Wednesday,13 December, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1175, (5-11 December 2013)
Wednesday,13 December, 2017
Issue 1175, (5-11 December 2013)

Ahram Weekly

Democracy at a crossroads

The question of whether Egypt is now on the road to democracy has given rise to much debate both inside and outside of the country, writes Gihan Shahine

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Al-Ahram Weekly

Can Egypt ever have a real democratic system? Never has the question seemed so important, challenging experts everywhere, as it has since the military’s ousting of Egypt’s first elected president and former Muslim Brotherhood member Mohamed Morsi on 3 July, following the 30 June protests.
Political scientists and human rights activists have become seemingly bogged down in an apparently endless debate about whether the ousting of Egypt’s president, as well as the elimination of the Brotherhood and the group’s exclusion from the country’s political life, will undermine the values of democracy and even lead to more chaos and violence. Debates on the issue unveil the deep state of polarisation that has affected Egypt’s political and social landscape.
There are, of course, those who insist Egypt is on the right track towards democratic change, but many have also been expressing concerns that Egypt could be witnessing “a coup against democracy” and “a setback” to the values of the 25 January Revolution and even a return to the kind of regime that existed under ousted former president Hosni Mubarak.
Many of those who opt for a third way besides the choice of military-versus-Islamist rule also see the real danger residing in the “verbal and political war” that has been going on between the two camps in Egypt’s political elite. This, according to political scientist Amr Hamzawy, has failed the first test of democracy and is “driving Egypt’s state and society towards a dangerous precipice and away from the path towards democratic transformation.”
This political war, according to Hamzawy, aims at “excluding the other to the point of total elimination and its removal from public life” and at “controlling the actions of the majority of the political parties, movements and institutions that currently enjoy positions of influence.”
Hamzawy, a liberal thinker known for his opposition to the Brotherhood, was paradoxically himself accused of being a “Brotherhood sleeper cell” and “an agent of western interests” when he insisted on classifying the army’s intervention and ouster of former president Morsi as “a military coup that took place following popular expressions of widespread dissatisfaction and anger on 30 June.”

