Last Saturday, Mohamed Hassanein Heikal called on President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to revolt against his own regime. This raised considerable controversy, especially as some of the Mubarak regime symbols declared their intention to run in the next parliamentary elections, which others say would contain a majority from the former members of the National Democratic Party.
In fact, Heikal has always called for reforming the regime from within. He had suggested that towards the end of the Mubarak era. And since many people are talking about “revolution,” including some of the pillars of the Mubarak regime and the Muslim Brotherhood, there is nothing wrong with calling on President Sisi to revolt against his own regime — a regime he has inherited and not formed himself like Mubarak did.
This regime is certainly corrupt and inefficient. Reforming it or revolting against it is not easy because it would be faced with opposition from within and from outside. It requires consensus among all political forces to reform the administrative apparatus, the security agencies, the media and other bodies.
This political consensus does not exist, nor are there indications for a desire to build it. It has become clear that Egypt is approaching the model of a powerful presidency that wants to restore the strength of the state, not reform it. This means that he will rely on security solutions that might be even tougher than those of Mubarak.
In fact, adopting security solutions on a large scale, beyond the scope of the fight against terrorism means the absence of a political vision. Here, the regime would never accept the fact that a certain problem is due to some political cause, and would always attribute it to terrorism, Brotherhood plots, foreign conspiracies and the like.
Reforming the regime, as I put it, or revolting against it, as Heikal put it, entails surgical procedures for a gradual replacement of the old system. This would be the real success, not the replacement of Mubarak symbols with young professionals and technocrats. For they would not be able to do much if they worked within the mechanisms of the old system.
It is certain that the old mechanisms still control our affairs. They are the same mechanisms that were responsible for the death of 1,000 passengers of the ferry that sank in 2006 because the rescue team moved more than 10 hours late, and the death of the 15 fishermen last week for the same reason.
As a result of the absence of a political vision and the threat of terrorism, we decided not to offend anyone within the state and kept the Mubarak mechanisms to manage our affairs so that the country stands on its feet, and then think later about reform.
However, this will not make the country stand on its feet. It will bring more problems. And so the question remains: Can we revolt against a “non-system?” Are we willing to reform education, health, the media, security, transportation, agriculture and industry, or will we just make pseudo changes, like the president honoring scientists or giving interviews to the media, without really reforming scientific research and media ethics?
The basic problem of Egypt is not embodied by the famed catchphrases that came out after the 25 January revolution, like “the revolution continues” and “revolution against the regime.” It is the need to develop economic and political plans to establish a new administration.
Egypt has not moved one step forward in this regard. Actually, it may have moved a step backwards from where it was before the revolution.
Egypt's problems would not be solved by major projects or by building bridges and factories, but by new mechanisms that can reform the ailing state institutions. We need to pinpoint the real obstacles that stand in the way of investments. We need to know why the local councils are corrupt and how we can fix them. We need to reconsider whether the free education system is efficient or if it only burdens the government with more unemployed graduates every year.
Egypt’s main dilemma is that it lived for almost 30 years in a “non-system.” It was not that we chose to abandon the socialist system and adopt a capitalist system. We lived in a “non-system” with an ailing administrative body and obsolete laws that no one attempted to change.
This is the system that Sisi inherited. As to the new system and the balance of power and lack of political vision within it, it is driving us to great danger.
With the exception of President Nasser, who completely reviewed the situation after the 1967 defeat, no other Egyptian leader made any similar review.
If it stays this way, and if we silence anyone warning us, things will only get worse.
Edited translation from Al-Masry Al-Youm