The challenge of pluralism
Last January, the slogans of the Egyptian revolution called for freedom, not democracy! Egyptians are getting a bit of both. We have a few weeks to see the final outcome of the first parliamentary elections since the revolution.
Preliminary indications, however, suffice to confirm much of the fears of the liberals and much of the aspirations of political Islam.
The actual results will paint one picture of the division of power. Egypt will continue to paint many other pictures of its realities as its people exercise more freedoms. A newly elected parliament that follows the unprecedented show of power by the people is only a part of the democratic picture. It is certainly not the whole picture.
The power groups will be making a grave mistake if they think the voting process alone will provide Egyptians the basic demands that were chanted by millions in January: “Bread, freedom and social justice.”
So far, none of that has been achieved. However, some signs of change are becoming more obvious to more Egyptians. Life as we know it is going to change. The statement is true for most, those who will be celebrating their victories and those who will be celebrating their losses. As we all slowly but surely learn to discern the real from the false, illusion from reality, hopefully we will also learn to live together in a productive and prosperous way. Plurality, partnership and interdependence are very difficult when one has only known the opposite. Over time, expectation becomes confined to replacing the bad regime for a good one. The generation of Egyptians that has grown up through the last 50 years might be challenged with pluralism. It goes against everything they have experienced so far. They have all suffered the repression of the exact opposite. Interestingly, openness, respect and even appreciation of the other leading to more cooperative action and interdependency seem easier for the young generation, those who were instrumental in opening up the space. They represent Egypt’s present and will certainly build Egypt’s future. Their abilities are noticeable in the collective decision making and capacity to organize complex activities and surmount the 10 month colossal challenges they have faced as they held firmly to the demands of their revolution.
If anything at all, with the numbers that have gone out to vote and the many others who will, even Egyptians begin to realize what power they have. As the count of ballots for the first phase of independent candidates will be revealed soon enough, anticipation and anxiety of what the future will bring taxes the minds and hearts of millions of Egyptians. A capable representative government that honors and safeguards the minority interest and a transparent process for a revered constitution to serve all Egyptians as one are what they will not compromise. Freedom and democracy are not one and the same. All political groups will now be put to the test. They must consider seriously how they will fulfill the aspirations of Egyptians. The pseudo political dilemmas will fade against the real desires for food, freedom and social justice.