Thursday 24th Jan 2019
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Egypt’s Nascent Democracy in Peril

Cover Story

SIKANDAR AZAMtakes stock of the situation prevailing in Egypt and suggests to the opposition led by Mohamed ElBaradei to shun violence and opt for the ballot box if they want to change the regime.

With President Mohamed Morsi proclaiming a 30-day state of emergency coupled with a 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew in three Suez Canal cities – Port Saïd, Suez, and Ismailia – on 27 January followed by the Defence Minister Gen Abdel Fattah al-Sissi terming the events as leading to ‘collapse of the State’, the situation prevailing in Egypt may well be called chaotic. This chaos and anarchy, strife and sedition is part of the diabolical conspiracy hatched by the anti-Islam forces in and around this most populous Arab country.

This conspiracy is not assumed but well recorded in media. In an interview with London-based satellite television station, al-Hiwar, the editor-in-chief of al-Quds al-Arabi, Abdel Bari Atwan, revealed the existence of intelligence reports documenting a secret meeting between former Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and former Egyptian Foreign Minister Amr Mousa during the latter’s unexpected visit to Ramallah on 4 November 2012 – ten days before the attacks on the Gaza Strip. Reports categorically mentioned that Livni made a direct request to Amr Mousa ‘to pre-occupy President Mohamed Morsi, during this period with internal affairs’. And this is what happened exactly as Amr Mousa returned from Ramallah and along with Mohamed ElBaradei and some Coptic Christians led the withdrawal from the Constituent Assembly, which was in the final stage of drafting the Constitution.

They were then opposing the draft constitution tooth and nail and making every effort to scuttle it. But they received drubbings when this first national charter was adopted with majority votes (about 64 per cent) in the two-phase referendum. They have been searching for some cause or the other ever since to translate the ‘secret deal’ with their foreign masters into action. The second anniversary of 25 January revolution provided them with one.

The troublemakers gathered around the Ittehadia presidential palace and damaged the premises. The outer wall of the palace was seen scrawled with graffiti including “Topple the regime”. At Tahrir Square, they threw stones and bottles at Prime Minister Hisham Qandil’s motorcade. They also laid a siege at and attacked the headquarters of Freedom and Justice newspaper and Ikhwanonline website. The present strife caused widespread loot and arson, crimes against women including rapes at Tahrir Square, serious injuries to hundreds of people and killing of about 60 persons. All this testifies to hooliganism of the protestors.

The question is: If they want to change the regime and come to power, why don’t they opt for peaceful electoral process? In a democracy this is the only fair means to come to power.

They are causing this unrest at a time when the country is preparing for the next general elections. This clearly indicates that they are afraid of the emergence of Freedom and Justice Party, the political wing of Ikhwan al-Muslimoon, as victorious once again in the general elections, for their main demand is formation of a new cabinet with the likes of ElBaradei and Amr Mousa as members if the government wants to stop violence. ‘Either a new cabinet or direct violent action’ is their mantra for peace. This suggests their political bankruptcy and is nothing less than blackmailing the first elected president and strangulating the nascent democracy in the country.

Even the initiative taken by the Grand Sheikh of Al-Azhar to forge coordination between the ruling presidency and the NSF-led opposition failed to change the situation for the better. In the meeting called by the Grand Sheikh everyone, without any exception, sensed the danger facing the democratic transformation. There was also unanimity in condemning the violence and supporting action to stop attempts to spread chaos and lawlessness. But 24 hours after they had signed the Al-Azhar document, the ElBaradei-led opposition came to square one and threatened to continue violence.

Mohamed Mustafa ElBaradei, an Egyptian law scholar and diplomat and former Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), and the IAEA were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2005. He is presently coordinator of National Salvation Front (NSF) that is leading the violence and unrest. It does not behove a person of his stature to indulge in violence, arson and blackmailing the elected presidency. If he continues to lead violence in the country, the Nobel authorities should consider making him surrender the Peace Prize.

As this violence started on the second anniversary of 25 January revolution, it would be interesting to note the difference between the way the opposition adopted on this occasion and the way Muslim Brotherhood marked it. There is stark difference between the two.

The Muslim Brotherhood commemorated the revolution anniversary with a series of charitable development events serving the whole community. They launched the ‘Together We Build Egypt’ campaign, aiming at providing mostly free services to the Egyptian people, such as medical convoys across the country’s provinces. The Brotherhood is also organising charitable markets that sell commodities at hugely reduced prices, to ease the burden on poor families, as well as tree-planting campaigns in various governorates.

As for statistics, they organised 63 charitable markets and 49 medical convoys as well as 8 job fairs for youth that provided 6000 new jobs. They also launched 16 campaigns for tree-planting, many initiatives to paint sidewalks and walls, and 23 campaigns to repair street damage, paving roads and filling potholes, with some 130,000 citizens benefiting from these services in Alexandria alone.

During the last two few months the legitimately elected presidency faced many challenges and came out with flying colours, and each time this writer felt that it is the Best of planners – wa makaru wa makarallah, wallahu khairul makireen (they plan and Allah also plans, and Allah is the best of planners) – that is guiding the hands of President Morsi. The present crisis seems to continue for some time but again let’s see how the Best of Planners turns the tide.

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