Koert Debeuf Column

Morsi Is A Blessing For Egyptian Liberals. An Outsider’s Perspective. (Column)

7R  Morsi elected PresidentI was standing in the middle of Tahrir square when Morsi was announced as the first democratic elected president in the history of Egypt. I have never seen such an outburst of happiness and relief. People cried, prayed and chanted. It felt like for the people on the square eighty four years of suppression and fear finally had come to an end. The liberal revolutionaries of 25 January however, were absent. Most of them were sitting at home, watching the result with glazy eyes. Their anxiety that in the end the Muslim Brotherhood would take over the revolution, had become reality. They didn’t forget that Morsi and other leaders from the Brotherhood first refused to join the revolution. Morsi even said on TV that they were talking to the regime in order to find a negotiated solution.

However, one must admit, Morsi deserves the presidency. The Muslim Brotherhood was not only the best organized, it frankly was the only one with an elaborated and coherent program. Besides, no one can claim they didn’t suffer under the military rule since 1954. One must also admit that inside the liberal camp the battle was about egos rather than about the future ofEgypt. The fact that Hamdeen Sabahi refused to form a presidential team and negotiate with Morsi half of the power for the secular camp in the government and the constitutional committee is more than symbolic.

Nevertheless, the victory of Morsi is probably the best that could happen. First of all, the only force capable of threatening the army not to leave the path towards democracy is the Muslim Brotherhood. The SCAF fears them which most probably is the reason why the generals didn’t dare to rig the elections (massively) or give the presidency to Shafiq. Secondly, after winning the parliamentary and the presidential elections the Muslim Brothers finally must prove to the Egyptian people that they are not only ‘good Muslims’ but real democrats and good rulers as well. If they can’t, they will be punished in the next elections. The third reason why it is good that Morsi won the presidency, is the fact that it shapes clarity. No more doubts of they are to be trusted, no more conspiracy theories, no more ‘what ifs’. Morsi is president and he will only hold accountable for what he does and does not realize. The debate now is about facts and no longer rumours.

This is an opportunity for the liberal/secular/revolutionary camp. With the election of Morsi a new era has started: the era of politics. Where there is on the one side the SCAF and on the other side the president it is time to organise the missing side: the liberal opposition. Time has come to create the liberal alternative. The potential for this alternative is huge as we have seen in the first round of the presidential elections. In order to convert this potential in an electoral victory the following universal political laws should be taken into account:

  1. Don’t try to negotiate functions in the government if you’re weak. Also forget about presidential teams, councils, etc. That’s too late. Right now the only legitimate politician is Mohamed Morsi. The government is his responsibility, as are the realisations of this government. He is responsible, but also accountable for what will go wrong.
  2. Stop the fragmentation. Unite forces. It is of no use to have dozens of parties with the same program and the same aims. All the meetings with all party presidents led to nothing. Small parties with less than five Members of Parliament should realise that it doesn’t make sense to continue alone.
  3. Talk about content not about tactics. People want to hear about solutions for the problems they have and not about tactical games. Don’t only talk about what you don’t want, but also about what your vision, your agenda is for the future ofEgypt. Make a positive narrative in which solutions for the everyday problems have their proper place.
  4. The duty of the opposition is to oppose. Be the watchdog of the new president and his government. Be constructive, give alternative solutions, but be harsh when needed. Play the role of the parliament and control the executive powers. But don’t criticize everything. Pick your fights.
  5. Talk to the people. Explain to the streets what you want and why. And listen to what they really expect from you. Only if you can convince the people about what you’re doing, you can become an alternative and win elections.

The first challenge for the liberal opposition is going to be the new constitution. The first fight will be on the procedure. If one needs a two third majority in order to agree on things, it doesn’t really matter if Islamists have 49, 52 or 57 percent of the seats. The second fight will be the content. The liberal opposition should agree on five or ten priorities or breaking points. Together they have a ‘blocking minority’ which is enough votes to ask whatever they want.

Normally,Egyptwill have in the six to eight months to come a referendum, parliamentary and presidential elections and even local elections. If the liberal forces are capable of joining forces and create a credible liberal opposition, the election of Mohamed Morsi will have been a blessing for the future of Egypt.

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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