Last week I concluded a four-episode series that analysed and offered alternatives to the defective, heavily-criticised articles in Egypt’s new Constitution, hoping to make headway towards resolving the constitutional crisis gripping Egypt. Two years on the January 2011 Revolution finds Egypt a nation harshly divided between a regime that has failed to unite her people and lead them to safe shores, and a quivering opposition unable to lead the angry, oppressed masses but instead egging it on and draining its energies.
Egypt marks two years of revolution with heartbreak rather than joy. Protest, no matter how peaceful, ends in bloodshed that adds to the country’s credit of dead and injured, and with it wrath and oppression. The political despotism and brutal security of the Mubarak days seem to have made an ugly comeback. The widening chasm between the country’s leadership and the masses has sparked massive demands for Mursi to leave as his predecessor, Mubarak, did two years earlier. But are Mursi, his regime and government alone to answer for the sense of oppression and wrath swamping Egyptians? I can safely say that they did indeed create it, but are not alone responsible for egging it on. The opposition; whose sole activity appears to be to issue statements of denouncement, rejection and protest against the regime, but takes no practical move towards the rescue of Egypt; shares the blame.
The National Salvation Front appears itself in need of ‘salvation’. Whereas seasoned political leaderships should lead the people and not be led by the people’s wrath, the Salvation Front appears to lack the political vision to do so: it stands idle in the face of the simmering wrath of the Egyptian masses. The wrath is understandable and justified, but it is up to the opposition leaders to exploit it to press forward towards the national goal instead of dissipating it into aimless anger that ends in frustration and despair.
The role of the Salvation Front should no longer be restricted to statements that denounce and reject a despotic, deceitful rule. Even if such statements temporarily chime in with the revolutionary sentiment, they fall short of making any ripples that would push Egypt out of the tight crisis which currently engulfs it.
The sway over power held by the President, the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) group to which he belongs, and the government is no secret. Neither is it any secret that the Islamists have throughout the last two years exploited tyranny and political fiddling to confiscate the revolution. The deceit they exercised in the first National Dialogue and on the Constituent Assembly that wrote Egypt’s new Constitution left a bitter aftertaste that never left Egyptians and that created a crisis of confidence between the President and the public. As the President called for a second National Dialogue, it was understandable and justified that the public viewed the invitation with suspicion. But the alacrity with which the Salvation Front declined that invitation unless the President provided guarantees for a fair and effective dialogue was, under the conditions, incomprehensible.
The Salvation Front’s stance does not meet the requirements of the national effort at this stage of near civil war when no political camp on its own can lead the nation. There is dire need for the wise men and women of Egypt to come up with bold suggestions to pull the country out of the crisis. The decision to boycott the National Dialogue—even if based on legitimate fears—will not steer matters into the correct path. It astonishes me that leaders of the Salvation Front, including the savvy politicians and proficient negotiators Mohamed ElBaradei, Amr Moussa and Hamdeen Sabahi would decline sitting to the dialogue table, even though they are very well positioned to manoeuvre it in their favour. I am convinced that they can masterfully exploit the wrath of the street to support their demands, instead of letting it boil over like a volcano that consumes all national efforts.
Even if the second National Dialogue fails to answer the opposition##s aspirations in amending the Constitution or in forming a national unity government, the Salvation Front does not stand to lose. Quite the opposite; it will go to its credit that it took active part in the dialogue and that dishonest intentions on the part of the ruling regime and the MB were behind its failure.
But where the National Salvation Front failed, the Salafi Nour Party shone. Its leaders boldly sat down to the dialogue table and proposed an initiative to pull Egypt out of the crisis and to heal the soreness among the various political factions. This upholds dialogue as the only means to end conflict, violence and anarchy.
The Nour Party suggested the formation of an independent committee to look into amending the Constitution and forming a national unity government. As much as I was impressed by the Nour Party’s initiative, I pitied the Salvation Front for failing to take the lead. Not only that, the Salvation Front had to meet with the leaders of the Nour Party on the day following the dialogue to discuss their initiative and the means to enable it.
But even the safe exit out of the current Constitution and government crisis is not the end of the road. The parliamentary elections will soon be here, and in their wake a long queue of political, economic, social and security challenges. The Salvation Front should thus make up its mind once and for all; does it possess the political will and vision to lead the masses through strong, effective opposition; or will it submit to the street’s whims and end up frustrated and grieved?
17 February 2013