Archive for June, 2012

Morsi is a blessing for Egyptian liberals. An outsider’s perspective.

I was standing in the middle of Tahrir square when Morsi was announced as the first democratic elected president in the history ofEgypt. I have never seen such an outburst of happiness and relief. People cried, prayed and chanted. It felt like for the people on the square eighty four years of suppression and fear finally had come to an end. The liberal revolutionaries of 25 January however, were absent. Most of them were sitting at home, watching the result with glazy eyes. Their anxiety that in the end the Muslim Brotherhood would take over the revolution, had become reality. They didn’t forget that Morsi and other leaders from the Brotherhood first refused to join the revolution. Morsi even said on TV that they were talking to the regime in order to find a negotiated solution.

However, one must admit, Morsi deserves the presidency. The Muslim Brotherhood was not only the best organized, it frankly was the only one with an elaborated and coherent program. Besides, no one can claim they didn’t suffer under the military rule since 1954. One must also admit that inside the liberal camp the battle was about egos rather than about the future ofEgypt. The fact that Hamdeen Sabahi refused to form a presidential team and negotiate with Morsi half of the power for the secular camp in the government and the constitutional committee is more than symbolic.

Nevertheless, the victory of Morsi is probably the best that could happen. First of all, the only force capable of threatening the army not to leave the path towards democracy is the Muslim Brotherhood. The SCAF fears them which most probably is the reason why the generals didn’t dare to rig the elections (massively) or give the presidency to Shafiq. Secondly, after winning the parliamentary and the presidential elections the Muslim Brothers finally must prove to the Egyptian people that they are not only ‘good Muslims’ but real democrats and good rulers as well. If they can’t, they will be punished in the next elections. The third reason why it is good that Morsi won the presidency, is the fact that it shapes clarity. No more doubts of they are to be trusted, no more conspiracy theories, no more ‘what ifs’. Morsi is president and he will only hold accountable for what he does and does not realize. The debate now is about facts and no longer rumours.

This is an opportunity for the liberal/secular/revolutionary camp. With the election of Morsi a new era has started: the era of politics. Where there is on the one side the SCAF and on the other side the president it is time to organise the missing side: the liberal opposition. Time has come to create the liberal alternative. The potential for this alternative is huge as we have seen in the first round of the presidential elections. In order to convert this potential in an electoral victory the following universal political laws should be taken into account:

  1. Don’t try to negotiate functions in the government if you’re weak. Also forget about presidential teams, councils, etc. That’s too late. Right now the only legitimate politician is Mohamed Morsi. The government is his responsibility, as are the realisations of this government. He is responsible, but also accountable for what will go wrong.
  2. Stop the fragmentation. Unite forces. It is of no use to have dozens of parties with the same program and the same aims. All the meetings with all party presidents led to nothing. Small parties with less than five Members of Parliament should realise that it doesn’t make sense to continue alone.
  3. Talk about content not about tactics. People want to hear about solutions for the problems they have and not about tactical games. Don’t only talk about what you don’t want, but also about what your vision, your agenda is for the future ofEgypt. Make a positive narrative in which solutions for the everyday problems have their proper place.
  4. The duty of the opposition is to oppose. Be the watchdog of the new president and his government. Be constructive, give alternative solutions, but be harsh when needed. Play the role of the parliament and control the executive powers. But don’t criticize everything. Pick your fights.
  5. Talk to the people. Explain to the streets what you want and why. And listen to what they really expect from you. Only if you can convince the people about what you’re doing, you can become an alternative and win elections.

The first challenge for the liberal opposition is going to be the new constitution. The first fight will be on the procedure. If one needs a two third majority in order to agree on things, it doesn’t really matter if Islamists have 49, 52 or 57 percent of the seats. The second fight will be the content. The liberal opposition should agree on five or ten priorities or breaking points. Together they have a ‘blocking minority’ which is enough votes to ask whatever they want.

Normally,Egyptwill have in the six to eight months to come a referendum, parliamentary and presidential elections and even local elections. If the liberal forces are capable of joining forces and create a credible liberal opposition, the election of Mohamed Morsi will have been a blessing for the future ofEgypt.

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Out of the crisis with an Egyptian triumvirate? An outsider’s perspective

A triumvirate is a political system in which the leadership is given to three dominating political figures. During history it has been used in times of major crises, to solve major problems and lead the state to a new era. The most known triumvirate in ancient times was the one of Caesar in Rome, where it was made to balance powers and to bridge a difficult period. Also famous was the triumvirate in France by Napoleon (1795-1799) in order to safeguard the French revolution. Another well known modern one existed in the Netherlands in 1561, where it was installed to guarantee the civil and religious liberties.

In the current situation of Egypt, a triumvirate could also be the solution. Egypt lives through a major crisis, and it looks for a guarantee for civil and religious liberties and wants to safeguard the revolution. How could this triumvirate work in practice?

1. Before the elections (preferably this weekend) the main presidential candidates Morsi, Sabahy and Aboul Fotouh agree to form a triumvirate (or presidential three-mans-council) in order to face the elections of 16-17 June together. It is very important to ask for a mandate through elections. Any other option would be a major setback for democracy.

2. If they win, they agree to work together for the next four years in this triumvirate. They need enough time in order to be able to make the necessary changes and reforms.

3. They will be equal in hierarchy.

4. They will have clear separated competences that comprise and divide all executive powers, but decisions will be taken together.

5. The division in large could be the following

– President 1 will be responsible for the reform of everything which lies in the competences of social, economic, cultural and education affairs. He will lead the government.

– President 2 will be responsible for the writing of the Constitution. He will lead the Constitutional Committee. He will also be responsible for the reforms of the Ministry of Interior. He will be responsible for civil and religious liberties.

– President 3 will be responsible for anything which is foreign affairs and defence, for the relationship with the military and for the reform of the judiciary system.

6. They agree to balance the composition of the government and the Constitutional Committee with all the groups that exist in Egypt.

Sometimes history can be useful to find creative solutions. But of course, it’s just an idea from an outsider’s perspective.

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