Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Who is ruling the Land of the Pharaohs?

Finally, Egypt has chosen its president. But this time he is not a Pharaoh.  Democracy is all about the balance of power among different branches of government, namely the executive, judiciary, and legislative. The media is the fourth branch. Free media are the watchdogs of the people. They analyze and criticize the performance of the branches of government.

The military, however, stand to guard and serve the nation. Their role is never to rule or interfere. This has not been the case in Egypt for the last 60 years. Since the coup (not a revolution) against a democratic government and a patriotic king, the Free Officers presided over the free fall of a great, sophisticated nation to Third World status. They turned a country that had a huge surplus, giving over fifty million in loans to Britain, into one buried under tons of debts and living on charity.

Today, Egypt, after a true people’s revolution, has elected a president. But the military officers are not happy about sharing power. They have just dissolved a freely elected parliament. Their candidate, General Ahmed Shafiq, however, has lost the race. Many believe that the Military Council’s anti-revolutionary actions encouraged many reluctant, and even anti-Islamist, voters to cast their vote in the Brotherhood candidate’s favor.

Still, Dr. Mohammad Mursi is not going to be a powerful president; certainly not the way previous military representatives were. Gamal Abdul Nasser, Anwar Sadat and Hosni Mubarak were powerful dictators. It’s good news that the new president is not. The bad news, however, is that dictatorship still prevails. The Supreme Military Council has  its hold on the functioning of government. The constitutional extension decree gives them extra authority to control the budget and oversee the judiciary. That is too much power in one hand.

The Brotherhood were widely criticized for attempting to achieve a similar hold on power, albeit democratically. That was not acceptable. The Nazis did exactly that, and used their power to change the constitution in their favor.  The product was a dictatorial regime that led Germany and the world to World War II.  Egypt and its neighbors deserve a better fate.

The lessons here are what Turkey and Pakistan learned the hard way. The proper place for soldiers is in the barracks doing their job to protect the nation under the supervision of an elected civilian government. They should have no hand — or foot! — in politics. Also, the party in charge should use its power wisely.

When the newly elected government of the late Turkish Prime Minister Necmettin Erbakan (1996-1997) tried to push through its Islamic agenda with little regard for the opinions of others, the secular army used it as an excuse to intervene, overthrow the government, and put its leaders behind bars.

Three-term Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, however, has learned from his former master’s mistakes. Unlike Erbakan, he has worked with other parties to further a mainly development and economic agenda. Results speak for themselves. After turning the country from debt-bearing to one of the top ten economic achievers in the world, he has enough power to put rogue, conspiring generals behind bars.

The Brotherhood, and their Development and Justice party, should learn from their Turkish brothers’ experience. They should work with all those who did not vote for them as much as with those who did. As their Tunisian and Turkish associates have proved, diplomacy, cooperation, good faith, and open hands do win hearts and minds.

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