“Egypt is more divided than ever. All sides – from Islamists to secularists – are headed to their corners, looking to be victors in the battle for power and refusing to make efforts to accommodate and compromise. If this continues, the country is in real danger of becoming the next Algeria. It should follow, instead, in Tunisia’s footsteps.”
So argues Marwan Muasher, a former deputy prime minister of Jordan, and vice-president for studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace:
Egypt needs a bill of rights that enshrines basic principles. It must guarantee the right of every individual – regardless of religion – to work in government. It must guarantee the rights of minorities. And it must guarantee the peaceful rotation of power. ….The bill of rights can then be used to agree a new, complete constitution. It must be based on consensus reached following negotiations including all sides, much like the one the Tunisians have created. …
Egypt has two possible paths. Either it follows the Tunisian route and establishes an inclusive coalition government where tensions are still prevalent but progress is obvious; or it follows the Algerian route of deep polarisation and possibly civil war. Algeria’s glaring divide persists two decades after Islamists mounted a civil insurgency when they were denied a legitimate electoral triumph.
But Tunisia’s democratic transition is also being jeopardized by a proposed blacklist – aka the “law for the protection of the revolution” – which, a leading analyst notes, “seems in reality designed to protect the ruling Islamist party, Nahda, from having to face real competition in the next elections.”
Although the country faces pressing problems of unemployment and security, the law has been pushed to the top of the legislative calendar, writes Joshua Muravchik, a fellow at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies:
The law would bar a wide range of people deemed to be tainted by association with the old regime from seeking elected office. Several Nahda legislators with whom I met in June told me that “only 3,000 to 4,000″ people would fall under the ban. Mohsen Marzouk, a leader of Nidaa Tounes, told me that the number could be as high as 70,000. In any event, it would disqualify several leaders of Nidaa Tounes, including Essebsi. His offense? Having been a member of the Chamber of Deputies 20 years ago.
“Most polls show Nidaa Tounes pulling ahead of Nahda in legislative elections and Essebsi leading for president in polling for elections that most expect to be set for early 2014, notes Muravchik, a fellow at the George W. Bush Institute and the author of Trailblazers of the Arab Spring: Voices of Democracy in the Middle East:
Noomane Fehri, who belongs to Al Joumhuri, a progressive party that is both a rival and potential partner to Nidaa Tounes, told me, “This thing is simply a political maneuver.”