Government Picked the Wrong Self-Help Book
Cairo – The policy of Egypt’s government right now is to keep moving no matter what. Reaching the destination is the goal, regardless of the obstacles.
It seems like a great tip from a self-help book. And it could work, if the obstacles weren’t popular, political, and institutional opposition and the destination is a charter that will govern the future of this country socially and politically.
When on November 23 protesters took to the street against President Mohammed Mursi’s constitutional decree, the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) – to which the president is affiliated – depended on belittling those voices. In a November 24 statement, the MB labeled the opposition as feloul, or remnants of the old regime, stressing that they are a minority, as opposed to the alleged majority support of the decree.
The dismissive tone remained in the background, but took different shapes. A faint recognition of the existence of protests appeared in presidential and MB statements. This didn’t include recognition of the demands made on those very protests. Instead, the rhetoric slightly changed into a comparative numbers game. Whoever gets more people on the street wins; the argument is irrelevant.
As a backdrop, courts were striking in protest. The Appeals and Cassation Courts joined the strikers. The judiciary constitutes the more influential opposition bloc at the moment, but they are not getting the attention they hoped for. Aside from statements urging judges to go back to work and a not very successful meeting with the president, none of their demands of independence and protests against presidential accusations of rampant corruption have been seriously addressed.
The judges’ call for escalation, by refusing to supervise the referendum on December 15, got the same treatment. On the MB-affiliated Masr 25 TV on Sunday, the anchor’s sole concern while interviewing a judge was to figure out if there will be enough judges to supervise the vote after the Judges Club declared its stance.
The same is reflected in similar statements by judges and MB who stress that there will be enough judges that won’t heed the boycott call. Never mind that their colleagues are striking in protest. Never mind the legal impasse, as long as it could be portrayed as a logistical problem. Never mind the arguments made by boycotters as long as it could be dismissed and ways around it could be found.
If you don’t acknowledge a problem, it will disappear. If you reach the destination, it will all work out automatically, the rhetoric implies.
The presidency and its avid Islamist supporters deal with the opposition as obstacles at best, but mostly as irrelevant details that should be brushed aside. They seem to urge the rest, including their rivals, to follow suit.
People should ignore the clear ultimatum given to them – accept the constitution or live with the constitutional decree – and act as if they are heading to the polls in a truly democratic fashion with no threats. People should also treat that very constitution seriously and ignore the overnight, 16-hour marathon of rushing an approval at the Constituent Assembly. People should believe in the conspiracy that made such marathons a necessity and ignore that a week earlier the president said the process would take two months. People should believe it’s a constitution of consensus even though the group that voted almost unanimously was dominated by Islamists. They should ignore that the session’s quorum was only completed by inviting Islamists to replace the opposition that withdrew in protest. People should ignore that voting rules were violated and that the president broke his promises to reach a consensus before a referendum and focus on voting yes.
There was no farce; the rush was a good move. Believe it, ignore the obstacles, and reach the destination, or so reads the self-help book.