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June 18, 2012

Egypt: Realpolitik is urgently needed

Prof. Dr. Mohamed Elmasry

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There is no absolute worst case political scenario for Egypt. Putting faith in the country's future is going to take a whole lot of courage. But I for one believe it is a positive ideal in which to put my faith.

As an academic and a politician I was embedded in Egyptian politics for the last 10 years, not affiliated with any political party and not working for any local or foreign think tank.

I have participated in the January 25th revolution and actively campaigned during the last 100 days, using my own financial resources, for spreading the word that the polices offered by the presidential candidates to achieve the revolution’s ideals of economical development, freedom and social justice are far more important than their politics. Today, before the official announcement of who is the country’s new president, I would say Egypt needs urgently a high dose of realpolitik.

The word "realpolitik" comes from the German, real "realistic", "practical" or "actual"; and Politik "politics". It refers to viewing the world in a realistic and practical manner rather than from an ideological perspective. The substance of any realpolitik position is this: when faced with the possibility of uncertainty you must take the path that serves your interests with the most certainty.

Here are some important facts that would help Egyptians practice realpolitik including Egypt’s next president, party leaders, politicians and every citizen who hopes for a better Egypt.

Democracy in the last 18 months has certainly presented a tough challenge to Egypt. But today democracy is alive and well in Egypt. There were free elections. The freedom to form new political parties was practiced on the ground. On the average some 50% of the eligible voters did vote. Youth participation in politics was above than the international average. Dirty politics, more or less the international standard, was practiced by everyone. No one was jailed because he or she was affiliated with the “wrong” party or believed in the “wrong” ideology. People were/are critical, sometimes over critical, of their politicians, government and elected officials. And above all the people will never surrender their freedom.

Today Egypt’s ex-dictator Hosni Mubarak is in prison for life. No new special law or revolutionary court was ever used. No violent revenge outside the justice system, as it was the case in many other revolutions of the past or present, was practiced. An ex-regime man, Ahmed Shafik, was allowed to run for the presidential office side by side with a Muslim Brotherhood political prisoner, Mohamed Mursi. But both men promised Egyptians a stable liberal democracy if elected. Mursi denied the charges that he will turn Egypt into a theocracy and Shafik denied the charges that he will turn it into a military dictatorship.

In Egypt today there is a freedom of the press which is an envy of many in the west where the media is fully controlled by the few. Egyptians talk shows since January 25th, 2011 filled the air waves with guests’ views that were critical of the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF). "Coup" was the word that ex-presidential candidate Abdel-Moneim Aboul-Fottouh used in talking to the media to qualify the recent decision by SCAF to retain all legislative powers entrusted with parliament and MB’s Khairat Al-Shater warned SCAF of a violent street resistance if fraud would contaminate presidential elections. Both men were not charged under the law or were not arbitrary arrested - - gone forever are such days.

The realpolitik’s situation is this: There are many socioeconomic grievances facing Egyptians. If there is no realistic time table to solve them by the new president, sooner than later Egypt’s next revolution will be drowned in blood and the economy and social justice not ideology will motivate Egyptian voters in any coming election for parliament or for president.

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