Arab spring, foreboding winter

Couple of stories ringing alarms this morning.

First up, out of Libya:

Arabspring Libya is in danger of falling into the hands of Islamic extremists if a stable government is not rapidly established, Nato’s secretary-general warned last night.

In an interview with The Daily Telegraph, Anders Fogh Rasmussen said Islamic extremists would “try to exploit” any weaknesses created as the country tried to rebuild after four decades of Col Muammar Gaddafi’s rule.

Mr Rasmussen was speaking amid growing evidence of splits in the rebel leadership in Tripoli. His words will cast a damper over the euphoria sweeping Tripoli in the wake of the revolution.

His warning came as the head of the National Transitional Council, Mustafa Abdul Jalil, told cheering crowds in Tripoli that Islamic shariah law would be the “main source” of legislation in the new Libya.

Now over to Egypt:

The authorities in Egypt have widened emergency laws and clamped down on the press, raising fears of a curtailment of the liberties gained after the popular uprising which toppled Hosni Mubarak, the former president, earlier this year.

The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, in power during a promised transition to elected rule, said on Sunday night that it was widening emergency legislation to cover a range of “threats to public order” including “attacks on the freedom to work” – code for strikes – and the deliberate dissemination of rumours and false information.

Much to the embarrassment of Egypt’s military rulers, they received calls from Israel and the United States urging the country to respect its international obligations.

But even before the embassy events, the military council – made up of some twenty top commanders with no political experience – has been buffeted by unfamiliar pressures from every direction. Liberal and Islamist groups are clamouring to influence the political arrangements of the transition; young activists have been mobilising rallies to call for radical changes to break with repressive practises of the past; labour strikes have multiplied; and the country is in the grip of a crime wave.

“I think we will see restrictions during the coming period, especially because elections are approaching [in November.]” said Nasser Amin, who heads the Centre for the Independence of the Judiciary, a legal civil society group.

“It is an attempt to regain control of the situation using the same security methods for which President Mubarak was criticised. In my view this reflects a state of confusion.”

In my view, this reflects on a culture where true freedom is an anomaly.

Just sayin’.

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