Parliamentary republic is Egypt's solution

Emad Gad , Wednesday 16 Feb 2011

With Mubarak’s fall, so too must the Pharaoh’s court be replaced by a pluralistic, open system of governance for Egypt to have a chance of emerging as a modern nation

There is much speculation about the nature of the anticipated political system which will take root in Egypt after the success of the 25 January Revolution. Behind each theory is a vision and behind each vision are ideological motives or political interests. Some want a quick transformation to civilian rule, namely that the brass quickly return to their barracks and leave civilians to build the political system as they desire. Others are calling for the military to remain on the scene for longer so they can become more competitive. A third camp believes in a combination of the two, namely an interim period where the civilian and military come together to produce a stable civic political system which propels Egypt to the ranks of democratic, multi-party countries.

In light of these divergent views, a principal question remains about the key faults in our political culture which created an authoritarian regime that sent Egypt to the bottom of the world across all fields, while it has claimed the crown for all things hideous and despised. The most dominant fault is “the Pharaoh nature of politics” or the centralisation of the political regime around “Pharaoh” who sits at the head of the regime.

This model is echoed in all the institutions, agencies and companies with each headed by a “mini-Pharaoh” surrounded by “incense bearers” who sing the praises of the Pharaoh, whether great or minor. The smell of the incense attracts more spin doctors, seekers and followers, repelling those who are not seduced by the great or minor Pharaoh or their minions. The stench of corruption sickens some leaving the country to live abroad, either temporarily or permanently. 

The politics of Pharaoh is the malaise of Egypt’s political culture; one person controls all aspects of life with one or more minor pharaohs from his family while incense bearers and ecclesiastics of the great and minor Pharaoh are placed as heads of various institutions, agencies and companies. They too become “minor Pharaohs” to their subordinates. While they are priests or incense bearers in the eyes of the great or minor Pharaoh, they are “Pharaohs” in the eyes of their subordinates.

The politics of Pharaoh has ruined many aspects of life in Egypt whether politically, economically, socially and culturally. The question now is how to uproot this political phenomenon?

This can be done through limiting the authority of the leader of the regime not by curtailing the powers of the president of the republic, but by transforming them into nominal powers similar to constitutional monarchies whereby the sovereign “resides but does not rule” as head of state. I call for implementing a parliamentary regime in the “new” Egypt where our president would be an “honorary” figure similar to the presidents of Italy, Germany and India.

Parliament would be the basis for rule, a parliamentary system which is based on true political pluralism with civic parties not based on religion as religious political parties would fracture Egypt. In this way, civic parties would represent various sectors and echelons of Egyptian society and contest free and open elections, presenting their platforms to the electorate and competing for votes under an electoral system of partial lists. Constituencies can be defined either by considering the entire country as one constituency or each governorate separately.

A reasonable percentage for victory can be decided (say, five per cent, which would enable the victor to become a member of parliament), and in this way, there will be five to ten political parties in parliament. Under such a system no one party would achieve the 50 per cent or more needed to form a government and hence all future governments in Egypt will be coalitions. Events and developments may occur which would cause the country to form governments of national accord, combining the parties if needed.

According to this system, the president would delegate the prime minister, the leader of the party with the most seats in parliament, to form a government within a specific time period (usually four to six weeks). The prime minister would consult and deliberate until he succeeds in bringing together parties which add up to more than half the number of seats in parliament plus at least one. Meanwhile, the rest of the political parties will carry out their role as the opposition in monitoring the performance of the government and form a shadow cabinet, in the belief that they too have the ability to reach power in coming elections through a coalition with other parties.

Without explaining much more about the nature, forms and details of a parliamentary system, I want to emphasise that parliamentary systems are the most capable of cementing pluralism and the most representative of various sectors in society and diverse ideologies. Most importantly, the parliamentary system is a national demand for Egypt to remedy “the politics of Pharaoh” which have pushed Egypt to the periphery of the civilised world.

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