Is Egypt on the right track towards democracy?

Some writers, political analysts, and public affairs observers, who live in Egypt, feel free to write and publish their writings about what they claim to be an oppressive regime that is attacking liberty, freedom, and has no tolerance for any dissenting views in Egypt.  They write and publish their writings while they themselves continue to live in Egypt safely without being subjected to the oppression they talk about in their writings.  Many of them occupy positions of influence in Egyptian society and are gainfully employed in government institutions, probably because they are good in performing the duties of those jobs.  The relevant point is that the so-called Egyptian security-driven authorities never touched them, questioned them, arrested them, or subjected them to any form of the oppression that they claim to be rampant in Egypt.  They continue to freely write and publish their views to the public against the current Egyptian government and no one came near them.

Those writers, analysts, and observers need to answer the very relevant question:  How can they reconcile their claim that the current government of Egypt does not allow dissent and does not tolerate any form of non-violent opposition with the fact that they continue to freely write and publish their opposing views and opinions without losing their jobs at government institutions and without being arrested, jailed, or subjected to the treatment that they claim opponents of the current government of Egypt face?  Unless and until those writers, analysts, and observers offer a reasonable explanation in response to this question, their claims are in doubt and their credibility is in question.

I know how ordinary people behave when they live under oppressive regimes, for I had that experience firsthand.  When people, living under oppressive regimes, talk to others they trust, they whisper; they never publish their writings with their names front and centre unless they are far away from the reach of their oppressors.  People living under oppressive regimes know that they can be easily caught and sent to where no one knows where they are, and they naturally behave in a way that recognizes that fact.  But if they do not behave as expected of them, the oppressive regime does indeed take them and send them to where no one (including family and friends) even dares to ask about them.

Claiming that the current Egyptian government is oppressive, does not allow dissent, and is not tolerant of opposition, while continuing to freely live, write, and publish such opposing views is a contradiction that begs for an explanation.  The burden of such explanation rests solely and totally on the shoulders of those who claim the presence of oppression while their own lives represent testimonies to the contrary.

My reading of the Egyptian people differs with those writers, analysts, and observers.  Egyptians are known for their legendary patience, but they are not herds of sheep without will.  No matter how far the imaginations of some writers, political analysts and observers can go, I believe that Egyptians will not allow anyone – Abdul-Fattah Al-Sisi or otherwise – to dispossess them of their liberty and freedom; not after two popular uprisings that stunned the world in two years.  If the Egyptian people do not like what they see happening to their country, they would revolt, time and again, without fear of any real or imaginary level of oppression they might confront.  They did it in January/February 2011; they did it in June/July 2013, and they can do it again and again, and nothing can stop that volcanic popular anger if it erupts.  Notwithstanding the entire Western powers, no one can instill another dictator in Egypt from outside.  The time when foreign powers could keep a dictator in office contrary to the will of the Egyptian public is gone and will remain behind us.

With that in mind, the only logically acceptable explanation for the calm in Egypt nowadays is that the Egyptian public are accepting what is taking place in their country.  This does not mean there is no opposition in Egypt.  It only means that the opposition is not widespread and certainly not strong enough or deep enough to drive ordinary Egyptians to take to the streets as they did in 2011 and 2013.  From that picture, it would be reasonable to conclude that Al-Sisi will stay in power for the remainder of his first four-year term in office and a maximum of another four-year term if he contests and wins the 2018 presidential elections.  It is not outrageous to accept the notion that Egyptians prefer Al-Sisi over anyone from the Muslim Brotherhood (Ikhwaan) that remains to be the most organized opposition to Al-Sisi’s presidency.  While the Salafis, the second most organized political party in Egypt, can probably win a significant number of seats in Parliament, they do not seem to be able to offer the Egyptian public a credible presidential candidate.  As to liberal forces, they have to first agree among them before they propose a credible presidential candidate, but under their current conditions, such agreement among the fractured liberal forces in Egypt seems more of a fantasy than a possibility.  Therefore, Al-Sisi would probably win a second term if he seeks it in 2018, which is more likely than not.  In all likelihood, and barring his death or some other force measure, Egyptians will probably have Al-Sisi as their president until the 2022 presidential elections.

In the end, the Egyptian constitution will prevail, and it is a matter of a few years before Al-Sisi becomes a past president of Egypt.  In the meantime, Parliamentarians can assert their constitutional legislative powers that are much larger, wider, and far-reaching than presidential powers.  For this to happen, however, parliamentary elections must first be held, which is estimated to take place within a few months.

Revolutions and popular uprisings could start the process to move towards democracy but they alone do not bring about democracy.  A lot needs to be done before we can comfortably describe the governing system in Egypt a democracy.  When Egypt has a past president who is neither dead nor in jail, but who lives safe and respected at his own home, we can then conclude that democracy started to take roots in Egypt.  Additionally, and probably more importantly, elected members of the Egyptian parliament need to assume their constitutional powers and responsibilities and legislate the laws necessary to enhance democratic conditions and strengthen democratic institutions.  Then, we can start talking about democracy is on its way to become a reality in Egypt; not an elusive dream as it has been for a very long time.  Until then, we can only hope it will happen sooner rather than later.

I, for one, believe that Egypt has a better chance for realizing that future having removed the Ikhwaan from ruling over the country.  If the Ikhwaan stayed in power, Egypt’s chances for more democratic reform would have been diminished over time, in the name of religion.  Hearing and Obeying (السمع والطاعة) is their modus operandi.  That is how the Ikhwaan conduct their lives, how they formulate their own internal organizational structure, and obviously how they manage governance affairs.  They believe in the fascist ideology of concentrating all powers in the hands of “one pious man”; i.e. Al-Khaleefah (الخليفة) who rules over others for his entire life, and opposing him is equated to the crime of denying God exists, punishable by death – no less; not only for Egypt, but for all of humanity as they claim in their concept of “Professorial of the World” (أستاذيّة العالم).  That possibility is – or should be – frightening for all liberal-minded persons, especially in a deeply religious society such as Egypt that would be ripe for such ideology to flourish and easily become the unchangeable norm for hundreds of years.  If the Ikhwaan take control of Egypt for a long-enough time for them to take full control of the country, the cost of removing them from power would be nothing less than a civil war.  Democracy for the Ikhwaan is a tool to have power and establish control over the country; not a way of life.

I am not particularly a fan of military men governing over civilian lives, but they are better than those who would rule in the name of God with decrees from some Murshed who is not elected by the general public and/or Fatwas from some Sheikh whose idea of the just society is a fourteen-hundred-year old experiment of which little, if any, is applicable to contemporary life.  This thinking leads me to accept the notion that Egypt is on the right track for a promising democratic future.

Monzer Zimmo
Ottawa, Canada

Hope is the stuff from which life is made!

About Alcanaanite

Monzer Zimmo, a Palestinian-Canadian living and working in Ottawa, Canada. Monzer is an advocate of resolving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict through the peaceful creation of a bi-national-democratic state on all the territory of historic Palestine, where Christians, Jews, Muslims, and others live together as equal citizens; be and feel safe, secure, and at home.
This entry was posted in Arab Awakening, Egypt, Egypt's Revolution, Islamophobia. Bookmark the permalink.

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