A Margin for Democracy

A series of questions for those who have long stayed silent

Question 1 – directed to the politicians who remained silent regarding the human rights violations that followed July 3, 2013. This question is for the politicians who regained their ability to talk about the principles of transitional justice, accountability for those implicated in these violations, reform of the security services, and the rights of the martyrs only after the arrest, detention, torture, repression, restriction of movement of members of the Muslim Brotherhood had overstepped all bounds. Or when these same bounds were trampled concerning youth movements unaffiliated with the religious right or figures whose only agenda is democracy, who defy classification as allies of the Muslim Brotherhood. Or perhaps they only regained their ability to talk once the calendar for electoral eligibility began to move towards presidential or parliamentary elections which they want to take part in: do you suppose that your deep silence and double standards in dealing with the violation of rights and freedoms and your endeavor to create the impression of defending democracy to support your clear electoral ambitions do not greatly limit your moral, humanitarian and political credibility?

Question 2 – directed to the writers, politicians and media personalities who have participated in or supported the governmental order following July 3, 2013. To those who have contributed over the past few months, in various ways, to the passage of repressive laws such as the protest law. To those who contributed to the drafting of a constitutional document that places the military as a state above the state, disregards the matter of transitional justice and sweeps away our most basic rights as citizens with the ratification of military trials for civilians, then today produce sugar-coated statements about the necessities of a democratic structure and guarantees for the presidential and parliamentary elections and the need for Egypt to open up to democracy: do you not see that the laws and constitutional provisions that you have passed now expel citizens from public spaces (the protest law), tie the hands of the elected authorities who operate under the oversight of the military. and reduce the opportunities for developing a true framework for transitional justice? Do you not see that all this falls at the very heart of the democratic structure, the path towards transformation and the competitive electoral exercise that pushes Egypt forward?

Question 3 – directed to the intellectuals, scholars and political science professors who have driven the notion, in the context of supporting the likely presidential candidacy of Defense Minister Field Marshal Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and in a manner which benefits him, that the presidential candidacy of military figures occurs, and has occurred, in democratic states. To those who propagate comparisons with the presidencies of France’s Charles De Gaulle and the United States’ Dwight Eisenhower (in the second half of the twentieth century) both of whom had military backgrounds, and see no inconsistency, in Egypt’s present position, between the presidency of a figure with a military background and the terms of building a democracy: how can you ignore the fact that the candidacy of military figures in stable democracies differs radically from their candidacy in a state such as Egypt where the military is not subject to the oversight of elected civilian authorities as regards their legislation, their budgets and (under the present constitutional document) the appointment of the Defense Minister? How can you feign ignorance of the traditional weakness of civilian institutions in the composition of the Egyptian state vis-à-vis the dominance of its military-security component? To the political science professors among you, how can you not take heed that under the present conditions of Egypt’s state, politics and society the presidency of a military figure would only deepen the imbalance between its civilian and military-security components?

Question 4 – directed to the writers, politicians and media figures who supported the intrusion of the military into political life on July 3, 2013 and perhaps favored the July 26 “popular mandate” to confront terrorism and violence then gradually re-evaluated matters and backed away from supporting a continued political role for the military. To those who began to prefer that a civilian ascend to the presidency or are today searching for ways for the civil state to claim victory in the face of a constitution that ratified the exceptional status of the military: do you not suppose that your support for the intervention of the military in July 2013 inevitably led to the present developments, that is, to the likely candidacy and presidency of the Defense Minister and the exceptional status of the military? Do you not realize that the obstruction of democratic procedures, the dominance of the military-security complex and the justification of doing away with rights and freedoms under the banner of confronting terrorism and violence – for which there is no alternative, though this confrontation may be conducted with respect for laws, rights and freedoms – can have no outcome other than to produce a severe regression in the role and effectiveness of the civilian political elite and an even more severe loss of the people’s trust in the key figures of this elite after they consented to subordination?

These questions, presented here without contempt, are meant to encourage reflection, reexamination and self-criticism.

Tomorrow there will be a new margin for democracy in Egypt.

Amr Hamzawy joined the Department of Public Policy and Administration at the American University in Cairo in 2011, where he continues to serve today. He is a former member of parliament, former member of the National Salvation Front, and founder of the Freedom Egypt Party. 

Image: Photo: Ahmed Abd El-Fatah (Flickr)