Egypt: Condition for Democratic Transformation
Wednesday, September 14,2005 00:00
By ( Al-Hayat)

Egypt: Condition for Democratic Transformation
Hazem Saghieh   

In the rhetoric of the recent Egyptian elections, one notes the usage of the term “first” elections in Egypt. Some have added “since 50 years”, while others said “since 100 years”. There are those who said “since the dawn of history”. But we never heard an explanation that indicates the lengthy Egyptian “abstention”, as no one said why leaders from all over the world have agreed on such an abstention and the resulting tragedies?


It is a question that is almost a taboo in cultural history, because  “politics” as we. Know, are extremely superficial. However, not asking the question “justifies” the surge of certain expressions, which were very common in the last elections, such as speaking of “pluralistic elections”, implicitly saying that there are “non-pluralistic” elections (this clarifies the nature of previous Egyptian and current Iranian elections), or saying that President Mubarak is the candidate of “stability” (which clarifies the degree of strength and expansion of radical-terrorist language where politics became a mere evasion of death).


In any event, what has happened is called elections and not democracy. We do not exaggerate when we say that Egypt is ready for elections more than democracy, provided the first be a prelude to the second, a stage where the rule of law is upheld. It is needless to say that certain guarantees should be presented, the existence of which shall decide whether the track is indeed transitory and graduating towards democracy or not. In the meantime, implementing President Mubarak’s reformist promises gains utmost importance and enables the evaluation of several issues:


What should be done to increase participation in elections, meaning how to convince the Egyptians that politics is serious and that their opinions and votes are capable of altering events and producing others?

How can we maintain the level of freedom that has existed during the last months, and increase its magnitude to include political groups that are still banned, the most prominent of which, are the Muslim Brotherhood?

How may we eliminate “suspicions” about inheritance of power; if it does not occur, the goal of “pluralism” becomes seriously suspicious. 

How may the movement from the two heavy coup d’état of July be executed: in media that needs to be freed from state control and in military and security institutions that should be put under the control of elected civilians?

How may institutional and structural reforms be implemented to promote anticorruption and enhance economic performance (there are definite achievements like 4.8% growth in 2005 and the improvement of the Egyptian Pound’s value, but the national debt of 2004 exceed 8 billion dollars, unemployment is close to 20%, and 43% of Egyptians live on less than two dollars a day)?

The opposition’s weakness in the last election revealed the society’s fragility and its capacity for change. On the other hand, important signs have emerged, such as voting itself, and the exchange of no less important ideas and practices such as the independence of the judiciary and the supervisory role of the civil society (whose main task was limited to burning flags). International pressure seemed good and beneficial. It balanced between rash revolutionary notions promoted by neo-conservatives and mere passiveness and leaving things to the wisdom of the ruler.


It remains to support these positive aspects in order to develop political life, both rulers and the opposition, thus, allow the transition to the rule of law and then to democracy.