Egypt’s “Hakem to Mahkoum” Impasse

Alors que la chasse aux Frères musulmans se poursuit en Egype, après la répression sanglante lancée par l’armée le mercredi 14 août qui a fait quelque mille victimes, il est nécessaire de chercher une nouvelle "feuille de route" pour sortir le pays de l’impasse. Alexandre Starker, qui conseille plusieurs gouvernements et est basé au Caire et à Genève, considère dans ce texte écrit à la fin du mois de juillet, qu’un changement de paradigme est indispensable. Les "sujets" doivent prendre leur destinée en main sans tout attendre d’un "pharaon".

Going beyond today’s “coup or not coup” mainly academic debate, the virus that has contaminated since thousands of year Egypt’s pathology is the addiction to a centralizing and authoritarian “top-down” Pharaoh (Hakem) style governance system. Creating despotism over “his” subjects (Mahkoum) it is characterized with inefficiency, lack of analytical and inventive skills and contaminated by corruption : Therefore not any more sustainable in present times.

§ January 2011 “revolution” was a historic opportunity to deconstruct the Hakem to Mahkoum curse and replace it with a decentralized La Markazia repartition of democratic checks and balances responsibilities amongst Egypt’s citizens.

§ However still tainted with the credulous believe that only a “good” ruler can secure existential needs of “his” subject – and pressured by foreign interests – Egypt missed the opportunity and instead chose through questionable so-called “Free and Fair” elections to replace the overthrown old military Hakem by a similar “top-down” Political Islam minded despotic ruler.

§ Proving to be catastrophic for Egypt’s population common interest, mass popular protests on June 30thpushed the army to destitute the Islamist Hakem on July 3rd.

§ Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood sectarian “one truths” experience should serve as text book lesson on failed “top-down” governance approach in today’s globalized world so to impulse the January 2011 democratization change demands. Yet, due to the still prevailing mentality quest for sheltering under a “good Hakem” – and because of the western world’s reckless pressure to get the country “back into democratic normality” by holding rapidly new elections – the risk of missing once again the opening to initiate the needed fundamental institutional changes is great.

§ Thanks to Political Islam’s decades long well-financed and brain-washing propaganda machine claiming to represent the sole correct understanding of Islam, Egypt’s – and foreign – decision-makers and opinion leaders have largely failed to recognized the youth’s delivered “Arab Spring” message : whilst being devoted Muslims the great majority of the population wishes to be Hakem-free full-fledged citizens – not obedient subjects – with fair rights and duties, able to choose, monitor and sanction the nation’s different levels of authorities, as is the case in all the modern world. This blindness to a profound paradigmatic change phenomenon makes that Egypt is back on the path to elect, under a renewed profoundly distorted so-called “Road Map” electoral course, a new traditional power-based medieval times Caliphal Hakem who will seek to impose his “top-down” diktat on “his” obedient Mahkoum subjects.

§ However, as can be argued by using a “Railroad” metaphor, it is not logic to introduce a new more potent locomotive – a new Hakem – if the rail-track that set the journey to the people’s desired destination is damaged.

§ Hence instead of hurrying to elections, including to the rush revision of constitutional texts established by former Hakem’s principles, it is suggested to revise the so-called “Road Map” program so to allow sufficient time for the reengineering the country’s institutional structure needed for the mutation from the old centralized rule system to a fairer efficient decentralized governance application. Expressed through the drafting of a new Constitution project, this “Road Map” politics-free Moratorium extension should permit all of Egypt’s political currents to work on defining the national reconciliation common grounds.

§ During the new Constitution drafting, explanation and public debating Moratorium phase that should last not less than a year the country will be managed by two bodies :

a) A non-partisan technical government whose mission will be to secure all necessary resources so that citizens face the minimum possible existential tensions.

b) A non-partisan magistrate body whose mission will be first to establish the National Constitutional Basic Laws upon which all Egyptians irrespective of origin, gender or belief can consent. Once such text advanced, the magistrates will design the Constitutional Mechanics needed to implement the regional and local counties Decentralization bylaws.

Working under a citizen’s national union common interest service, both bodies, together with various components of civil society and public security organizations, will contribute to establish solid national reconciliations foundations.

§ Egyptians – and foreign parties – should appreciate that it is only when the country’s new decentralization La Markazia citizens’ decision sharing Constitutional rail-track is endorsed through a Referendum that it will be possible to envisage a fair and common interest serving new democracy based electoral process.

Time to Mutate

Having lived in Egypt as a foreign Khawaga for now more than fifty years and having observed at close range the higher sphere of Egyptian politics – from Presidents Nasser to Sadat and Mubarak - I consider that rather than due to leader’s mismanagement – which obviously also played a role – Egypt’s main obstacle to progress is its traditional “top-down” centralized governance system. In other words, whilst there are serious ego pathology evils – packaged under military, socialist, liberal or Political Islam appearance – the core virus that prohibits the country from joining the community of successful emerging nations is that its Institutional Governance architecture is centralized under an obsolete “Hakem to Mahkoum” – Ruler to Obedient Subject – social contract.

