Opting for a temporary president to be elected by the current parliament, which is to be later dissolved, as proposed by Mohamed alBaradei, is a disaster that is bound to bring us back to square one. Running the country from the street is a return to the “Jamahiriya” system invented by Muammar Qaddafi. This is what a few hundred people in Tahrir Square and its vicinity are calling for even though presidential elections are drawing close.
The problem is not in the rapid transition of power, for the end of June is very near and it is not possible to accomplish it sooner than this. The problem is rather in the theory promoted by the minority about the revolution and the square being the only source of legitimacy.
According to the recent parliamentary elections, this minority constitutes only 10 percent of the population, yet it still wants to impose its will. One question we need to ask them out of concern for the country’s wellbeing: If democracy is not about elections, as you say now, is democracy about the application of the Jamahiriya system?
It is hard to find anything closer to their demands than the Third Theory invented by Qaddafi, which he used to establish his Jamahiriya and to be the laughingstock of the entire world. And Mohamed alBaradei is calling for this without meaning to.
Revolutionary legitimacy is the other side of the Jamahiriya that renders the state superficially managed by the authority of streets and squares, yet in reality this authority is in the hands of the agitators, and Qaddafi labeled himself as such.
Foreign investment and economic growth are not going to happen without building trust in a stable democratic system based on rotation of power through free and fair elections.
The consequences will be disastrous if the interim-president proposal is adopted. The whole process will be delayed until the constitution is drafted, and elBaradei wants this to take years so that we don’t end up with a “hasty” constitution, as he keeps saying in his statements and interviews.
His problem lies in his assumption that writing the constitution is like inventing the wheel, and this is not the case. Any constitution is based on several other constitutions while modifying several articles as seen fit or as required.
The current constitution, which dates back to 1971, is excellent as far as basic freedoms, human rights, and citizenship are concerned. Its major drawback is the absolute powers it grants the president, and this can be fixed.
There is also the draft of the 1954 constitution, which is seen by experts as a very progressive model for political rights, the rule of law, the independence of the judiciary, and the powers of the parliament.
The committee in charge of drafting the constitution can have one ready in a week, and it will not be “hasty” at all. Those long months or years elBaradei wants will open a Pandora’s Box of political squabbles and sectarian and religious agendas, and they might end with a conflict and a drastic change in the balance of power. This will subject Egypt to a constitutional vacuum, and possibly a military coup.
What is striking is that those who call for choosing a temporary president or establishing a presidential council are the same ones who in the midst of the Constitution First campaign wanted the military council to stay in power for two or three years until political parties get ready and revolutionary youths gain the required experience.
I find it very unlikely that the demand for a temporary president will be met, for many reasons. First, the Constitution First campaign did not work. Second, after the election of a parliament, Tahrir Square is no longer a source of pressure on decision-makers. Third, protests and sit-ins have now become commonplace.
Consultative Assembly elections have already beginm and the end of June is not far away. Hastening things will be a grave mistake.
(The writer is the deputy Chief Editor of Al Arabiya Net. The article was first published in al-Mesryoon on Jan. 30, 2012, and translated from Arabic by Sonia Farid)
By Farrag Ismail