Egypt’s new constitution was voted in by a referendum that raised heated controversy and that embodied, as did all elections after the 2011 Revolution, the struggle not between different
political programmes, contenders or parties, but between the Islamists and the seculars. The struggle was over the very future of the Egyptian State: whether it would be Islamist or civic. All through, the Islamists had no qualms about exploiting any and all means to win; they deceived, manipulated, persuaded and intimidated the public.
Now that this struggle appears to be the destiny of Egypt at this lag on her journey towards change, and now that the voracity and ferocity of the Islamists have become all-too-obvious, it is time for the civic stream to learn from earlier experience. The seculars should mature and strive to correct previous mistakes in order to prepare for the upcoming parliamentary elections.
It is true that the civic streams have lost the round of the Constitution, but we know that peoples do not live by constitutions per se. Constitutions establish the principles and basis over which the people consent, but it is the laws and regulations legislated basing on these principles that govern and shape the community’s vibes. Hence the importance of the legislative bodies.
So what could not be achieved through the referendum on the constitution may be achieved through the upcoming parliamentary elections. If the civic streams succeed in garnering a majority of the seats, or at least securing a strong opposition of some 40 to 45 per cent, they would finally be in a position to restrain the Islamists and curb their appetite for hijacking the legislative authority to ram down the pillars of an Islamist State. Islamists can exploit the articles of the new Constitution, which either clearly call for an Islamist State, or hold in their folds the potential to usurp legislation in the direction of an Islamist State.
If the seculars intend to salvage the House of Representatives from the grip of the Islamists, they need to seriously and zealously rally their forces and efforts in a matter of a mere three months. Their first priority should be to hold on to the national coalition they formed in the wake of President Mursi’s Constitutional Declaration last November. In all truth, the President and his reckless policies should be credited with bringing about the unprecedented alliance that bonded together most of the secular forces on the political arena.
Among the lessons learnt during the last referendum is that the silent majority is still silent. Out of a mere 32 per cent turnout, 22 per cent were Islamist. This made it obvious that a sizeable portion of Egyptian voters remain out of reach of the politicians; they are up for grabs by the civic stream to mobilise them to vote. Those frustrated with the result of the referendum and the violations involved should not be left to despair, but should be rallied to salvage the upcoming elections, especially given that these are parliamentary elections where constituencies are more often than not manipulated through family, tribal and local affiliations.
Another lesson from the last referendum is that the scene should never be void of judicial supervision. True, the judicial authority refrained from overseeing the balloting in the wake of the vicious attack waged against it by the President; that attack usurped its prestige and independence, and deliberately impeded its activity. Also true is that the President should work to make peace with this authority and reinstate its usurped prestige. But even if the President does neither, either to save face or to benefit of the Islamist stream which exploits well the absence of judicial supervision, the judicial authority should not fail its role of supervising the elections. Only that could ensure the integrity of the polling, and ban the hijacking of the elections by the Islamists as in case of the recent referendum.
The upcoming challenge is a historic one; it involves nothing less than regaining the liberal Egypt and preserving the moderate Islam that always reigned there. All this requires painstaking efforts guided by lessons learnt from earlier mistakes. I would also like to keep the door open, even if slightly, before current calls by the President for national dialogue on the constitutional articles most conflicted. I would like to put the President before his pledge to refer the fruit of this national dialogue to Parliament, once formed, to pass the suggested amendments. But this I will discuss in detail in future articles.
13 January 2013
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