Koert Debeuf Column

How To Safeguard The Revolution In Egypt? An Outsider’s Perspective. (Column)

Morsi, Shafiq Face-Off Live on Egyptian Television, Tuesday June 12

Shafiq (left), Morsi (right) Face-Off Live on Egyptian Television, Tuesday June 12

Two days before the presidential elections, I had a dinner in my place with some revolutionaries and bloggers. One of them suddenly asked the question: “What are we going to do if it’s a run-off between Morsi and Shafiq?” A moment of silence followed. Nobody had really thought this could have been a possibility. Voting for Morsi would give the Muslim Brotherhood all the power in Egypt, a secular’s worst nightmare. Voting for Shafiq, the last Prime Minister of Mubarak, would turn the revolution back to square one, a revolutionary’s worst nightmare.

But here we are. The worst case scenario for the secular revolutionaries is today’s reality. How could that happen? The answer is quite obvious: fragmentation. It was fragmentation that led to the defeat in the Parliamentary elections, earlier this year, and it is fragmentation that blocked revolutionary candidates to make it to the second round of the presidential elections. If they would have combined forces, they would have easily made it. But for some reason, every revolutionary wants to become the next President of Egypt.

So what to do now? Boycotting the run-off is useless. If you don’t participate in the election you have no right to speak afterwards. Counting on a new revolution, in case there has been no electoral fraud, is strange. You cannot demand for democratic elections and refuse to recognize the results if you don’t like them. Even not if you profoundly dislike the results. Doing nothing at all, finally, and giving everybody the freedom to vote for the candidate he dislikes the least, is the worst strategy as it throws away the power of all revolutionary votes combined and it leaves the revolution with empty hands.

In my opinion, there is only one way to safeguard the revolution: think strategically and negotiate! Neither Morsi, nor Shafiq are sure about winning the presidency. So no doubt both of them are desperate for any proposal that could lead them to victory. With some 40% of the votes, the revolutionary power and thus leverage is much bigger, than most might imagine. Here lies the opportunity. For once, the other candidates should stick together. As one block they should offer their support in exchange for non-negotiable conditions. The secular/revolutionaries must be guaranteed on paper 1) the vice-president, 2) the prime minister, 3) half of the government ministries, 4) half plus one of the Constitutional Committee 5) all decisions will be signed by both the president and the vice-president. This is politics. This is democracy.

Public statements will not safeguard the revolution, but tough negotiations can. I would first go to Mohamed Morsi with this package. If he agrees, the power of the Muslim Brotherhood and the new President of Egypt will be seriously reduced. But he will realise, this is the only way to unite the country again and make it move forward. If he refuses, it means that not Egypt but the Muslim Brotherhood is on top of his agenda. In that case, go with the same package to Shafiq.

Is this package the ultimate guarantee that the voice of the revolution will always be heard? Perhaps not, but if one of the candidates agrees, signs the paper and announces this publicly during the campaign, he cannot act as it doesn’t exist, once he is elected. It will give the revolutionary forces the opportunity to safeguard what millions of Egyptians have been fighting for. If the next President of Egypt breaks his promises, then and only then a second revolution can start again.

by Koert Debeuf

FLI Koert Debeuf PortretKoert Debeuf lives in Cairo, Egypt, where he represented the EU parliament’s Alde group for many years. Currently he is Project Coordinator “World Leaders on Transitions towards Democracy” at International IDEA. He is a former advisor of a Belgian prime minister. Reporting from post-revolutionary Egypt, his columns are a window on events in the Arab world. Koert Debeuf is also author of ‘Inside the Arab Revolution’.

For more columns of Koert Debeuf, click here.

You can follow @koertdebeuf on Twitter

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