Egypt's Second Act

by James J. Zogby

Dr. James J. Zogby is the President of Arab American Institute

Those who had given up too soon on Egypt and the "Arab Spring" received a jolt this week from the Tamarrod movement. The Egyptian people's resilience and resolve as manifested in massive and sustained demonstrations were a wonder to witness. As events unfolded in Tahrir Square and beyond, Egypt once again established that it is the "big stage" that can hold the world's attention. 

The organizers of Tamarrod were, no doubt, aided by the public's outrage over President Morsi's moves toward authoritarian rule and his party's efforts to monopolize the reins of state power. But the protest movement's ability to organize this growing unrest into a massive petition drive and nation-wide protests has been remarkable.

Critics have condemned the military's decision to intervene and depose the elected head of state, calling it a "coup"—with some in the US, including President Obama, going so far as to question a continuation of US assistance programs. But before making a snap judgment, it might be best to listen to the millions of demonstrators who were calling on the military to act and who have celebrated the downfall of the Morsi government. It might also be wise to take note that the generals did not name one of their own as interim president. Instead they turned authority over to the Chief Justice of the country's Supreme Constitutional Court.

We will see, in the weeks to come, how committed the military is to their "road map" back to an elected civilian government. Whether this is a "coup" or a "course correction" will ultimately be decided not by their action on July 3rd, but by the degree to which rule of law is restored, rights are protected, and civilian rule is established through a new constitution and elections. 

In a real sense this is not a "Second Revolution" as much as it is a continuation of the process that began two-and-one-half years ago. Whoever said "you don't get do-overs in politics" got it wrong. What the Tamarrod movement has done, with the support of the military, is given the Egyptian people another opportunity to redo their revolution. But demonstrations alone don't make change. Organization, strategy, and the ability to implement that strategy are critical to success.

This time, instead of rushing into new elections, the sequencing of events will be important. First the constitution must be amended—this time by a body that is representative of the character and demographics of the Egyptian people. The fact that the military has invited the participation of liberals and conservatives, Christian and Muslim leadership, young people and women is a hopeful sign of the inclusiveness that will be needed if the aspirations of all the people will be reflected in what is to be the country's charter document.

This time, the leaders of the protest movement must join with the existing political parties or form a party of their own that can turn their petition and mobilization successes into electoral victories. The structure they created to collect 22 million endorsements and to turn out and effectively administer mass nationwide demonstrations was no small feat. But now this must be converted into a permanent structure that can be effective in organizing and turning out voters and representing their interests. That was what was missing the last time. With the dissolution of the Mubarak-era NDP, the Muslim Brotherhood was left as the country's only remaining effective political structure, thus enabling it to win a series of elections in rapid succession. 

And this time, Egypt's leaders, both civilian and military, must focus on the needs of the people. Our polling, before and after the downfall of President Mubarak, established the fact that the principal concerns of the majority of Egyptians were and remain economic. The only political concerns they raised were "corruption and nepotism" reflecting their frustration with wealth and power being concentrated in the hands of a few, at the expense of the many. The Brotherhood appeared not to understand this reality. Instead of immediately turning their attention to economic development and job creation, they focused on consolidating power, imposing their agenda, and punishing critics. This was surprising given their supposed business acumen and reputation as social service providers.  In their failure to focus on meeting people's needs and their failure to develop a more inclusive approach to governing, they ended up redefining "nepotism and corruption" to mean the Brotherhood.

If this "second act" is to succeed, Egypt's people will need to see immediate signs of change. The promised interim government of technocrats will need to be made up of respected and competent figures. The committee charged with amending the constitution will need to be inclusive of all segments of society and parties, including the Muslim Brotherhood. Between now and elections, those who want a different outcome, must undertake the hard work of organizing for political power. And beginning now, efforts must be made to address the country's dire economic conditions. While long-term planning and structural reform is a must, "quick fixes" should be considered as a way to buy needed time. Here is where the resources of the military, Egypt's business community, and friends of Egypt can be helpful in designing and implementing a short-term job-creation and benefits program that, in the term used during America's Great Depression, can "put a chicken in every pot". 

Change is never easy and is most often messy. If the events of the last two years have demonstrated anything it is that the Egyptian people want change, they feel empowered to demand change, and, when it is not forthcoming, those in power will be held on a short leash that can be pulled back.

I was pleased that our last poll was able to define the political context leading up to the June 30th demonstrations. I only wish we could predict the future with the same precision as we are able to take a snapshot of the present. What is clear is that Egyptians are finding their way through uncharted waters. They have made a "course correction" giving themselves a second chance. This time, we can all hope they get it right.



-----------------------

Facts & Arts is a platform for owners of high quality content to distribute their content to a worldwide audience.

