Problems on hold
The Alashan tebneeha (For us to build it) campaign has been launched to back the nomination of President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi for a second presidential term 2018 – 2022, through rallying the public support required for him to run. Article 142 of the Constitution reads: “To be accepted as a candidate for presidency, the candidate must secure recommendations from at least 20 elected members of the House of Representatives, or endorsements from a minimum 25,000 citizens who have the right to vote, in at least 15 governorates, with a minimum 1,000 endorsements from each governorate. In all cases, no one can endorse more than one candidate…”
I see the objective of Alashan tebneeha as purely patriotic, and backed by the impressive record of achievements of President Sisi during his first term 2014 – 2018. Sisi’s love for Egypt and his dedication to her advancement are beyond dispute. He has an exceptional capacity for relentless work, which he has exploited to launch economic reform and development, and to mend bridges in Egypt’s foreign relations. I thus endorse efforts to back his nomination for a second presidential term. I especially hope his great love for Egypt drives him to invest time and effort to reform the political and party map in Egypt so that, when the time comes, four years from now, to nominate candidates for the presidency, we do not find ourselves without figures worthy of running for president. There is only one way such figures can emerge: out of a robust, mature political arena. I hope we do not then find ourselves obliged to amend the Constitution to extend the presidency term or to allow a president to run for more than two terms, if no one but President Sisi is worthy of leading the country. If Egypt has no ability to produce anyone to compete with Sisi’s calibre, we will have only ourselves to blame.
The current Constitution was drafted with a vigilant eye that aimed at eradicating the scourge of interminable or lifetime presidential terms, a flaw Egypt has suffered from since it ceased to be a monarchy in 1953. Securing the peaceful power rotation stipulated by the Constitution, however, hinges on creating a robust political map and strong party system able to produce promising leaders fit to fill the post of president of the republic. Only then can the Constitution effectively protect the nation against burgeoning authority or despotic presidents.
On 27 August 2017, I wrote: “Egypt needs no constitutional amendment” [http://en.wataninet.com/opinion/editorial/egypt-needs-no-constitutional-amendment/21098/]. “By defining a four-year presidential term to be renewed only once, the Constitution protects the nation against authoritarianism, and ensures power is peacefully handed over. Constitutions are not written to honour or reward loyal patriotic rulers, but to protect the people from the tyranny of despotic ones.” I know that politicians and MPs doubt the capacity of the current political arena to produce leaders worthy of running the presidential race. I am also well aware that the fragmentation and feebleness of the parties send no reassuring message to Egyptians. And I am fully aware that there is an unspoken belief among Egyptians that the safety and security of Egypt hinge on the harmonious joint efforts of the ruling and military institutions. I know, too, that this conviction is the outcome of long-standing feebleness of political parties, a situation that can no longer be left to fester.
Those who go back to my 27 August Editorial will feel that I am being redundant, but I am sufficiently concerned about the issue to write about it again and again. I can spot a disconcerting complacency on the national arena, which owes to the public appreciation of and confidence in President Sisi. They do not appear bothered by what happens once his term is over. This situation does not by any means fit a county of Egypt’s calibre, civilisation, and value. President Sisi himself repeatedly commented on the weakness of the political arena. Last May, during an interview with the chief editors of State-owned newspapers, he said, “I have more than once called upon parties with similar agendas and political views to merge, in order to create [a few] strong parties [instead of numerous, conflicting feeble ones]. Only then will the parties produce calibres that qualify for power rotation. I wish to see parties with the same ideologies strive towards collaboration and mergers.”
Last May, President Sisi was expressing a wish. Today, as I strongly endorse the campaign to nominate him for a second presidential term, I say to him: I am an Egyptian who loves Egypt and worries for her future. I give you my vote for a second presidential term, accompanied with a major assignment: to work on reforming the political party scene. I aspire for coalitions that would yield major parties to represent the right, centre and left. I hope these coalitions come up with strong, well-defined platforms that would produce strong political calibres, qualified to contend national leadership and power rotation. Mr President, if you succeed in achieving this during your second term, it will be the greatest of your achievements at all. Egypt would forever owe you gratitude and appreciation much more than if compelled to amend the Constitution to allow you to remain in power.
22 October 2017