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Egypt: King or Script? - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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There was a well-known variation of the Heads or Tails game in Egypt before the piaster coinage [100 piasters make up 1 Egyptian pound] practically disappeared from circulation, called King or Script. Like Heads or Tails, this game would see children tossing a coin in the air and guessing which side it would land on; the side with the King – the image that was used during the royalist area and which carried on into the republican era even after the image of the King had been remove – or the side with the script, namely the denomination of the coin and the Egyptian Central Bank’s guarantee.

The King and the script are two sides of the same coin, and some theorists believe that the historic relationship between the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and the 23 July revolution is similar to this. Most political documents from this time indicate that there was an alliance – lasting between two and three years – between the two before each party went their separate ways and open conflict broke out. Many of these documents also indicate that a number of the 23 July revolution officers had ties to the Brotherhood during the period of preparing and readying for the revolution, before carrying out a coup against the organization in 1954. This was only natural because Egypt was a liberal elitist hub at the time.

In any case, this is an issue for historians and researchers. However what we must contemplate is the speech given by Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi to mark the 60th anniversary of the 23 July revolution which the four previous presidents derived their legitimacy from, and which was something that they were very keen on emphasizing via different policies. This was the source of much controversy, particularly regarding what the first Muslim Brotherhood president would do on this anniversary, which has traditionally been celebrated every year as one of the most important annual national celebrations, namely would he take part or avoid it?

Therefore, the first speech given by Mursi to celebrate the 23 July revolution was striking and important, particularly in terms of the phrases that he carefully chose to use in order to establish a relation between the so-called second republic and the first republican that established Egypt’s state institutes over the past 60 years. The clear truth from the content of this speech is that if it wasn’t for this first republic, there would have been no second republic, which Mursi considers himself the first president of. Therefore we should follow the French example – which is in its fifth republic today – for they do not erase their history and instead continue to celebrate the important dates of their previous republics.

If we sanctify this stance, this will establish new traditions in Egypt’s political life, contrary to the previous traditions where each era would seek to completely erase the previous one, so that history would be truncated or distorted. This would mean that the country would have to start from scratch each time and this does not allow for the required cumulative process for development, not to mention allowing future generations to benefit from the previous generation, taking what is good and correcting what is bad.

The second republic of Egypt – if we accept this term – has yet to take shape. Society remains polarized, particularly over the identity of the state and the path that it is taking, politically, ideologically, domestically and externally. However determining the relationship between the second republic and its predecessor, the first republic, will be one of the most difficult and important things in achieving stability, and ensuring easy dialogue between the political forces and the components of society.

Ali Ibrahim

Ali Ibrahim

Ali Ibrahim is Asharq Al-Awsat's deputy editor-in-chief. He is based in London.

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