The Egyptian People’s New Revolution opens a new horizons for democratic transition in the region

Demonstration in Cairo. (Photo:

The dramatic developments in the region carry positive indicators of a better future. Recent developments in Egypt reshuffled cards and underscored the fact that citizens are capable of getting hold of initiative and change once they feel their rights and their revolution’s achievement are in danger. The fact that more than 22 million people gathered in squares in all Egyptian cities after 22 million signatures were collected by the “Tamarod” movement, reiterates that peoples’ will is unbeatable and that people are capable of regaining their rights with their hands even after a while. 

The transition in different Arab countries faces many challenges, including the consensus on a new constitution that takes protects the strong desire to live in freedom, dignity and to enjoy all the rights. Universality is the basic principal of human rights and that all rights are for all the people without any racial, religious, gender, political or social affiliation discrimination. 

First free elections in Arab countries in transition brought Islamic forces into power. The public suffrage can be relatively reflective of a certain aspect of society, despite the existing loopholes both in the electoral framework and process. But, in fact, the political forces elected by the majority tended to monopolize the power by totally excluding others. This could have been normal in a normal situation, were the majority rules and the minority monitor and hold the majority account-able; but during the exceptional circumstances the consensus and wide-ranging participation by all forces is imperative, especially in proposing the constitution as the basic and founding law of the new aspired state. Exclusion and monopoly will definitely lead to growing popular anger; one party, which reached power by a certain number of votes and represents a certain trend in society, can-not make alone fateful decisions and impose the constitution that obliges all parties. 

In addition, the Arab revolutions clearly pinpointed the defects in the existing governance mechanisms and political, economic, social and cultural policies. They called for radical revisions to guarantee the widest participation and establish sustainable rules for transparency, accountability and responsibility. They also underscored the importance of achieving justice, equality, freedoms and human rights. 

However, this didn’t occur in many countries where people succeeded in ousting the regime’s head, especially in Egypt: roving decision making and floundered identifying choices and directions, and a tendency to monopolize power helped send citizens back to the streets to call for regaining participation in the decision-making that guarantees their rights. 

In any event, elections are basics for democracy, however, the latter is not limited to elections but it includes institutions, tools and practices. Elections are tools for citizens to delegate their representation to a group of people. Yet, this representation is conditioned: the representatives should correctly and properly express and defend the interests of the represented. If a representative breaches the representation and its goals, the represented has the right to withdraw the power of representation from the representative through specific mechanisms and forms usually allowed in democratic systems. But when such mechanisms are blocked, similar to what happened after the measures undertaken by the Egyptian former president, with paralyzing the role of the parliament’s upper and lower chambers as well as the judiciary; the represented that is the people have the right to take to the streets and to peacefully call for the president’s resignation. Worth noting is that 22 million people signed “Tamarod” petition and took to the streets, while the president was elected by 11 million votes; that is, half the number of people who called on him to quit. If the people did not feel overwhelmingly that the president misused the power of representation they gave to him, what happened would not have happened. 

The peaceful transition of power, despite the objections of the expulsed parties is threatened as a result of some opponents resort to violence on the one hand and using the armed forces of excessive force in dealing with opponents on the second hand. The political process is the guarantee of democracy and civil peace and the intervention of the armed forces after the transfer of power to the interim presidency and the appointment head of the government does not serve the security and stability and the process of democratic transition. 

Yet one must say that ongoing developments are challenging. Sharp divisions in stances and approaches are natural in normal circumstances, but since the stage is exceptional, the divisions, though important and require mutual respect for opposing views, are dangerous and would be fateful if not managed according to logic, reason and public interests instead of narrow factional and personal interests. 

What Egypt is witnessing these days is, in a nutshell, one of the best expressions of democracy; it underlines that attempts to undermine democracy can only be faced by more democracy and adherence to rights, freedoms and human dignity. 

Will Arab leaders learn from these lessons and refrain from oppressing freedoms, silencing voices and repressing their peoples?

Source: E-Newsletter ANND, July 2013. Ziad Abdel Samad (ANND Executive Director)