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The foundations on which the Egyptian and Tunisian Springs can be saved

January 27, 2014 at 1:23 pm

The new Pinochet-style government in Egypt has followed in the footsteps of the George W Bush administration, with national television now displaying the slogan, permanently and in very clear English, which claims that it is involved in a “war against terrorism”. This is not a good omen for the broadcasters of such propaganda, given that Bush’s “war on terror” ended in humiliating defeats in Iraq and Afghanistan. More worryingly still, these are good words used for evil purposes, for Egypt today is in the grip of a terrorist regime by any definition of the word; it is committing violence against innocent people to achieve political objectives by opposing the free will of the people. The terrorist group behind the coup which has taken Egypt hostage wants to spread terror in the hearts of the people until they submit to its will.

Tunisia is also exposed to terrorism; not by the state but by community groups who claim to follow our pious ancestors allied with killers claiming to be democrats. These individuals terrorise the people by killing and then carrying the coffins in order to impose the will of a minority on the majority. This was also done in Egypt under Morsi, again with the killers and coffin carriers from the same side. They swore to destroy Egypt in order to prevent others from governing it, and they have been successful.

I remember suggesting in March that the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt should succumb to this blackmail in order to preserve Egypt, following the example of the mother who handed her baby to her sworn enemy in the presence of Prophet Sulaiman in order to save the baby’s life. It was clear then that the opposition wanted to tear Egypt apart, something that should have been avoided at all costs.

At the time, I said that this was not a stage for governance but to re-establish the structure of the state, a task for all Egyptians to participate in. It was not the time for “achieving the goals of the revolution”, nor was it the administration’s duty to reform the economy and address Egypt’s chronic problems. We are now in a transitional phase where the priority is to agree on a consensual constitution, lay the foundations of democracy and create an atmosphere conducive to free and fair elections. There is no significant difference on these issues between the Brotherhood and its opponents.

The same thing applies to Tunisia, albeit to a lesser extent. It is not this transitional government’s mission to improve the security situation or reform the economy, but to develop a sound basis for a democratic system. This means giving people the right to choose and replace their rulers and put in place rules that prevent the state, whoever may be running it, from returning to the practices of the previous dark eras or worse, as seen in Egypt today.

Morsi’s biggest mistake was that he thought that he ruled Egypt; in fact, he didn’t. He may have been sitting in the presidential palace, but the main organs of the state, including the army, police, security agencies, judiciary, public prosecutor and the bureaucracy, as well as the media and the drivers of the economy, were all in the hands of others. Tunisia’s “government” may be better off, but not by much. It was Morsi’s duty to take advantage of his legislative powers to strengthen the rights of the citizens in regards to the state institutions and to restrict the state’s ability to affect the freedom of the people; this is exactly what the rulers of Tunisia should try to do today.

In Egypt, as in Tunisia, there must be a focus on the rules of governance, not the identity of the governor. It is not important for Morsi to return; what is important is to dismantle the structure of the terrorist state. If Morsi returned to power today, he would not be able to face the double terrorism committed by criminal organisations from within and without the state, especially because the two have formed an alliance. Thus, the duty of the “campaign to support legitimacy” in Egypt is to change its name to the “campaign to promote democracy” and to lead the people for this specific purpose with broad support, like that on January 25, 2011.

In Egypt, as in Tunisia, the revolution occurred in order to end tyranny and improve the dignity of the country and the citizen. This purpose has been achieved to a great extent in Tunisia, where no one complains of repression. The duty now is to protect the gains and not accept anything regressive. Moreover, if the matter calls for holding new elections, there is nothing to prevent this, but they should never allow any authority that does not get its legitimacy from the people and does not abide by the rules of democracy. As for Egypt, there is a need for a fierce struggle to dismantle the terrorist state and restore and enhance the democratic gains. The aim should not be the return of Morsi’s “legitimacy”, but the reestablishment of legitimacy based on the rule of law, including comprehensive reform of the state institutions, including the judiciary, police, security, army and bureaucracy. The military should be banned by law from intervening or interfering in politics under any pretext.

The enemies of democracy in the Arab world do not want human rights, freedoms and free elections for the people, despite their claims to the contrary. They must, therefore, be confronted by challenging them through promoting freedoms and calling for elections. The supporters of democracy must unite over constitutional rules that promote freedom. To those who oppose such moves we say, let us turn to the people and put it to them; then we will see who is really acting to re-establish democracy in the country.

Translated from the Arabic text which appeared in Al Quds Al Arabi Newspaper on 22 August, 2013

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.