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We can save Egypt; will we do it?

Youssef Sidhom

28 Jun 2013 2:02 pm

Problems on Hold

Today, one year since President Mursi was sworn in, the Tamarud (Rebel) movement launches a campaign of nationwide rebellion. Egyptians take to the streets to express their anger

, discontent, and rejection of conditions in Egypt under President Mursi. Instead of striving to unite the people and build rapport among the rival political factions, the elected President has remarkably succeeded in contributing to the largest and most serious national rift in the country’s modern history. He blatantly took sides with the group he belongs to, the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) and, to use Islamist lingo, his clan and kin of political Islamists. He persisted in excluding—or overlooking the exclusion—of all other streams off the political map, creating a scene that reminds of the Mubarak-era National Democratic Party and its hegemony over the political scene. 
The year since Mursi came to power witnessed such a decline on all political, economic and security levels, that it is now difficult to contemplate any plan or time frame for reform. The ruling regime targeted the most prestigious State institutions. It assaulted the judiciary and cut down its independence in an attempt to settle old accounts. A hurricane of MB appointments overtook State key posts in order for the MB to tighten their grip on power and secure their hegemony over the State. And as Mursi’s first year in office drew to a close, a cabinet reshuffle that placed MB men in all cultural leading posts worked to spark immeasurable public wrath. The final straw was the appointment of new governors, the wide majority of whom are Islamist, including Adel Al-Khayat as Luxor governor. Khayat belongs to the Gamaa Islamiya which engineered the massacre against tourists in Luxor in 1997 that left 58 dead. This acted as a Tsunami which triggered local rebellion and international censure.
The foreign policy practised by Mursi’s administration, most notoriously exposed in the crises of the Ethiopian Renaissance Dam and the Syrian predicament, lacked all sagacity and experience. In a move that can best be described as ‘political adolescence’ the Syrian crisis was tackled in a disastrous, irresponsible manner by severing all relations with Syria and calling for jihad against the Syrian regime. The call was backed by MB Sunni preachers who branded the Syrians as Shia, which served to turn the regional conflict into a sectarian one, and to widen the chasm between Egypt’s Islamists and non-Islamists. The confrontation started last Friday as thousands of Mursi supporters demonstrated in a show of force to terrorise and blatantly threaten their opponents. Today, masses of anti-Mursi protestors take to the streets in Tamarud rebellion. 
I already expressed my full understanding of the driving force behind Tamarud which demands that Mursi should leave and early presidential elections take place. I closely and anxiously monitor the persistence of the members of the movement not to give up before Mursi complies with their demands. The scene brings to mind the 25 January Revolution, when the multitudes in Tahrir kept chanting, “We won’t go, he should go”, until Mubarak stepped down on 11 February 2011. On that day, they happily cheered the triumph of the Revolution, unaware that it was already being hijacked. Have the leaders of Tamarud set up a political plan to attain their objectives? Do they have a Plan B should anything go wrong?
The wrath that sparks off rebellion cannot rule out the need for political foresight and effort. Undeniably, Tamarud would achieve a sweeping victory should it succeed in driving the President to relinquish his stubbornness and give in to early presidential elections. But what if he doesn’t? What if the masses of rebellious Egyptians keep to the streets day in day out, week in week out, and the confrontation keeps raging between them and the President. I shiver at the thought of the bloodshed that may take Egypt to fully fledged civil war.
Once more I acknowledge that Tamarud, the offspring of wrath and oppression, is here to stay. Even the absence of far-sighted political vision will not bury it. But it is pivotal to note that political foresight can turn the emotional torrent of anger into a potent driving force that corrects its path to achieve its goal. What cannot be achieved through peaceful protest should be pursued through the ballot box. If the President will hold on to legitimacy and the illegality of early elections despite the widescale public rejection of his presidency there’s still a fight to be fought in the upcoming parliamentary elections. This fight requires expert preparation, and can benefit from the exploitation of the Tamarud effort. I believe the upcoming parliament will be the spine of the Egyptian political arena even if Mursi remains in office. Once the seculars unite their ranks and mobilise their supporters, the driving force behind whom is Tamarud, they would garner a majority in the house of representatives and achieve a resounding political victory. They would constrain the hegemony of political Islam and restrain the President even if he remains in power. Balance and discipline would rule the legislative agenda, and the MB’s appetite to usurp the State would be curbed.
The scenario is not impossible to achieve; it channels Tamarud wrath into political effort. We have to work zealously to make it work. The first step is to avoid being drawn into side battles that rob us of focus. We should direct the Tamarud driving force towards pressuring for the swift passage of the law for exercising political rights as approved by the Supreme Constitutional Court. Once the election process starts, we’d be in for serious work, rallying and uniting to avoid fragmentation of the vote. We should press for full judicial supervision, since we already have a bitter experience of judicial boycott during the referendum on the Constitution last December. We should work to rally for 60 per cent turnout in the least, a quota that would ensure transparency. Without this, all efforts go to the wind. 
I say this to all who call for surrender and choose defeat, claiming that “they [MBs] have mastered the art of forging elections…it’s no use to head to the polls.” To those I say that under a just law, judicial and international supervision, and a two-thirds voter turnout, the ruses and the means of forging the will of the electorate stand next to no chance. One need only look at the recent Iranian elections.
Through wisdom and political foresight we can get back our Egypt which they hijacked. Will we do it?
WATANI International
30 June 2013


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