The Long and Winding Road for Democracy In Egypt Part 7
And then there were none: Egyptian Liberals in peril
Legendary crime novelist Agatha Christie’s bestselling mystery novel of all time title, maybe suitable to describe the current Egyptian liberals’ dilemma post Egyptian Revolution. It will not take a genius to discover that the Post-Revolution Egyptian liberals are currently in dire straits politically after the first parliamentary elections.The great rejoice by the initial success of the revolution led mainly by liberals and the socialists against the Mubarak regime, have overshadowed by the significant losses of the parliamentary elections for both the lower and upper houses of the parliament. The Islamists who won the majority in both houses have consolidated their power in Egypt recently and Liberals have been dealt a bad blow.
It’s ironical that Liberals helped their archrivals obtain a victory that even the most optimistic among Islamists couldn’t have dreamt of .Thanks to the Liberals and socialists who have worked in their favour for all the months following the ousting of President Mubarak and his regime. The current status of the liberals in Egypt indicates a very uncertain future in the biggest country of the Middle East which always had a direct impact on the region historically. These alerting symptoms from the liberal front, indicates that the entire region is entering a new phase of extremism despite the initial signs of liberty. It can be said without a doubt should the liberals in Egypt will not be revitalize themselves and the liberal values within the Egyptian society, what is commonly known as the “Arab Spring” will eventually end up into an “Arab nuclear winter” . The causes of this recession within the Egyptian liberals are numerous but can be summarized as follows:
1. Lack of unified leadership
From the very first days of the revolution, it was evident to all analysts that the Egyptian revolution led mainly by liberals, lacked any form of coordination or leadership. In fact, it was deemed as a blessing that the revolution has no head or the former tyrannical regime would have severed it easily in the first days and quelled the revolution at its birth. But the blessing eventually turned to be a curse after the first few days and hopes that a leading character like Dr. Mohamed El Baradei or a historical Party like El Wafd leading the liberal movement in Egypt were soon shattered after the first few days post the revolution. Dr. Baradei indecisiveness and inability to lead the revolutionaries as well as convince them of the ideals of liberty was also a disadvantage factor that worked against the liberals. The man who defied the regime of Mubarak no longer inspired the liberals or was able to convince the moderate factions of their cause.
2. Lack of proper political and social representatives
The liberals had no strong representatives within the Egyptian society before or after the Egyptian revolution. Most of who call themselves liberals hardly has a clue about the liberal values. They are in many cases socialists or Marxists who believed that their ideals are outdated and started to act as liberals. While some common ground can be found between Liberals and Socialists, it’s was mistake of great proportions that the hard-core Liberals allowed the socialists to run the show for them and deliver the message on their behalf.
The result was a distorted messages of liberalism that was swinging sometimes to the extreme left with a rhetoric only befitting the 1950’s and 1960’s and not the modern day world. Even the oldest of all Egyptian parties El Wafd Party decided to play the side kick role to the Muslim Brotherhood. Instead of mustering the liberals from all the country under one banner. They raised the white flag to the Islamists early in the political game which resulted in the resignation of most of the prominent figures of the party like Sameh Makram Ebeid and others. The Liberals found themselves almost without political figures representing them except the older scholars like prominent secular guru Dr. Murad Wahba and others who are not political figures in the first place.
3. Lack of common goals
Since the ousting of the Mubarak’s regime, liberals disintegrated into factions with different and sometimes colliding agendas to present to the Egyptian public. Their main focus were on Tahrir square protests and criticism against the Supreme Council of Armed forces .Both actions have depleted them from the energy needed to gain further grounds in the hearts and minds of Egyptians.
The intermixed socialist and liberal agenda only added confusion to the Egyptian populace about the real goals of liberals and their identity. The focus on the attacks against SCAF and general principals of liberalism were not enough to draw the attention and support of a majority of Egyptian. The agendas of liberals neglected to a great extent the daily life problems and focused on the bigger picture while the Islamists were focusing just on the daily life problems in the campaign and amalgamated that with their traditional religious rhetoric. That combination proved successful in the previous parliamentary elections. Yet, it should not deviate liberals in future of tackling the principals of liberalism and focusing on how they will solve those daily problems of Egyptians.
4. Islamists apologists and pseudo Liberals
Egyptian liberals are plagued by the pseudo liberals and Islamists apologists among them. Those have played a very dangerous and controversial role in assisting the Islamists in their goal for the domination in the parliament and Egyptian political scene. The likes of Dr. Waheed Abdel Mageed who headed the democratic alliance formed as a result of the ill fated union between Wafd and Muslim brotherhood, became a sort of flip flops of liberals and apologists for the Islamists.
