Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

The pain of Egypt’s liberation? | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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It is never easy to change a society and state after six thousand years of Pharonic rule, which has seen many forms and has been led by both Egyptians and foreigners, but there has always been one thing at its heart, namely tyranny. It was previously thought that the revolutions of 1919 or 1952 would have been sufficient in order to change Egypt and put it on the world’s democratic map, but that wasn’t the case. Perhaps this was because in the first half of the 20th century, society was not ready, whilst in the second half of the 20th century the goal of “establishing proper democratic life” was not possible because the 1952 revolutionaries had completely forgotten this subject. This time, it does not seem that anyone was in a hurry to make similar predictions even when the revolution broke out and the entire regime collapsed faster than its regional counterparts. It seems that the pain of liberation from an authoritarian regime is one that will not dissipate quickly.

Only a few days remain until the run-off election between the Muslim Brotherhood sponsored candidate, Dr. Mohammed Mursi, and independent candidate Ahmed Shafiq. If any expert had put forward the idea a year ago that the final confrontation in the presidential race would be between the last prime minister of the Hosni Mubarak era and the Muslim Brotherhood’s “reserve” candidate, then you would have thought that the Egyptians had completely lost their senses. In any case, it was a huge shock when the youth came out following the first elections to demand that the rules of the game be changed by applying the “political isolation” law. This law had been outlined by the parliament, the majority of which is controlled by the Muslim Brotherhood and the Islamists, citing the case of Omar Suleiman, the former Vice President, who was excluded by the Egyptian High Election Commission, and hence the protestors argued that Shafiq should face the same fate. The country then became embroiled in a major conflict with the demonstrations that proceeded despite the high temperatures. Cairo’s pain lasted for a whole week, with one “million man” march after another, as if it is impossible for democratic elections to exist without widespread pain and social disorder.

The Egyptian people were, to an extent, justified in their protests, wanting to get rid of remnants of the former regime once and for all. This is contrary to the view of Shafiq’s supporters, who argue that it is possible to distinguish between the good and bad members of the former regime, and that Shafiq is an individual with constructive talents who himself helped to shake the roots of the Mubarak regime until it collapsed. Yet the revolutionaries wanted someone younger and more dynamic, in the mold of Khaled Ali, or if this was not possible then someone like Hamdeen Sabahi or Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh. In the end they settled on Mohammed Mursi, yet many revolutionaries remain wary of handing over the country to a group that has not assured anyone of its intentions, and hence the present pain will likely increase in the future.

In reality, the entire issue is painful. It has become akin to Egypt emerging out of the womb and into the wide world, or emancipating itself from the shackles of slavery and backwardness towards freedom and progress. The problem here is that there is no midwife to carry out the birth, and there is no one willing to undertake a caesarian. Nor is there a leader willing to take the nation by the hand to lead it where it needs to go. The leaders were either lost in Tahrir Square or they entered the elections, where nobody who was surprised by the results was prepared to bear them afterwards.

In a case such as this, the judiciary becomes a candidate to act as the midwife, or the authority to lead the country forwards, but unfortunately there has been another complication hindering the process of emerging from the dark tunnel. There are all types of courts in Egypt; constitutional, administrative, ordinary and special, and hence conflicting and contradictory sentences have been issued. Some courts have begun to enter into conflict with the parliament, which is already at odds with the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces [SCAF], which in turn is determined to conduct the presidential elections and then leave the country in the hands of the civilians.

Perhaps the judiciary could still have played a leading role if the pain was confined to all that has been mentioned above, but one cannot ignore that the Supreme Constitutional Court is still dealing with two highly significant powder kegs: the first relates to the political isolation law, and by extension whether Ahmed Shafiq will continue in the presidential race or not, and if he continues the pain will be eased and the elections will be held, and if not the matter will return once again to the High Election Commission that will decide the next, undoubtedly more complicated, step. The second issue relates to dissolving the parliament, its constitutionality, legitimacy and existence. If the Supreme Constitutional Court decides to dissolve parliament, we will be faced with an arena filled with more screaming than anybody could handle, and if it decides to allow the parliament to continue then this is an indication of hope, particularly as the parliament has been active recently and has begun to make preparations for the constituent assembly.

Let us examine the picture. First there were demonstrations calling for the overthrow of the military regime, which will go in any case in a few days’ time, and then we saw demonstrations demanding the application of the political isolation law, which is now in the hands of the Supreme Constitutional Court. All this is happening while the election campaign continues and propaganda is well underway, as if nothing can stop the march of democracy in Egypt! The picture is complicated and painful at the same time, especially as it is intertwined with a tragic scene that may seem marginal, but which sometimes imposes itself at the heart of the picture, namely the case of the former President Hosni Mubarak. He has been overwhelmed by his prison sentence and his health has deteriorated, and now the Egyptian people don’t know how to feel about the last of the Pharaohs! But we will not be able to truly answer whether this man in prison will actually be the last of the Pharaohs, or whether difficulties in the birth of the new Egypt will create another one.

There are fears over Egypt’s democracy project, the traditions of thousands of years cannot be easily forgotten, and the presence of wise voices is rare. The only hope is that Egypt has been through this phase before, as legislative elections took place amidst the Mohammed Mahmoud street demonstrations, the Council of Ministers controversy and the “Maspero” incident, yet despite all this parliament was elected and ran its course. This time will probably be no different, and perhaps this is the nature of politics in the Arab and Egyptian manner. Or perhaps democracy is always difficult at first, and afterwards the situation corrects itself and the balance is restored. We know there will be great pain until the formation of the constituent assembly, but it seems that the road ahead is passable, so why should we doubt the presidential election? We must hope that Egypt, the mother and the baby, come through safely!