Egypt: Three scenarios
Many people have asked me about the path that Egypt is following today, and my answer draws from the ancient Egyptian aphorism that reads: when one comes to a crossroads, he can take one of three roads; the road of safety, the road of regret, or the road of no-return. This issue was put forward to many different people during the time of the revolution, resulting either in a new wondrous and prosperous state of affairs, compared to the past, or a state of “disorientation” and bewilderment where a state does not know which direction it should head in and so comes to a virtual standstill, being content with cursing the old regime, but not knowing what should replace it. Alternatively, there is the final path, where following the the revolution, the state suffers from violence and civil war, division is inevitable, and this country is then viewed as a “failed state”, according to the modern method of classifying states.
The “road of safety” in Egypt is clearly embodied in what has been called the deadline for the transfer of power from the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces [SCAF] to an elected civil authority. Power, at the end of the day, is nothing more than a set of institutions that run the affairs of the state and which legislators universally agree as including the executive, the legislative, and the judiciary. At the same time, these are also a set of institutions in which people work, and which work to meet the people’s requirements and needs, whilst also granting them the opportunity to be innovative. Fortunately, despite the 25 January revolution and the Egyptian state being idle as a result of the dissolving of the Egyptian parliament and Shura Council, as well as the destruction of the security apparatus; the presence of the army, judiciary, and state bureaucracy have helped in the management of state affairs. This allowed the country to reach the road of safety by alleviating the security troubles and electing the major legislative institution [the parliament], which is now operative less than one year after the revolution. According to the agreed time frame, the state’s institutions that have been idle will be operational once more following the election of the Shura Council. This schedule or timeframe will then see the drafting of a new constitution, the election of the present, and the military returning to the barracks. When all this has been achieved, Egypt will be ruled by a purely civilian authority for the first time in six decades.
“The road of regret” on the other hard simply means that the state of affairs remains as it is; the process of rebuilding the country is carried out whilst the revolution continues; a duality which will have a huge cost on the country. The cause of this duality can be seen in the revolutionaries returning to the “square” once again on the revolution’s first anniversary, as they believe that none of the revolution’s goals and objectives have been fulfilled, with the exception of the departure of the president and some of his close associates. However despite this, the revolutionaries believe that the roots of the regime remain the same. This view is somewhat true, for a deeply-rooted and firmly established state like Egypt cannot be changed in terms of its regime or people by virtue of a revolution, even as strong a revolution as the recent Egyptian revolution. The state of affairs in the country requires time to change; legislations, laws and the drafting of a new constitution must be extensively discussed and negotiated by the major factions and parties, and this is something that requires time. The revolutionary youth, having entered the domain of politics without a clear leadership – eventually making up 216 separate revolutionary parties and trends – are unaware of the complexities of politics. They believe that laws can and should be agreed upon and enacted immediately; as if this were as easy as ordering a takeaway!
Yet, the revolutionaries have another problem; they do not want to shoulder the responsibility of anything that happened during the transitional period. They are acting as if they were not responsible for defeating the 19 March referendum, when they failed to convince the people to follow a different path. They are acting as if they did not demand that this transitional period be prolonged to allow the youth “parties” to prepare for a general election. It was therefore surprising that they later blamed SCAF for prolonging the transitional period and drawing up an election law that resulted in the failure of all revolutionary parties. Of course, this law was drafted in front of the eyes of the revolutionary powers! Despite this, it was the Muslim Brotherhood who won the most seats, and this would have been the case whether the election system would have been proportional or representative; indeed nobody knows what election system the revolutionaries would have preferred! The dilemma is that the election results were a source of anger; for the youth staged the revolution yet it was the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafist parties that reaped the rewards. Both of these groups are moving towards moderation; however the revolutionaries who have begun to regret the catastrophic mistake they made [in failing to benefit from the revolution], seem to want to resume this revolution, only this time utilizing hard-line slogans, sometimes against SCAF, sometimes against the sovereignty of law, and other times against “fake” democracy.
The road of regret is for the revolution to always feel as if it has been betrayed, whilst the state is frustrated, and everybody is awaiting the moment where clashes break out between members of the two on satellite television screens. Therefore, it is probable that this situation will move to the street in a moment of anger when one side drives the other to despair.
This is the moment when Egypt would reach the “road of no-return”, a moment that seems improbable for the Egyptian people who are known for their moderate nature and their keenness to be distanced from anything that can lead them to danger. This is a country where many former opposition figures have now been let into the decision-making process. Perhaps, the Egyptian people are now in a state of revolutionary and election fatigue at a time. Yet, this situation is totally different to what is going on in the minds of the revolutionaries; the youths who represent the vast majority of the revolutionary powers are now badly injured, or rather insulated, because although many people applauded them during the revolution, they acted differently when it came to the elections. The revolutionary youth were unable to solve this puzzle, and confused by the election outcome, and when confusion has no end, it shifts into frustration, and when frustration exceeds the limits, it becomes violence, and at best, will result in continuation of the revolution.
In this way, one year after the Egyptian revolution, and the so-called Arab Spring, the state of affairs have changed in an unprecedented manner which is not likely to reoccur in the future. What we came to know is that the early romance [of the revolution] has produced a reality that is not so romantic today. What happened was necessary and inevitable because the situation had reached a deadlock. The scenes we are watching now in Syria, and the al-Assad regime clinging to power even at the expense of the deaths of thousands of martyrs, is evidence that whatever change is desired will always have a price. When this change is achieved, however, stressful times lay ahead, during which the people search for ways to move the country forward, not backwards.
All the scenarios take us to a future that will have its own dynamics and conditions, and we must wait and see what this is; 2012 will no doubt be just as exciting as 2011!