As the Arabic saying goes, Egypt is the mother of the world (مصر أم الدنيا), or, at least, it stands at the center of the Arab World. So, when people in Egypt struggle to find the right direction for the Arab Spring, we, in Palestine, like Arab everywhere, have the feeling that this is an important struggle about our fate.
After a fast start in the beginning of 2011, the big Arab Democratic Revolution, which is what the Arab Spring is, is making slow and hardly won progress in its numerous fronts. The last confrontations in Egypt put to hard test even an addicted optimist like me.
When president Morsi was elected I wrote a special post to welcome his elections. I called on all the forces of the Egyptian revolution to work together to dismantle the old order and build a new system that will serve the Egyptian people. After Morsi’s constitutional amendments that gave his decisions immunity from the Judiciary, Egypt looked more divided than ever.
And it was a division along the wrong lines. The left and the nationalists made a common front with the remnants of the old regime. On the other side the Moslem Brothers closed ranks with the Salafists. For a moment it looked like Egypt is on the verge of war about the place of Islam in society, leaving aside the central issues of the revolution of Democracy and Social Justice.
In this war, like in any war, the truth is always one of the first victims. So I must remind that the Egypt’s Judiciary is mostly controlled by remnants of the old regime. It was subversive to the military junta that put sticks in the wheels of the revolution (and the democratic transformation). It even dissolved the first elected parliament, creating the power vacuum that converted president Morsi into the single source of democratic legitimacy.
But was not the new powers taken by Morsi converting him into a new Dictator? Egyptians have all the rights to beware any type of a new strongman. The main idea of the revolution is not to transfer power from one ruler to another, but to keep the power in the hands of the people.
The power of the people doesn’t come without internal contradictions. It can’t be expressed only by elections and representatives. The real power stays with the people only as long as they are ready to fight for it.
The Egyptian people were fighting in the streets on both sides of the last confrontation. The final result was the sum of their collective efforts. On one side Morsi’s “power grab” prevented the Judiciary from blocking the writing of the new constitution and throwing Egypt back to lack of any legitimate system. On the other side the street protests forced Morsi to give up his extra powers. The result was that all agreed to take part in the referendum about the proposed constitution.
The second and last round of vote in the referendum about Egypt’s proposed constitution will be held tomorrow, Saturday, 22.12.2012. I don’t know what will be the results of this referendum, but I can already say that the winners in the referendum are the Egyptian people.
If the majority votes to accept the proposed constitution, Egypt will have its first democratic constitution, won by revolutionary struggle and approved by democratic vote. It will establish the free Egyptian people as the source of legitimacy. Any deficiency in the constitution should later be amended by the same Egyptian people.
On the other side, if the constitution will be rejected it will also mean that the Egyptian people are exercising their right to decide their fate. They will continue their struggle for a better constitution, government, economic order and society.
With all the harsh words and violent eruptions of the last period in Egypt, I would suggest that we all take some historic perspective by comparing Egypt’s revolution to its predecessors like France 1789-99, Russia 1917 and Iran 1979. Two years on into these revolutions there was a bloody struggle that will make our Egyptian conflict look like a friendly conversation.
Still we can hope much more from our leaderships than avoiding killing each other. There is a lot of work to do to achieve the goals of the revolution. There is no way to do it without constructive discussion and cooperation.