A WAR Of DEFINITIONS: After Morsi’s ouster, political scientists and both the local and foreign media became bogged down in a seemingly endless debate over the correct way of describing the military’s removal of Morsi.
Whereas the foreign media sounded Western concerns over the military’s “seizure of power” and what it described as the “violent suppression of peaceful protesters,” the dominant tone in the local media, as well as among a wide section of the country’s intellectuals and civil society, tended towards describing the military’s actions from a nationalist perspective as aiming at saving democracy and Egypt’s national interests. The argument remains very much alive today.
“Here in Egypt we don’t call it a coup” is how the liberal and pro-democracy activist Saadeddin Ibrahim described the 3 July ouster of Morsi to the Voice of America radio station. Like many Egyptians, Ibrahim insisted that the military only took power in response to the will of the people who had risen up in arguably unprecedented numbers. “It was the army that was trying to catch up with them [the protesters],” Ibrahim said.
Legal expert and political analyst Adel Amer similarly argued that the military had had to intervene to prevent a potential civil war. “The military usually intervenes only when the ruler reaches a deadlock with the revolutionary masses who are considered the source of all power in the constitution,” Amer explained. “This has been the case in almost all of the world’s revolutions.”
In Egypt’s case, Amer said that the military had “had to intervene when Morsi refused all suggestions that he hold a referendum, carry out early presidential elections, or just resign.” He added that “the military felt that Egypt’s identity was at stake and that Morsi was seeking to impose Brotherhood hegemony over the state.”
Like many in the anti-Brotherhood camp, Amer would agree with The New York Times journalist David Brooks that “elections are not a good thing when they lead to the elevation of people whose substantive beliefs fall outside the democratic orbit.”
Although Egypt may have taken some steps back, “at least radical Islam, the main threat to global peace, has been partially discredited and removed from office,” Brooks wrote. Like many in the anti-Morsi camp, Brooks charged that the Islamists “lack the mental equipment to govern” and once in office “they would centralise power and undermine the democracy that elevated them.” In that vein, Amer suggested that the military had had to interfere to save Egypt from “a potential dictator”.
Yet, others remain unconvinced. “No matter how many mistakes the Brotherhood made in Egypt, the democratically elected president Mohamed Morsi was overthrown by the army,” argues the UK newspaper the Independent’s Middle East correspondent Robert Fisk.
The most common argument among some specialists on issues of democracy, and of course those in the pro-Morsi camp, is that the military deposed a president who had been elected just a year before in elections that had been characterised by many as free and fair.
Although the military had seemed to respond to the demands of massive protests against Morsi, who had sometimes been seen as defiant and whose popularity had sharply dropped due to his government’s failure to meet the demands of a wide section of the nation, some analysts have suggested that the military’s actions were premature.
After all, some analysts argue, there was no indication at the time that Morsi would refuse to relinquish power after an electoral defeat or that elections under his government would be rigged, as they had been under Mubarak. As a result, the pro-democracy alliance’s argument is that had the military not forcibly removed Morsi, the opposition groups may have been able to capitalise on Morsi’s unpopularity to oust him at the ballot box.
“There is validity in accusing the Morsi government of economic under-performance and a lack of political sensitivity, but to argue that it behaved in a non-democratic manner is to ignore the fact that the Brotherhood was making efforts to reinstate elected political institutions rather than abolish them,” counters Barbara Zollner, a lecturer in Middle East politics at Birkbeck College in London.
“Despite the legal challenges, the Muslim Brotherhood wanted parliament restored and maintained that the Constituent Assembly was a direct reflection of the votes given in the elections.”
The issue that seems to concern political scientists today, however, is no longer how best to define Morsi’s ouster, as many argue that history will take care of that, but rather the attempt to find answers to the more serious questions about the nature and prospects of the military’s intervention in Egypt’s political life and whether that intervention can advance democracy and attain the real change Egyptians have been yearning for since the 25 January Revolution.
“We must first differentiate between what happened on 30 June, on the one hand, and 3 July [marking the military’s ouster of Morsi] and 26 July [when Defence Minister Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi asked Egyptians to give him a mandate for his war on terror] on the other,” human rights activist Bahieddin Hassan told Al-Ahram Weekly. “Whereas the 30 June Revolution provided hope for attaining true democracy, the military intervention on 3 July and 26 July immediately nipped that hope in the bud.”
Arguing that democracy is not just about the balloting process, the human rights activist prefers to see things this way: Egypt has been witnessing a series of coups against the true democratic values of the 25 January Revolution since the day it managed to oust former president Mubarak on 11 February 2011.
“All through that period, during the rule of the interim military council that ruled the country for almost two years and then during the one year of Morsi’s rule, what we saw was a democratic process in form only and not in essence,” Hassan said. “We had a balloting process that resulted in an elected president, institutions and a constitution, but the true values of democracy and human rights were, and still remain, largely unattained.”
Hassan insisted that “the notion that Morsi did not live up to his electoral promises, issuing a highly controversial decree [on 19 November, 2012] that gave him almost absolute powers [but which he later retracted after a massive public outcry], was in itself a betrayal of democratic values.”
For Hassan, Morsi was “a dictator in the making”. However, “perhaps the worst is yet to come,” he added.  

