10 March, 2012

More on the NGO trial, and Egypt's permanent political campaign

In speaking to a friend who had also worked in politics as a professional, we compared the chaotic nature of Egypt's transition to the immediate years after Gorbachev's departure, when Yeltsin and Russian parliamentary factions squared off in a lethal power grab.  However, with all of Egypt's talented and motivated activists working to achieve a more lasting democracy, I refuse to be a pessimist and submit to the possibility of a cold coup d'état, a post-Mubarak scenario outlined by an European Union Institute for Security Studies report.

It seems that all political factions in Egypt continue to function in perpetual campaign mode.  Though the parliamentary elections have concluded, the presidential contest is heating up, and the fight over the appointment of the Constituent Assembly continues.  It is this body that will shape Egypt's civil institutions, and control of the constitutional drafting process may be a prize bigger than the momentary capture of the presidency or parliamentary majority.  But in this critical moment, where are Egypt's statesmen?  The former colonials did not realize the American republic because Washington and Jefferson only minded the ambitions of the Whig Party or the Democratic-Republican Party.    

The political donnybrook that is consuming public attention in Cairo seem to be the NGO trial.  It appears that the government grabbed a tiger by the tail, and find it impossible to let go; while upsetting the sensibility of American lawmakers may have placed U.S. aid to Egypt in question, the real danger is the uncontrollable public anger the military council engineered.  In an environment where Egypt needs more cooperation from abroad, and more deliberation and institutional development from within, public attention is consumed by this case, and all political factions seem to be in a race to pronounce its nationalistic credentials.  

Protests during the NGO trial
In the meantime, though the international media focuses on the predicament of the foreign NGO workers, what happens to those who stayed behind to fight for Egypt's future?  I admire their courage, and wish them well.  I wish I could do more to help.  If the United States and the European Union are keen to encourage democracy in Egypt and the Arab world, more deeds than words and money are needed.  Unlike domestic political considerations, such as building highways or schoolhouses, international engagement requires more than increased funding and press releases.            

NGO trial defendants in the cage during court session