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January 16, 2014

Egypt's 2014: Why I am optimistic

Prof. Dr. Mohamed Elmasry

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In 2013 Egypt had a tough year.

During the first half, it was ruled by an Islamist elected-president-turned-a-dictator on November 22, 2012. Worse still the pro-democracy West, its media and its NGOs largely ignored his anti-democracy move.

It was totally left up to the Egyptian people to correct their revolutionary path towards democracy. And they did it brilliantly on a historical day – June 30, 2013.

The second half of 2013, Egypt witnessed a large-scale terrorist attacks by the Muslim Brotherhood and its supporters against men, women and children, both Muslims and Christians.

More than 60 churches were burned and scores of public buildings including public universities. The Western reaction to the killing, destruction and misery was mute.

But the Egyptians have achieved on June 30 a miracle; they got rid of a fascist Taliban-like regime that was bringing Egypt backward hundreds of years.

The Egyptian armed forces refused to fire on millions of demonstrators on June 30, 2013 who took to the streets to get rid of Mohamed Morsi – the Brotherhood president who Egyptians trusted a year earlier to lead the country into modernity, but alas he betrayed them, those who voted for him and those who did not.

During Morsi’s Brotherhood rule, the MB threated, in so clear terms, that “if we are not allowed to rule the Egyptian people, we will kill them.” They carried their threat after the ousting of Morsi on July 3rd, 2013 and they are still doing it.

The Brotherhood’s de-facto Mufti Dr. Youssef Al Qaradawi, from his base in Qatar, in his Friday’s sermons aired by the Arabic royal-family-owned Al Jazeerah, is calling on jihadists to take up arms against Egyptians as a revenge of ending the MB’s dictatorship.

But I am optimistic that in 2014 Egypt will witness less terrorist attacks and will complete important steps towards establishing democracy again.

On the incoming January 14 and 15 there will be a referendum on a new modern inclusive constitution. This is followed shortly by elections for a new president and a new parliament.

Except for the Brotherhood and its fanatic militant supporters, who amount to less than 1 percent of Egypt’s 90 millions, Egyptians are united and determined not to allow political Islam to robe them again of their revolution of January 25, 2011.

Egypt’s struggle against terrorism will not be easy.

Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood is a secret organization supported by the International Muslim Brotherhood, currently financed by Qatar and Turkey, with the primary function of creating trouble for the post-30 June Egypt.

Had the Brotherhood leaders read some history of Islamic terrorism, they would have chosen a different path altogether and the people of Egypt could have been spared much killing.

But sadly, these leaders were just as poor at reading the present as they were the past, which was the reason why they had become so detached from their societies and had grown so isolated that they were now girding themselves in their isolation behind the barricades of violence and self-delusion.

Egypt is also on the path of achieving both economical development and social justice – slow but steady.

With a quarter of the population living in poverty, it is clear that the current economic crisis has compounded the more long-standing patterns of social deprivation that contributed to the fall of Mubarak in 2011.

Egyptian business tycoon Naguib Sawiris, whose family controls the Orascom corporate empire, Egypt’s largest employer, has said recently he will invest $1 billion in the country in the first quarter of 2014 in construction, real estate, agriculture and microfinance.

An Emirati businessman said on the fringe of a conference pitched at Gulf investors in the first week of December that nearly $5 billion had been committed in loans and investments in Egypt and there was scope for more.

Sinai in 2013 had the largest share of the Brotherhood’s terrorist attacks, and that by Al Qaeda-inspirited extremist factions and jihadist militias.

But 2014 marks hopefully, the beginning of the implementation of long-delayed plans to turn Sinai into the prosperous and thriving environment first envisaged 40 years ago.

The current government of Dr. Hazem Al-Beblawi has the triple responsibility of fighting terrorism, and at the same time achieving economical development and social justice. 

Since it took charge over last summer, the government has taken several policy measures in the direction of achieving social justice.

Besides, for the first time in Egypt’s history, setting a minimum monthly wage of LE1200 (about $200) in the public sector, it has introduced a 10 per cent increase in pensions with a minimum hike of LE50 in addition to raising the income tax exemption bar to LE12000 annually.

Regional and international players are challenging the government’s foreign policy. But the recent American-Iranian deal will ease regional tension. It will help the government to deal more firmly with the Brotherhood and in reducing Qatar’s damaging interference in the internal affaires of Egypt.

It is a challenge for Egypt to convince the US, Canada and EU to list the Brotherhood as a terrorist organization, as itself did in December.

Egypt has a number of good people who can be good presidents. He/she doesn’t have to be a genius. He should be intelligent, and feel the sufferings of the people. More importantly, he must be honest. He needs to be sincere in his desire to see Egypt progress and be capable of establishing the right set of priorities. And above all, he/she has to be a good leader.

The 2014 will see the election of Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi as a president.

During the last six months of 2013 Al-Sisi has demonstrated his leadership ability in refusing to fire on millions of demonstrators and in responding to the June 30’s uprising. As a result, he became so popular that he – and he alone – can win the election in the first round with a wide margin. And this is another reason for me to be optimistic.

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