Facts & Arts' objective is to enhance the distribution of individual owners' content by combining various types of high quality content that can be assumed to interest the same audience. The thinking is that in this manner the individual pieces of content on Facts & Arts support the distribution of one another.

If you have fitting written material, classical music or videos; or if you would like to become one of our regular columnists, a book reviewer or music reviewer; or if you wish to market or broadcast a live event through Facts & Arts, please contact us at info@factsandarts.com.


Browse articles by author

More Current Affairs

Added 24.06.2018
State terrorism comes in many forms, but one of its most cruel and revolting expressions is when it is aimed at children. Even though U.S. President Donald Trump backed down in the face of a scathing political and public outcry and ended his administration’s policy of separating migrant children from their parents, make no mistake: His actions were and remain a form of terrorism.
Added 22.06.2018
It is now clear that the twenty-first century is ushering in a new world order. As uncertainty and instability associated with that process spread around the globe, the West has responded with either timidity or nostalgia for older forms of nationalism that failed in the past and certainly will not work now. Even to the most inveterate optimist, the G7 summit in Quebec earlier this month was proof that the geopolitical West is breaking up and losing its global significance, and that the great destroyer of that American-created and American-led order is none other than the US president. To be sure, Donald Trump is more a symptom than a cause of the West’s disintegration. But he is accelerating the process dramatically.
Added 20.06.2018
Sessions quoted a line written by the apostle Paul to a small community of Christians living in Rome around 55AD to defend the Department of Justice’s approach. He said: "I would cite you to the Apostle Paul and his clear and wise command in Romans 13, to obey the laws of the government because God has ordained them for the purpose of order." Sessions used the Bible because one of the most vocal opponents of the crackdown on asylum cases has been the Catholic Church. It’s no surprise that Sessions appealed to Romans chapter 13 verse 1 in response: not only did he hope to undermine Catholic authority by using the Bible against them, he cited a statement so broad that one might use it to defend anything a government does, good or bad. Picture below St Paul writing his epistles, by Valentin de Boulogne, via Wikimedia Commons.
Added 19.06.2018
 

I find it exceptionally irritating when I hear liberals worry about whether Israel will be able to remain a "Jewish and Democratic State" if it retains control of occupied Palestinian lands.

Added 18.06.2018
Daniel Wagner: "My prediction Korean War will be formally ended, the peninsula will be denuclearised, and a lasting peace will be the result."
Added 14.06.2018
Extract: PiS [ the ruling Law and Justice party] has established the most significant addition to the Polish social safety net since 1989: the Family 500+ program. Launched in 2016, Family 500+ embodies the nationalism, traditional family values, and social consciousness that the PiS seeks to promote. The program pays families 500 złoty ($144) per month to provide care for a second or subsequent child...........The program has been enormously popular. Some 2.4 million families took advantage of it in the first two years. The benefit, equivalent to 40% of the minimum wage, has almost wiped out extreme poverty for children in Poland, reducing it by an estimated 70-80%........... Liberal pro-European politicians and policymakers are not convinced. They complain that such a generous family benefit will weaken work incentives and blow up the government budget. But initial evidence suggests that Family 500+ has actually increased economic activity. It has also reversed the post-communist decline in fertility, increased wages (particularly for women), and enabled families to buy school materials, take vacations, buy more clothes for their kids, and rely less on high-priced credit for basic household needs. And, thanks to rapid economic growth, the government deficit has steadily fallen, not grown.
Added 12.06.2018
The depths of hypocrisy of the Republican Party in supporting Trump’s meeting with the North Korean dictator in Singapore are hard to plumb. This is a party whose leading members adopted the Ostrich Foreign Policy Principle for decades. If you don’t like a country’s government or political and economic system, pretend it does not exist.
Added 12.06.2018
US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has spoken out against China’s strategy of “intimidation and coercion” in the South China Sea, including the deployment of anti-ship missiles, surface-to-air missiles, and electronic jammers, and, more recently, the landing of nuclear-capable bomber aircraft at Woody Island. There are, Mattis warned, “consequences to China ignoring the international community.” But what consequences?
Added 12.06.2018
With a general election approaching in September, Swedish voters are being warned that now it’s their turn to be targeted by Russian interference in the democratic process. According to Sweden’s Civil Contingencies Agency (MSB), which is leading the country’s efforts to counter foreign-influence operations, such interference is very likely, and citizens should be on the lookout for disinformation and fake news.
Added 11.06.2018
Extract: "While the presidency has grown stronger over the years, during the Trump administration Congress has been timid and subordinate. That is because the leaders of the Republican Party – which controls both the House of Representatives and the Senate – are frightened of Trump’s base. They cannot afford to alienate the roughly 30-35% of Americans who passionately back him, ignore his personal transgressions, tolerate his degradation of the country’s civil discourse, favor his brutal treatment of immigrant families, and don’t mind that he is leaving the US almost friendless in the world."
Added 08.06.2018
Has North Korea’s ruler, Kim Jong-un, made a strategic decision to trade away his nuclear program, or is he just engaged in another round of deceptive diplomacy, pretending that he will denuclearize in exchange for material benefits for his impoverished country? This is, perhaps, the key question in the run-up to the summit between Kim and US President Donald Trump in Singapore on June 12. Until then, no one will know the answer, perhaps not even Kim himself.
Added 07.06.2018
Some analysts even project that, before long, Facebook will hold more data on its users than any government. Meanwhile, it makes a lot of money from this data. Its advertising revenues came up to around US$40 billion in 2017 (up 50% from 2016). With Google, it holds an 84% market share in online advertising.
Added 05.06.2018
Roseanne Barr is an American comedian whose fictional TV character of the same name is a working-class Trump supporter. For those who remember the show “All in the Family,” she might be usefully compared to Archie Bunker, the crude proletarian patriarch from Queens, New York. Barr’s show was swiftly canceled late last month by the television network ABC, not for anything her “character” said in her show, but for a tweet in which she described Valerie Jarrett, an African-American former adviser to Barack Obama, as the offspring of the Muslim Brotherhood and “Planet of the Apes.”
Added 04.06.2018
 

