Politics Magazine

Things That Transnational Civil Society Could Do to Support Egypt

Posted on the 30 June 2011 by Warigia @WarigiaBowman
Well, we had an interesting class discussion yesterday evening.
I was with Dr. Jerry Leach, Dr. Jennifer Bremer in my department (Public Policy and Administration Department), as well as an Egyptian director of an organization at the Kennedy School, Ashraf Hegazy. There were about 10 Egyptian masters students present. (I teach a leadership course)
Here are some of the ideas we had regarding how international civil society organizations could support Egypt in its transition to democracy.
1) Egyptian citizens need a lot of work on dialoguing about issues. Due to the 30 years of dictatorship, Egyptians have little experience with actually discussing politics in a civil way.
2) Civil society could provide technical support in helping new parties to prepare for the upcoming elections.
3) Clearly, there needs to be significant support for women's participation in Egyptian politics.
4) Elections should be held on time in the fall, so that the military is replaced with a civilian government. Even if the NDP and the MB are elected, if it is a fair election, it is likely preferable to an unelected military regime.
5) There needs to be research on how other African countries have rewritten their constitutions. In the recent past, Kenya, Ghana and South Africa have undergone successful efforts at redeveloping constitutions. Egypt is Arab, but it is also African. It could learn from its neighbors to the South.
6) Writing the constitution is a long term process. The current constitution is flawed, but it works. It would be advisable to take a long term view. There need to be procedural safeguards so that the process is somewhat representative, at least regionally. In addition, in my view, it would be desirable to have special attention paid to the needs of minorities like the Nubians, and Christians. Furthermore, attention should be paid to the role of women in the Egyptian state.  
7) Focus needs to be placed on strengthening parties, organizations and institutions so that Egypt can have substantive democracy. There need to be institutions, such as the judiciary and a parliament, that place a check on the President. Egypt had formal, paper institutions under Mubarak, but they were weak. How do we strengthen them, so that people have a real voice, and that another dictatorship does not emerge?
8) As Professor Jerry Leach pointed out, the way the elections are currently structured, Egypt may be inadvertently backing itself into a presidential system, and crippling future efforts to have a possible parliamentary system.
Thanks to AnnaMaria Shaker of Human Rights First for making me put my thoughts down in an organized way.
Salam, WMB

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