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The symbolic constitutional clash

While Egypt appears polarised over the proposed constitutional amendments, the issue of how to reach the future is the issue at stake

Gamal Abdel-Gawad , Friday 18 Mar 2011

Under the previous regime, the political scene in Egypt was divided between the National Democratic Party (NDP) on the one hand and all other political forces on the other, leaving it polarised between the regime and the opposition. The regime was disbanded and the NDP disappeared, and now there is neither regime nor opposition and all political forces are equal, but they are divided along different lines.

The new axes in Egyptian politics are Islamist political parties and forces on the one hand and everyone else on the other. The Muslim Brotherhood is leading the Islamist camp, followed by Al-Gamaat Al-Islamiya, which was responsible for terrorism in the 1990s, and the Jihad group that partnered with Al-Gamaat to assassinate President Anwar Sadat in 1981. Also, the Salafits have decided to participate in politics, although abstention from politics was part of their creed.

In the opposite camp are all the others, such as the Wafd Party with its long history as a liberal nationalist party; Al-Tagammu Party, the root of Egypt’s left; the liberal Democratic Front Party whose young members campaigned for and organised the January 25 Revolution; the 6 April Movement which has fought battles in the real and virtual world since its inception in 2008; along with other general socialist, liberal, nationalist forces and groups composed of the youth who shouldered the greater burden of making the revolution a success and ensuring its civilised nationalistic character, and who are currently trying to organise themselves into new parties to participate in building a new Egypt.

The clash over voting for or against the proposed constitutional amendments is the first battleground between the two camps, and although it won’t be the last or decisive confrontation, it does demarcate the dividing line between the two camps that had shared in the protests and struggle in Tahrir Square. The Islamist bloc is united in approving the constitutional amendments while everyone else rejects them, as do all the presidential candidates, including Amr Moussa, Mohamed ElBaradie, Hamdeen Sabahi and Hisham Bastaweesi.

The battle over the proposed constitutional amendments, in my opinion, is essentially symbolic. The real confrontation between the two camps will come later. Neither will a 'Yes' vote indicate the influence of the Islamists, nor will a 'No' vote prove the extent of national moderates. The clash today is not between ideologies presenting different perspectives of Egypt, but about how to cross over into the future. These are the boundaries of the dispute, and the majority of Egyptians who do not subscribe to a particular ideology will vote according to these parameters.

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