ALARMING REPORTS: A recent report by the US pressure group Freedom House’s Egypt Democracy Compass covering developments in the country in August, showed “an almost across-the-board retreat from democratic norms” since Morsi’s ouster and “an intensification of antidemocratic trends as the military leadership resorted to violent tactics to disperse supporters of the ousted Muslim Brotherhood-led government from their protest encampments in Cairo and other cities.”
Vanessa Tucker, a vice president at the US group, said that especially sharp setbacks had been recorded for media freedom and freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and civic activism, and civilian control and security-sector reform. “These findings are alarming,” said David J. Kramer, the group’s president. “The military pledged to move quickly to restore, and indeed strengthen, democratic governance after it seized power. Instead, it has further undermined progress toward democracy.”
“Under Egypt’s current rulers, major political forces are being systematically demonised and criminalised; the press is compelled to serve as a mouthpiece for the leadership; and the security forces are given free rein to arrest, beat, and kill perceived enemies,” Kramer said. “The country’s recent trajectory is deeply disturbing.”
According to the human rights organisation Amnesty International, more than 3,000 Islamist activists including Brotherhood members and their supporters, among them journalists, have been arrested since July 3 and about 2,200 remain in prison. Most of the Brotherhood’s leaders, including Morsi, have been jailed on charges of inciting or taking part in violence. Some have also been accused of terrorism or murder, while hundreds of pro-Morsi demonstrators have been killed at the hands of the security forces in the deadly break-up of the protest camps in Rabaa and Nahda Square on 14 August.
“Many detainees have not been charged with a crime, including leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood and their supporters, but also journalists and those angry at the military takeover,” Amnesty said. Meanwhile, “scores of detainees have been deprived of their basic legal rights, such as medical care or access to lawyers, and some 250 people have been secretly held in Cairo’s Al-Salam Central Security Forces camp.”
“Amnesty is concerned that among those arrested are men and women who were merely exercising their right to freedom of expression and assembly by protesting in support of the ousted former president,” the group said. Some have also been reportedly arrested for minor offences like breaking the curfew or possessing political materials relating to the Al-Rabaa sit-in.
Many human-rights activists and international organisations have expressed concern over the unprecedented wave of political violence that has swept the country since. According to Amnesty International, “between 14 and 18 August, at least 1,089 people were killed, many due to the use of excessive, grossly disproportionate and unwarranted lethal force by the security forces,” in the words of Peter Splinter, the group’s representative in Geneva.
At the same time, Fisk has lamented how democracy “drew its dying breath” on the day when the security forces created a “bloodbath” resulting from the dispersal of the protest camps in the Rabaa and Nahda Square. “A hundred dead — 200, or 300 ‘martyrs’ — makes no difference to the outcome: for millions of Egyptians, the path of democracy has been torn up,” Fisk wrote in the Independent.
“The violence has created a cruel division within Egyptian society that will take years to heal; between leftists and secularists and Christian Copts and Sunni Muslim villagers, between people and police, between Brotherhood and army.”
However, interim Prime Minister Hazem Al-Beblawi has repeatedly denied that politically motivated detentions have been underway in the country, and he has said that the state of emergency, which has been recently removed, was necessary to tackle “acts of terror and violence” in the country. A spate of deadly attacks against police and soldiers gripped the country after Morsi’s removal, and there was also an assassination attempt against Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim.
Only a few days ago, one senior official in Egypt’s national security apparatus, Mohamed Mabrouk, was assassinated, while a day later more than 11 soldiers were martyred in Northern Sinai at the hands of a suicide bomber who drove into their convoy. The Sinai Peninsula has seen an unprecedented surge in militant attacks on the security services since the ouster of Morsi. Almost daily attacks on security and army targets in the area have killed dozens of personnel. In mid-August, gunmen killed 25 police conscripts in an ambush on a security convoy in Rafah.
Deputy Prime Minister Ziad Bahaaeddin conceded in a recent interview with the US channel CNN that Egypt had deviated from the “proper path to democracy”. However, he argued that such a deviation had been the result of “Morsi’s tumultuous year in power”. “We need to keep our eyes fixed on not continuing on that road, and as quickly as possible, as strongly as possible, going back to a proper path of democracy,” Bahaaeddin told the news channel.

