Mubarak’s Vice-President Tries Conspiracy Theories to Subvert Protesters

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Photo: BBC via The Guardian

Hosni Mubarak's newly appointed vice-president, Omar Suleiman, who is widely despised by protesters for his role in sanctioning torture as the former head of Egypt's national intelligence agency, gave a 45-minute interview on Al-Musriyya state TV as opposition forces plan for another day of demonstrations tomorrow. In a desperate attempt to keep Mubarak in power until the September elections, Suleiman blamed "foreign operatives with their own agendas whose objective was to create instability, intimidation and rift between Egyptians," reports EnduringAmerica's Scott Lucas. This goes along with state TV statements, which helped incite attacks against journalists, claiming "Israeli spies" were in Egypt described as reporters. Lucas says Suleiman also "put some of the blame vaguely on the Muslim Brotherhood," which Mubarak's regime had used as a boogeyman to consolidate power.

Although conspiracy theories may have been "dog whistles encouraging violence," they held little weight with protesters, particularly as every member of the opposition coalition has denied Suleiman's claims that he's broached negotiations. The Muslim Brotherhood, the April 6 youth movement, and others have come forward saying that Suleiman has not reached out, and that they refuse to talk while Mubarak remains in office.

Suleiman, speaking very much like a man who does not realize his days in power are numbered, tried out other subversive blame tactics to counter the public's unrest. He alluded to Al Jazeera English, which is based in Qatar, by blaming "friendly states who were hosting non-friendly TV stations," claiming that its reports have been false, says Lucas. Suleiman also defended Egyptian police forces saying that they were merely trying to defend themselves against clashes with the youth. Guess all that footage of peaceful demonstrations in Tahrir Square, before the police reappeared, must have been more doctored footage from Al Jazeera, then.

During the interview, Suleiman praised Mubarak for his contributions and reiterated that the elections would take place in August or September, but no later. He asked for five to ten days to work with opposition leaders on amending the Egyptian constitution to facilitate the transition of power. But the Muslim Brotherhood responded quickly, saying that Egypt's constitution already has such a provision and adding, "We're not willing to dialogue on how to keep the current regime. We're ready for any dialogue that responds to the will of the people," according to a translation on Al Jazeera English. Analysts also point to the fact that the government changed thirteen articles of the constitution in seventeen days back in 2007 as more proof that this is a stalling tactic.

After the speech, Tahrir Square, currently in a tense standoff between clashes with government thugs in the vicinity, erupted in chants of "Mubarak go," calling for his ouster as they prepare for tomorrow's "Day of Departure" protest.

Egypt's protests on Twitter [Al Jazeera English]
Egypt (and Beyond) LiveBlog: The Battle of Tahrir Square [Enduring America via Atlantic]
Al Jazeera English live feed [YouTube]