Friday,20 October, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1134, 7 - 13 February 2013
Friday,20 October, 2017
Issue 1134, 7 - 13 February 2013

Ahram Weekly

In search of compromise

Don’t expect consensual government anytime soon, writes Dina Ezzat
 

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Al-Ahram Weekly

President Mohamed Morsi’s meeting on Monday evening with army chiefs brought back to the surface questions over the role of the army should political instability continue.
Informed sources deny rumours that the president asked the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) to help quell demonstrations against him. In the words of one source “the request was not made in the first place and therefore it was not declined.”
The meeting, according to sources, reviewed the current political situation.
“The president stressed the need for all state bodies to work to keep the state intact and listened to SCAF members’ assessment of the situation.” The source added that “among the things that were brought up was a reference to a previous attempt by SCAF to call for national dialogue.”
Last November political forces, including some Islamist quarters, expressed outrage at a presidential declaration concentrating all authority in the hands of the president. The army offered to mediate. The offer, which was made with the consent of the president, was later rebuffed at the request of the Muslim Brotherhood leadership, say government, military and political sources.
It is not clear whether the army is now repeating the offer or simply reminding people that it had earlier attempted to contain the growing political polarisation between the Muslim Brotherhood and its direct political allies — some are now disassociating themselves from the group — and the National Salvation Front, a loose umbrella grouping of the non-Islamist political opposition.
It was not only the army’s initiative that was rebuffed by Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood. Several other initiatives were shrugged off, sparking a wave of resignations by presidential appointees, including the vice president, assistant to the president and a host of advisers.
The focus of most initiatives was to reverse the constitutional declaration and allow more time for the constitution to be drafted. Eventually the president agreed to a partial elimination of his constitutional declaration but insisted on pushing through a referendum in which the constitution was adopted with the support of less than two thirds of a 30 per cent turnout.
Writer Ayman Al-Sayyad was among the advisers who resigned. Earlier he had proposed an initiative which he says was rejected because of “misjudgement on the part of the concerned powers over the true dimensions of the political crisis”, an exaggerated focus on the need to pass the constitutional declaration without taking other political factors into account, an exaggerated sense of self-confidence on the part of the concerned powers and “this unfortunate creed of a secret organisation obsessed with security threats”.
“In one of the meetings I attended, at a very high level, I pushed for the grave consequences of polarisation to be considered only to be told there was no harm in political polarisation,” says Al-Sayyad.
The most recent departure from government was this week’s resignation of Culture Minister Saber Arab who, according to a close aide, “felt ashamed to be member of a government that allows its citizens to be humiliated and feels no shame in doing so”.
Meanwhile, several new initiatives have been put forward. Some were offered by political commentators, including Hassan Nafaa who last June supported the election of Morsi. Nafaa proposed a national unity government, a committee to execute necessary amendments to some of the most controversial articles of the constitution and a series of political stability measures ahead of the upcoming parliamentary elections. He even suggested early presidential elections.
Other initiatives that carried more or less the same content were offered by Morsi’s once close ally the Salafist Nour Party and from a group of mostly Islamist leaning young political activists.
The reasons this second round of initiatives failed, argues Al-Sayyad, are the same as the first. A realistic assessment of the situation is still lacking and decision-making circles seem to be, if anything, hardening their intransigence.
“Sometimes it is too late for some decisions and at others it becomes too hard to adopt decisions that could prove that you were wrong earlier. Hard decisions require leaders of a certain nature,” he says.
Moez Abdel-Karim, who was involved with other activists in proposing an initiative for an exit to the current deadlock, argues that what is really at stake is the integrity of a society that is being torn apart by political polarisation and by the public’s growing frustration towards a presidency that has failed to deliver the most basic demands of the people.
“There is violence on the ground and there is an elected president whose government has no clear or coherent plan to meet public demands. What we need today is to agree on the priorities and to agree on a mechanism of operation because the alternative is continued polarisation and frustration and this will not serve the interests of anyone,” says Abdel-Karim.
Political analyst Mohamed Agati argues that what is required now is not a new initiative but political will — “essentially on the side of the regime” — to agree to a compromise. “Unfortunately, the fact is the regime is not convinced that it needs to compromise.”
For Agati it is “the presidency” that needs to come up with an initiative, coupled with clear guarantees.
“It is not enough for the presidency to propose non-binding national dialogue without a clear agenda. The presidency needs to offer an agenda and assurances for the implementation of what is agreed upon.”
This week the presidency decided to delay the next session of national dialogue. Initiated last week, it was attended only by the Brotherhood’s Islamist allies and even they, say sources, are loath to return following the showdown between security and protesters in recent days.
Ahmed Al-Mogheir, a Muslim Brotherhood member close to the group’s strongman Khairat Al-Shater, proposed his own plan on his Facebook page. He recommended the arrest of leading opposition figures, the banning of demonstrations and upgraded weapons for the security forces.
Al-Mogheir told Al-Ahram Weekly that Al-Shater had no connection with his proposals while repeating that the time has come for Morsi “to apply firmness in dealing with the opposition because the opposition has parted with the rules of political play and entered a phase of criminal incitement”.
“They should be arrested for criminal and not political crimes,” he said. For Al-Mogheir, “the time for political solutions has expired; the time for a security approach is now.”
Civil society has already expressed dismay at a new draft law restricting the right to protest. Agati is concerned that other laws, including laws regulating non-governmental organisations and access to information will be “tailored to silence civil society and the media”.
Agati does not expect any breakthrough ahead of the next parliamentary elections. “If the Muslim Brotherhood loses its comfortable majority,” he says, “then they might pursue reconciliation but if not they will opt for a more authoritarian approach.”

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