Voice of Egypt’s Streets Should Be Heard in Parliament

Article Summary
Despite their lack of political experience, Islamists have swept to power in Egypt. But Sateh Noureddine argues that these parties offer no comprehensive political platform, and that the popular movements at the heart of the Arab Spring should take their rightful place in the new political establishment alongside the Islamists.

Voice of Egypt’s Streets Should Be Heard in Parliament

The hundreds of thousands of demonstrators thronging the main squares of Cairo and other major Egyptian cities have highlighted that the mainstream popular movements which set off the revolutions in Egypt and other Arab countries will still be able to prevent an impending [Salafist] takeover of power.

The street still belongs to the mass-based popular movements that shook central Cairo and achieved a landmark victory. The street remains the source of power, and this is perhaps the most important outcome of the revolution. It has become the true center of authority, control and accountability. What gets decided in the street takes primacy over decisions by forces hastily managing the transition between the era of tyranny and democracy.

In a stunning show of defiance, the Egyptian and Arab peoples have broken their tyrants’ barriers of fear. Streets across the Arab capitals are now no longer distinguishable from the streets in any democratic state. Protests have become a sacred right. Had it not been for certain cultural barriers and bitter political experiences, freedom of expression would have become as sacred as the right to protest.

The protests were a major breakthrough for Arab consciousness. Previously, demonstrations were always seen as some sort of external conspiracy or a form of destructive chaos. Today, however, authorities can no longer deprive their people of this right, no matter how many sacred texts they employ-- whether political or religious. Protests have become the new standard for Arab urbanization and development. Nevertheless, the new voting process has sadly revealed the political illiteracy of [Arab] voters. As the newly elected parliaments [in which Islamists have won majorities] confirm, the Arab Spring has turned into a bleak winter.

It is a strange paradox: The educated and intellectual elite is in the street, and the Muslim majority is in parliament. This reality is likely to continue for years. [The Islamists’ ascent to power] is reflective of instability within the political landscape. They have been swept into power despite their lack of political experience.

The void of Islamists’ political projects is understandable, because their platform is void as well. However, civil disorder against them is unjustified, as their project appeals to simple and ordinary people who were able to regain their individual and national rights during the uprising. For these parties to survive, they must consolidate into a single entity. They must also succeed in drafting a single coherent program.

Everything that has been achieved so far in terms of improved rights and freedoms has been devoid of any organization, planning or financing. This was not an exceptional occurrence. In their latest mobilization, the popular powers in the street have demanded that the true owners of revolution--the civil movements--retake their role as instigators of change and find a place in the political establishment. Participation in this establishment should not be reserved exclusively for the Islamists.

Found in: revolution, freedom of expression, freedom, elections, democratic transition, change, squares of cairo, salafists, popular participation, political programs, islamists in egypt, islamists, civil society movements, arab spring, arab

Sateh Noureddine is a regular contributor to As-Safir.


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