Breeding despotism, inefficient administration and wide-range corruption, such system is not sustainable in today’s interdependent globalized world. No large corporation, public or private, can survive if decisions are taken by one person (and his clan members) without associating end-users stakeholders. With its now almost reaching 90 million populations, Egypt Inc. cannot be run exclusively out of a Cairo Pharaoh or Sultan as in old times. A fundamental constitutional reform in the direction of a new decentralized “La Markazia” governance architecture is therefore vitally required.

Missed Opportunities

The January 2011 “revolution” against Mubarak’s regime was a historic opportunity to initiate such a mutation. Getting the La Markazia idea into public debate so to start fundamental institutional progresses that characterize any real revolution was a common interest Maslaha Âmma prerequisite. But this debate did not happen as the weight of egos, divisive religion versus secular ideologies and foreign interventions muted the call for ground-breaking institutional reforms. Hence, Egypt embarked into another “top-down” impasse with the debatable “free and fair” presidential election of Muslim Brotherhood candidate M. Morsi in June 2012.

Whilst appearing as a new democracy area in Egypt’s history, thanks to massive communication spins organized and financed through-out the world by the Brethren’s Political Islam local and foreign supporters, in fact the whole exercise consisted in replacing along a multi-millenary practice one sort of autocratic Hakem with another. Nothing worse could have happen as deeply entrenched in Egypt’s traditional serfdom culture, the Brethren fundamental governance principles, since its creation 85 years ago, are based on the strict and exclusive obedience to the so-called “Supreme Guide.” Moreover, already blinded by its own centralizing one truth exclusive governance doctrine and therefore not flexible to partner with other major Egyptian civil society stakeholders, Morsi’s team was also evidently not technically qualified for the job.

Already questioned in the mid-1920th by reform minded al-Azhar clerics as Ali Abdel Razeq and writer Taha Hussein, the medieval Caliphal power-based one truth “Hakem to Mahkum” relationship put constantly forward by sheikh Youssef Qaradawi, Qatar’s residing Brotherhood spiritual mentor is not anymore acceptable for common Egyptians – or open-minded Muslims – who, as is the case in any other modern nation, aspire to be normal citizens whilst being also devote believers. It is therefore not surprising that Morsi’s mandate could not attract the active support of a large proportion of Egypt’s population – a factor that somehow escaped western media attention !

His massive “street revolution” triggered destitution one year after his election has in principle opened a new opportunity window for adapting Egypt’s Institutional architecture to face the needs of its constantly growing population.

However, trapped in traditional search for a new Pharaoh shelter (the nation’s savior) – and subjected to irresponsible foreign pressures due mainly to western local Muslim voters pressures – once again primacies is focused on electoral procedural forms rather than on fairer Governance substance in the new Constitution drafting process. If not rationally and rapidly reviewed, such trend ironically outlined in the Bush/Blair jargon of “Road Map” (that as experience shows generally leads nowhere) can only create new deceits for an already suffering population

Setting Priorities

To explain the rational and the upmost importance for considering structural institutional changes as a long overdue first priority, let us use the “railroad” metaphor.

A train is formed by a locomotive that tows a number of carriages. Moving on a rail track the train’s goal is to carry safely peoples or goods from place A to place B. Whether, black or white, woman or man, solid or liquid, all on board the train, humans or goods have one goal : arrive safely at destination. The railroad’s rail path – similarly to the Constitution that sets the pathway in a democracy – is the route that directs the train to the journey’s objective.

Yet, the best and most powerful locomotive will not be able to reach point B if operated on a damaged rail track or the train’s wagons are overloaded !

The same logic applies to Egypt’s “democracy in building” pathway. Following January 2011 popular demonstration against the old system (the Mubarak type of “old railroad” system) the locomotive was changed twice (first by the military engine and thereafter by Political Islam’s machinery) yet both failed as no real replacement to the obsolete centralized and “top-down” authoritarian system (the “timeworn rail track”) was initiated.

The landmark fall of Political Islam’s champion has opened once again the occasion to restructure the country’s governance towards broader citizenry participation in the decision-making chain.

However, going beyond the stubborn hold on procedural legitimacy by the Brother’s party and some of their foreign devotees – de facto encouraging Morsi’s rear-guard extremists to cause rising disorder and Iraq style attacks and thus offer more public support for the military – a closer look at the “get back to democratic normality Road Map” indicates that this trend can only lead to a new locomotive ; to a new candidate for the seat of pharaoh whilst the foundations for a modern democratic pathway are not yet there !

Revising the “Road Map”

Whilst in line with the Road Map announced program, Egypt’s Interim authorities are hastening drafting an improved version of the 1971 respectively of the 2012 constitution, all sorts of window-dressing democracy gadgets are imagined – the most demagogic is a call for governors to be elected locally whereas once elected, lacking of fiscal resources, they will not be able to carry-out his promises.

Understandably it is very tough for most decisions and opinion leaders to depart from their “Hukm to Mahkoum” traditional education but they should recognize that the new free-citizenry desire caused by globalized interdependent 21St century evolution has already become a large part of the younger populations wants and Egypt cannot bypass this world-wide phenomenon.

