Problems on hold
Now and only now do the players on the political field appear to have awakened to the momentous challenge of the upcoming parliamentary elections. No sooner had the Supreme Electoral Commission (SEC) announced earlier this month the timeline of the election process, than a state of high alert appeared to swamp the political arena; political parties made a rush to draw up their candidate lists to have them ready on time. I had repeatedly warned that the procrastination of the parties and their faltering efforts to form strong coalitions would hinder them from successfully contesting the upcoming crucial race. I expressed my fears—even condemnation—of the dubious bargaining between the top political parties and the consequent chaotic, wobbly convergence and divergence; agreement and disagreement; announcement of a coalition then its break up. Time and again I forewarned that, come election day, the top political parties will not be any readier to run the contest. In an attempt to save the day they will rush hysterically, and agree to arrangements they had arrogantly rejected at first.
The scene today reminds me of a careless student who takes it easy on his studies until just before the finals, believing that cramming should get him through. Fate is then master of the game, it would either be kind to him and grant him success he never worked for, or let him reap the just result of his sloppiness and fail.
Today, we await the announcement of the final electoral coalitions, their agendas and candidates. But the last-minute arrangements will surely leave a lot to be desired; we must not fantasise about serious strong coalitions among which we can choose who to represent us. We can only imagine that within the same coalition there would be conflicting agendas and platforms, and possibly bitter rivalries among different leaders and candidates. How can we expect such coalitions to succeed in rallying voters or in winning parliamentary seats? Weary of the [well-publicised] internal squabbles among coalitions, voters now feel exhausted and deceived. They are poorly informed about the candidates and have lost confidence in the parties. This means they will either walk out on the elections—which would spell political disaster—or try to play it safe by sticking to ‘ready-made answers’, meaning they would vote for the candidates that enjoy a good reputation whether or not this reputation is well-deserved.
Amid this chaos, we remain deeply worried about the outcome of the elections that should bring in the first parliament after the 30 June Revolution which rid Egypt of the Islamists, and after the establishment of the new Constitution. This parliament should bear the brunt of substantial legislative reform. Will the parliamentary elections lead to a reassuring majority and a balanced formation that would ensure political stability for Egypt at this critical phase? Or to a meagre majority unable to achieve the aspired legislative reform? I fear that the result would be a scattering of parliamentary seats among dissonant minorities that would swamp the country in conflict and power struggle. These minorities will then scramble to form some sort of majority, but it would be a fragile one rife with internal discord.
The biggest fear is the possibility that the smallest yet most organised of the political forces, the Islamists, would exploit the fragmentation of the seculars and sneak into parliament. The incompetence and disunity of the secular forces can allow the fundamentalists and extremists to make a comeback through parliament. This would definitely impede the path of legislative reform and hinder the executive authority.
I have constantly warned of this hazard, but my warning fell on deaf ears. Now, with the timeline for the elections announced, the dawdling secular parties scramble to make up for lost time. But will last minute cramming save the day? This remains to be seen during the coming three months.
25 January 2015