Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

The referendum and 20 billion dollars from Qatar | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi has advised the Egyptian people to vote yes in the constitutional referendum so as not to lose out on the US$20 billion in aid promised by Qatar.

Logically speaking, it is not reasonable for anyone to vote one way or another on their country’s constitution, which, as described by Dr. Mohammed ElBaradei, represents the social contract between the Egyptians and the state, in exchange for financial support from any third party whatsoever. Al-Qaradawi’s advice is simply another “carrot and stick” ploy, and such tactics are being used regularly in the run up to this referendum since the Egyptian President can no longer impose what he deems appropriate on the people, as was the case during the reign of Hosni Mubarak. The ballot box has become the law.

If al-Qaradawi sought to entice the Egyptians with the gift from Qatar, others went further than that. Mosque Imams have promised heaven to those who vote ‘yes’ and threatened hellfire to those who vote ‘no’. Meanwhile, on the other side, there are warnings that voting ‘yes’ could plunge Egypt into a crisis and perhaps even a civil war.

Of course, “billions of dollars”, “hellfire” and “civil war” are all phrases used to stir up and mobilize the masses. They reflect the importance of the constitution, as a contract between the regime and the people, and expectations on all sides are very high. But what is the value of a constitution that does safeguard the country? What is the point of a constitution that divides the Egyptians? More importantly, who will save Egypt if the constitution itself is the cause of instability in the country?

It would be impossible for Qatar to pay even one dollar out of the twenty billion it has promised in investments and aid, or for the International Monetary Fund or other donor countries for that matter, if this conflict continues to shatter Egypt and render it unstable. Voting ‘yes’ or ‘no’ will make no difference if the losers fail to accept the referendum result with genuine satisfaction and conviction.

The draft constitution and surrounding controversy have poisoned the political climate. The Egyptian pound has been dealt a blow in the process and the widespread discord has caused losses in the stock market, all of which are worrying signs. No one in Egypt has the ability to prevent the disaster, whatever the majority vote, except President Mohammed Mursi. His task is difficult because each side considers the referendum to be a decisive issue and extremists, such as Salafi jihadist groups in Sinai, have vowed to impose the constitution by force of arms – although everyone would stand against them if that happened. The problem is that each side has reached a degree intolerance and intransigence that leaves no room for maneuver or retraction later on. Yet constitutions are supposed to be civil projects, the details of which can be revised even after the referendum.

Mursi is the key to the solution. He must demonstrate genuine leadership through reassuring the anxious masses and we hope that he will bring together all parties to his presidential table to fix what the constitution controversy has ruined. He must surrender his affiliation and loyalty to the Muslim Brotherhood, and act as the President of the Republic. Without being a president of the Copts and the civil forces, Mursi would remain exclusively as the leader of Islamist groups; groups that will hound him later on many issues and demand the impossible.

Mursi must also consider the civilized political position of opposition leaders. They have all said that they do not question the legitimacy of his presidency and do not approve of those seeking to topple him through a counter revolution. They will recognize and respect his rights until the end of his current term. However, it is not certain that the opposition will continue to uphold such a moral stance if the president always sides with his own group and marginalizes other parties.