Tuesday,17 October, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1202, (19 -25 June 2014)
Tuesday,17 October, 2017
Issue 1202, (19 -25 June 2014)

Ahram Weekly

The future of democratisation

What are the prospects for Egypt’s democratic transformation in the wake of the recent presidential elections, asks Nabil Abdel-Fattah   

Al-Sisi
Al-Sisi
Al-Ahram Weekly

Can we speak of a future for the so-called process or processes of democratic transformation in Egypt after a man with a military background has succeeded in becoming the country’s new president? The following are ten reasons why I open this article with this question.

First, fluidity and unrest continue to characterise political interactions in the country, compounded by the haze surrounding the development of rules for managing conflict in a peaceful way and in a manner conducive to a minimum level of consensus.

Second, a security/ militarist mentality has continued to dominate the management of the interim processes without an accompanying political vision to embrace or support that mentality or to steer it with foresight and sensitivity.

Third, priority has been given to the restoration of security and stability in the face of radical Islamist groups such as Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis and the element of violence that has accompanied protest demonstrations staged by the Muslim Brotherhood and its allies and supporters.

It should be added here that there has been mounting public demand for security in the face of many manifestations of anarchy: spreading social violence and crime, widespread negligence with respect to municipal rules and regulations such as those governing traffic and parking or the location of commercial premises and vending activities, increasing signs of spreading drug addiction and trafficking which compound violence and traffic accidents, and spiraling economic crime and corruption (theft, bribery, the embezzlement of public funds, smuggling, etc.).

Meanwhile, the security forces have tended to be focussed on the political/ terrorist threat to national security, with the military establishment and police working together with regards to terrorism and securing the borders with Libya, Sudan and Gaza. The way in which security concerns have been prioritised may have generated a gulf or degree of imbalance between the political/ terrorist versus the social/ criminal dimensions of security management.

Fourth, there is the emphasis accorded by the newly elected president with his military/military intelligence background to security and stability as the key to stimulating an economy laden with structural deficiencies and hence the pivotal weight he has given to questions of security and the economy.

At the same time, the new president’s team of advisors and his supporters in the media have been keen to cast him as a strong and resolute leader. This in turn has tended to emphasise his military background and expertise, which is characterised by a pyramid command structure and the automatic acceptance of orders. By virtue of his training and career, this is the culture that has shaped President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi, and it is thus only natural for him to take some time to accommodate himself to the modes of thought that politicians typically bring to crisis management even though his previous job as head of military intelligence may help him in this.

The prioritisation of security as the route to stability and progress is likely to remain the emphasis of the new president and his team, which will probably have a large representation from the military establishment. This priority is almost certain to continue to prevail over civil freedoms, most notably the right to peaceful assembly and demonstration which have been curtailed by the highly controversial “protest law” in spite of signs of a possible presidential amnesty for a number of youth activists or a review of the heavy penalties that have been handed down against them under the law.

Fifth, there is the fragmentation of political party life and the inefficacy of political parties (both old and new) in the performance of their expected functions at the level of consolidating, representing and defending a broad base of social and political interests and at the level of grassroots urban and rural networking intended to bind party members together and mobilise them behind a common ideology or vision.

The recent presidential elections threw into relief the role of prominent families in Upper Egypt and of some businessmen in mobilising turnout to the polls, further underscoring the weakness of both the pre- and post- 25 January Revolution political parties and their inability to incorporate new grassroots bases in their membership structures.

Sixth, there is a lack of effective or flexible organisational structures to fuse some of the more fluid urban political youth groups together and enable them to translate the digital movements and activist groups into activities that are more sustainable and effective than games of virtual politics. Some political parties and revolutionary youth groups remain incapable of transcending the boundaries of the digital politics game and its televised talk-show version because of their lack of a political vision that goes beyond hackneyed slogans and the now familiar rhetoric about the revolution, the state and the democratic transformation.

