What now for Egypt?

Egypt’s revolution hasn’t vanquished its underlying corruption and political paranoia. This was what I wrote for The Telegraph yesterday- before today’s verdict- hopefully, I will publish part two this weekend on this blog!


Tomorrow should be a crucial day in the history of Egypt. Two verdicts are expected from the Supreme Consitutional court (SCC), on the future of Ahmed Shafiq’s candidacy in the presidential election, and on the legality of the parliamentary election rules, which would decide the legitimacy of the current parliament. Both decisions are integral to the future of post-revolution Egypt.

Despite reassurances from the parliamentary speaker, Saad El-Katatni, the outcome could spark widespread anger. If the court allows Mr Shafiq to run in the second round of the presidential election, the decision will annoy both the Islamists and the revolutionaries who demanded his ban because they view him as part of the old regime. However, if the SCC disqualifies him, the first round of the election will be declared invalid, and the transitional period of military rule will be longer. Another nightmarish possibility is the disbandment of the parliament (mainly Islamists) but the acceptance of Shafiq’s candidacy -a verdict that I would rather not contemplate.

It is hard to downplay the degree of tension in Egypt, thanks to political blunders by all the parties involved (the military, the Islamists and the revolutionaries). No one is willing to take responsibility for their own actions while they happily trade accusations and point fingers at each other as bad, evil, or even traitors.

The seeds of the problems Egypt currently faces were planted 60 years ago, when a group of military officers staged a coup against the king. The new republic was born into a very unhealthy political climate; it was filled with paranoid officers worried about losing power, desperate to impose their own vision on the entire society, and dismissive of even the slightest sympathy toward the king.

Years later, a pattern emerged: deep-seated insecurity in each emerging leadership accompanied with sheer hatred of the old leadership. Every new leader has enforced a policy of totally uprooting the disgraced ex-leader, his friends, and his inner circle, replacing them with others perceived as trustworthy. Nasser’s supporters faced the same fate as the monarchist administration and were kicked out of public office following his death; the same was true for the pro-Sadats. Now, Mubarak’s men (the Felool) are fighting hard (and probably dirty) to avoid the same fate.

The 1952 coup set the scene for a long history of a police state with muddy politics, half-truths, paranoia, loose laws, and new generations of Egyptians who have learned to judge politics through a monochromic lens (good versus bad).

Last year’s revolution was supposed to bring an end to this poisonous era and provide a fresh start with a healthier political setting. Sadly, the results have been the opposite. The revolution led to the successful removal of the tyrannical top layer, but it failed to heal the chronic problems that lay underneath.

Many became obsessed with the recent past and have forgotten the old era; the pro-Nasser revolutionaries and their candidate Sabbahi are furious with Mubarak’s police state, forgetting that their beloved Nasser was the one who laid its foundation, while the Salafi groups who despise Mubarak while condoning the assassination of Sadat. In addition, none of the presidential candidates has clearly articulated the way to prevent a future police state. How would the “reformed” police force deal with blocked roads and staged sit-ins? Would the police ban tear gas? How would they differentiate between peaceful protesters and mobs?

Some Egyptians have begun to wonder whether they want change for the sake of change or whether such change can lead to better conditions. They have started to view the revolution as the crisis of the elite, with Tahrir as a sideshow of disengaging revolutionaries united in the elements they despise, not in what they share. The low turnout in Tahrir recently confirms these views.

While I hope the legal questions about the Shafiq candidacy will be settled on Thursday, let’s not forget that all presidential candidates indirectly accepted him by agreeing to run in the first round. The turn against the whole process following the result was a simple act of political immaturity―the same immaturity that led the revolutionary to push for a hasty trial of the ex-leader rather than leaving him under house arrest until the end of the transition when he could be tried under new leadership and after the collection of reliable evidence against him and his men.

Egypt was and still is in desperate need of reconciliation and consensus, but there is no reconciliation without truth, and there is no consensus without compromise and political maturity. So far, these are rare commodities. Tyranny is not a virus that exists in Egypt’s presidential palace; it is a chronic process of corruption and greed that call for long – term treatment with a lot of tenacity and patience.

Whatever the Constitutional court decision – however unsatisfactory it may be – we must accepted it and move on. It would be far better for all parties involved to draw a line behind past blunders, and focus on the future, particularly the new constitution, one that should eradicates all elements of authoritarianism and bring more measures of transparency and accountability in order to prevent the new president from becoming another Mubarak.

About nervana111

Doctor, blogger and Commentator on Middle East issues. The only practising doctor who write in Middle Eastern politics in UK.
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