DRAFT LAWS AND DEMOCRACY: Many, however, remain sceptical. The current government has also provoked a storm of controversy over a recently approved anti-protest law that critics from across the political spectrum have described as contravening the basic values of democracy and freedom of expression.
The interim cabinet passed the law on 10 October and referred it to the interim president, Adli Mansour, who ratified it on 24 November. The controversial law gives the security forces the right to block, postpone or relocate demonstrations and ban sit-ins. Protests close to key state institutions and diplomatic missions will be illegal.
The law, which was also suggested under Morsi’s rule, immediately sparked an outcry inside and outside Egypt. The US organisation Human Rights Watch, for one, was quick to slam the law on the grounds that it “gives the police carte blanche to ban protests in Egypt.”
The human rights watchdog was particularly concerned that the new draft law would also give the police “the right to use lethal force in legitimate self-defence.” It said that “according to Egyptian law’s broad definition of legitimate self-defence, the police are granted the ability to use lethal force at their discretion, even if it is not strictly necessary to protect life.”
All the country’s political forces, whether Islamist or non-Islamist, have been critical of the law. Several protests by Egypt’s revolutionary forces, including the 6 April Movement, have been held to denounce the draft law. Even the pro-military movement Tamarod and the pro-interim government National Salvation Front (NSF), both of which played key roles in mobilising the protests that preceded Morsi’s ouster, have denounced the law as being “unjust” and “limiting the right to peaceful protest.”
Some local human rights groups have also condemned the law which they said “looks at protests as a crime in the making, not a healthy democratic right,” according to human rights activist Karim Ennarah. Hassan described the new law as “a stab in the back of the 30 June Revolution,” while according to NSF member Abdel-Ghaffar Shokr, “the common belief among Egyptians now is that they cannot obtain their rights without exercising pressure through demonstrations and sit-ins. The government has to realise that demonstrations in Egypt now do not belong only to the Muslim Brotherhood. There are also workers, teachers and the unemployed who all suffer problems that have yet to be solved.”
Amer, however, explained that people should understand the difference between labour strikes, which have their own regulatory law, and political protests. “The new [anti-protest] law is aimed at regulating political protests. It was written by 40 legal experts and is identical to the laws applied in at least 50 per cent of the world’s countries,” Amer argued.
Despite the public outcry, Amer insists that the new protest law makes “legal headway thanks to Egypt’s great 25 January and 30 June revolutions.” He added that “the very idea that the government is passing a law regulating protests means that it admits that protesting is a human right — a far cry from Egypt’s previous legislation that banned protests altogether.” (Law 23/1928 prohibited protests and was later modified to include the death penalty for those involved in armed attacks on state institutions under late president Anwar Al-Sadat)
Today, Amer argues, daily protests are “blocking roads and delaying work at a time when Egypt is seeking to recover from two major revolutions and needs to settle down and build its economy.” He in not overly worried that the new law “will actually curb the popular will, as it will just be broken in the same way that previous anti-protest and emergency laws were transcended when the 25 January and 30 June protests swept the streets.”
The interim government is also considering a law that would criminalise “abusive graffiti”, proposing a four-year jail term and fines for those who break it. A “terrorism law” is also well underway, and lawmakers are currently discussing including clauses that would criminalise actions which “damage the national economy,” something which some rights groups say may perhaps pave the way for the prosecutions of peaceful protesters.
Hassan said that “a cursory look at the draft terror law immediately shows that it is not aimed at eliminating terrorism in the Sinai Peninsula, but is rather intended to target the peaceful opposition.”
The security bodies, according to Hassan, are still applying Mubarak’s heavy-handed security tactics, which proved a failure in curbing terrorism, and there has been an unprecedented surge of almost daily attacks on security personnel. “An anti-terror law would be useless in curbing terrorism in the peninsula,” he argues.
Hassan is also worried that the draft law could be embedded in the new constitution, which would mean that “human rights activists and lawyers could take decades to contest it in the courts.” According to Sarah Leah Whiston, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch, the recent laws “will be an important indicator of the extent to which the new government is going to allow for political space in Egypt.”

