Problems on hold
Managing the political process
Frustration has set in. In the
The top political executives in our country—whether in the government or the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP)—should have sensed the frustration and fury, and should have possessed the vision to manage the crisis adequately. Instead, these executives have obviously opted to play for time, with the objective of maintaining the political status quo till next autumn when presidential and parliamentary elections are due. This effectively postpones any debate on political reform until after the elections, or—better still—indefinitely. They are trying to sell the Egyptian street on the idea that stability is better than change, and that consequently, political immobility is far more important than political reform.
These government and NDP executives did not take the trouble to gain public support for their stance. They did not even bother to ‘beautify’ the situation in any attempt to draw citizens to the polls. They held no public gatherings, seminars or suchlike to harness public opinion in favour of their call for abandoning reform in favour of political stability. Instead, Mr Safwat al-Sharif, secretary-general of the NDP and speaker of the ++Shura++ or Consultative Council—the upper chamber of the Egyptian Parliament—announced that the new president will be “named” by Parliament next May. Kindly note that Mr Sharif substituted “named” for “nominated”. In September Mr Sharif said, a public referendum will be held to decide on the presidential candidate named by Parliament. Mr Kamal al-Shazli, deputy to the secretary-general of the NDP, said that, once the outcome of the referendum is announced, President Hosni Mubarak will be sworn in for a new term.
The entire issue of the new president appears then to have already been decided and the people duly ‘informed’. This despite the fact that President Mubarak himself has said that anyone who aspired to the post of president may nominate himself or herself—as stipulated by the Constitution—once he or she has gained the support of two-thirds of the Parliament members, and the referendum would be subsequently held. The president thus kept the door half-open—on the democratic and constitutional levels—and may have so managed to secure public interest and participation in the process of choosing a president for a new term. Contrariwise, the secretary-general of the NDP and his deputy slammed this door shut when they confirmed that the process was already pre-defined and its result predestined.
It is quite obvious that political vision is entirely lacking where the process of renewing the term of the current authority is concerned. In fact, the process is being managed in a manner which enrages the mainstream public as well as the cultural elite. In which case the bitter questions arise: why do we call upon Egyptians to go to the polls? Why do we ask them to shoulder their responsibility in running their country? How can young people ever believe that their votes count, or that they should adopt a culture of critical thinking and free choice?
It is neither our wish nor our intention to gamble with the future of our country. We thus do not aspire to any democratic change without the prerequisite adequate political groundwork. Until this materialises, we have nothing against the fact that most Egyptians love President Mubarak and prefer him to any newcomer. Even so, we must admit that this emphasises the vacancy of the political arena of any new faces or agendas, which in turn prioritises the necessity of political reform and pluralism.