December 11, 2019

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  • Editorial: No Method in Egypt’s Madness

    Anti-Morsi protesters in Tahrir Square Friday hold a banner saying "Leave Morsi." (Photo by Hassan Ibrahim)

    BY RANIA AL MALKY Cairo – This is it. Less than 12 hours to go before the moment of truth. It is possible that the future of Egypt’s incomplete revolution will be decided by the events of June 30, the day set by grassroots Tamarod campaign to lead mass protests to withdraw confidence from Egypt’s first freely elected civilian president, and demand early elections one year into his term.

    At a rather chaotic press conference by the Tamarod leaders on the eve of zero hour, one of their many spokesmen claimed the petition had collected over 22 million signatures nationwide and that, in fact, the people have “already ousted the regime”, as attendees began to chant in euphoric unison.

    The frenzied sense of triumph was disturbing, as much as it seemed detached from reality. Their only reference to the day after Morsi’s gone was almost an afterthought, a note that even though the current constitution delegates the head of the Shura Council to replace the “fallen” president, they have decided to install the head of the Supreme Constitutional Court in the transition period because, they reminded, the constitution itself has fallen. There was no mention of how exactly Morsi will be removed.

    To share the thoughts of Nathan J. Brown in a recent Foreign Policy op-ed on our beleaguered nation, “anyone who claims an ability to lend clarity either to current events or likely outcomes disqualifies himself or herself by doing so.”

    Like many Egyptians on either side of the political divide, I’m overcome by a sense of absurdity, confusion, rage and despair. Two and half years since January 2011, Egyptians once more find themselves perched on the tip of a roller coaster ride with no protective gear. This time we face only one ugly prospect: a crash-landing into the abyss of ideological warfare that will spill over to the streets, and finish what’s left of state institutions, keeping the vast majority hostage to a meaningless, never-ending loop of violence.

    Turning back the clock to fix a distorted roadmap may have been an option two years ago, but it is not so today when several rounds of elections and referendums have yielded a clear ballot box preference by the electorate. In January 2011 Egyptians were united, spurred on by the confidence of ignorance and clarity: we didn’t know what will happen next but were absolutely clear about our instant, unflinching goal to remove a 30-year dictatorship marred by systematic corruption, nepotism and inefficiency. Today, this unity has been broken beyond repair across ideology, class, religion and generation.

    Any attempt at forcefully challenging the legitimacy of the results of a democratic process will not be accepted, in fact will be resisted to the bitter end.

    I think of a man who spent 80 years trying to build a home on a piece of land he owns. He struggles day and night, come rain or shine, fighting everything from the natural elements to bad neighbors. When it’s all over and he finally moves in, someone comes along, sticks a gun to his head and drags him out because he finds the design motifs of his building distasteful.

    That man won’t simply go gentle into the night, he’ll just as easily bring the whole house down if it’s a choice between death or giving it all up to a “usurper” who has not demonstrated a legitimate right over it.

    Egypt’s political patchwork can accommodate all motifs and designs if only all the stakeholders would open channels of constructive dialogue without preconditions and with a genuine willingness to make concessions. To avoid pandemonium, the political class has no choice but to accept the democratic process, with all its short-term failures and temporarily lopsided playing ground in order to organically reach a formula for more balanced representation in the long term.

    This does not mean reenacting the apathy of the Mubarak era opposition. But it does mean embracing the fact that we have moved on from the phase of mass street action to party politics, mobilization for the ballot box and towards peaceful transition of power. Now is the perfect time to hold parliamentary elections because finally there seems to be more balance in terms of popular support for Islamists versus non-Islamists that could lead to a more equitable representation of the political spectrum in the House of Representatives.

    But alas, as a wise man once said, in Egypt, the democrats are not liberal and the liberals are not democratic.

    While I find it difficult to imagine that any head of state at this dangerous juncture holds the panacea for Egypt’s complex economic and social problems, I contend that President Morsi failed to set as his top priority the need to bring everyone around the table in agreement over a common strategy for the way forward. An indignant and uncooperative opposition did not help, but he should have bent over backwards to find a way, instead of alienating even those who helped him win the election.

    A year ago, when Morsi took office, I wrote that he will be facing “the now disgruntled beneficiaries of Mubarak’s Egypt: the business tycoons, former National Democratic Party leaders, senior media powerhouses and government officials embedded on every rung of the civil service ladder from the city councils all the way up to Cabinet and its hornet’s nest, the Ministry of Interior.”

    What I didn’t foresee was that he will also be facing masses of disgruntled ordinary citizens in the first instance of nationwide public mobilization on that scale since 2011, with one major difference being that protesters today are no longer united and many on both sides are willing to espouse violence if necessary.

    Today the unavoidable confrontation between an old and a new order is playing out to a catastrophic pitch, thanks to the dismissiveness of an increasingly isolated regime, tone-deaf to the symbolism of its words and actions and mysteriously unable to confront the bad press, the lies and black propaganda with creativity and transparency.

    But it’s no use crying over spilt milk. Judging by the violence of the past few days, the  outcome of tomorrow’s inevitable clash of identities and mindsets  will only serve to widen the gap between political rivals, while relegating the majority supporting either side, to the margins of a wasted homeland.

    Rania Al Malky is the publisher of The Egypt Monocle.

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