Monday, September 26, 2011

Egypt: Two Years Without A President

By Abdul Rahman Al-Rashid
               Mubarak ousted but no replacement until 2013
Egypt’s political transition program suggests that no-one will officially replace the ousted president Hosni Mubarak before early 2013. The first elections scheduled since the revolution will be for the People’s Assembly late this year, and the Shura Council election is due to take place in January 2012. Accordingly, neither committee formations nor constitutional amendments could take place before March. Realistically, these issues will not be resolved in a matter of weeks, but the process will likely take half a year at least. Only after all this can a presidential election be organized, to be held at the beginning of the following year [2013].
Such a delay might have been acceptable if the political situation inside Egypt was stable. Yet can the Egyptian situation bear to wait for one more year, or is it ready to explode?
Had the Egyptian revolution been a mere historical replica; in other words an uprising whereby one clearly defined force leads the revolt and dominates the political scene, similar to the pattern of most revolutions worldwide - from the Bolshevist to the Khomeinist, there wouldn’t have been any concerns over time or a political vacuum. But the Egyptian revolution was ignited by youths with no leadership; it was a spontaneous movement that managed to oust Mubarak’s regime.
Now, after eight months, those who have lost the most from the revolution are the youths and Mubarak’s affiliates, whereas the military leaders are the primary beneficiaries. They are the ones who decide upon the government, the courts, oversee the current political situation, and plan for the future. There are others who have gained from the revolution, most notably the Muslim Brotherhood, in addition to a host of minor voices struggling to win a piece of the cake in the Egyptian political scene.
I don’t believe that any of the Tahrir Square activists ever imagined that it would take two years to replace Mubarak. During the revolution, they even rejected the notion of waiting until September this year [for a change in leadership], arguing that this date was too far. They were concerned that time was not in favour of the protesters. This was, and still is, true. Besides threatening the political stability of the country, a lengthy vacuum is also capable of changing the political map. As I predicted months ago, the principal losers today are those who instigated the revolution in the first place. They have now taken a back seat after leading the revolution and creating conditions for it to succeed.
Today the political map indicates that the military leaders will continue to govern or supervise for long years to come. The most organized parties will be best able to endure this lengthy period, for we should remember that two years of hard political grind on a mass level costs a lot; so where will parties find the funding? In more developed political societies, the state usually covers a substantial portion of party costs, even for parties that go on to lose the elections and prove that they only represent a minimal proportion of the electorate.
-This commentary was published in Asharq al-Awsat on 25/09/2011
-Abdul Rahman Al-Rashed is the general manager of Al -Arabiya television. He is also the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al- Awsat, and the leading Arabic weekly magazine, Al Majalla

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