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Agenzia Stampa Vicino Oriente




Better for Palestine: Mursi or Shafiq?

The Palestinians would be unwise to bet on either Egyptian presidential hopeful, says Hani al-Masri in Palestinian daily al-Ayyam

venerdì 22 giugno 2012 14:10

by Hani al Masri - Al Ayyam Ramallah

Ramallah, 20th of June 2012, Nena News - Should the final results of the runoff vote in the Egyptian presidential elections confirm that Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohammad Mursi is indeed the winner, that would restore some balance to Egyptian politics, especially as the Muslim Brotherhood and its allies have been deprived of their power base in parliament.

On the other hand, a win by Mubarak-era PM Ahmad Shafiq - together with the court's decision to dissolve parliament and the ruling military council's recent decree concentrating most powers in its hands - would mean a return of the Mubarak regime in a different guise, making a new revolution inevitable.

Mursi President A Mursi presidency means that a struggle will break out between the Muslim Brotherhood-backed head of state and the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) which holds the actual levers of power in the country - with the president acting more as an opposition figure. This will lead to a period of political instability that could extend until new parliamentary elections are held and a new constitution is passed. This means that Egypt is on the verge of a new period of transition characterized by extreme polarization as the various political forces compete fiercely over everything - including the drafting of the country's new constitution and choosing a new parliamentary speaker - an essential prerequisite for a democratic system with true separation of powers. The initial results of the presidential poll prove once again that the events that took place in Egypt in the aftermath of the January 25th revolution were truly historic, and that the clock cannot be easily turned back.

While many Egyptians were afraid of the possibility of the Muslim Brotherhood monopolizing power, the judicial rulings to dissolve parliament and the constitutional committee and to consider the banning law unconstitutional made them even more afraid of the military taking power. That was why many voters who had decided to boycott the election changed their minds and cast their votes for Mursi.

Even in the hypothetical case in which Husni Mubarak was to return as president, he would not be able to rule the country as he did in the past. Egyptians are no longer as meek as they were before the revolution, and rulers know that they have to take the will of the people into serious consideration from now on. It is enough that Egypt has just held the first presidential election in the country's history in which the identity of the winner was not known beforehand, in which the winner did not receive 99.9 percent of the votes cast, and in which the nest President can only serve two 4-year terms in office. Despite all that however, it would be unwise to underestimate the complexities of the situation Egypt finds itself in, especially with the presence of a president who is at odds with the prodigious apparatus of state - and against the backdrop of an acute conflict between revolutionary and established legitimacy.
The seeds of Egypt's current problems were sown immediately after the revolution. Instead of forming a leadership council of popular politicians and generals to draft a constitution by consensus on the basis of which legislative and presidential elections would be held, (as some prominent Egyptians, such as Mohamed ElBaradei and Amr Musa, called for), what actually happened was that the military council cut a deal with the Muslim Brotherhood to hold a referendum on a constitutional declaration that not only did not solve the country's post-revolution problems but was the source of all the crises the country saw since.

The Moslem Brothers and the Palestinians Mursi's victory in the current circumstances will the final test for the Muslim Brotherhood and its Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) because of the grave errors the Brotherhood committed by breaking its earlier promises not to seek to monopolize power, and abandoning the revolution and calling on revolutionaries to obey the legitimacy of parliament and the old order. The Brotherhood failed to grasp the difference between changing the head of the old regime and changing the regime itself.
Should Mursi choose to become president of all Egyptians rather than a certain faction, he must really believe in pluralism, partnership, equality, and the need to establish a democratic system. This he must do by appointing a Prime Minister capable of uniting all Egyptians and defending their interests. The new Prime Minister, who should not come from the FJP, must form a coalition government that is capable of dealing with the deteriorating security situation and the collapsing economy, and of restoring Egypt's pivotal role in the region. The period of transition is not over yet; in fact, the country is just embarking on a new one. This will be the case whether Mursi wins or not. This means that Egypt will be looking inwards for a long time to come. Democracy cannot be established overnight; it needs to pass through a prolonged period of struggle between the remnants of the old regime and the infant new one. There will be defeats as well as victories in the months ahead.

The future of reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas What effects will the election result have on the Palestinian question and the process of reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas? There is no doubt that the Palestinian question is an Egyptian national security concern - which means that there are certain aspects of it no new Egyptian President can alter. Add to that the severe problems Egypt has to face for the foreseeable future, and it becomes clear that the new president could not possibly be the country's sole decision maker; decisions will have to be taken by consensus, with the President, the military council, and public opinion (which will back the military council, which will assume a special position in the coming weeks and months). That is why it is safe to assume that Egyptian policy vis-à-vis the Palestinian question will not change decisively or swiftly whoever becomes the new president. While it is a given that change in Egypt's Palestinian policy will be limited, the two hopefuls Shafiq and Mursi do differ in their approaches to the Palestinian question.

Shafiq President A win by Shafiq would be comforting for a certain faction of Palestinians, because he is a supporter of the Ramallah leadership and the PA, and their policy regarding the peace process with Israel. The problem is that Shafiq is not guaranteed to back the conditions laid down by President Abbas for the resumption of peace talks with Israel, nor will he be a great enthusiast of either going to the UN or of mass resistance on the part of the Palestinian people. He is unlikely to support the process of reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas - which is seen as the Palestinian arm of his rival, the Muslim Brotherhood. The only way Shafiq would support Palestinian reconciliation is if Hamas agrees to the conditions laid down by the international quartet. Should Mursi win on the other hand, that would be good news for Hamas, which nevertheless has to understand that any Egyptian President - Mursi included - cannot deal with its authority in Gaza as an independent entity, and thus achieve Israel's goal of handing responsibility for the enclave to Egypt, which would undermine efforts to end the occupation and establish a Palestinian state in all areas occupied in 1967, including Jerusalem.

It is therefore expected that a President Mursi would lean on Hamas (although less strongly than if he had a Muslim Brotherhood-dominated parliament to back him) to moderate its policies and proceed with the process of reconciliation in order to become part of the internationally-recognized Palestinian authority - which in turn would lead to the lifting of the Israeli blockade on Gaza. Egypt needs stability on its eastern border. It also needs to maintain its peace treaty with Israel, which is essential if it is to enjoy American, European, and international support.

A realistic study of facts and developments shows that it would be unwise for any Palestinian faction to gamble on either Mursi or Shafiq - or even on Obama or Romney for that matter. It would be similarly unwise to expect Israeli policy to change with the participation of Kadima in Binyamin Netanyahu's government.

The only safe bet for the Palestinians is on restoring national unity, which would enable them to effectively confront the occupation. Will the quarrelling factions ever grasp this truth? Or will they continue on the destructive course of division until all is lost? Nena News