This is combined with a tendency to deny the realities of power on the ground and what appears to be the insistence on the part of some to question the official voter turnout figures in the presidential polls. The more this tendency persists, especially in the absence of attempts to grasp what actually happened, the more political fragmentation and spontaneity will prevail over systematic and proactive political thought and the more we will see reactive modes of political behaviour and their consequences in terms of unrest and clashes with the military/ security agencies.

In fact, the inclination on the part of some non-organised youth forces to reproduce the climate of mass protest fused with elements of anarchistic revolutionary anti-establishment thought is likely to generate political and social tensions that can only add to the justifications cited by some for a return to the repressive measures that had prevailed under former presidents Sadat and Mubarak and that began to resurface in the post-25 January and post-30 June periods.

Seventh, the new president and cabinet will now focus on addressing the sources of the threats to security and confronting the Muslim Brotherhood and its supporters in order to promote stability while preparing for the forthcoming parliamentary elections and working to accomplish some of the target goals that the new president has pledged to carry out.

Eighth, ambiguity and distortion continue to surround the authorities’ position on the Muslim Brotherhood and the possibility of re-assimilating the group into the structures of the system (the parliament) versus the possibility of excluding it during the initial phase. The political tensions surrounding this question are certain to last for a good while to come.

Ninth, there are the dangers inherent in the perpetuation of the old authoritarian order, in operation since 23 July 1952, for handling questions pertaining to Coptic participation in political and government structures, especially at the leadership level. A major part of this question is the danger inherent in the ongoing reliance on the security apparatus approach to handling the regime’s relations with the head and clergy of the Coptic Church (and the heads of the other major churches) and the persistence of certain elements of this traditional logic in relations with the religious and denominational “other”.

This has been an instrumental factor in the decline in support for the government and the new president among sectors of middle-class Coptic youth.  

Tenth, related to the foregoing are the dangers inherent in the possibility of ongoing anti-Coptic criticism and aggression on the part of conservative Islamist forces on the grounds that the Copts supported the changes ushered in by the 30 June 2013 Revolution. The resurgence of notions related to the traditional concept of religious minorities and fatwas (religious decrees) disapproving all but the most necessary relations with the Copts will add to sectarian tensions and generate a climate of incitement to violence against Christian citizens. This in turn will throw into relief the confusion and potential conflict between the concept of citizenship and the need to ensure ongoing support on the part of a significant segment of the Salafist movement for the post-30 June changes and the extent of the influence of both outlooks on the new president and his government.



THE NEW PRESIDENT WILL HAVE TO CONTEND WITH NUMEROUS CHALLENGES AND DILEMMAS, AMONG THEM:

1. The revolution in economic and social expectations

While this is a nearly universal phenomenon in society, it applies in particular to large swathes of the working classes and the urban poor and marginalised and some segments of the middle and lower-middle classes whose standards of living have declined and whose social status has deteriorated over recent decades. It was unleashed and given impetus by the waves of political change following 25 January 2011 and has been manifested in the unprecedented increases in protests and strikes related to salaries and other work-related conditions.

Sectorial labour and employee strikes have been one of the most salient challenges to the interim phases, and they could resurge in the context of the government’s policy of reviewing subsidies on essential goods such as bread, fuel and electricity. A gradual reduction in subsidies could precipitate inflation and the rising costs of goods and services that could generate mounting social tensions, all of which would be linked to the person of the new president. Among the possible consequences of this would be eruptions of social anger in the form of new demonstrations and strikes. Some revolutionary organisations, such as the Revolutionary Socialists, the 6 April Movement and the Anarchists, might attempt to capitalise on these movements for reasons related to their particular ideological outlooks and methods.

Another possible outcome could be the decline in the credibility and influence of the new president’s concept of prioritising security, a trend that could increase in tandem with a growing perception that this prioritisation might in practice conflict with the exercise of the balanced (as opposed to authoritarian) regulation of public rights and liberties. Here, one can envision a chain of repercussions. An increase in the government’s recourse to the security apparatus could exacerbate social tensions and generate a climate of sharpening polarisation and conflict. Such circumstances could generate growing sympathy and new bases of support for the Muslim Brotherhood, which, in turn, could lead to a rupture in the political alliance with the Salafi forces that sided with the post-30 June roadmap and the new president.

