Why will I Vote a Reluctant “yes” to the Proposed 2013 Constitution

I will be voting “yes” on the next constitutional referendum. It will be a vote with limited enthusiasm and excitement. It comes about from a painful analysis of the sorry state Egypt is now in. My aspirations for a post revolutionary Egypt remain much higher.

My concern is that the alternative to a positive outcome of the referendum are a great deal more grim. The way I see it, we have three options on the menu:

1. A very hard-core Islamist constitution that will be regressive and anachronistic if the MB or their ilk rise again to power…a “no” will make that more probable.

2. The 2012 constitution which already included military trials (the most abhorrent part in the new constitution), but missing out on many of the good points with regards to freedom of belief and minority rights in the proposed constitution

3. The 1972 constitution which gives the president completely unchecked powers. i.e. full regression to the pre 2011 state.

Escaping the sad fate of 1 makes 2 or 3 (or some mix of the two) very likely . I do not see a fourth option. The revolutionary idealists never managed to organize themselves politically over the last 3 years. Beyond making moral statements, and standing for what they believe is right, their sacrifices have been well exploited by many parasites.

The proposed constitution is still a small victory for the civil and progressive camp. A beach head, that I hope they will be able to expand upon later. The alternative is to risk domination by the Islamists, in which case society will come to complete stasis and no progress will be possible except via an all out civil war.  Although the military will continue to play an active role in Egyptian politics in the coming years, with some hard work and a bit of luck we  might be able to gradually contain and limit their influence. With the Islamists our chances of doing that is zero.



Where is the Front Line of the Egyptian Revolution?

We are now being dragged in battles that are of marginal significance to the  aims to the Egyptian revolution. They only alter the distribution of power amongst parties that have a vested interest in maintaining the very same political structure and web of interests that Egyptians revolted against a year and a half ago.

One of he prominent rallying calls of the revolution was “the people want to bring the system down”. The major features of the system where:

  • Opacity: nobody had a clue of what goes on the in corridors of powers where  destinies were being shaped.
  • Insularism: the population felt helpless and that the voices are not heard and their needs are not answered. There was a general feeling that a things were getting worse, not much could be done about it.
  • Overbearingness: the state was the all powerful and would stifle any attempts of independent or group action. NGO work was often restricted and subject to intrusive governmental oversight. 
  • Duplicitousness: the state promoted lies and engaged in disinformation campaigns to justify its existence. It made life difficult for dissenters and free thinkers and tried to isolate (and when no one was looking eliminate) them to prevent any nascent challenge to their authority. 

Those feature gave rise to cronyism and wide spread corruption that made daily  life very bleak for the average Egyptian. Hence, the popular chant in the early days “Bread, Freedom, and Social Justice”. Now the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) is  engaged in a power struggle with the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF). Both of them have shown very clearly, during the past year and a half, that they are eager to maintain the promulgate  those features.

The power struggle between MB and SCAF has little bearing on what I see as the a key implicit demand of Egyptian revolution:

To create an open and transparent econo-political system with maximum latitude for popular initiative and collective problem solving.

This can never come about while the above features remain intact. I do not see it worth the effort of the revolutionaries to engage in “symbolic wars” against SCAF or to come to the aide MB as long as those features remain intact. There should be instead a concerted intellectual effort to chart and path that would  eliminate those rotten features and supplanting them by novel and efficient ones.

Chanting in Tahrir against the symptoms (or emergent properties) of the said features will not bring about positive change. The battle now is for outlining a clear plan for system wide transition and forming popular consensus about it.