by Ayman Ahmed (News & Analysis, Crescent International Vol. 40, No. 8, Dhu al-Qa'dah, 1432)
Egyptians will go to the polls on 11-28-2012 to elect representatives for a new parliament, the People’s Assembly, so that it can draft a new constitution. Elections to the upper Shura Council will take place on 1-29-2012. Once completed, the new constitution will then be put to a referendum for approval.
Egyptians will go to the polls on 11-28-2012 to elect representatives for a new parliament, the People’s Assembly, so that it can draft a new constitution. Elections to the upper Shura Council will take place on 1-29-2012. Once completed, the new constitution will then be put to a referendum for approval. Fresh elections will be held under the new constitution to elect a new assembly. The party or a coalition of parties that win the largest number of seats in the new parliament will then be asked to form the new government. This is the plan; what happens in reality is a different matter although the young protesters that led the movement to drive Hosni Mubarak from power have not left the scene. There is a popular slogan doing the rounds in Cairo these days: “Tahir Square is not far.”
Currently Egypt is in a state of flux. Parts of the old order have been demolished; the aged dictator Mubarak has been driven from power but his replacement — the High Military Council — acts as the virtual presidency. Mubarak had appointed all the top generals. It would be unrealistic to expect them to let go of the controls or influence they exercise in the country. The generals are guiding Egypt toward a future where they will continue to remain supreme even after elections.
For the upcoming elections, some 105 political parties have been registered. Out of this potpouri must emerge a single party or a coalition of parties that are expected to guide Egypt toward a future acceptable to the majority of the people. Mubarak’s party, the National Democratic Party (NDP), which was founded in 1978 by Anwar Sadat, Mubarak’s predecessor, was disbanded by the Supreme Administrative Court last April. The party had dominated Egyptian political life for more than 30 years. The court also demanded the party’s “money, headquarters and buildings to be seized and handed over to the government.” With the only organized — at least officially — political party out of the way, the field is now open to the Ikhwan al-Muslimin and its breakaway party, al-Wasat. The Islamic Labour Party and Wafd are other important players. While the field is crowded with 105 political parties, most may not be able to mount effective campaigns because of financial constraints or lack of name recognition.
There are other impediments as well. Numerous external players are actively involved to manipulate Egypt’s future. The Americans, stunned at the loss of their favourite client are desperately trying to present themselves as champions of the people. At the official level, they have been accommodated but the people wish to have nothing to do with them seeing them as the principal backers of the Mubarak dictatorship. The Saudis and the Israelis are also not far behind. Both are shell-shocked. The Saudis feel vulnerable because they are left alone to carry the whiteman’s burden of civilizing the Arabs. The Israeli loss is even greater. Egypt under the dictators Sadat and Mubarak was the strongest bulwark against people’s aspirations. With Mubarak gone, Israel is beginning to feel the heat. The Egyptian people wish to have nothing to do with the pushy Zionists. They vented their anger by sacking the Israeli embassy in Cairo on September 9. The Israeli ambassador and other embassy staff had to flee the building and were airlifted from Cairo airport by Israeli military planes. This followed a day of demonstrations in which people expressed their anger at the military regime’s slow pace of reforms.
A major bone of contention is the continued imposition of the state of emergency and trial in military courts of hundreds of protesters arrested during the uprising to oust Mubarak. People are angry that the hated state of emergency is still in force and that the protesters, far from being tried in military courts, should be applauded as heroes. This is where the divergent perceptions collide.
It would be wrong to assume that the struggle of the Egyptian people is over. They have achieved only the first step in their long struggle for freedom and dignity: the removal of a dictator. To realize their dreams, they will have to remain on the scene long after the elections are held and a constitution tailored to serve their interests rather, than those of vested interests, is established and implemented.