The political weather heats up in Egypt
In Egypt the weather is heating up and so are the final stages of a very turbulent transitional period in the History of the Nation. At this point, neither is expected to cool down for some time.
My grandmother always insisted one should only take one’s winter layers off after “sham el-Nessim” (the Monday that follows Egyptian Easter Sunday), and not a day before. Last week’s celebrations were only rivaled by the rapid changes on the political front. In many circles it would have been difficult to ignore the disqualification of ten presidential candidates in the first week of the race. Among them, Mubarak’s ex-deputy, the prime candidate of the Muslim Brotherhood and a popular Salafist. The reasons for these disqualifications varied, as did the receptions to the news.
The commotion caused by the developments in the presidential race seemed to overshadow the more substantial change in the process, that of the re-election of a constitutional committee. To agree on the criteria for selection, Parliament is all out seeking to create an acceptable process. With the last committee shot down by the courts as unconstitutional, it is unclear what the schedule for the development of the constitution will be. An announcement this week by the Ruling Military Council (SCAF) that they expect the constitution-writing process to be finished by the end of June raised speculation again as to the integrity of the whole process.
In the meantime, political forces are all adjusting their positions to address the quickly developing situation. While the thousands of followers of disqualified Salafist, Sheikh Hazem Abu Ismail, have been on the streets protesting the decision, the disqualified Brotherhood candidate Kahirat el Shater hailed his alternative, Mohamed Morsi, the President of their Freedom and Justice Party, as the candidate with their support.
Omar Suleiman, on the other hand, disappeared without a sound as quickly as he appeared the week before. At the same time, Parliament speedily approved a bill for a law banning all top ex-officials from public office for ten years. Contested by many as undemocratic and restricting freedoms, the bill was rejected by SCAF and sent to the judiciary for a response.
Ironically, most of the developments jamming the picture are between the SCAF, the Islamists and the old guard. Some might begin to wonder if the revolution is still alight.
On the other hand, a few of the presidential candidates have been campaigning seriously, and speculation about their chances continues among the population. Civic and revolutionary groups have been busy convening to create a united front. The most interesting change - announced with not much media jazz - was the setting up of the Revolution Party headed by Mohamed el Baradei, who has reappeared on the scene following months of silence in protest at the shady political process.
Mobilization for Friday 20 has been massive. Many are hopeful it will bring back a strongly desired face of the revolution on the ground. The millions summoned to take a united stance for the future of Egypt will be the demonstration of the balance of power. The outcome of the day will certainly set the tone for the coming six weeks and will shed light on the anticipated course of events.