February 27, 2005

Nothing Has Ever Me Happier

Nine o’clock on a Saturday morning, the phone rings. “Are you still sleeping? The world is changing around you and you are still sleeping?!”

I read the BBC, CNN, Reuters, and Al Jazeera. They were all saying the same thing. The same happy news! President Mubarak surprised everyone with his decision to propose a constitutional amendment that would allow more than one candidate to run in the presidential elections.

For the first time ever, we will be allowed to elect directly our leader. Few days ago a friend of mine living in the UK was being sarcastic of the fact that he is allowed to vote in a survey related to the subway system in London but he can not choose who will be the person living in El Kobba presidential palace. Well, my friend, President Mubarak is about to make your wish come true.

As much as I am happy, as much I am skeptical. After two days of the announcement, here is what I expect the coming period scenario will be. It is not as rosy as we would want it to be. Yet, it is a good chance to “play ball” with President Mubarak. I first have to salute President Mubarak on his intelligence in the timing of the announcement and the choice of the article to be amended.

The timing could not have been better. It is early enough to calm down all the pressures from the inside and the outside. It is also gives an adequate time span for the discussions of the amendment. When it will be approved (supposedly in May), there will be barely any time to discuss any other constitutional amendments before the presidential elections. Not to mention it will give no time to any other candidate to introduce himself (or wishfully herself) to the Egyptian voters. And the best part is that the announcement came after the meeting between the National Democratic Party and the rest of the opposition parties. The outcome of this national dialogue meeting was that no constitutional amendments are to be proposed before the presidential elections. Hmm! But President Mubarak wants to portray the image of the reformer. He and his party are keener for the political reform than the opposition parties. He took the initiative by himself!

The choice of the article 76 was a brilliant choice. Even better, the proposed amendment is a work of art. Existing political parties can nominate their candidates to run directly in the presidential elections. But when it comes to independent candidates, they still need to get an approval from the parliament. The percentage of parliament members that will give approval is yet to be determined. But does it make a difference, since the parliament is controlled by the NDP. I would be very surprised if an NDP parliament member approves another candidate especially if candidate from the Muslim Brotherhood. So what are we left with? Mr. Mubarak will run again (which is the most expected scenario). He will be probably contested by some candidates from the weak opposition parties. And if you put all pieces together, you will not be surprised that the outspoken and bold leader of El Ghad party Ayman Nour was arrested few weeks ago. Of all the articles that need to be amended, Mr. Mubarak chose to “start” with article 76. He did not include the ones that deal with the president powers and duration in office. At the end of the year, Mr. Mubarak will be still the president, he will still retain all the unlimited powers that he had, and, as bonus, he gained the mandate of being an “elected” president. All this coming in the package of being a historical president that opened the way to democracy in Egypt.

It is not the rosy scenario that all of us want. But we still should be happy. I am still happy. I am happy because I have always believed change is possible and it will come someday. Regardless of Mubarak’s intentions, this is a historical change. I am happy that I am living to witness this change in my country.

But most of all, I am happy that pressure has proved that it can yield change. We still need to continue to demand more reform. The emergency law has to be stopped. The other constitution articles dealing with the president power and duration in office need to be changed. The laws governing the establishment of political parties have to be relaxed.
If there is no demand for reform, there will be no supply of reform. As much as we demand as much as we will get. We still have a long way to go.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

How true. Change is possible, and it would serve us all well to start thinking positively.

I agree with you that there is a lot to be done yet, but at least we're getting there.