CAIRO: Instead of the June 30 date proposed by the ruling military council, power should be handed over to the elected parliament this month or presidential elections should be held immediately, activists debated on Wednesday.
The different scenarios of handing over power to civilians were at the center of an open-air discussion held tens of meters away from Tahrir on Wednesday evening.
Participants presented two proposals through a debate fashioned on the micro-blogging website, Twitter.
The debate, part of the TweetNadwa initiative launched by activist Alaa Abdel-Fattah, was held on Qasr El-Nil Street in front of the Merit Publishing House, in a packed location where many participants were either sitting on mats in the street or watching nearby while traffic flowed by.
“The original venue was [Tahrir Lounge] at the nearby Goethe-Institute, but we were told that the authorities pressured them to cancel it a day before,” Haitham Shawaf, one of the activists that advocated the bid to hold early elections in February, told Daily News Egypt.
Shawaf, presenting the bid on the behalf of the Revolutionary Forces Coalition, called for presidential campaigning to begin as soon as the People’s Assembly (PA) convenes— expected on Jan. 23 — and for a presidential election to proceed in parallel with constitution writing.
The bid aims to counter the proposal by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) to hand over power by the end of June. Neither SCAF nor its parliament can be trusted, he argued.
The second bid on the other hand suggested to immediately hand over power to the PA, possibly with its chairman serving as an interim president until early presidential elections are held within 60 days, according to activist Ali Tawil.
Based on the results of the staggered elections so far, the parliament will be dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood, which Tawil described as “a complex entity, not all of them agree on the same issues,” with several divisions along the line.
“The Brotherhood aren’t vying for the presidency … they don’t want to be directly in power,” said Tawil. He agreed with Abdel-Fattah that the bid aimed to “implicate them so they would change their allegiance and ally with the civil democratic mainstreams.”
Tawil insisted that the handover should not be superficial, with SCAF restoring administration but maintaining actual power from behind the scenes. Activists “have to promote decentralization.”
Regarding the allegiance of the parliament and whether it can be trusted, Abdel-Fattah said that the whole concept of parliamentary representation was itself questionable.
“Every authority —even if elected—aims to preserve itself by force,” he said, giving examples of demonstrations in Greece and others worldwide, reminding the audience that the PA will have to be continuously pressured by demonstrators in order not to turn against them.
“There’s a philosophy that the citizen’s role ends by making his selection on the ballot box,” Abdel-Fattah said, urging people to counter it, stressing that ultimate authority “is on the streets with the people.”
Ziyad Ali, entrepreneur and cofounder of Masrena NGO, argued in favour of handing over power to the parliament, because he believed it was the most acceptable one on the street, “I want to pick my battles; we can’t keep fighting everyone, all the time … there’s a need for reaching a consensus.”
The call for compromise was echoed in the discussion section of the debate by Ghadie El-Helaly, a researcher, who said that clear mechanisms have to be agreed on and demands united by Jan. 25, in order to return to the spirit of unity that characterised the 2011 uprising.
Abdel-Fattah however highlighted that his most concern was that “every now and then when a tiny problem happens, such as a pipe failure or increase in butan gas prices, we keep hearing about how it was fixed by General X or Y,” calling for such practices to stop.
His comment was seconded by Hana El-Sissy, audience member and self-described “socialist student”, saying, “We don’t just need to hold the military accountable for past actions, but also for present and future actions.”