In this day and age, good governance is a key ingredient in achieving success and making progress. Good governance depends on several components and a few personal qualities.
The best example we can provide for Egyptian President-elect Mohammed Morsi on the eve of his move into the presidential office is the living experience of the Czech playwright and political dissident, Václav Havel. Havel was the first president of the Czech Republic after it split from Czechoslovakia. He has since departed from this earth, but his worldly experience will always be a source of inspiration.
He fought to free his people from despotism and his efforts eventually came to fruition. He was elected as the president of the Czech Republic and soon became an model for democratic presidents. He respected and feared the will of his people. In his 2002 political retirement address, the great former president admitted that he freely decided to leave power, out of fear of no longer being fit for the post or disappointing his people. He also admitted that he found politics weary, and he did not hide his excitement at the prospect of focusing on literature again. In view of Havel’s achievements, particularly his struggle for democracy that earned him five-years in prison, the farewell statement was nothing but genuine. Indeed, he was a thoughtful president who loved his people very much and fought for their sake. Havel’s decisions while in office proved his unconditional love for his people. Indeed, he managed to fuse culture and power, a rare achievement not often seen since Plato proclaimed this fusion.
Despite being an intellectual and a rebel, he took the reins of power and was earnestly committed to his presidential program and to his people’s aspirations. He only rebelled against power rituals and other official requirements. This was why he never clung on to power; on the contrary, he was delighted to leave his office and return to what his soul craved the most: literary creativity. For all the right reasons, Havel was granted the Kafka prize for literature less than three years after his political retirement.
Good politicians prepare themselves to leave office the day they rise to power, and this was exactly what Havel did. After he relinquished power, he wrote a beautiful play entitled “Leaving.” The play’s leading character was a senior official who was dismissed from service and had to leave his government-allocated villa. Havel focused on the suffering and psychological traumas of this character, as though he was depicting the yet-unrealized dramas of Arab rulers who left before witnessing the outcomes of the popular uprisings against them.
Those who read the play might notice that the writer wants to warn those rulers and politicians, regardless of their ranks and levels, that they must prepare for when they have to relinquish power. For these reasons, Havel earned his people’s respect, even after he died. When I received the sad news of his passing, I was eager to know if he had the chance to witness Hosni Mubarak’s bitter shame over his imprisonment, or Moammar Gadhafi as he pleaded with his attackers while they were beating him to death. I also wondered if Havel had the chance to ask himself why these rulers did not learn from the demeaning experiences of their counterparts.
However, Egypt’s future under Morsi remains the most important question one should ask. How will the president-elect use his powers? Will he succumb to the charm of authority and power? Has he learned anything from the Arab Spring experience (regardless of its outcome), which bears no resemblance to Havel’s revolution?
It is still hard to define the nature of the Egyptian uprising, for it is a mix of several types of revolutions that are different from any we have witnessed. Today, the Egyptian revolution looks similar to the French Revolution in its eleventh month, when the progress that was made in particular fields was associated with a substantial disorder in the other ones.
A copy of Havel’s play, Leaving, is the most valuable gift to dedicate to the president-elect. We should also pray that God bestows his favors upon Morsi so that he comprehends the precious meaning of this play and consequently avoids surrendering to the charms of power.