Baby steps toward democracy
Egypt has come a long and tragic way since January 25, 2011, when the revolution began, after its democracy has been stagnant for decades.
The second round of voting in Egypt's presidential election began yesterday, overshadowed by a nearly incomprehensible legal drama. The country's constitutional court last week ordered parliament dissolved after ruling that the election process gave political parties an advantage over independent candidates. In the same session the court also rejected as unconstitutional the Political Exclusion Law, which barred senior officials from the Mubarak regime from standing for office for 10 years. The decision means that former Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq could continue his presidential campaign.
It is too soon to even try to guess the election results or how Egypt will extricate itself from its complicated situation, in which a president will be chosen but there will be no parliament to monitor his policies, approve a cabinet or pass legislation. We can only hope that an appropriate solution is found soon and that new parliamentary elections are held shortly, to allow the legislature to begin tackling the enormous challenges that it faces as quickly as possible.
That said, we can only marvel at the way Egypt's constitution, legal code and courts determine the country's agenda, and at how the political forces, including the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, are ready to comply with the directives of the constitutional court. Parts of the population are dissatisfied with the ruling, seeing it as license to rehabilitate the remnants of the Mubarak regime or as a slap in the face of the Muslim Brotherhood. But the high rate of participation in the elections indicates overwhelming recognition of the court's decision and, by extension, of the rule of law - not the law of a dictator, as in the past, but rather one based on amendments adopted after the revolution.
These are the baby steps of democracy in Egypt, which has come a long and tragic way since January 25, 2011, when the revolution began, and which had been stagnant for around six decades. Anyone who fears the results of the election and changes in Egyptian policy can take comfort in the fact that it is grounded in the constitution of the state. Israel, which has always marketed the idea that democracy in the Middle East is a fundamental strategic precondition for eliminating threats, should also take solace in this.
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