We were not in need of the Egyptian Dar Al-Ifta to issue a fatwa rendering power-inheritance in Egypt illegitimate, simply because power-inheritance itself is no longer a source of legitimacy in any mature society. Egypt needs a new type of legitimacy – that of achievement. The regime has to have the requirements of this legitimacy, such as improving the economic, political and social performance.
I believe that one of the causes of popular anger in Egypt now lies in the fact that the legitimacy of the current regime has eroded over time, whether due to the contractual, rather than compulsory decreasing rate of efficiency in the management of the country or the absence of a historic achievement preserving a degree of legitimacy. What make it worse is the declining living standards in Egypt that have reached a point where people are fighting over bread and the state institutions have failed to respond to the needs and aspirations of citizens.
The new elite in the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) – which lost a big part of its legitimacy because it is ruling the country without a political or legal base – has a historical chance to rebuild its legitimacy, but only if there is a real desire for change through replacing an authoritarian regime with the mere change of faces.
The country is in a real transition phase, where the social and economic structure and value system are being “stirred in unprecedented manner in post-1952 revolution Egypt. A qauarter of a century of corruption and inflating mismanagement have exhausted the Egyptian society. Therefore, the new elite would harvest the first ingredient of legitimacy by opening serious dialogue about reforming these dilapidated conditions and giving the people the right to judge its performance. This would be followed by the initiation of a unified vision of change and transition, taking the country from the deterioration phase to that of reconstructing the state and the society on a solid foundation.
I do not think that the situation in Egypt now is worse than it was in Turkey in the late 1990s when the World Bank announced Turkey bankrupt, as the country sank in an unprecedented economic collapse. Just eight years later, Turkey lifted itself from bankruptcy to a strongly rising economy, despite the fact that Turkey does not have much of the advantages enjoyed by Egypt, such as historic depth, tourism, the Suez Canal and promising human resources.
The Turkish Justice and Development Party, a splinter from the Welfare Party founded by Necmettin Erbakan, has managed to turn Turkey from being a burden on the international community to a rising power in the Middle East, playing an unprecedented regional role, in contrast with disappearance of Egypt’s regional role.
The new NDP young leadership can rebuild their legitimacy if they meet three conditions. First, they should realize the magnitude of the historical dilemma experienced by the country which led to the collapse of the people’s confidence in the government. They need to faithfully intend to end this exceptional situation.
Second, they should develop a genuine and sincere vision of comprehensive change in Egypt, not just “beneficial change. It should be a long-term vision to rebuild the country on a sound foundation. Third, they should get out of the state of “deliberate retreat and isolation and communicate with people who are the primary source of legitimacy, not just an unknown number in the political game.
Without this, it would be difficult to bring about a “civil transmission in Egypt, even if the Dar Al-Ifta issues a fatwa allowing this.
Khalil Al-Ananiis an expert on Political Islam and is a Patkin Visiting Fellow at the Saban Center at Brookings Institution. E-mail: [email protected]