Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Opinion: Egypt hits a bump in the road | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Interim Egyptian President Adly Mansour (R) receives a finalized draft constitution from Egypt’s constituent assembly chairman, Amr Moussa, during their meeting at El-Thadiya presidential palace in Cairo in this December 3, 2013, handout picture. (REUTERS/Egyptian Presidency/Handout via Reuters)

Whether during his career in diplomacy or following his involvement in Egypt’s domestic politics, Amr Moussa has been one of those Arab politicians who are brilliant at coining expressions and remarks that widely resonate across the Arab world and attract media attention.

During a press conference he held to present the new draft constitution which will be voted on in two weeks’ time, Moussa spoke frankly about the situation Egypt is in, saying that the country is not well, and has hit an “historic bump in the road.”

The expression “bump in the road” is a correct diagnosis of the situation of the Egyptian state almost three years after the January 25 Revolution. Predictions that Egypt could quickly become, following the transition, a modern state built on modern foundations proved inaccurate and unrealistic. It became clear that major social transformations are often accompanied by troubles and need time to work themselves out. This is not to mention that there are no magical solutions for problems that have been accumulating over decades.

Following the fall of Hosni Mubarak’s regime, two main factors contributed to Egypt hitting this bump in the road. First, no one predicted the former regime would fall that quickly. Therefore, without a working plan for the post-Mubarak Egypt, those in charge of the Egyptian state had to improvise and deal with events on a day-to-day basis.

Secondly, unlike other major revolutions in history, the Egyptian uprising lacked a leadership with an authentic intellectual vision. This has perhaps been a key feature of the many public uprisings that have taken place in and out of the region since 2011. However, the most significant factor behind much of the chaos was the hijacking of the revolution by the Muslim Brotherhood, the most organized political force in Egypt. After realizing this was not the change they were after, the Egyptian people revolted against the Brotherhood on June 30, 2013.

The Brotherhood’s rule ended after one year not only because of their poor performance in government, but also because of the growing concern of a wide segment of society over Egypt’s identity, and the social contract between the government and its citizens, particularly in the light of the slogans which the Islamists have adopted. This is something which the ousted Brotherhood—or at least its leading figures—have yet to realize. Therefore, the Brotherhood lost its support among the Egyptians—or at least a considerable number of them—who were ready to give the Islamist group a chance.

It seems that the Brotherhood has not got over the trauma it suffered in 1954 when, after convincing itself that it was poised to take over Egypt, it found itself excluded from the political game. When the Islamist group came to power in 2012, it seemed to have considered that moment as an historical opportunity to compensate for what happened to it more than half a century ago. This was the policy of the Brotherhood, without taking into account the fact that any given government is supposed to represent national interests and take the concerns of all social sectors into consideration in a bid to preserve social peace.

Today, as we approach 2014, Egypt can overcome the current crisis by putting the political roadmap into effect. The first step to this began with preparing the new draft constitution which will be put to public referendum in two weeks. The public vote will be the first real test of the feasibility of Egypt’s return to relative stability. In fact, there are good reasons to be optimistic, perhaps the most important of which is what seems to be the emergence of a social consensus in Egypt that the referendum and the subsequent elections take place. What is also significant is the need for the Egyptians to realize that accumulated problems need time and sustained efforts to deal with, and thus they should be realistic in their predictions.