BETRAYING DEMOCRACY? But the problems do not seem to be only of the government’s making, for, as Hamzawy puts it, “Egypt’s democratisation movements have been at a crossroads over recent months.”
Hamzawy charges that Egypt’s political elite has failed its first test of democracy, even aborting Egypt’s democratic experiment. Since the 25 January Revolution, Egypt’s elite has been bogged down in an Islamist-versus-secular identity war that has largely deviated from public demands for real democratic and economic change, critics charge.
When Morsi was elected president, this war reached an unprecedented scale, with a failure of both the regime and the liberal forces in the opposition to resolve their differences threatening the democratic experiment in Egypt and ultimately driving the country to the edge.
Khalil Al-Anani, a senior fellow at the think tank the Middle East Institute and a leading expert on the Islamist movements, has been among those warning that this “critical failure of politics and morality” could ultimately lead to what he views as “the fall of democracy in Egypt”. According to Al-Anani, “what happened in Egypt on 3 July was more than just a new revolution or coup or counter-revolution as the two rival forces argue. It was a setback and a critical failure of politics and morality.”
In Al-Anani’s view, “ethics disintegrated when politicians, intellectuals, Islamists and activists of all political and ideological hues tossed the interests of the country aside and dived into a war of ‘all against all’ as part of a battle of exclusion that conflicts with claims of democracy, freedom, liberalism and the Islamic state.”
The Muslim Brotherhood and its followers miscalculated when they believed “the ballot box is the solution” and “reaching power means monopolising it without accountability”, he said. “Morsi thought that the legitimacy of elections would protect him from his rivals and would be enough to impose him and his decisions on them,” Al-Anani opined in Ahram Online.
“However, he forgot that the essence of democracy is consensus; he made one mistake after another, some unintentionally and others by miscalculating. He quickly switched from the people to ‘the group’ [the Muslim Brotherhood], and thus he lost much of his strength and popularity.”
One of the fatal mistakes Morsi made, according to Al-Anani, was when he allowed radical Islamists to take over the podium and use a rhetoric of hate that incited violence and retribution from their opponents, without condemning or blaming them.
Yet, in the same way both Al-Anani and Hamzawy lament the fact that Morsi’s opponents “betrayed democracy”, “nipping the notion of democracy in the bud” when they discarded the ballot box and called on the military to arbitrate their dispute with the Muslim Brotherhood. This, according to Al-Anani, was a fatal mistake on the part of the opposition, which may one day face the same fate as Morsi if it comes to power.
“It has set a precedent in political life, namely calling on the military every time the politicians fail to resolve a political dispute, which means the end of any possibility of genuine democracy,” he said.
“They used all the means available to cause Morsi’s failure and ouster, including rejecting his repeated calls for dialogue and meetings, making terrible accusations against him and his group, and finally entering an alliance with the former regime and its corrupt institutions,” Al-Anani argued. “It is paradoxical to see the icons of liberalism standing side-by-side with leftists, Nasserists and Islamists who defected from the Muslim Brotherhood and other jihadist groups. And all for the sake of removing Morsi.”
In the meantime, hate speech and the exclusion of the other have become almost a common practice among the two opposing camps, hardly creating a healthy environment for democratic change. Whereas some extreme voices on the Islamist side had tended to label the opposition as “atheists” and “traitors” before Morsi’s ouster, today the liberals are perhaps using the same kind of hate speech that tends to vilify and discredit the patriotism of the Islamists and their supporters and portray them as “terrorists”, “fascists” and “traitors”.
Those who oppose, on the basis of democracy, the intervention of the military in political life have also been accused of treason. This kind of verbal violence has been dominating discourse in the press as well as on the satellite television channels and in the social media.
Many liberal forces have also accepted what others regard as “authoritarian measures”, including the imposition of an emergency law that has now been replaced by the “repressive” assembly law. Although liberal forces constitute a majority in the new Constituent Assembly tasked to amend the 2012 constitution, critics charge that they have largely failed to attain the wished-for model of a fully-fledged civil state.

THE PUBLIC AND DEMOCRACY: The environment in Egypt, both political and social, may perhaps add to the challenges facing true democratic change, with the US magazine Time recently describing the Egyptian nation as the “World’s Best Protesters and the World’s Worst Democrats” in one of its recent cover stories.
Today, many lament, a major section of the society seems to have accepted a return to the state security’s repressive practices, popularising slogans like “the war on terrorism,” “the security solution is the only solution” and “it’s necessary to exclude the religious right”.
“This discourse has turned human rights, social peace, and transitional justice into luxuries that Egypt can’t afford when it faces terrorism,” Hamzawy commented. The general public may endorse such sentiments for fear of the recurrence of the kind of terrorism that characterised the 1990s, and it may thus like to see the Brotherhood and its associated threats, whether real or imagined, removed from public and political life, which many political analysts would see as a dangerous state of affairs.
“What is even more problematic is that the general public has once again accepted, so uncritically, exactly the tactics that it took to the streets to oppose on that dreamy day of 25 January, 2011, now so long ago,” wrote Egyptian-British journalist Sarah Carr in a blog posted on www.inanities.org.
A large part of the public has been relatively uncritical of the Brotherhood roundups, the killings of its supporters and the closure of the Islamist and pro-Brotherhood TV channels, most notably Al-Jazeera Mobasher Misr, according to Carr. The whole atmosphere, in the words of political analyst Essandar Al-Emrani, “is pro-military in a way that we simply did not see in 2011.”
After the 25 January Revolution, the vast majority of the public, while thinking positively of the military for having saved the protesters from potential attack by Mubarak’s thugs, was against any attempt at militarising Egypt. Today, however, many would agree with Al-Emrani that “there is a much wider acceptance of a forceful role for the military in politics.”
The popularity of the man now at the helm, General Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi, skyrocketed after Morsi’s ouster, and many are now calling on him to run for the presidency. A recent Al-Ahram editorial even called upon Al-Sisi to take over Egypt’s presidency for a couple of years until Egypt had stabilised and was ready for a real democratic process.
But there are also the revolutionary youths and activists who spearheaded the 2011 Revolution and who are worried about the return of Mubarak’s police state. On 11 September, the offices of the April 6 Movement that took a leading role in the 25 January Revolution were raided without a warrant and a number of activists detained. These were later released without charge, but for the revolutionary groups the raids raised security concerns.
Concerns about freedom of speech restrictions also heightened when popular Egyptian satirist Bassem Youssef’s television show was suspended just minutes before it was due to go on air a few weeks ago. The private CBC channel claimed Youssef had broken the channel’s editorial policies and wanted more money. But many suspect the move was actually a backlash by the authorities, since it came a week after Youssef’s satire of the current military-backed government in his programme Al-Bernameg.
The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI), an NGO, slammed the suspension as “a blow to freedom of expression after the 30 June protests, particularly after shutting the channels that stand up for the Islamist political movement.” According to the ANHRI, it “confirms the return of the businessmen and the owners of the satellite stations to imposing censorship in a bid to protect their own interests with the ruling authorities.”
Such concerns over freedoms and the values of democracy became more vocal when several thousand people took to the streets in Tahrir Square in Cairo on 19 November to commemorate the Mohamed Mahmoud Street clashes in 2011, which left dozens of protesters dead and hundreds severely injured.
One of the main groups present at the protest was the Way of the Revolution Front, a recently founded coalition that opposes both the military and the Muslim Brotherhood. The front includes leading members of the April 6 Youth Movement, the Strong Egypt Party, the Revolutionary Socialists and the Justice and Freedom Youth.
The protesters chanted slogans against both the Egyptian military and the Muslim Brotherhood and demanded the purging of the Interior Ministry and the finding of a third way out of the army-versus-Islamist solutions.
“The revolutionary youths who took to the streets in the 25 January Revolution have proved that they will not accept any going back in time. They insist on living in a democracy that is no less than what they see in the advanced world,” Hassan commented.