These forces’ sheikhs and ideological pundits could scramble to recover some of their lost prestige due to the existence of certain “strange” fatwas and begin to distance themselves from the president or his administration, reconciling themselves with other Salafi forces that boycotted the referendum on the new constitution and the presidential elections. The Muslim Brotherhood would, of course, capitalise on such developments in its actions at home and abroad, where it would escalate its campaign to secure European and US support for its positions with respect to the new president and the remaining portion of the roadmap.

Against the backdrop of these developments, criticisms of the new president and political authorities in Egypt could increase in the Western press and the publications of US and European research centres and think tanks. (The ferocity of the criticisms will in part derive from the critics’ determination to defend their reputations as experts who for decades have defended the Muslim Brotherhood and advocated the need to assimilate its members into Egyptian political life on the grounds that it is opposed to radical Islamist violence).

In tandem, the US and some EU nations could try to pressure the Egyptian president’s allies in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf to reduce their financial assistance to Egypt and/ or to link that assistance to certain conditions.

2. The rise of political corruption

The increased rate or resurgence of political corruption has been chiefly linked to the return to the fore of the traditional family and business magnate power-centres that formed the backbone of the former Mubarak regime. This political corruption has been combined with the vertical and horizontal expansion of bureaucratic corruption (in government administrative structures in which there are more than seven million employees on the payroll according to some estimates) and at the municipal level in particular.

As the new president and government will probably remain unable to offset or dismantle the entrenched webs of bureaucratic corruption, the subject could resurface as a major source of criticism in the media and of public discontent, especially in the event of the persistence of a superficial or merely procedural notion of political legitimacy that has yet to move beyond the Muslim Brotherhood concept, which was essentially majoritarian and restricted to the results of the ballot box.

Another possible repercussion from the spread of corruption could occur in the event of an ongoing tendency to justify its existence as a decades-old plight inherited from previous rulers and to argue that remedying the phenomenon will require much time and that a strict and comprehensive clampdown on corruption will harm the welfare of large segments of the population. The problem with this line of thought is that it contributes to undermining the concept of the civic state governed by the rule of law due to the persistence of the conflict between that concept and the realities of corruption, power and status and patronage.

3. The generation gap

The problem of the generation gap centres primarily around significant segments of   middle-class urban youth, in Cairo in particular but also in some provincial capitals, who have been frustrated and angered by the directions the interim phases have taken. The manifestations of this discontent among the youth increased with the entrance of the Mohamed Mahmoud 2 Youth, young activists from the 14-18 and 19-23 age brackets, from Cairo in particular, who are noted for their relative ferocity or aggressiveness in political protests and marches. The following factors could aggravate the frustration felt by these segments and hence the problem of the generation gap.

- The inability of the president’s administration and government to create real and meaningful bridges of dialogue (as opposed to artificial ones using security and intelligence agencies to handpick representatives of the youth) with youth groups from the middle and lower-middle classes.

- The president’s lack of a serious political discourse on youth during his electoral campaign, together with the flaws that riddled that campaign.

- The rise in political apathy with its ramifications in terms of the persistence of the crisis of the legitimacy of the regime and the possible repercussions of this in the form of flare-ups of tensions, demonstrations and political violence.

- The ambiguities surrounding the social biases reflected in the new president’s slogans during his electoral campaign, which were interpreted by some youth activists as indications that the president favoured neo-liberal economic policies as opposed to a market economy tempered by considerations of social justice. Other activists have described the economic projects the president advertised in his campaign as nothing new, with some going so far as to say that they were taken from the now-dissolved National Democratic Party, the ruling party under Mubarak.

