Problems on hold
Now that Egypt’s House of Representatives has been elected, Egyptians are eagerly waiting for the majority and opposition blocs to take final shape so that parliament can set off with a strong balance, as in solid democracies. Eyes are now set on MPs endeavouring to form a majority bloc, and also on those not willing to join this bloc. Some among those who reject joining a majority bloc gave no reason for their stance, implying they are hesitant, indecisive, and have no clear political agenda.
With 65 seats in the House of Representatives, al-Misriyeen al-Ahrar (The Free Egyptians) party is the largest single bloc in Egypt’s parliament. The party issued a statement explaining its stance vis-à-vis ongoing attempts to form a ‘Support the Egyptian State’ front in parliament. The statement said the party refused to join a parliamentary bloc that lacked a clear political platform and relied on hollow slogans. Those who strive to gather scattered members of parliament into substantial coalitions, the party said, should define the political platforms by which they intend to abide. In which case, the Free Egyptians would willingly join the coalition whose platform coincides with the party’s.
The Free Egyptians’ viewpoint is reasonable. We all hope that various blocs would form in parliament; each with its own distinct aims, political perspective, and relevant slogans; and that they would work to fulfil them. Only then will we move from the pre-parliament chaotic individual-centred electioneering to clear political blocs that would redraw the political and party map into right, centre and left wings.
The 2015 parliament is set to shoulder huge responsibilities; maturity and rationality should thus govern the performance of MPs. In this context, I will here cite a few thoughts pertaining to parliamentary work.
There is the outspoken MP who would take the podium to launch fiery declarations and mouth ‘reform schemes’ that never go beyond the microphone and TV cameras that broadcast the parliament’s sessions. No effective policies, changes or legislation ever materialise at the hands of such a MP who only brags endlessly about his or her rebellious rhetoric and who constantly blames inaction on the majority.
There is also the serious, seasoned MP who joins a parliamentary bloc aligned with his or her political vision. Such a MP walks the arduous road of marketing his or her ideas to that parliamentary bloc, and rallies the support of other parliamentary blocs for these ideas and policies. These MPs constitute the dynamo of parliamentary work; and influence change, legislation and monitoring of the executive authority.
It is no secret that when Egyptians in their millions rebelled on 30 June 2013 against the post-Arab Spring Islamist rule and overthrew it, they aspired to build a new Egypt as a civic State democracy. The 2015 parliament is the first after the 30 June 2013 Revolution, and we have to adopt new political and parliamentary rules if we are to fulfil our aspirations. The unity and solidarity of Egyptians and their rejection of all forms of discrimination—that have long dragged this country behind—constitute the cornerstone of the new Egypt. Discrimination, whether ethnic, gender, or age-based, can no longer be tolerated. It is unacceptable that women MPs should alone bear the brunt of defending women’s issues. Neither that the unprecedented number of Copts that made it into parliament—a number we are so proud of—should alone advocate Coptic rights and demand that a law for building churches should be passed by the first parliament after the Constitution, as stipulated by the 2014 Constitution. Neither can we let our young people, our disabled persons, or even representatives of Egyptians abroad solely defend their causes. No representatives or specific sector should stand alone, as though isolated, in defence of that sector’s rights; these rights are everyone’s concern and all should stand united in securing them.
As I see it, the rules of the game have changed in our new Egypt. We can no longer stick to the old view that various sectors of the community should each stand up for their rights. The Egyptian people did not send representatives to parliament to wage battles against the ‘others’ in order to obtain their rights. The beautifully diverse MPs in the 2015 parliament are a symbol of the new Egypt that cares to empower every sector of her community. The real test, however, will be how the majority defends the rights of minorities; how men defend the rights of women, Muslims defend Copts, the rich defend the poor, the older defend the younger, and all join in supporting the disabled. The experience and expertise of Egyptians abroad will be a precious added value to the wealth of Egypt’s human culture.
Will we see Egypt walk that road?
20 December 2015