22 May 2005
Mind or muscle might
Wednesday will witness the public referendum on the constitutional amendment
which was passed by Parliament earlier this month, and which allows for the
first multi-candidate presidential elections in
Mubarak’s initiative to amend article 76 of the
Constitution was seen by many as a stone cast in stagnant waters. Its ripple
effect restored hopes in the possibility of
The change we dream of will never be presented to us on a plate of gold. At the same time, we will not seize it through violence or force, but can only attain it through awareness and understanding. Politically, the saying goes that “what cannot be attained absolutely should not be abandoned absolutely”. Consequently, participation and voting are patriotic duties. Boycotting, condemning, or rejecting the referendum are nothing but impotent tools which only serve to play into the hands of anti-reform powers.
I imagine that the proposed constitutional change should attain the required public consent through strong participation. Only then can we move on to modernise and develop our political system, so that new, serious, convincing movements may emerge, with enough public backing to provide a way out of the current squeeze between the ruling party and the religious fundamentalists.
Anyone who contemplates the events of the past two weeks since Parliament approved the proposed constitutional amendment, will observe serious defects in the manner of public expression. Opposing demonstrations swiftly resort to wrathful, indecent language, creating a climate which leads to violence, and aborting the opportunity of instating the right to demonstrate. Observers will note that these demonstrations are in the main part initiated by the members of Kifaya movement—trying yet to gain a foothold in the political street—and the Islamist current, frequently termed the ‘Friday party’ since its demonstration usually start in mosques, following Friday prayers. The deplorable outcome—the inevitable skirmishes with the police—appear as an show of force or confrontation between the ruling regime and the bastions of religion or free opinion. I do not believe that any sensible person would condone such behaviour.
I would imagine that the coming period should witness political dialogue, discussion and debate, through which every political movement would present its ideology and agenda, and maybe stress the points of agreement in lieu of those of conflict. This would definitely serve to strengthen the call for political participation by properly informing the public of all the political players—exposing both the weak and the strong—and encouraging the silent majority to take an active stance and head to the ballot boxes. There are indeed several commendable programmes which serve such a purpose on the radio; I hope TV channels would take their cue and emulate them.
If the ruling National Democratic Party—the ‘elder brother’ on the Egyptian political scene—follows this course, it will succeed in putting an end to the deplorable practice it employed last week when it sent supporters to assault those who demonstrated against it. Perhaps then it would prove that dialogue power is more effective than muscle might.