Egyptians have yet to assimilate the rules of the game
I was away from Egypt for ten days. Despite all the advanced technology, it was a challenge to keep my sense of what was developing. The mind and heart also needed to rest and take stock of the intense events of the past few months.
One event however, seemed to be consequential: the initial court sentence of Mubarak and his Minister of the Interior. The acquittal of both his sons and five of the top aides to the Minister in the same verdict caused tremor effects on the streets. From afar, it looked like a confused scene. A few days earlier, the initial results of the first presidential elections left most Egyptians in a daze. Contrary to speculation and the daily polls, the surprising results of the Brotherhood candidate versus the army or old guard were unnerving to many. For the second Friday in a row, Egyptians are filling up Tahrir Square in protest and disagreement.
One reality has surfaced, Egypt is a heterogeneous society and Egyptians have yet to assimilate the rules of the game. For starters, democracy is not a consensus where everyone agrees, it rather involves the powerful ruling and those aspiring to have power opposing. The process entails accepting the rules of how to disagree. For most foreign observers, in addition to the local minority who understand the rules of the democratic game, the rejection of the ballot results and the revolt against the court rulings are hugely disturbing.
To the majority of Egyptians, the revolutionary mode means rebelling against anything you don’t agree with. Egypt is in a process of transformation; the system has indeed been disrupted, but is nowhere near to being replaced. Most Egyptians have been to the polling stations more times in the last 15 months than they have in their entire lives. The political process might look like it is on track and it might even fulfill its results, but one must expect that the shaky newly-elected institutions will continue to be contested on the streets for some time to come.
The other reality that must be crystal clear by now is that Egypt is not a democratic country. The majority of the Egyptian people and their politicians have never practiced democratic decision-making before. The current attempts could be seen as the prelude for one day adopting a transparent and accountable system of governance. In the short term, the vibrant learning process elicits justifiable fears for all. As the activists of the entire, varied political spectrum are forced to come together to reassess the process so far and to make their decisions to agree or disagree, the majority of Egyptians bear the brunt of the transition with cautious hope and optimism for a better future. It is ultimately the people who will once more take to the polls for the reruns of the presidential election in one week.
Meanwhile, the political parties claim to have resolved the issues of the constitutional committee and have agreed on the criteria for the selection. The details and the responses are yet to be clear in the forthcoming days. To add spice to the situation, a ruling from the constitutional court regarding the infamous law banning top pre-revolution government figures from running for office is expected Tuesday. The ruling could certainly affect the presidential race, or even bring it to a halt.
This week will be a decisive one indeed.