The rift among Egypt’s civil society

Abdel Monem Said
Abdel Monem Said
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In his book the “Philosophy of the Revolution,” late Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser mentions some of his memories from the July 23, 1952 revolution.

He mentions how tragic his meetings were with the elite civil groups.

Preparing himself to hand over power to them, he realized that all of the intellectuals, party leaders, organizations and civil groups he met with were only concerned with criticizing others and presenting themselves as Egypt's saviors from occupation and weakness.

The Egyptian civil elite were very selfish and divided, and so the military's iron fist was needed.

The situation was repeated following the January 2011 revolution. All aspects but one changed in Egypt after the revolution. The political formula of the military, civilians and the Muslim Brotherhood remained the same.

It was clear that after 60 years in power, the military went back to their barricades and the Brotherhood decided to implement their big plan. The civilians were the only ones who didn't know what they were doing. They did everything but getting prepared to practice governance.

When the military defied them to choose a premier, they chose Dr. Issam Sharf, a member of the National Democratic Party.

Sharf had a prominent participation in the party's political committees and was a minister during Hosni Mubarak's era.

The civil elite were occupied, deciding what to do with the young men attacking the interior ministry in Mohamed Mahmoud street. They demonstrated that this was more important than the political management of the country.

It was also occupied with whether it was legitimate to become an ally of the Muslim Brotherhood in the elections or whether it should act independently of the Brotherhood. Then the religious organization led the "democratic alliance" to parliament.

It wasn't long before corrupt logic surfaced. “Aides” working for Mursi, began to quit one after the other because no one consulted them about anything. The state had taken a path towards a theocratic constitution based on the guardianship of the jurists and according to an illegitimate constituent assembly and an illegitimate constitutional declaration.

There were certain indications that Egypt has taken the same path as Iran. Believe it or not, once again, youths from the Tamarod movement along with the military came to save the country through a popular revolution said to be a revolt against the first revolution or to “correct” it. In brief and practically speaking, they came to end the theocratic state of the guardianship of the jurists.

The civil elite came into the picture again. This time it was tested by the youths and the military. The country's president is the head of the supreme constitutional court. The vice president is Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei. He was the first to speak about the revolution and comprehensive reform.

The assigned cabinet is a mixture of diverse experienced ministers who dealt and cooperated with all previous regimes, from Mubarak's to Mursi's. But the story of change has not reached its end yet. Testing the civil elite has not ended too. The Brotherhood's stance from the new regime and its resistance of it through working to paralyze the state are what divided the civil elite between a "realistic" group and an "ideal" one.

Further divisions are expected in the upcoming days. The latter group has a political vision based on a perfect world where there are good-hearted parties who accept one another and where communication, patience and understanding are all what's required to contain the Brotherhood in the national groups. The former realistic group had a political vision based on "power" and then balance of power. The moment was decisive as modern Egyptian history has never witnessed a situation in which the balance of power was in favor of the civil society, like the situation is now. There is readiness to accept the Brotherhood's presence in the current political process. Despite that, this acceptance is upon the conditions of the established civil state. The Brotherhood cannot be allowed to attain now what they were denied when they were in power.

This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on August 7, 2013.

Abdel Monem Said is the director of al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies in Cairo. He was previously a board member at Egypt’s Parliament Research Center at the People's Assembly, and a senator in Egypt's Shura Council.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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