Tuesday,25 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1128, 27 December 2012 - 2 January 2013
Tuesday,25 September, 2018
Issue 1128, 27 December 2012 - 2 January 2013

Ahram Weekly

Egyptian and Arab Press

Doaa El-Bey rounds up commentators’ proposals for the way forward in the country after the plebiscite, and Gamal Nkrumah unravels the intricacy of pan-Arab politics

Al-Ahram Weekly

Egyptian press

Looking ahead

Now that the post-revolution constitution has been approved by a majority of Egyptians, newspapers and writers questioned what would happen next and whether the much-disputed constitution could pave the way for a transition to democracy.

The editorial of the official daily Al-Ahram held that the vote concluded the controversy over the constitution.

There were expectations that the opposition would voice reservations about the results and the conditions under which the referendum was held. “Without doubt, the battle of the constitution was not free from some pitfalls and it could have been run with a larger consensus. However, political pragmatism compels us to put that battle behind us and ask the big question: what comes next?” the editorial stated.

Pundits at home and abroad share the view that a wide political reconciliation process must now take place in the country, the edit added. And while that process is fraught with difficulties and will not happen overnight, the ball is in President Mohamed Morsi’s court.

The process, however, is of utmost urgency because the people will not tolerate the continued bickering between the ruling powers and the opposition. Besides, foreign powers will not wait for long before turning their eyes away from Egypt. Political dialogue and consensus is a must today rather than tomorrow, the edit concluded.

Mohamed Barakat pointed to the importance and urgency of ending the state of polarisation that the country has recently witnessed. Such a step would require all sides to exert every effort to bridge the rift between the bickering political parties and put an end to the state of confrontation that is overwhelming the political arena.

However, Barakat believed that the initiative should come primarily from the president, who is the head of the executive authority that is responsible for achieving social peace and political stability. The initiative should then come from the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), Nour Party and the other parties that support them because they are the ones in power.

“Ending polarisation requires an astute reading of the results of the referendum that respects the will of the millions that approved the constitution and the millions that did not. That reading should not be based on the victorious and the defeated, but on the respect of the will of the majority and the viewpoint of the minority,” he summed up his column in the official daily Al-Akhbar.

Emadeddin Hussein called for getting over the referendum and focussing on the presidential elections. He wrote that it is not possible now to gauge the magnitude of violations that took place during the referendum, because this needs proper investigations. Nevertheless, one cannot claim that the referendum was merely a silly political game.

He called on the opposition to first reveal all the violations that happened and take it to the judiciary. But the more pressing task for the opposition at present is to get ready for the parliamentary elections.

“I advise the opposition to strive for democratic election laws, in addition to selecting suitable candidates for the parliamentary elections and running campaigns to familiarise people with their programmes,” he wrote in the independent daily Al-Shorouk.

The only bright side of the referendum, he elaborated at the end of his regular column, is that it has shown that at least one-third of Egyptians are willing to take an active part in the political process; that is, those who said no at the ballot boxes. But, they are waiting for the strong political parties that could involve them in a genuine political process based on programmes rather than protests and sit-ins.

Nasser Fayyad drew delineated the current situation in Egypt in the daily Al-Wafd, the mouthpiece of the opposition Wafd Party, saying that Egypt is passing through an unprecedentedly dangerous phase of polarisation and disunity among its citizens. 

He saw the political picture as divided among three currents. First, there is the opposition current that includes liberals, leftists, Copts and other sects. Second, there is the Islamic current comprising the religious parties headed by the FJP, the political wing of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB). It was widely believed, Fayyad continued, that the MB is an enlightened, moderate group. But it has become obvious when it reached power that it is a hard-line group.

Third, there is the silent majority, which has the largest voting power. This group falls below the line of poverty, lives mainly in the less privileged governorates, does not receive services or utilities and is not affected by the newspapers or satellite channels.

The disclosure of the referendum results has placed Egypt before a new challenge: how to move to the next phase. He added that the fact that all currents are making mistakes and refusing to make concessions indicates that we are heading towards a difficult phase.

The writer questioned why we have not learned from the Lebanese experience in which there are no winners or losers, why the MB did not reconsider its stand and what transformed it from an open to a hardline group.

“Egypt is passing through an unprecedented phase of political confusion. There is no astute national dialogue or initiatives from wise people. What happened? Where is the spirit and principles of the revolution?” he asked.

Ali Al-Selmi wrote the referendum is over and the constitution that a wide sector of Egyptians strove to convince the majority to reject was approved. He explained that civil powers started their struggle ever since the formation of the first constituent assembly. When their efforts failed, they withdrew from the constituent assembly and left it to the Islamic powers to draft their version of the constitution.

The writer pointed to some articles in the constitution that represented mines in the transition to democracy, such as articles 4, 219, 81 and 230.

However, he agreed with Hussein that the priority for the opposition now should be to refer any violations in the referendum to the judiciary, in addition to continuing its struggle against the constitution, to reveal its defects and defend the democratic civil state.

Yet, the most pressing issue for the opposition now is to prepare for the parliamentary election in a comprehensive way starting from taking part in preparing the new elections law, forming joint election lists, and working to achieve a strong presence for the opposition in the next parliament.

“The constructive opposition powers should work with the masses and the NGOs to defend the legal rights of the citizens, inform them of their rights and duties and prepare then to take part in the next election,” he wrote in the independent daily Al-Watan.



