In Egypt, the amateurs are in charge

Rami G Khouri writes: The tumultuous road to a stable democratic system of government in Egypt is passing through one of its most decisive stages these days, with most of the main political actors revealing their amateurism more than anything else. This is a hard but necessary learning process, as the main protagonists refuse to accept that hard-line and absolutist positions are inappropriate during this delicate transition.

For all the heartening talk about their shared commitment to democratic pluralism, the dominant Muslim Brotherhood and most of the other leading Egyptian political groups are demonstrating the problems arising from a fast transition from autocracy to democracy, without a transition period in which people and organizations learn how to function in a democratic system. Personality has much to do with this.

The Muslim Brotherhood leaders who have spent much of the last 25 years in and out of jail were catapulted into the presidency without any previous experience in managing national politics. President Mohammad Mursi is revealing his inability to act as the president of all Egyptians and the shepherd of a historic constitutional transition in which basic governance institutions are being built. Unlike Nelson Mandela who spent decades in jail and then showed his compassion, flexibility and statesmanship when he became president of South Africa, Mursi seems focused on pushing through his agenda (presumably also the Brotherhood’s) and is unable at this stage to act as the magnanimous leader of all Egyptians.

He has made five main mistakes so far: unilaterally issuing the constitutional decree in November that shielded him from all judicial oversight; being two days late in addressing the nation after mass demonstrations turned into clashes around his presidential compound; refusing to make any meaningful gestures to the significant opposition that has been expressed to his constitutional moves; ramming through the referendum on the draft constitution in two weeks; and not working with his colleagues to tone down the response of Muslim Brotherhood supporters to the anti-Mursi demonstrations. [Continue reading...]

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