Who Will Administer Reform In Egypt?

Who Will Administer Reform In Egypt?
Hasan Abu Taleb  

I don’t know how the tourists felt when the Egyptian security asked them to stay away from the outskirts of the Egyptian national museum. The Egyptian security forces had surrounded the parliament, established security checkpoints in the city of Cairo and created a situation which could be described by a nightmare. The Egyptians do understand the reasons behind this tightening of security and they crystallized sentiments of resentment and internal infuriation, but on the other hand the tourists asked perhaps with a certain feeling of condemnation: Is Egypt really in a state of war? Who is the enemy that requires such a high level of security tightening?              

Of course the term “war” here is a metaphor but it points out a decisive confrontation between two contradictory sides. What happened on March 26th was only a demonstration of this conflict between the Egyptian government and the Muslim Brotherhood movement, such a conflict that exists as a de facto situation that the apparatuses of the Egyptian government acknowledge. It is ironic how some of the semi-official Egyptian newspapers spoke of the events of that day and described this movement as a mere group trying to obstruct movement in the center of the city, and the Egyptian security forces did their job by arresting all those who tried to obstruct traffic. On the other hand, the Arab and international media, and even some of the independent local media, described what happened on that day as a peaceful protest where the protestors were expressing their demand for political reform and change of the constitution, but the protestors collided with extreme tightening of security that prevented them from continuing their protest.

This protest, or any other protest that might occur in the future, should not be analyzed away from the local atmosphere that can no longer accept what could be described as limited political reform; needless to say that the international climate is pushing for change and political reform. Up until now and despite all what is said about political reform that is being prepared it is still uncertain where these reforms will lead to. Such ambiguity opens the door to many contradictory interpretations and it increases the dose of mistrust between the ruling elite and the Egyptian people.

What we mean here by reform is simply the programmed and gradual change from an authoritarian regime into an open and democratic regime, through a peaceful manner, where the citizens are able to participate through clear and effective channels. The most important factor that presupposes this change is the lucidity of this model. It should be mentioned that this model is absent in all the Arab cases. The objective behind these reforms is strengthen is the republican regime but question is how? Is it enough to amend an article of the constitution in order for the president to be directly elected, at a time the political forces that are concerned with this change are excluded from the participation?

Egypt is not the only country that is still searching for its democratic model, for this is a common feature among all the Arab countries that declare their adherence to internal reform as opposed to the plans of reform that are coming from abroad, and from the U.S. in particular. 

The clear objective in the foreign program in general, and the American programs in specific, is countered by intentional ambiguity in the local and national Arab programs especially in Egypt. This drives us to conclude that such reforms are nothing more than the reproduction for the influence of the same governing elite over the established features of governance, and the reproduction for the elimination of the political and intellectual forces present on ground. It seems that there are no indications in the near future that the governing elite will accept openness; on the contrary, all indication designates the opposite. In such a kind of a situation, the security apparatuses control the stride of political interaction. Those who followed what happened in the cases regime change in Ukraine, Georgia and lately in Kyrgyzstan, and the cases of regime change in Eastern Europe in 1989, are aware that at a specific moment in time the security apparatuses can not prevent change.

When will the Arabs be influenced by the cases mentioned above and how? If it possible for the local TV channels to disregard what really happened in these countries, the channels of the skies are wide open and these channels do not know any restrains.

*Mr. Abu Taleb is an Egyptian writer.