Arab press

Plucky Paris

The pundits of the Arab world were unduly engaged in Gaelic affairs. The historic visit of French President François Hollande on the 50th anniversary of the independence of Algeria from France took precedence in many Arab newspapers, and not just Algerian ones, in the beginning of the week. Later on, other issues hit the headlines such as the Gulf Cooperation Council summit meeting in Kuwait. Meanwhile, political developments in Egypt and the civil war in Syria dominated the discourses of Arab political commentators.

The Algerian Arab language, as opposed to the Algerian French language, media was particularly derisive of Hollande’s historic visit. “It is important to note that 12 political parties and civil rights groups were severely critical of the concessions made by [Algerian President Abdel-Aziz] Bouteflika to France during the latter’s official two-day visit to the country. The concessions and the visit amounted to a desperate attempt to ensure that he wins a fourth term in office in the forthcoming elections of 2014,” observed Othman Lahyani in the Algerian daily Al-Khabar.

“Moreover, the French president presumptuously permitted himself to interfere in the internal affairs of Algeria. He contemptuously discussed changes in the Algerian constitution that were not even debated in Algeria itself. He also insulted Algerians by refusing to issue an apology for crimes committed during the colonial period,” Lahyani said.

For those who do not speak the lingo of nationalism, there was plenty of debate about the nature of the post-“Arab Spring” identity. The Pan-Arab identity used to be based on a nostalgic vision of a shared Arab language, history and culture. Christian Arabs and Muslims, whether Shia or Sunni, were all classified as Arabs. Even members of the non-Arab minorities, such as the Kurds and the Amazigh, were considered as part and parcel of a greater Arab nationalism. Contemporary Arab identity politics emphasise religion and confessional affiliation above the wider conceptualisation of the Pan-Arab identity. Religion has become the dominant cause of democratic and authoritarian regimes.

“The Pan-Arab identity, which used to include all those living on Arab land, has been shredded. Look at what is taking place in your country. Do you have the same feeling when a victim falls in an area with a majority of residents from a different sect? Do you quickly ask about the sectarian affiliation of the residents of the neighbourhood in which a car bomb has exploded? Based on what motives do you support a given side in Iraq? On what criteria do you support the Syrian revolution or the regime? How do you explain the division of Lebanese and Iraqis over the Syrian conflagration? The Pan-Arab identity that for centuries was inclusive and tolerant of Arab and non-Arab minorities has been shredded,” wrote Editor-in-Chief of the London-based Pan-Arab daily Al-Hayat Ghassan Charbel on Christmas Eve.

“Is it not strange that Nuri Al-Maliki is unable to find a serious political partner from Takrit or Al-Anbar? Is it not strange that Iraq is not big enough for Al-Maliki and Masoud Barazani? Or that Beirut is not big enough for Nasrallah and Saad Al-Hariri? Is it not strange that there is talk in Syria about statelets, so that the Alawites can sleep in their region and the Sunni Muslims and the Kurds in theirs? While the Christians head for the Canadian embassy? Is it not shameful to hear about a bloody incident in an Egyptian village, because of a rumour, and that the settlement agreement sponsored by the police involves moving the Coptic Christians of Egypt out? This is not Egypt and this is not Syria and not Lebanon,” Charbel extrapolated.

In an enchanting satirical article entitled “It is ‘Spring’ and the weather is wonderful” in the Pan-Arab London-based daily Asharq Al-Awsat by prominent columnist Hussein Shobokshi, the writer laments the turn of events of the Arab Spring countries. “Some observers and analysts of the political situation in the Arab world in general feel the ‘Arab Spring’ event has almost come to an end and is breathing its last breaths,” Shobokshi warned.

“This is because the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and Tunisia has proven unable to manage the government of the state,” he continued. “The true story of the Arab Spring is too important and profound to be naively depicted as merely a force battle between political Islam and civil state currents. The enraged Arab youth still desire a state of law, and are not interested in returning to autocracy under any banner, whether military or religious,” Shobokshi exhorted.

“The motives of the Arab Spring are the roots of the problem and have not been addressed, and the talk about those who hijacked or exploited the phenomenon does not mean it has disappeared. No clear solutions have been put forward,” Shobokshi extrapolated.

“It is true that the scene seems somewhat distorted and confused now, but rational and wise observers are quite aware that this is temporary. The objective of the Arab Spring is yet to be accomplished: to establish a state of law that ensures dignified rights for everyone with no one party monopolising the scene,” Shobokshi concluded.

Last and not least, the Gulf Cooperation Council summit in Kuwait stole the spotlight from other topics, especially in the papers of the Gulf countries. The Saudi daily Okaz stressed the trepidation with which the Arab Gulf countries view Iran. “The GCC expressed its rejection and condemnation of the continuing Iranian interference in the affairs of the GCC states and called on Iran to stop these policies,” the paper quoted the final communiqué issued at the end of the two-day GCC summit in Kuwait.

The GCC Secretary-General Abdel-Latif Al-Zayani warned Iran against the continued control by Iran of the United Arab Emirates’ islands of Abu Moussa and the Greater and Lesser Tunbs. Iran’s nuclear programme and were critical of Israel as well. Criticism was not leveled on Iran alone. The GCC states called on Israel to join the Non-Proliferation Treaty and bring its nuclear facilities under inspection by the International Atomic Energy Agency.


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