Last week, in a meeting with leading media figures, the Egyptian President, Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, made a rare call for “a comprehensive political dialogue that is compatible with the concept of the New Republic;” which El-Sisi has been devoted to building up from the reigns of the Arab Spring aftermath, over the past seven years.
If successfully accomplished, this dialogue will mark the beginning of a whole new era of political inclusiveness, that Egypt gravely needs. It is, also, a clear indicator of the fact that both the Egyptian citizens and leadership are entering a new level of political maturity that is crucial for strengthening and developing the nation-state.
One of the lessons learned the hard way from the Arab Spring experience is that political diversity is key to ensuring the cohesiveness and strength of the nation-state in the long term. A political system that lacks diversity, no matter how politically popular or militarily strong it is, makes the nation-state prone to polarization and failure.
Plus, the success of the social and economic reform initiatives, which portray the features of El-Sisi’s new republic, is conditional on guaranteeing long-term stability, which is only possible through including, rather than excluding, all of the actors on the political stage. That is particularly true in times of global uncertainty, similar to what we are currently experiencing under the Russia-Ukraine war.
Up till this moment, there is no clear agenda for how or when this urgently needed political dialogue is going to happen and who is going to participate in it. Yet, we can guess that political opposition groups, of all sizes and backgrounds, should be the most prominent and the most important part of the conversation. In that sense, the President’s initiative is renewing hope in realizing the dream of democratization, which many Egyptians, especially the youth, have been yearning for, since the Arab Spring revolution of 2011.
When El-Sisi took power in mid-2014, political reform and democratization had to be pushed to the back burner. El-Sisi gave priority to restoring security and stability by neutralizing the power of the Islamists and political opposition activists on the grassroots citizens, so he could ensure the stability needed to launch a wide scale of social and economic reform projects, in 2016.
At that time, Egypt was struggling with an infinite number of security and economic challenges. Following the removal of the Muslim Brotherhood from power, an extreme state of political polarization accompanied by wide-scale acts of violence was dominating the domestic scene. In addition, terrorist groups, ranging from lone wolves and self-organized factions up to foreign terrorist organizations, such as the Islamic State (ISIS), had leaked into Sinai and started to launch operations against civilians and military personnel.
For clear reasons, it was impossible to rush into building a liberal democratic state, in a country that suffers from strong political divisions, severe economic depression, and lack of security. Nigeria is one example of many states that failed, simply because it rushed into applying democratic reform before laying the proper foundation for a stable democratic state, by first stabilizing the economy and improving the state of security and social development.
Nevertheless, as President El-Sisi’s social and economic reform projects have started to bear fruit and the new republic started to take shape, the time has come for the political leadership to consider taking actual steps towards realizing the liberal democratic dream that had inspired a popular revolution, a decade ago. That is a state, wherein the political power is dependent on a strong multiparty system that encourages peaceful exchange of power and honors political and civil freedoms as integral to basic human rights.
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