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The runoffs: A Berma dilemma

The runoffs are what Egyptians call a Berma dilemma - there is no simple way out - might the military as an institution be able to offer a way out?

Ahmed Mahmoud , Wednesday 30 May 2012
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Views: 1917

The presidential election results are what Egyptians might calls a "Berma dilemma", because they present a conundrum that is perplexing many major political forces in the country.

The Berma dilemma refers to an Egyptian proverb about a tale that occurred in a village called Berma in the northern Egyptian Delta. It tells the story of an accident when a man that bumped into a woman carrying a basket of eggs all of which were broken. He asked her how many eggs were in the basket, and she answered him, "if you count by three, one will remain, and if you count by four, one will remain and the same goes if you count by five or six. But if you count by seven nothing will remain." And the man knew that the answer was 301 eggs. A Berma dilemma, then, is a situation where the answer is difficult to reach and the process is uncertain.

Much of the country's forces were in a state of partial confusion when it came to choosing a preferred presidential candidate, whether Islamic, revolutionary or former regime candidates. The confusion has only become exacerbated when it comes to the runoffs between Muslim Brotherhood's Mohamed Morsi and Hosni Mubarak's last prime minister Ahmed Shafiq. Faced with the situation of choosing from what are for many two undesirable candidates, the country has been plunged into a "Berma dilemma."

If people vote for Morsi, this means that people choose the “Muslim brotherhood plus one” which is the military institution,

The FJP have a programme that they say would take 28 years to realise. Brotherhood businessman and leading figure Khairat El-Shater would probably play a major role. Once this project  is completed it would enable the Brotherhood and their party to stay in power for at least 100 years

On the other hand, if people choose Shafiq then this will mean they have chosen the “ex-regime plus one” which is the military institution as well. Either option, in other words, brings us back square zero, as if there were no martyrs who sacrificed their lives for the sake of the liberty of this nation.

But even if the security institutions do not go back to their old – and unacceptable – ways in dealing with the people, there will be the problem of the businessmen of the old regime regaining their power and influence. This will bring the country back in a vicious circle of the marriage between power and money, bringing the people back to the situation they were in before the revolution. Or perhaps even a worse situation.

If we consider the matter carefully, however, we will note that it is the military as an institution that remains the common player in this dilemma. This is natural as the military managed over the past sixty years to establish its position in the country and cannot be taken out of the formula that easily when it comes to the future of Egypt. Moreover, it is an important shield to protect the existence and the continuation of the Egyptian state, even if we do manage to turn Egypt into a civil state. Whether or not we agree with their procedures, the military institution plays an important role in maintaining the structure of the state.

Even if people are willing to swap democracy for the sake of security and stability, whether it is Morsi or Shafiq who becomes the country's next president, there may well be unrest. That unrest might take the form of a revolution, more virulent than what came before, a possible clash between different players in the political arena competing for money, money and influence. It is this that makes the dilemma disturbing, if not frightening, for the vast majority.  

So, what we need to do is seek assurances, not from the presidential candidates but from the military institution itself. They are the only player now with the ability to solve this dilemma because they have the constitutional enactment and the right to issue legislation and constitutional declarations. Let’s ask quietly but clearly: isn’t it better now and before the runoffs that the military council issues a constitutional declaration determining the powers of the incoming president?

Is that not the guarantee of stability for political life in Egypt, regardless of who becomes the next president? And then, the most important thing, is this not the guarantee of continuity, stability and the means to progress of the state which the military institution has the responsibility to maintain?

This may sound like a naive argument, simply because it's so obvious. But didn't we learn in the science of logic that when the issues become more complicated, to go back to the logical axioms and basics to find a logical solution?

Here, I am not pushing people to vote or not to vote for a specific candidate in the runoff. Rather I raise these questions, so that we all think together and try to find a solution to get us out of this crisis and to move forward to find a democratic way out of the berma dilemma in which we find ourselves.

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