Before completing the final step in forming a new parliament, its legitimacy was undermined by the abundance of political money in the elections. Some of this cannot be repaired. It was a vulgar display by all political, legal, and moral standards when votes were auctioned off outside ballot stations in a manner unprecedented in any previous elections.
In 2012, the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) and Islamist parties pumped massive amounts of money into the elections to buy the votes of the poor by handing out potatoes, rice, and lentils, as well as covert bribes. They did not send agents to voting stations to scout for voters selling their ballots, while prices rose as closing time approached.
Buying votes is a crime and excessive audacity indicates a serious distortion in the rules of the political game. Political life has retreated and political money stepped in to fill the vacuum by buying representatives and voters. Candidates did not present political platforms or ideas that are an umbrella for like-minded people. Never in the history of Egyptian parliament has there been a lack of ideas and vision and outlook as it is today, or have candidates been so boastful about their lack of interest in and understanding of politics, as stated by some members of the incumbent government.
This is a catastrophe. The absence of politics is a fast track to suicide. The flames of political money will consume all values in this country. Most seriously, no one respects the law and the law will not be respected by the state. Assuming good intentions, there is no explanation why political money candidates contested the elections and spent extravagantly if they are so annoyed with politics. Some of them have no idea how parliament works, which is, by definition, politics.
Hysterical vote buying casts doubt over good intentions and undermines its very foundation. No one buys one vote for nearly LE1000 in order to watch parliament in action – although it is most likely to be quite a “display.” Undoubtedly, it is about self-interests.
The worst conclusion is for political money to believe that general atmosphere is susceptible to corruption more than any time before, and that membership in parliament is a money-maker and grants immunity from prosecution.
There is a difference between the integrity of the president and the integrity of the regime. The former is the man’s choice, the second is the nature of institutions. One way or another, the president will pay a high price for the reputation of his regime under the new parliament.
A parliament controlled by political money is a draft for legislative corruption that contradicts any value of social justice. This cannot preserve the stability of a country that suffers from cruel living conditions. Political money MPs are an unbearable burden for the president despite all claims of supporting him. They will do everything to mold the presidency to serve their interests and reproduce the formula of loyalty in return for interests. This is a reality that is easily tangible.
Looking ahead, parliament can easily be dissolved if it triggers any widespread social disturbances that threaten the regime itself. Possible parliamentary chaos threatens the state’s general structure, which is supposed to have put in place all its institutions for the first time in five years.
This is a political disaster caused by those who engineered laws regulating elections, who have brought on the decay of political life and pushed us to the edge of the abyss.
The prestige of the state is a political process, not a security one. There is no prestige or security without political cover. After two revolutions, no one can stand on solid ground if they do not proceed to construct a modern constitutional state. This is the root of legitimacy.
The return of ghosts from the past to the forefront of the political, economic, and media scene is a direct stab at the roots. It also implies that the past could be remanufactured once again, and “June” can be hijacked as a counter-revolution.
In the absence of vision, political money has free reign to fill the vacuum. Without firm rules to undercut the institution of corruption at the roots, it will blossom and issue laws that protect its dominance and push the country into the unknown, and perhaps the return of the MB.
The future of parliament cannot be separated from the way it was created or the role political money played. Egyptians first heard of the expression “political money” in Lebanon when late Prime Minister Rafiq Al-Hariri was gaining power there, accompanied by tens of billions of dollars being spent in Lebanon’s political circles, to Sunnis especially. With this money, he was able to sideline a prominent political family in Sayda, his hometown, where he grew up in a poor family until he went to Saudi Arabia.
He gained power at the expense of the Maarouf Saad family, fishermen whose legacy is brimming with honourable stands defending the town and alliances with the Palestinian resistance against Israeli military operations in South Lebanon. With the power of political money, Hariri also sidelined other Sunni families that rotated as heads of governments. This was all part of a political scheme for influence and power between Saudi Arabia and Iran.
It was a disturbing phenomenon to see positions being bought and outlooks revised, but it was never as brazen as we saw in the last parliamentary elections in Egypt. Hariri founded newspapers and television channels, sent students abroad to universities in the US and Europe, sponsored public projects and gently penetrated intellectual circles.
There is a difference between political financiers who are similar to criminal organisations, in terms of thinking and performance, and political money that has goals and means that cast an aura of respect on itself. More directly speaking, at the height of the marriage between business and power in Egypt under the tenure of the Policy Committee headed by Gamal Mubarak, the son of the former president, we never saw this appalling influence of political money.
This trend is completely out of control and a rampant violator. It threatens the map of the future at the finish line, and destroys any chances in the region and the world for an effective and influential Egyptian role any time soon. It also casts an atmosphere of public depression at a time when we need a glimmer of hope.
There are urgent questions about laws, regulations and the predominance of political money in parliamentary elections. If the law is trivialised for the benefit of political money and regulations are trampled underfoot, everything will lose respect and legitimacy.
I want to warn against the approaching flames before they consume all hope for the future and push the entire country into the unknown.