Regardless of how true such assessments are, they should not be shrugged off or dismissed. Rather, the sentiments behind them should be taken into consideration because they are indicative of the mounting levels of frustration among the youth, a phenomenon recognised by some members of the president’s team and to which he himself has referred in various speeches.

- The question of the revolutionary youths who have been arrested for breaking the protest law and have been brought to trial and sentenced or remain under preventive detention remains a source of deep criticism and political mobilisation in virtual space. Certainly, the longer this and the other youth-related issues remain unaddressed, the more they will diminish the chances of alleviating generation-gap pressures on the new president and his government.

4. The challenge of acute economic problems

There remains an urgent need for a comprehensive vision informed by the requirements of sustainable development to serve as a framework for policies to address and remedy the country’s major problems. The development of such a vision should be informed by the lessons learned from the failures of the Egyptian development experience and the failures of similar experiences elsewhere and the successes of the emergent economies in Asia. It is impossible to overstate the need to grasp the various dimensions of diverse development experiences and to adapt some of the best components of these to the current circumstances in Egypt.

5. The challenge of retuning the branches of government

This challenge looms particularly large with respect to the autonomy of the judiciary and, simultaneously, the need to counter claims regarding the politicisation of the judiciary and its judges.

This problem, public awareness of which began to increase even before 25 January 2011, may grow worse with the rise to power of a new president with a military background, especially in the light of the attempts by some members of his team, many of his supporters and important exponents in the media, to cast him as the “saviour” and the key to the survival, continuity and stability of the state, regardless of how accurate or widely accepted this impression is.

Some see the judiciary and its judges, considered as a branch of government and an occupational group, as an integral part of the resistance on the part of the institutions of the state as a whole to the Muslim Brotherhood. Such people point to the legacy of the Muslim Brotherhood’s battle against the judiciary and its members: the blockade of the Council of State by the Hazemoon group and its followers and the siege of the Supreme Constitutional Court to prevent it from convening and issuing rulings regarding the unconstitutionality of the exercise of political rights law, rescinding that law in accordance with which the Shura Council was elected in 2012, overturning the law that governed the creation of the Constituent Assembly responsible for drafting the 2012 constitution that incorporated the Muslim Brotherhood’s and Salafis’ ideological vision in most of its provisions, and rejecting the bill to reduce the age of retirement of judges.

The judiciary also played a prominent role during the political storm that erupted in reaction to ousted former president Mohamed Morsi’s Constitutional Declaration of 22 November 2012.

On the other hand, the Muslim Brotherhood and its supporters and allies, together with some elements of disgruntled youth and a segment of Egyptian university students, charge that the judiciary is “politicised” or make similar accusations. Criticisms of the judiciary increased with the appearance of some judges belonging to the so-called “independent judges” group, or of judges who were open supporters of the Brotherhood on current events talk shows or other television programmes. The criticisms that have been aired may have some level of acceptance; however, they do not preclude the continuation of the traditions of judicial autonomy.

That said, the judiciary has undoubtedly come to public attention both at home and abroad as a result of the death sentences it has issued by the hundreds. This has triggered harsh criticisms from the Muslim Brotherhood and the National Alliance to Support Legitimacy (NASL), and it has stirred outrage among rights advocacy groups and organisations both in Egypt and abroad. It has also incurred censure from some Western governments and international and regional organisations.

Undoubtedly, such criticisms create pressures and contribute to the emergence of a crisis of confidence in judicial independence among the public. Such a shift in public perception is disturbing as it weakens the long legacy of confidence between the citizens and the judiciary in Egypt. It follows, therefore, that it is now more crucial than ever to rebuild that trust and to ensure that the judges remain committed to the highest standards of impartiality in the performance of their duties.

It is also necessary to review the laws governing the judiciary with an eye to strengthening judicial autonomy and improving the criteria and systems for recruiting members of the judiciary. Hopefully, too, greater attention will be given to training new generations of public prosecutors.

