesters and President Mubarak refuses to step down.
The Washington Post reports, “Mubarak’s appointment on Saturday of Egypt’s intelligence chief Omar Suleiman as Vice President and of former air force commander Ahmed Shafiq as Prime Minister suggests that Mubarak knows his own future is much in doubt. It also suggests that the military is already in full control of the country and preparing for the post-Mubarak period.” The question now becomes, “Will Egypt have a free and open election in choosing their next President?”
If the U.S. State Department and Council on Foreign Relations have anything to do with the election, it will not be free from interference. CFR President Richard Haas says, “The United States should be very circumspect in its public statements, but privately be ‘pushing very hard for a transfer of authority,’ perhaps in the form of a caretaker government or a constitutional reform process… Additionally, any new democratic Egyptian government is likely to be ‘less favorably inclined’ toward Israel, given popular sentiment.”
It seems ironic and hypocritical that the State Department is calling on Egypt to allow “open elections” when ballot access in the United States is so restrictive that in 2008 only 6 candidates were on the ballot in enough States to theoretically win an Electoral College majority. And ballot access is so restrictive in some States that only candidates from the Republican and Democratic parties are allowed on the ballot. However, the American people are told they have “free and open elections.”
Americans are also told that the government will not be able to shut down the internet, though a bill to allow the President to “pull the plug” on the internet is to be introduced by Senators Susan Collins and Joe Lieberman. The bill would allow the President “to seize control of or even shut down portions of the internet” in response to a Homeland Security directive. Thankfully this is just pending legislation.
The situations seen around the world (eg. “rigged” elections & government control of the media and internet) can potentially happen here in the United States. Those of us that support individual rights and freedom need to be vigilant in warning people of the potential for disaster here at home. We need to pressure our “representatives” for open the elections. And we need to remain vigilant now in preserving our rights.