What of those who said ‘No’?

30-05-2014 08:59 PM

Youssef Sidhom

Congratulations Egypt! You now have a new President, voted in by a comfortable majority, to lead Egyptians during the four years to come. It will be no easy task,

 but one rife with heavy burdens, responsibilities, and challenges. Serious, arduous effort is needed for Egypt to emerge from the pathos of security breakdown, economic doldrums, and political fragmentation she plunged into in the aftermath of the Arab Spring revolution in January 2011. I wrote last week reminding readers that the new president will not come with a magic wand to wave away all troubles. His patriotism or zeal will not on their own work miracles; it will take the collaborative efforts of all Egyptians to heal our wounded Egypt and move on towards a bright future.
I have no doubt Egyptians will work hand in hand with the elected President to achieve the longed-for progress. Neither do I doubt that the President will put into motion all the measures required for that purpose, as he so zealously pledged. The hard work is bound to yield fruit; the first fruits should not take too long to bud, and should give Egyptians hope of an excellent harvest ahead through continued work and perseverance.
I say this with an eye on the large segments of Egyptians who voted in the new president. But I also look at those who supported the presidential contender who lost, and those who withheld their votes. I believe the President must work to achieve unity and national harmony, never slipping back into the gaffe of “the president’s group and clan” which we suffered of so severely during the year the overthrown Muslim Brother Muhammad Mursi was president. We should not go back to splitting the national rank in any way.
The President must start by reassuring those who did not vote for him. He should bear in mind that this is no time to settle political accounts. Every Egyptian is entitled to embrace whatever political stance he or she prefers, without having to pay a price; they should not fear or hide. This is the chance to entrench the first foundation of democracy, for political rivals to honourably contest the ballot box and accept the result it brings. Once the elections are over, opponents remain citizens equal in rights and duties, regardless of political views.
The presidential race saw an electorate—political forces, parties, various sectors in the community, and the grassroots—divided between retired Field Marshal Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi and the leftist Hamdeen Sabahi. Every group had their reasons for supporting or rejecting one or other of the contenders; however, respectful political rivalry was not violated.  Now that a president has been elected he will have to face up to the challenge of indiscriminately rallying all, political supporters and opponents, for national work. It is time for national conciliation. Though this is foreseen in case of political forces, parties, and the grassroots; it appears difficult, even rather far fetched in case of Egypt’s youth activists. National conciliation requires determined efforts, wisdom, and patience to gain the confidence of Egypt’s young people and dissipate any lingering suspicion of intentions to exclude them. 
The President must invite the young to posts in State institutions and administrative and decision making apparatuses. The youth must not be solely relegated to driving the wheel of production lest they go back to angry rebellion against what they perceive as exclusion from running the country. The President has already promised the young people seats on all national dialogue tables. He should also activate the constitutionally stipulated empowerment of youth—and all other marginalised groups of Egyptians—to join the various representative councils. He must exploit their capabilities for the benefit of auxiliary posts of political and administrative leadership in Cairo or the provinces. This should work to effectively merge the young people in the public scene, dissipate any suspicions they may harbour, and prepare and polish them for the future responsibility they are bound to shoulder. 
I am confident that Egypt, following the harsh experience of the 2011 Arab Spring revolution and its two-year bitter aftermath, and the 30 June 2013 Revolution which righted matters, is on the threshold of a new phase in her modern history. Today, the measures for mature political exercise are being established, and the relation between governor and governed is being redefined under an enlightened Constitution and a president chosen by the people. Soon we will come full circle when we vote in a parliament that should take on legislative reform and monitor those in authority. Let us just reject conflict and join forces with a new president, a president for all Egyptians.
Watani International
1 June 2014
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