What about Egyptian democracy?
Sat, 29/12/2012 - 19:17

One night, a Lebanese friend, a professor who emigrated to France, told me of his longing for his homeland, blaming his departure on the sectarian quota system which does not guarantee him a proper status at home. An Iraqi friend carried on from there, sarcastically elaborating on the “progressive” state of democracy in his country.

I do not have a Pakistani friend, but I am aware of some of the developments there.

All these are supposed democracies. So what about Egyptian democracy?

Egypt does not seem to be on the right track at all. It’s been two years since the breakout of the revolution, but very few, if any, of its goals have been realized.

The goal of the revolution was not to enable people to go to the polls, with each outcome of a vote sparking political wars of varying intensity. That was not the democracy we meant.

The key slogan of the revolution was “bread, freedom and social justice.” Yet none of these goals has materialized. Worse still, we do not even seem close.

The past year has revealed the fragility of the political course undertaken over the past two years and uncovered a frightening political void, the result of a decades-long lack of public engagement. It also uncovered the lack of wisdom on the part of most political actors, particularly the Islamist current with its authoritative and monopolistic tendencies.

For the first time since the breakout of the revolution, both state and society were in the line of fire. The traditional trust between the political leadership and the state bureaucracy has been absent and the decision-maker seemed confused.

In the second year after the revolution, the state has been almost absent from political interactions. Society was left to address its fears on its own. It was forced, for the first time in modern history, to look at its reflection in the mirror and see its identity — and class-related contradictions — and to reclaim full responsibility for the unprecedented events rocking the country.

Perhaps for all those reasons, society seemed disappointed, confused and rebellious.

To be sure, however, society is also better aware and more prepared to bear responsibilities that political authority deprived it of in the past.

The second year may have given several answers, most of which may have not been happy or revolutionary, but it has also raised dozens of fresh questions. So is the third year going to give answers?

Is the new political leadership going to show greater wisdom? Is the revolutionary camp going to force itself onto the political scene? Is the revolution going to defeat dogma? Is it going to penetrate marginalized and poor areas? Is the society going to face the problems of identity and authoritativeness?

More importantly, is the new political leadership going to be able to solve socio-economic problems, both old and new? Maybe.

The answers to these questions are lost between guesswork and hope.

Whatever the outcomes, in the third year of the revolution, liberation and social empowerment will continue and taboos and restrictions will continue to be broken. The revolution’s fresh motto calling for bread, freedom and justice will live on.

And whatever the answers, the revolution will continue.

Mohamed Musleh is an Egyptian writer and researcher.

This article was translated from Arabic by Dina Zafer.

This article was originally published in Egypt Independent's weekly print edition.

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