6. A clear policy on the Muslim Brotherhood

The new president and his government will need to end any wavering between the policy of excluding the Muslim Brotherhood from the political process and reverting to the old policy of partial inclusion that was followed by the regimes of Sadat and Mubarak (under whose rule Muslim Brotherhood candidates won a fifth of the People’s Assembly seats in 2005).

The challenge is a crucial one. Each option will have its supporters in the government’s security and intelligence agencies; however, both options will also affect, each in their own way, the ability of the new president to achieve political and security stability and to pursue new educational, cultural and media policies involving the relationship between religion and politics and legislation. They will also put to the test the president’s ability to manoeuvre around and resist pressures from Washington and the EU countries.

7. The challenge of other sources of legitimacy

This is an extremely important challenge as some of the members of the president’s team and some government agencies continue to operate in accordance with the logic of the Muslim Brotherhood, their supporters and some Western nations, most notably the US and the EU countries, all of which emphasise the legitimacy of the ballot box in their assessments of the changes that followed 30 June 2013. The best way to offset pressures emanating from that direction is to develop a balanced array of sources of legitimacy that build on the president’s legitimacy won through the polls and to ensure genuine and sustained popular legitimacy.

8. The president’s support outside and inside parliament

The crucial issue here is whether President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi, in shaping his role and status in office, will rely on a form of neo-Bonapartism or a form of Nasserism without charisma, or on a blend of government structures and a development project that justify the Bonapartist/ Nasserist mode and a type of corporatism such as that which characterised a number of Latin American regimes.

Will the president form a new political party or a coalition to contest the forthcoming parliamentary elections? How will he deal with whatever parliamentary majority arises? Will there be some undeclared pacts to support him by some political party coalitions that will take shape in the run-up to the legislative polls?

9. Regulating the dilemma of security versus civil rights

This challenge entails a need to reconsider the philosophy of the Egyptian legal system and hence the question of whether there should be a comprehensive project to reform this system.

10. Balancing relations between the military and civilian establishments

 The need to formulate a policy on this matter is becoming crucial in view of its impact on a number of issues, prime among them the following:

- The political image of the president: is he to remain an army man in the president’s seat, or will he shift to being a civilian president along the lines of de Gaulle or Eisenhower (regardless of how these examples differ from the case of the new president)?

- The fears among some businessmen and opposition youth groups that some major government projects will be handed to the military establishment in order to carry them out speedily or will be subcontracted to certain favoured businessmen. Such concerns need to be addressed clearly in view of the potential threat they may represent with regard to economic activities and the repercussions such actions may have on the economic and investment climate.

- The negative impact on the Egyptian government’s image abroad if the impression gains ground that a trend to militarise policy and political life is being brought back from the dead or released from its historical confinement.

The formulation of a new presidential vision on the relationship between the military man and the civilian politician that differs from the concept that prevailed throughout the July 1952 order will contain some of the sensitivity surrounding slogans chanted by the Muslim Brotherhood and youth activists regarding “military rule”. It should be added that this sensitivity has a certain justification in the context of the evolution of the military establishment, its relationship with the development of the modern state, and its connection with the national liberation movement.

11. The relationship with the cultural establishment

A tension, or, perhaps, a misunderstanding or lack of appreciation has long characterised the relationship between at least some quarters of Egyptian authoritarian regimes and the cultural community, especially in view of the tendency of some among the ruling elites to overlook or ignore the role that the members of this community have played in the development of the modern Egyptian state and their contributions to the creation of bridges with the modern world through innovative adaptations and naturalisations of expressions of modernism and contemporary modes of life.  

Under the July 1952 regime, numerous intellectual and cultural figures were imprisoned and prosecuted, and many others paid heavy tolls in their personal lives and in terms of their freedom of opinion, expression, belief and creativity.

In authoritarian populist regimes there has never been room for a meeting of minds between the ruling elites and intellectual critics. The latter are generally aware of the value of the functions their creative and critical faculties perform in a political environment favourable to democracy, civil liberties and human rights. The former have rarely had much tolerance for that critical bent. In Egypt, the clash between the two was perhaps inevitable from the start, and the antagonism remained a constant in the relationship after 1952.

