We use a lot of expressions in our daily lives which we know the meanings of, yet we are unaware of their origins or how they came to become so widespread. The Arabic expression “Hais Bais” means a state of impasse, distress or confusion among a group of people. As for its etymology, some claim it was the alias of an Arab poet who was the first to use it, whilst others argue it stems from a term for a mixed food dish!
Generally speaking, Hais Bais is an expression that can be applied to the current Egyptian political sphere, where there is legal, constitutional and political distress and confusion, all of which require a great deal of wisdom in order to emerge with the least damage possible. In a short space of time we have seen roughly five constitutional declarations that have contradicted one another, ever since the initial referendum to determine whether the constitution or the elections should come first.
There has been a lot of confusion: Firstly, a constitutional declaration was issued by the president and rejected by the opposition. Then the president issued another declaration, which partially responded to the opposition’s demands, but maintained the constitutional referendum that is scheduled to take place three days from now amidst a state of heated controversy. The National Salvation Front – an opposition coalition that has gained momentum recently – has called to boycott the referendum. In addition to this there have been several government decrees to increase taxes and prices, which were subsequently eliminated or frozen by the president merely a day after they were announced. Yet such measures are required within the framework of an agreement concluded with the International Monitory Fund (IMF), whereby it will offer US$ 4.8 billion in the form of a loan to stimulate the Egyptian economy and boost international confidence. Now, however, it seems that this loan will be postponed, along with the stimulation of the economy, and as a result a considerable portion of foreign currency reserves will be exhausted and production rates will continue to be adversely affected.
Many people attribute this state of confusion to the first referendum – to decide whether the constitution or elections should come first. Other people attribute the current climate to the way in which the transitional period was managed under the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), and the decisions taken during that period. Yet the reality is that everyone must share the responsibly one way or another, for the reasons behind the current state are completely natural. When the former regime was overthrown, everyone was confused and no one had a clear map of the way forward. If it is true that some members of the political elite had a vision, then they lacked the necessary public mobilization on the ground as people remained cautious. As a result, it was only natural that the scene would be dominated by the most politically experienced organization on the ground, with the largest capacity to mobilize support, namely the Muslim Brotherhood. The Brotherhood went on to record sizeable victories in both the parliamentary and presidential elections, yet other powers, which considered themselves to be the driving forces behind the January 25th revolution, failed to impact upon the polls as a result of a lack of experience, organization and their internal divisions.
Now that nearly two years have passed since the January 25th revolution we have reached an important turning point; the referendum on a draft constitution that is not universally accepted. There are numerous questions that remain unanswered. How will the regime seek to conduct the referendum, what if turnout is low? What if the result is no? Will the road map change as a result of this? The most important question of all is how can harmony be achieved in a climate of sharp polarization between the two major fronts: the Islamists and the civil forces? Today, there are three separate calls for million man marches and no one knows how they will end.
We are witnessing an extremely complex and confused situation and no one can predict its course. However, there is one positive aspect: In Egypt now there is something we can call genuine civil opposition, with considerable public support. This can be mobilized and used to mount political pressure as a united front. It is crucially important for the opposition to maintain its momentum so that no one can monopolize power in Egypt.