Dr. Amro Hamzawy a presumed liberal and head of the El Horeya “Freedom” party won by a landslide, a seat in the parliament. Yet, less than 2 weeks of his victory, he appears on a Salafi (Fundamentalist) Satellite channel and declares his support for Internet censorship on pornographic websites just to appease the Islamists. Not content by that outrageous support on personal freedoms , he wages a war against whoever opposed him on twitter and other social media websites and in his column in Al Shorouk Newspaper. He accused Egyptian liberals who opposed him of practicing what he called “Liberal dictatorship” and they are a bunch of “home bound liberals”
These types and more others did hurt the Egyptian liberal movement and it’s time for liberals to choose their real representatives in the upcoming period and not flip flops who are in it for positions and more political power. The latest chapter of the practice of pseudo liberals, are those who are supporting former Muslim Brotherhood leader Abou El Fottoh in his bid Presidency. They are neglecting the fact that his background of over 40 years in the boundaries of the 80 year old Islamist group is a blatant evidence of his real tendency and his victory will only consolidate the power grip of the Muslim brotherhood over the future of Egypt.
5. Smear Campaign against liberals by Islamists
While the Liberals were doing what they believe is honorable, chivalrous and noble by spreading the main message of the revolution and what they believed as liberal values to the Egyptian public, Islamist led by the Muslim brotherhood used that same message against them politically. After all, since when politics was about any of the above descriptions!
But the vile methods utilized by Islamists and the lack of coordination and proper counter-attack against these allegations from liberals, led to great loss of ground to both liberals and revolutionaries alike in the parliamentary elections. Even worse one week before the elections and instead of working on the elections campaign most of the liberal figures were taking the streets of Tahrir and surrounding areas side by side to socialists and the result what was known as the massacre of “Mohamed Mahmoud street” which State TV and SCAF as well as Islamists managed to pin on the actions of the liberals despite the great loss of lives among the liberal activists.
That smear campaign among others actions by SCAF and Islamists who labeled Liberals and seculars as “Anti-Islamic” and “Infidels” have tainted liberals reputation in the eyes of the poorly educated population. They even labeled The Egyptian Bloc composed of 3 parties ( 2 Liberals and one socialist) as the “Crusaders bloc”. Ironically enough the liberal media and TV stations stood defenseless against these horrendous allegations and even hosted more Islamists in their programs than they did with their own liberal candidates. The result was as known to everyone, Islamists won over 70% from the lower house of the parliament and 90% of the upper house. The Latter most of the liberal parties have boycotted due to their position against Supreme council of Armed Forces and accusations to SCAF of favouritism towards Islamists in the lower house parliament. That was another political mistake among a series that liberals might pay for in the years to come.
6. Divisive media outlets and lack of clear message
Liberal Media in an attempt to appear revolutionary started to host a lot of people who claimed to be liberals and fight for the personal freedoms. Yet, they couldn’t have picked worse representative in most cases. It was not uncommon to find a man/women on TV presenting himself as a liberal and bashing capitalism as well as the role of the USA and ranting about an international conspiracy of cosmic proportions on the Egyptian people and their revolution.
The alienation of people from the message was quite prevailing the months following the Egyptian revolution. It was always refreshing to see younger men and women more on TV to provide the audience with their experience during the revolution and their dreams. But it certainly was met with a lot of scorn and surprise when you man/girl who hardly graduated from school and still jobless to give life advise to people three times his age. The general public felt disoriented and alienated from the message shown every night in talk shows and newspapers interviews from people who call themselves liberals but fail to deliver a sound message to the public due to their inexperience and impetuousness.
In a society that reveres the elderly , it’s quite alienating and annoying to listen to young man calling older people and his elders names like the Arabic equivalent of “Old geezers” . The disrespect for the older generation that exuded from these young revolutionaries have really annoyed the public generally and painted liberal movement with descriptions that they could done better without.
Moreover, Liberal media outlets like On TV and others welcomed Islamists with open arms in an attempt to appear liberal and accepting the other side views but this fatal mistake backfired on the liberals since in most cases the guests of Islamic background bashed the liberals views without anyone present to contend their radical views.
That kind of setting led to further losses in the liberal camp and the strategy of trying to uncover the real intent of Islamists by presenting them more in media outlets failed miserably due to incompetent TV presenters who among which some appear to be Islamists sympathizers like TV anchor Yousry Fouda and many others. These incompetent TV anchors and hosts have failed miserably in their job in the past year and their strategy back fired on the liberal camp.
Freedom of expression, freedom of economy, Freedom of belief, democracy and personal freedoms are the messages that should be spread by Egyptian liberals in all sectors of society. Their message should be simple, focused and to the point. The traditional academic liberal terminology will fail to capture the imagination of the common Egyptians and that has to change. Groups of Liberals, NGOs and lobbies must be formed all over Egypt in order to pursue the liberal message.
Should the Egyptian liberals fail to reorganize their ranks and don’t start fighting back for their own existence and presence in the country, the next exodus from Egypt will not be a biblical exodus of Jews but it will be modern day exodus of liberals in a similar manner to the post Iranian revolution scenario .Should Liberals fail to organize several unified fronts and pressure groups to fight their cause and endorse politicians who fight and lobby for their causes. Inch by inch Liberals will lose numbers and ground to radical religious extremist in the country and sooner or later … and then there were none!