Why Egypt must hold presidential elections first

Abdel Latif el-Menawy

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The Egyptian government has always been centralized. Therefore, the central authority has always played a major role that cannot be ignored. The various components of the Egyptian state have always been organized in relation to the central government.

This is neither praise nor slander of the nature of government in Egypt. It is simply a description of a situation that has come about as a result of geography and history - factors we did not create and cannot control. In the past, when they talked about the importance of decentralizing governance in Egypt, I always thought it was unrealistic because altering the pattern will not be a political decision which people will cheer for but, instead, it will be the product of organized work implemented throughout decades.

Establishing a decentralized government would thus require implementing a plan, the results of which will only materialize later.

What Egypt needs

The most important question all Egyptians, and all those concerned with Egypt’s affairs, are asking is: Is it better to hold the presidential elections first, or the parliamentarian elections first? Based on what I’ve previously said, the choice is not a luxury. I think it’s a necessity if we want to take the right path because an Egypt without a head of state will confront chaos and dispersion, and we would all pay a high price for that. The country has always had a leader and going against this would have negative repercussions.

If we hold parliamentarian elections first, tension will follow. Such an atmosphere will not enable the Egyptians to establish any consensus on a presidential candidate

Holding the parliamentarian elections first would divide the people. It is not a decision that takes the country forward. Imagine that the country starts by holding elections in which at least 5,000 people are candidates. Amidst the absence of a states with clearly defined regulations, this decision is tantamount to political and security suicide. The upcoming competition among these thousands, amidst the absence of a strong state, will only lead to political, tribal and popular rivalry. This situation will produce an exhausted state on the brink of collapse and struggle. These negative repercussions will worsen as a result of the absence of a leader who is capable of controlling the situation. This is a reality which will yield negative results.

What Egypt wants

Another important issue is that the general mood among the Egyptian public is in favor of holding the presidential elections first. The issue was raised during a meeting between interim President Adly Mansour and 60 young representatives of the country’s youth parties. The majority of these young men - 37 of them - said they would prefer that presidential elections be held first. If we consider this sample to be representative of the most radical orientations among the Egyptian public, then this implies that the traditional Egyptians - who are a majority - would be more inclined to seek stability than these youths. Ergo, the general popular orientation should be in favor of electing a president first.

If we hold parliamentarian elections first, tension will follow. Such an atmosphere will not enable the Egyptians to establish any consensus on a presidential candidate, and we will witness severe polarization that will result in real threats against the country’s future. Defying the historical pattern is not wise. Allowing a powerful group to control people’s fate, simply by virtue of its power, is not democracy. Going against the general public mood is not what the Egyptians hoped for after their revolution in June.

This article was first published in al-Masry al-Youm on Dec. 11, 2013.

Abdel Latif el-Menawy is an author, columnist and multimedia journalist who has covered conflicts around the world. He is the author of "Tahrir: the last 18 days of Mubarak," a book he wrote as an eyewitness to events during the 18 days before the stepping down of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. Menawy’s most recent public position was head of Egypt’s News Center. He is a member of the National Union of Journalists in the United Kingdom, and the Egyptian Journalists Syndicate. He can be found on Twitter @ALMenawy

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