Thus, unless fundamental changes are brought to the way and the authority grading levels of decision-making are made, implemented, monitored and eventually sanctioned, Egypt’s train will continue its journey on an unsuitable and dangerous pathway.

To work out these changes and obtain a sort of overall consensus from “We the People” irrespective of belief, origin or social status, you need a minimum of one year if not more ! At the present moment it would be therefore wiser to ask the “Egyptian Train” to stop at the station until the old foundations of the railroad tracks are replaced by more efficient and equitable decentralized governance principles.

A sort of “Democracy Capacity Building” moratorium formula must be worked out by all prominent parties, including the pragmatic voices within Political Islam’s nebulous societies, so that serious in-depth institutional governance reengineering works can be realized in Egypt’s all-inclusive Maslaha Âmma common interest.

Mandating a Qualified Non-Partisan Interim Revamping Team

But who can catalyze this vitally required Road Map slowdown drive ? Certainly not the dogmatic side of Political Islam, nor the military establishment : the former because of its hold on the medieval “top-down” Hakem to Mahkoum doctrines and the latter because of it is by definition structured in a pyramidal order – with in both cases a high degree of dictatorship leaning risk.

What complicates further the finding of a feasible democracy capacity build-up pace is the lack of political inventiveness and reciprocal tolerance amongst Egyptian parties, including amongst young revolutionaries. Under such political flexibility culture vacuum, it should be up to Egypt’s judiciary body to show courage and leadership by going the extra mile in the direction of the required fundamental institutional changes. In fact, had the judiciary body not demonstrated repeatedly during these last two years its commitment to maintain primacy of the republic’s laws over partisan ideologies, the June 30th event chances of success would have been severely lessened !

Leaving aside today’s power and ego-based legitimacy orthodoxy versus secular liberal doctrines struggles, Egypt is in need to revamp itself so to secure material and brainy essentials. As such, the parallel works of the “technocratic” interim government focused on satisfying citizens’ basic demands, together with efforts by those in charge of the nation’s judiciary arm in order to elaborate, debate, educate and initiate a fundamental institutional governance restructuring into an dignifying decentralized democracy seems to be the best possible medicine.

This “New Egypt” governance redesign “moratorium” should extend over a period of not less than one year to be feasible.

Facing a New Inverted “Hakem to Mahkoum” Paradigm

Whilst creating a constructive pacification and reconciliation momentum, the non-partisan technical repair pause in the “road-map” program should provide sufficient opportunities to impulse genuine democracy education efforts particularly amongst the younger generations. Using smart communication and debating technics involving all sections of society, the task here will be to convince the population, amongst which a large base of illiterate credulous individuals as well as a segment of Political Islam indoctrinated obedient “Mahkoum” subjects, to understand that democracy is not limited to alluring campaign promises and sugar sacks hand outs before ballot day, so that a new better “Hakem” is chosen. Democracy does not mean that once elected, he and his clan are given free hand to rule the country as pleases him or that to secure a long reign he places strategically his close devotees – labeled traditionally as “Ahl el-Hukm” ; people of the rule.

Modern democracy and citizenry concept is in fact quite the opposite as the legitimate final ruler of a nation is “we the people” and not anymore the traditional “Hakem”.

Having mutated trough consecutive revolutionary phases from the status of obedient and contained Mahkoum subjects, citizens now control not only how their leaders are chosen but also – and that is even more imperative – how they perform the programs they have been elected on. Through institutional checks and balances save-guards – obviously still missing in Egypt – citizens become the “Hakem” whilst on the other side, in principle obedient to the citizen’s and the Nation’s common interest, the elected leaders become the de facto Mahkoum” – a civil servant obliged to work at the services of “we the people.”

Events the world watches today in Egypt’s Arab Spring reawakening shows clearly that no organized self-defined religious shelters, no local or foreign military might can resist today decided citizen’s wills for more dignity, social justice and freedom. Still not well documented and understood by many, yet naturally induced through modern-times information no-frontiers globalization, masses of former Egyptian subjects took the street in January 2011 and recently on June 30th to say Erhal / degage” – get out – to the last “old regime” authoritarian “Hakem”. Creating new benchmarks in the build-up of 21st democracy system, this historic “We the People” governance role inversion is bound to create shock- waves well beyond the Nile shores.

As for western lesson-givers, they ought to do their own multi-culture-integration due-diligence work at home and try to understand that there is no sense in imposing through electoral shortcuts and dogmatic legitimacy certitudes a new breed of medieval authoritarian old traditions based Hakem to Mahkoum regimes in the region. Contrary to what is often heard from the Political Islam’s communicators – and blindly repeated by a large part of the medias – whereas, there is still a large minority of tradition indoctrinated souls wanting to submit their life’s to the goodwill of the Hakem to Mahkoum diktat, in reality a greater majority of Egyptians seek to be full-fledged citizens, with well-defined and equitable individual rights and duties as is the case in most civil societies around the world.