CHALLENGES AND CONCERNS: For its part, Egypt’s interim government seems committed to going ahead with the roadmap announced upon Morsi’s ouster. The amendments of the 2012 constitution are almost finished, and a public referendum will be held before this is ratified. The government has also promised to hold fresh parliamentary and presidential elections within six months.
Some, however, remain unconvinced. The role of the military in post-30 June Egypt remains ambiguous. Some suspect that although Egypt has an interim government led by president Adli Mansour, the power of this remains secondary to that of the military and the security apparatus which perhaps has a veto power over government decisions. The issue remains highly controversial and has recently been contested by Mansour.
Amer for one insists that “a team bringing together the interim president, the government and the military and security forces is working together according to the roadmap until Egypt has a constitution, as well as an elected president and institutions,” he said.
But some human-rights activists have nevertheless recently expressed concerns that Egypt’s new draft constitution retains key political and judicial powers for the military that could perhaps “dash hopes for full civilian rule”, risk personal liberties and take Egypt back to a military regime, according to Hassan.
According to the draft, the military has the right to try civilians in military courts, and stipulates that for the next eight years the defence minister will be a member of the military and that the military council will have a veto over his appointment.
Keating speculated that Egypt “may be in for something like the old-fashioned Turkish model in which the government was nominally democratic but the military would step in periodically to make ‘corrections’.”
The military aside, Amer is equally worried about a potential rise of “Islamist forces” other than the Brotherhood to power in the forthcoming parliamentary elections. After all, he argues, the Salafist Nour Party was the second major bloc in the dissolved parliament and has been putting itself forward in Europe and the United States as a potential alternative to Brotherhood rule.
“Unexpected Islamist forces may win a majority in the upcoming parliament, and that could mean a blocking of the constitution and a change in legislation that would again change the identity of state,” Amer speculated.
The absence of the Brotherhood from the political process, since its first and second-rank leaders are in jail, has also worried some. Among political analysts the view is taking hold that the only way out of the current deadlock will be for the country to launch an inclusive reconciliation process that would involve all political forces engaged in building a democratic state.
The only alternative scenario to this reconciliatory approach, many suggest, would be the continuation of the current vicious circle of violence, counter-violence and terrorism. After all, they argue, the elimination of Political Islam may not be realistic, as the history of the 1960s showed, and heavy-handed policies may only push the more moderate youths of the Brotherhood towards renouncing democracy altogether and perhaps embracing violence.
On the prospects of democracy in the Arab Spring countries, however, Hassan is still prepared to give a promising prognosis. “What we have been witnessing since the Arab Spring that removed the Arab dictators are just strong seasonal winds that may seem apparently catastrophic sometimes, but that will definitely lead to the real spring that the younger generations are determined to attain.”
“They will definitely do this in time, though perhaps only in the medium or long term,” he said.

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