Saturday,22 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1129, 3 - 9 January 2013
Saturday,22 September, 2018
Issue 1129, 3 - 9 January 2013

Ahram Weekly

Listen to the common people

Opposition leaders need to stop grumbling about Islamist currents and get on with the hard work of winning elections by convincing electors, writes Khaled Fayyad

Al-Ahram Weekly

In the middle of a discussion about the situation in Egypt, my interlocutor, who thinks of himself an Islamist, said: “What I see today in Egypt is not a power struggle between the Islamists and seculars, but a power struggle between the supporters and the enemies of the revolution.”

This is clearly an exaggeration. But is it completely devoid of truth?

The attitude of some politicians in Egypt reminds me of the story of a little boy who kept nagging his father to buy him a computer. The father went and bought a computer and told his boy that he had to share the new computer with his older brother. This went fine for a while, until the older boy became really good at using the computer. The younger one, frustrated, told his father that he doesn’t want the computer anymore, and would he please take it back to the shop?

In other words, it was better for the child not to have a computer at all than to be outsmarted by his older sibling.

Something of this sort has happened in Egypt. One political faction began communicating with the masses and gaining their trust, and eventually their votes, and the rest of the political factions began grumbling about it. Some of them even went as far as arguing that the pre-revolution regime was better. At the bottom of this conflict is this sad fact: the losers have lost faith in the ballot boxes. Now some of them claim that the people are too ignorant to know what is good for them. Nonsense, I say.

We must continue our quest for freedom, justice, bread and human dignity. And we cannot do that without democracy. The people should always have the right to choose, and we must help them choose right rather than denigrate their views.

My advice to the opposition leaders is to appear less on television and more in impoverished neighbourhoods. Unless our politicians do that, they will keep losing and keep grumbling.

Let’s all quit calling each other names. Let’s stop accusing our rivals of treason, stupidity, or atheism. Democracy will work, perhaps not immediately, but eventually, and we have no other choice.

The liberals have to work harder and get their priorities right. We must do all we can to get out of this transitional phase, which has gone on for too long and is making us the laughing stock of Arab countries. To do so, we must:

- Focus on building a civil coalition that is capable of running for election on a unified list and in every constituency in the country.

- Let the presidency lead the country and accept the temporary handing over of legislative power to the Shura Council.

- Get busy in the countryside, especially the south, talking to people about the programme of the civil current and how it can achieve a true renaissance in Egypt: through such action we can confront the demagoguery of some of the followers of the Islamist current.

- Form a united front in parliament capable of pressing amendments to controversial articles of the constitution, rather than relying on dialogues or concessions. There is no reason we cannot win more than half the seats necessary to do so.

- Propose legislation that focuses on economic and social matters and addresses the current deterioration in the economy.

- Join a broad-based coalition government and try to take the portfolios of education, culture, scientific research, higher education, social security, youth, and human rights (if such a ministry is created).

- Start serious communication with civil society organisations in rural and urban areas to reach out to a larger base of voters, provide them with services, and raise their political awareness.

- Sever all ties with the followers of the old regime and embrace a democratic discourse that is free from the faulty practices of the ousted regime.

The path is long and tortuous, but we have no other choice but to traverse it. So my word to the elite is this: act with more humility and get in touch with the common people.


The writer is an expert at the Bahrain Institute for Political Development.

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