However, it is useful to bear in mind that the 1970s and subsequent generations of intellectuals and cultural activists played a major role in paving the way to the 25 January Revolution not only through their critical and deconstructive analyses, but also through such movements as Kifaya (Enough), which helped reveal the profound fault lines in the regime and its sources of legitimacy as well as build up the momentum of political protest drives. These intellectual and cultural figures took part in the 25 January Revolution and have remained influential since then. However, in the absence of a new and different model for the relationship between the intellectuals and the president, tensions persist, making the role and the authorities’ relationship with the intellectuals one of the most formidable challenges for the new president for whom culture is not ranked as part of his security and economic priorities.

12. The challenge of dependency

The new president will soon face the test of the extent to which he can build a margin of independence from the policies of the oil-exporting nations that have supported him and the post-3 July 2013 roadmap, namely Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Kuwait and Bahrain, joined by Jordan among the non-oil exporting nations.

13. The challenge of averting the return of the old regime and some if not most of its movements and bases

Impacts on the next interim phase: The critical question now is whether we are in a state of democratic evolution and whether we are seeing policies that seek to dismantle political and other forms of authoritarianism.

 First, we must determine whether the new president can or will formulate a vision of democracy and the mechanisms for building a fully-fledged democratic system. We must simultaneously determine the nature of the pressures and challenges facing the transformation process in the third phase and whether policies for various fields can be devised to steer us towards a post-authoritarian phase in government and political culture. Then we can begin to assess whether the processes of democratic transformation have begun or are on track on the basis of various political, legal and social indicators.

It is possible to identify three possible scenarios for transformative processes in the forthcoming phase:



SCENARIO 1: THE RETURN OF THE OLD REGIME

The implication of this scenario is that the state (the 1952 order) and its leading authorities have succeeded in managing the three interim phases in a manner that has enabled them to recover their efficacy and to contain the sources of political change that have assumed a “revolutionary” nature or more appropriately the form of a protracted mass uprising.

It also implies that this order has succeeded in obstructing the Muslim Brotherhood’s bid to assert its hegemony over and Islamicise the state and hence the ability of its security, intelligence and bureaucratic agencies to recuperate their strength and to participate, in the background and perhaps also actively, in engineering and carrying out the events of 30 June and afterwards.

This scenario is predicated on the following:

1. That the new president will need some sources of support from the old regime as embodied in the business magnates and government agencies (especially the judiciary) on which it relied. Influential businessmen formed an important part of the rank and file of the Mubarak regime, the NDP and the latter party’s policies’ committee. It is impossible to dispense with their role at a time when an ailing economy needs urgent aid to help it out of the intensive care ward. In this regard, the new president will face the dilemma of how to project a new face for his regime, different to that of the Mubarak regime, while meeting the exigencies of having to depend on Egyptian businessmen in order to help attract foreign and Arab investment.

2. That the traditional social power structures (influential tribes and extended families) have remained a major feature of the political map from the quasi-liberal period throughout the six decades of the July 1952 order. Primarily motivated by certain socio-economic interests, these structures tend to be consummately pragmatic and, hence, generally indifferent to the nature, ideology or social choices of the regime. What is important to them is to have as influential a presence as possible in the composition of a regime – whatever the regime – in order to ensure that their interests are satisfied. Thus they were part of the monolithic Liberation Organisation Party, the Arab Nationalist Union and the Arab Socialist Union that followed, then of the Centre Forum and Centre Party and then, of course, the NDP. There were also to be found occupying seats in the various national assemblies, people’s assemblies and shura councils.

3. That some of the youth from the Tamarod (Rebel) Movement and Al-Sisi’s electoral campaign will be given some government positions.

4. That the regime will continue to have the support of private satellite television stations owned by wealthy businessmen that were instrumental in directing criticisms against the Muslim Brotherhood and its supporters during the period of Muslim Brotherhood/ Salafi rule. These businessmen and their media were also major supporters of Al-Sisi’s campaign, and they will be used to counter his adversaries in the coming phase, though perhaps under instructions to temper their performance.

