No one had really thought the transition to democracy in Egypt would be an easy one. After all, three decades of autocratic rule, badly scar any country, leaving behind large heaps of problems. But crisis in that country has come rather swiftly, with more and more divides coming between the people and various institutions. The divisions are now obvious. They have deepened sharply after President Mohamed Morsi’s decree of November 22, granting himself additional powers. These included the power to tackle rebellions and gave him some protection from court proceedings. As violent protests broke out, Morsi finally retracted the decree at midnight on Sunday. But this does not mean that things are back to normal. They are far from it.
Morsi and his Islamic Brotherhood remain determined to press ahead with constitutional change, which would define this crucial document in more ‘Islamic’ terms. Liberals, led by Ahmed Said of the National Salvation Front, fiercely oppose the vote set for the 15th of this month and demand a redrafting ahead of this. Pro-Morsi figures, of course, demand that the vote should go ahead.
The situation remains tense. Opinion has been pushed into two camps. It is also becoming obvious that the liberals fear the organisational power of the Islamists. The struggle against dictatorship was won on the streets in Egypt. But what the country does not need is a regular resort to street action. That would result in destabilisation. A way needs to be found to unite the country, to accept differences amongst people and not use force to impose controversial measures. The crucial need for Egypt, at present, is to develop consensus and a united vision for the future. Without this, the possibility of further trouble will remain a constant threat with riots being employed to settle matters. This will do nothing for stability in a nation that still needs to find a footing on the democratic turf so that it can move towards a stable future for the sake of its own people as well as for the region as a whole, given Egypt’s central role in the affairs of the entire Middle East.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 11th, 2012.
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