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Letter to Donald Horowitz (long Version)

Posted on the 19 September 2011 by Warigia @WarigiaBowman
Dear editors, 
I am writing to comment on an excellent article by Donald Horowitz about Egypt published in the Summer 2011 issue of the Wilson Quarterly.
I write not to quibble with Horowitz' largely thoughtful analysis, but to provide some new information and some nuance. In that article, Horowitz makes the following arguments. He argues that due to the short time table for the current elections, the well organized Muslim Brotherhood  (MB) and some reconstituted version of the old regime's National Democratic Party (NDP) will win a large share of the 508 seats in Egypt's lower house of parliament (the People's Assembly). He also notes how important it is to determine the rules that govern how elections are structured. The proportional list system, argues Horowitz, will be beneficial to liberal, secular parties.Finally, he points out that lessons from other nations teach us that the greater the number of individuals involved in drafting a constitution, the higher the resulting level of democracy.He makes an important note that the technical rules around drafting the constitution matter, and can lead to a higher level of democracy.
I would like to make the following three points in response to his article.
First, I agree that the MB will likely benefit from earlier elections. It appears, however, that parliamentary elections will not be held in September. Nor will candidacy even begin in late September, as previously thought. Previously, we had thought elections would be held in November. Now, however,  fluidity remains in the scheduled election dates. Mohammed El Baradei and other presidential candidates have asked for Presidential elections to be held in February because they need time to regroup.
Many analysts say that the MB, Islamists, and the remnants of the old regime wish to have elections as soon as possible, because their forces are more organized. The sooner elections are held, they argue, the better the MB and NDP will do. By contrast, later elections will assist the secular groups, and leftists.
The risk in delaying elections is that due to delay, there will  be no elections. Perhaps I am wrong, but personally, I would prefer a government which includes representation from an elected Muslim Brotherhood pressured by moderate forces to a government run by decree by an unelected SCAF.  By delaying elections, the SCAF is left in place, which increases the period of time during which Egypt is ruled by a military junta. The Muslim Brotherhood is not the most radical of Islamist forces on the ground in Egypt. Further, the Muslim Brotherhood has shown both the ability and the willingness to converse with secular forces. Finally, it is likely that the Muslim Brotherhood will win far fewer seats than outside observers fear.
Second, I would like to note that the Egyptian political scene is vibrant and varied. With the advent of the Revolution, new leftist parties have emerged. These include the Public Social League, or the Coalition of Socialist parties (Al Tahalof al Shabee Al Eshterakee).  They are firmly committed to the civil state, the rights of women, improvements in health care and education, and supporting the farmers, the workers, and the youth. This group has solid intellectual credentials, significant experience, and a sophisticated long-term strategy. They may not win an enormous amount of votes in the first election, but they are certain to be influential on the Egyptian political scene in the coming years. Another moderate leftist party in the vein of the British Labor party, or the German Social Democrats, is the Egyptian Social Democrat party. This party includes many Anglo Christians and Copts, but is styled in the grand old tradition of European moderate left.
In addition to the more leftist parties, a new generation of liberal, free market parties are emerging in Egypt. These include the Free Egyptians (Hezb Al Masreen Al Ahrrar) party. This party was established by telecommunications mogul Naguib Sawiris, and supports free enterprise principles. It supports improved equality for women and Copts, a civilian government, and major efforts to reduce poverty. Another important liberal party is the Democratic Front Party (Hezb Al Gabha Al Democrateya). This party was extant under the Mubarak government, but refused to participate in parliamentary elections. It fought for measures to secure fair elections under Mubarak. The party participated in the Egyptian Revolution, and is popular with middle-aged Egyptian voters. Amr Hamzawy — a perennial favorite among the youth due to his good looks, charisma, and impressive intellectual credentials — is currently affiliated with the Egyptian Freedom Party (Masr Al Horeya). He has returned from his post with the Carnegie Endowment in Beirut to help build political awareness in Egypt and is currently teaching at the American University in Cairo. The Egyptian Freedom party supports democracy, delegation of authority, the sovereignty of law, equality, and a reduction in social classes. The party also supports decentralization and more autonomy for governorates.
My final point is that who selects the people on the Constitution drafting task force is extremely important. Originally, the representatives from the task force were to come from parliament. Currently, the SCAF is stating that it will select all 100 members of that task force. This is extremely problematic. As Horowitz points out, it is important for a multitude of groups to be involved in drafting the constitution. If the SCAF selects the groups in the constitutional task force, it will drastically limit diversity of composition, as well as views. The referendum task force, for example, had no women. Obviously, Copts need representation on this task force, but so do people from Upper Egypt, Nubians, women, leftists, secularists, and other minorities. At this point, the SCAF seems committed mainly to perpetuating its own existence as the head of Egyptian governorate. Accordingly the most important detail to get right at this point, is on are ones of process and inclusion: that the Egyptian people have some say in who writes the constitution, and that they help determine which procedures will be held to ensure free and fair elections.

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