In an unprecedented show of zeal, Egyptians outside Egypt last week lined up in long queues to cast their votes in the presidential election.
Tomorrow and the day after should see Egyptians at home do the same. The people will have the final say on who should assume the historic responsibility of leading Egypt out of the current doldrums, and escorting her to reform and modernity on all political, economic and security levels.
This time the man who sits on the presidential seat will not be granted power, immunity, comfort, or extravagance; Field Marshal Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi aptly described it as a “seat of fire”. The new president will find himself inundated with challenges, responsibilities and crucial decisions which he will have to take in order to carry out his platform and honour his pledges towards Egyptians. And he will have to do all that in a short span of time, given that the Constitution grants him only four years in office. Whether or not the people decide to give him another term will depend on his achievement during the first term.
The massive campaigning by both presidential contenders, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and Hamdeen Sabahi, will afford the winner no time to relax, rejoice or even catch his breath before directly getting down to business. And he will have to do that against a backdrop of terrorist blows and conspiracy by dark forces that would ruthlessly attempt to abort all efforts to rebuild the country. I assume both contenders realise there will be no time to linger.
I would like to offer my good wishes and prayers for success to the new president. But I know this will not be enough, since he will arrive with no magic wand to wave away the dire on the ground reality in Egypt. If we really want him to succeed, we must each share in shouldering the national responsibility through support and hard work. The president will not succeed on his own; the public who voted him in must help and back him up. The Roadmap to the Future of Egypt will not materialise without active effort on the part of the people. This Roadmap was jointly drawn by representatives of the military, the various civil sectors in Egypt, al-Azhar, and the Egyptian Church to chart the way to a democratic future for the country once the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) were overthrown. The people have, through the State’s democratic institutions, the right to monitor and hold to account those in office, but this alone will not suffice. Egyptians must all share in the hard work needed to rebuild the country.
Under the Islamist president Muhammad Mursi who held office from June 2012 to June 2013, Egyptians lived the bitter experience of a president who worked division between the various sectors of the Egyptian people, and granted flagrant preferential treatment to the MB clan he belonged to. His devastating, deceptive decisions alienated him from the people and led to public wrath and refusal to collaborate with his regime. It was as if Egyptians willed Mursi to fail. Today, however, I look with confidence, hope, and optimism at the post 30 June 2013 Egypt, and through to the future whose features are shaping before our eyes. I can almost see the public preparing, in full understanding, to back their new president with the arduous work that would bring prosperity to all.
Let us head to the ballot box in confidence and enthusiasm. Under the three-day pre-election ‘election silence’ period when no electioneering is allowed there is nothing I can say on that head. I wish, however, to tell Egyptians that, just as the new elected president will have no breather after his win, this is not the time for us to relax yet after the journey we started towards democracy on 30 June 2013. We have come a long way from rebellion against a brutal despotic regime, to sustaining the vicious blows of terrorism, to establishing the best Constitution in the modern history of Egypt and electing a president capable of rescuing the nation and leading it into the modern age. But the happy ending is yet to come.
We will soon be electing a new parliament. I wrote before warning that this is the most serious phase of the Roadmap. I warned Egyptians that neither the excellent Constitution we have in place nor the president we would have elected could alone achieve the full democracy we aspire for. I now stress that parliament is the precarious back door through which the radical Islamist streams rejected and ejected by Egyptians on 30 June 2013 may sneak in. If these streams succeed, they might abort or at best impede the aspired legislative reform. Let us never forget that parliament is the tool for true reform.
This is the challenge ahead. All political bodies and parties must be aware of the danger and face it with strong conglomerates and coalitions, through meticulous fielding of candidates and rallying public support. The challenge is to familiarise Egyptians with the candidates and back them up without falling prey to sectarian division or fragmentation of votes. Let everybody put Egypt first at this stage, until we reach a safe shore. Only then can any marginalised group be assured of attaining its rights through democracy and full citizenship.
25 May 2014
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