5.  That there will be a continuation of the trend to produce consensual political rhetoric beneath the rubric of security, economic recovery and the defence of the poor and needy.

6.  That there will be a continuation of the rhetoric in support of Arab solidarity and the alliance with the Arab oil-exporting countries that supported Egypt in the post-30 June  period.

This scenario would be met with a relatively broad degree of acceptance as it would be deemed as the route towards the restoration of a minimal degree of security and stability. It would yield a new sociopolitical alliance that would be set to achieve a parliamentary majority, choosing the next prime minister and a government that reflects its political strength and building a working relationship with the new president.

At the same time, any new waves of terrorism would be certain to add force and impetus to the new president’s outlook regarding the prioritisation of security. This would most likely forestall any substantial changes in economic and social policies in general. According to the foregoing premises, the old regime would thus continue with some changes in the faces in the president’s administration and in the new cabinet until stability and security were restored, the economy regained some vigour, and the third juncture of the roadmap – the parliamentary elections – were completed.



SCENARIO 2: CHANGES IN FACES AND SOME GENERATIONAL SHIFT

This scenario is contingent on numerous considerations:

1. The need to continue to rally the public behind the president and the military establishment and in support of realising security and safety for the people and for the middle and upper-middle classes in particular.

2. The need for a degree of consensus among a relatively large segment of the business community in order to stimulate the economy and the market place and to create new jobs in order to offset spiralling unemployment rates (now estimated at over 13 per cent of the labour force though some place the figure much higher), alleviate social discontent and meet some of the aspirations of the neediest segments of society. This will work to generate a general sense of satisfaction during the period following Al-Sisi’s election and in the lead-up to the parliamentary elections to be held before the end of this year.

3. The continuation of the current government with changes of some ministers who have failed to achieve progress in their ministries or who have committed glaring mistakes or whose performance has otherwise been flawed or not up to the demands of the current phase.

4. The introduction of a number of new and younger faces in order to convey the message that there will be changes in the direction of handing responsibility and decision-making powers to the new generations and that the exigencies of security and economic recovery require such efforts to bridge the generation gap and to wed old but competent figures with new and innovative energies and internationally attested expertise and records of achievement.

5.  The need to emphasise the qualities of competence and performance in the choice of presidential advisors, whether they hail from the military or the civil establishment.

6.  The possibility of signalling an opening of the political doors to the Muslim Brotherhood if it renounces its clamorous and sometimes violent demonstrations. Such a trend, even if not officially declared, would alleviate the criticisms emanating from the US, Europe and elsewhere in the world. It could also signal a return to the policy of the partial assimilation of the Brotherhood that began with the 1984 legislative elections in the earlier period of the Mubarak regime, but it would stop well short of the later phase when Brotherhood candidates obtained a fifth of the seats in parliament.

7. The development of Egyptian, Saudi, UAE, Kuwaiti, Bahraini, Jordanian and Algerian relations in order to create regional backing for the new president and his policies and to confront the sources of terrorist threats from Al-Qaeda and the jihadist Salafi groups in the region.

8. The need to give special attention to Egyptian-African relations in general and with the countries of COMESA and Southern Africa in particular. Cairo must also work to smooth and enhance relations with Khartoum in the interest of containing the political and legal disputes between Cairo and Addis Ababa and, simultaneously, in order to strengthen security cooperation, especially as concerns border security and combatting the smuggling of Iranian arms and Qatari funds from the south and into the Sinai and Gaza.

Improved Egyptian-African relations will add impetus to a dynamic international and African drive to pressure the Ethiopian government into returning to the negotiating table with Egypt and meeting the conditions for a fair and equitable accommodation that will enable both countries to meet their water needs and that will entail honouring previous international agreements in this regard.

