This commentary was published in al-Hayat on 06/06/2011
The first parliamentary elections in Egypt after the Revolution are supposed to be held next September, and yet the political stage is unprepared for holding them, and even the People’s Assembly law, which will determine how the voting will take place, has not yet been issued. This is in addition of course to the many objections raised by the majority of political forces, with the exception of the Islamists, to holding elections before the ratification of a new constitution for the country, or the election of a President. Some fear from the security unrest which Egypt is still suffering from, making the protection of the voting process impossible, despite the fact that most of the clashes that had taken place at every previous elections were due to the insistence of the NDP (National Democratic Party) on rigging them in favor of its candidates, in the face of objections from the candidates of other parties and forces to closing electoral committees before voters, practicing fraud within the committees themselves, switching ballot boxes, or announcing results other than those reflecting the will of voters. Moreover, the political forces produced by the January 25 Revolution have not yet organized into political parties where they would find their expression. And as for those who have managed to form political parties, from among those who ignited or supported the Revolution, they need time to reach out to people and to prepare themselves for the first free and fair elections in which the ruling regime will not have any candidates! This is in addition to legal and constitutional justifications put forward by the “parliamentary elections first” opposition members and by those demanding “a constitution and presidential elections first”. Noteworthy is the fact that some ministers in Doctor Essam Sharaf’s government publicly support taking such a direction, but are nonetheless moving forward with the procedures for a parliament first process, not a constitution first one! On the other hand, there are the Islamists, of diverse factions, who are also putting forward legal and constitutional justifications to support their stance that it is necessary to hold elections before completing the constitution. Those Islamist forces, and most prominently the Muslim Brotherhood of course, are “accused” of being organized, and of having links to the street and experience in dealing with elections – and therefore of having better chances to win a substantial number of parliament seats. And between the former and the latter, there are the throngs of “balatgiya” (paid thugs) employed by the former regime to crush opposition members and by the NDP to punish competitors. There are fears that they will spoil the electoral process in order to fulfill the wishes of the “gangs” of supporters of the former regime, seeking to smear the Revolution or to prove the slogan launched by Mubarak right before stepping down that his absence would mean chaos. It seems that Egyptian society during such a transitional phase needs more time for political forces to figure out how to manage their disagreements and to realize that different stances do not mean quarrelling, but that this is in the nature of things. Indeed, what is noteworthy, for example, is this scene which has become familiar at every national dialogue and in every forum where views differ over the future, as has taken place over the issue of participating in or boycotting the Second Friday of Anger.
And it seems that there are some who still consider that one side smearing the others is an easier and more useful way than putting oneself forward or promoting a program or political plans. What happened to Doctor Mohamed El-Baradei when he headed to one electoral committee to vote for the referendum on constitutional amendments is still in memory, as is what accompanied Amr Moussa’s tours and conferences in some cities and provinces, and most recently the wrangles that took place at the “National Dialogue” and “National Consensus” conferences, as well as at the dialogue between the leaders of the Military Council and the youth of the Revolution. This is even clearer in the way some parties aim for the mistakes of others, as is the case regarding the campaign waged against the Muslim Brotherhood, as well as the campaigns waged by some Islamists against prominent Liberal or Left-wing figures.
Last week a heated argument took place between some media outlets and political forces over an article by writer Fahmy Howeidy, which he based on Al-Hayat’s coverage of the Friday of Anger. All sides believed that the newspaper had estimated the number of participants to be three thousand, despite the fact that it is evident that the number of people who come to the bus stations on Tahrir Square even without a revolution would exceed such a number. Had those who criticized the coverage read the text, they would have realized that three thousand was meant to be the estimate of those who remained in the square waiting for the next day’s protest. On the whole, Egyptians have gotten over the phase of consensus over overthrowing the regime, and have entered the phase of competing for the future.
And if it is in the interest of the former regime’s gangs to cause discord between Egyptian political forces, it is strange that some of these forces have agreed to disagree, and do not realize that everyone has a right to compete in a post-Revolution society, and that the people who revolted deserve to be given the opportunity to choose… without being coerced.