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Managing unity and the power struggle among the forces of the January 25 revolution

For Egypt's future to reflect the hopes and demands of the revolutionary forces, they will have to come together to raise the country's economic and cultural conditions

Taha Abdel Alim , Monday 6 Jun 2011
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Views: 1777

The unique character of the January 25 revolution makes it best to adopt the rationale of revolution and doctrine of reform during the interim period, as the safest and only way to build national conciliation to augment the chances of unity and limit the dangers of the power struggle among revolution forces. The referendum on constitutional amendments in March was based in the reform doctrine.

Reality has become the freewill of the majority of the nation and we must be committed to it, but the referendum left the door open for agreement on the means and timing of issuing a new constitution, which is unanimously approved and corresponds with the rationale of revolution.

I believe there must be a middle ground reflecting the will of the majority who said “yes” in the referendum with the hope of achieving stability, but this should not ignore the right of the minority who said “no” and aspire for a constitution that promotes stability and respects the opinion of the Armed Forces as they shoulder the burden of leading the interim period until it accomplishes stability. I also believe it is the end of the era of obstinacy, and therefore the constitutional declaration issued by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) is not above amendment and parliamentary elections can be postponed to allow political parties and revolutionary forces – who are new to the political scene after decades of marginalisation – to play an effective role.

We could ask the Supreme Constitutional Court to place conditions which complement the principle that the constitution is the source of all powers, and that the constitution must express the consensus of the entire country. These conditions must be obligatory in forming and operating the Constituent Assembly when drafting a new constitution, to prevent this critical national assignment from being controlled by elected representatives in parliament.

As has been often mentioned, the revolutionary alliance succeeded in erasing the succession scenario, truncating extended presidential terms, uprooting the foundations of organised corruption and ending the police state. Since the present is an image of the future, the forces of the revolution must come together to raise the standard of security without delay to enable the process of building a new political system.

This can be achieved in two ways. Firstly, by raising political and cultural standards, including agreeing on the principles of the new constitution to guarantee the comprehensive rights of citizenship and protect the pillars of a civic state – not a military or religious one. Secondly, by raising economic and social standards through agreement on the principles of the new constitution that establishes an economic and social structure combining efficient resource management and fair income distribution.

On the issue of unity and conflict, the partners in national dialogue must realise that a critical safeguard to building a civic, united state is a clear text in the constitution stating the mechanisms needed to protect this state. Also, disseminating the culture of respect for the Other, guided by the teachings of Islamic Sharia which is based on two principles in the Quran: you have your religion and I have mine, and religion cannot be forced. Otherwise, the nation will be torn apart in sectarian strife and the nation’s fabric will disintegrate.

The partners in dialogue should also aim to build consensus on a new economic and social structure that ensures equal opportunity and is founded in the roles of the state and market, combining the activities of the public and private sectors, protecting competition and preventing monopoly. It would also promote justified private revenue and guarantee society’s profits. If not, the nation will once again slide towards a free market economy which squandered both economic proficiency and social justice.

In managing unity and conflict, I am not worried about the nation’s consensus over democracy but I am very concerned about what the revolutionary forces will decide regarding the new economic and social structure. It is surprising how media programmes, political discourse, opinions by revolutionary youth, the debate of political parties, speeches of presidential nominees and the actions of the interim government are dominated by ideas of how to rebuild the political system. But they lack any vision of how to rebuild the economic and social structure.

It is also surprising that there are calls for a free economy from within the interim government, which is similar to what Egyptian neo-conservatives who supported the succession plot – including ministers, theorists and capitalists – promoted, even after the tremendous crash of the free market in the US.

I believe that Egypt must and could accomplish the progress it aspires through root reforms implemented gradually, alongside building a united willpower and by keeping in check the struggle of wills among all revolutionary forces. This would prevent Egyptians from suffering the severe pain and high price of a clash led by the overzealous rhetoric of the majority of the revolutionary forces, and fanned by domestic and foreign enemies of the revolution.

As for building a new economic and social system, there is no alternative to reform that aims to make root changes at a gradual pace. This is not the era of the Revolutionary Command Council of the July Revolution, but the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces is a partner in the revolution and leans towards reform (sic). Neither is society innocent of the causes behind religious strife, since there is sharp polarisation between civic and religious forces. Nor is this a revolution of the poor classes who toppled the rich, but one by all classes who declared social justice as their goal.

Revolutionary forces should make peace with Egyptian nationalist capitalism; it should not ignore bringing to account the partners in organised corruption but it should agree to a reasonable financial settlement with others. In order to propel the economy forward, we must repel the damages of the economic collapse. In facing this and other problems, those who support the revolution should manage the dynamics of unity and conflict in a way which builds mutual trust. If they forged ahead individually, they then must move towards completing the revolution.

In a conversation with senior researcher El-Sayed Yassin during the revolution before the former president stepped down, I wished that Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, as the head of the Armed Forces, would play the same role as Field Marshal Abdel-Rahman Swar Al-Dhahab did – namely safeguarding the transition from an oppressive regime into a new liberal system. My wishes came true because of the historic stand by the Armed Forces, led by the Supreme Council, which enabled the revolution to be victorious.

Calls suggesting that a civilian presidential council should replace the military council ignore the fact that no one other than the Armed Forces has the ability and confidence to lead the transitional phase, which is brimming with deception and plots. Nonetheless, the ruling military council must revise the timeline of the roadmap to establish democracy, and must understand the serious nature of the fears and dangers of a religious state. It must also realise that the seeds of the present are the fruit of the future.

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