When Donald Trump was elected, I, like many others feared what his presidency might do to the country. A year and a half into his term in office, our concerns have been justified. 

Added 01.06.2018
Extract from the article: "While the West’s relative decline is almost inevitable, its economic dysfunction is not. Yet pessimism can be self-fulfilling. Why undertake difficult reforms if a dark future seems preordained? As a result, accepting and anxious pessimists tend to elect governments that duck difficult decisions (witness Germany’s grand coalition), while angry pessimists make matters worse (by voting for Donald Trump’s “America First” agenda or for Brexit, for example). It doesn’t have to be this way. As French President Emmanuel Macron has demonstrated, bold leaders can succeed with a message of hope, openness, and inclusion, and by promoting a vision of progress based on credible reforms."
Added 30.05.2018
It has been nearly two years since the United Kingdom narrowly voted in favor of leaving the European Union. As the march toward Brexit – formally set for the end of next March – proceeds, fundamental questions about the nature of the future UK-EU relationship remain unanswered. Instead, every time a tough decision must be made in the negotiations in Brussels, British ministers kick the can down the road, or even into the long grass. This is somewhat surprising. Apparently, none of the politicians and newspaper editors who plotted for years to get the UK out of the EU thought much about what would happen if their machinations succeeded.
Added 30.05.2018
Discussions are now underway to establish a system of joint deposit insurance for eurozone banks. Proponents of the scheme, with the European Commission and the European Central Bank (ECB) taking the lead, point out that deposit insurance would avert the danger of a run on banks in times of crisis. While this argument is true, critics emphasize the disparity in risks, owing to the high share of bad loans on the balance sheets of banks in some countries. To address this risk disparity and move ahead with the plan, balance sheets will need to be cleaned up before considering the next step. While the share of bad loans for banks in the stable eurozone countries is just 2%, the most recently published International Monetary Fund statistics, from last April, show a share of 11% for Ireland, 16% for Italy, 40% for Cyprus, and 46% for Greece.
Added 29.05.2018
Trump’s decision cannot be justified by any breach of the agreement on Iran’s part. It is, rather, a return to the old, largely unsuccessful US policy of confrontation with Iran. The only difference this time is that the Trump administration seems determined to go to the brink of war – or even beyond – to get its way. If the administration has any plans for keeping Iran’s nuclear program in check in the absence of the nuclear deal, then it is keeping them a secret. Judging by some of the administration’s rhetoric, it would appear that airstrikes against Iran’s nuclear facilities are on the table. But bombing would only delay Iran’s nuclear program, not stop it. Would Trump then consider a massive ground war to occupy the country and topple the regime? We know all too well how that strategy worked the last time it was tried.
Added 28.05.2018
US President Donald Trump’s abrupt decision to cancel his planned June 12 summit with Kim Jong-un represents a diplomatic coup for the North Korean leader, and an even bigger victory for China. In the space of just a few months, Kim’s image has gone from that of international pariah to that of thwarted peacemaker.
Added 23.05.2018
The good news is that the United States and China appear to have backed away from the precipice of a trade war. While vague in detail, a May 19 agreement defuses tension and commits to further negotiation. The bad news is that the framework of negotiations is flawed: A deal with any one country will do little to resolve America’s fundamental economic imbalances that have arisen in an interconnected world.