9. The need for change in the national press and to promote greater freedom of opinion and expression in general. This will help alleviate the fierceness of the criticisms directed against the government and the new president, and it will simultaneously work to reduce some of the excessive clout of the private newspapers and satellite TV stations owned by wealthy business magnates who will continue to support the president insofar as he does not impair their economic interests.



SCENARIO 3: CHANGES IN THE GOVERNMENT AND THE PRESIDENT’S ADVISORY TEAM SIGNALLING A RUPTURE WITH THE NDP ORDER

This scenario rests on a long list of factors:

1. The pressures on the new president and attempts to manipulate the decisions of his administration by some businessmen.

2. The reliance on the military establishment and government apparatus to carry out large projects rapidly with minimum corruption, and the effects this will have socially and economically.

3. The prosecution of some of the major symbols of corruption in order to underscore the rupture with the former Mubarak regime.

4. The assimilation of representatives of the youth in the composition of the components of political change.

5. The intensive engagement of women as active players in political and social life and in the workplace. This will serve several purposes. It will promote a positive image in the Western media and political circles of a reformist president drawing on one of the most salient forces that supported him in the polls and during the electoral campaigns and the mass demonstrations in support of the post-3 July 2013 roadmap. It will simultaneously profile the dynamic and constructive role of women in public life, in contrast to the conservative views that generally restrict the patriotic role of women to the home and family.  

6. Reconciliation with the cultural community by supporting its members’ roles as independent, critical and creative thinkers and artists and by promoting culture and cultural work through the Ministry of Culture and its various agencies and through support for independent cultural groups and organisations.

7. The development of a dynamic national cultural policy with significant Arabic and African dimensions that will make Cairo and other parts of the country open cultural spaces for a variety of major cultural events and activities.

8. The revival of culture as an active and effective contributor to expanding the realms of Egyptian activity and influence in the foreign policy system.

9. The development of Al-Azhar to equip it with the administrative structures, pedagogical infrastructure and new educational curricula that will enable it to shift from rote instruction to teaching practices that inspire the exercise of the rational and critical faculties.

10. The restructuring of the public educational system, linking it to the demands of the employment market, on the one hand and, on the other, developing its curricula to promote critical and innovative thought.

11. An assessment of the performance of the private universities with an eye to encouraging them to commit themselves to pedagogical and curricula development.

12. The development and democratisation of the structures of municipal government, combined with efforts to free these structures from various forms of corruption.

13. The development of a new reformist legislative policy that embraces the human

rights system and contemporary legislative philosophies.

14. The promotion of the autonomy of the judiciary.

15. A gradual shift away from the practice of appointing offspring to posts in the universities, the media, the judiciary and the Foreign Ministry.

16. A determined fight against financial corruption in government bureaucracies combined with efforts to reduce patronage, nepotism and middlemen.

17. The reform of security policy to strike a healthier balance between the demands of security and of freedom and the rule of law.

18. The protection and promotion of the freedom of religion and belief in order to generate a socio-religious dynamic that will encourage the Copts to engage more actively in public life and to interact more freely with their fellow Muslim citizens.

This scenario would expand the president’s sources of legitimacy beyond the ballot box, creating the groundwork for a massive and sustainable grassroots support base while bridging the generation gap and diffusing some of the sources of discontent and opposition among the youth. It will also promote social cohesion on new foundations for Egyptian national unity, making this quintessentially humanitarian and open to developments in a changing world.



CONCLUSIONS:

The three scenarios described above are possible outcomes of the transition to the post-authoritarian phase. As such, they will lead to the dismantlement of the old authoritarian structures and the reconstruction of the state on democratic foundations beginning with the new constitution and a new legal system that supports civil and individual freedoms and human rights.

Perhaps the scenario that would have the greatest prospects for success would also be the one that best meets the needs and aspirations of the new generation and the segments of public opinion that are longing for social justice. This does not exclude or restrict businessmen and investors, however, who contribute to sustainable development. It is this scenario that also most encourages oversight on the part of the representative bodies, the media and public opinion.


The writer is an expert on political Islam.

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