x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

Egypt youth fear the outcome of democratic process

Rejecting the results of the polls in Egypt, as some youthful revolutionaries are threatening, runs counter to the very concept of democracy that the youth revolted to instill, an Arabic language columnist writes. Other topics in today's roundup: the innevitable fall of Assad, and the misguided trade in arms.

In an opinion article for the pan-Arab newspaper Asharq Al Awsat, columnist Abdul Rahman Al Rashed asks: "Why is it that part of the Egyptian people are so shocked that Gen Ahmed Shafiq has made it through the first round of the presidential election - and indeed stands a good chance to be elected president in two weeks time?"

The fact is that people equate the possible election of Mr Shafiq, who served as prime minister in the last days of the old regime, with the return of the unseated president Hosni Mubarak himself.

"For them, it's like one of Qaddafi's sons coming to power in Libya, or Maher Al Assad, the brother of the current Syrian president, being accepted by the Syrian rebels as the new head of state," the columnist said.

Sure, Mr Shafiq's win in the first round was a serious blow to the forces of the revolution. "But it doesn't mean that the revolution has been defeated," he argued.

After the revolutions of the past century in Eastern Europe and even in Russia, figures from the old guard always returned, he said. "Communism collapsed, but some communists survived. [Russian President Vladimir] Putin is a good example: he represents a new generation of the old Soviet regime."

This is just to make the point that the victory of Mr Shafiq, if it happens, will "in no way" resurrect the Mubarak era. "Mr Shafiq will be a weak president, too scared of youth protests," the columnist went on.

If, on the other hand, his rival from the Justice and Freedom Party, Mohammed Morsi, clinches that second round election, Egyptians will have to live with the fact that the Muslim Brotherhood controls their parliament, Cabinet and presidential office all at once.

But the most serious challenge for the revolutionary youth is not really this perceived conspiracy of the old guard or the hegemony of the Muslim Brotherhood, the columnist noted. "Their foremost enemy is their ignorance of the ABC's of politics, which has cost them their once-massive following."

In a democracy, there is always a camp that doesn't get to have its way. Paradoxically, that camp is likely to be none other than the youth movement that started this whole revolution in Egypt.

Their anger is understandable indeed. But their threats to foment instability through continuous protests, should Mr Shafiq win the presidency, are not rational.

"Rejecting the results of the polls runs counter to the very concept of democracy that the youth revolted to instil," the columnist pointed out. "Besides, it is precisely months of instability that irritated lay people in Egypt and led many to vote for Mr Shafiq in the first round - just because they wanted security and stability restored."

Fall of Syrian regime is only a matter of time

That the Syrian regime is going to fall soon is no wishful thinking but rather a natural historical progression, wrote columnist Aisha Al Marri in the UAE-based Al Ittihad.

What is happening in Syria is a human catastrophe. Last Friday, the town of Hula witnessed a ghastly massacre, resulted so far over 100 killed, including dozens of children.

"The Syrian regime has survived so far due to the failure of the international community to respond to the brutal crackdown unfolding in Syria."

However, appalling massacres are no more a deterrent to the opposition. Protests and marches have continued every Friday, and the Assad regime, with its military machine, failed to quell the peaceful demonstrations.

The grisly footage of the bodies of the massacred children in Hula has laid bare the Assad regime and further escalated outrage against the regime and its supporters. It has also maximised the potential for international trial over crimes against humanity.

"All efforts spearheaded by the international community and the Arab League to ease the tension or reach a political settlement have come to grief," she noted.

The Assad regime has been politically covered by Russia and China. Fear of a civil war or hardline Islamist domination has dissuaded the world from taking a firm stand.

Arms trade unabated despite suffering

The global economic downturn has had no impact on military expenditures, and dissemination of poverty and hunger worldwide have not prompted cuts in military budgets, wrote the Emirati newspaper Al Khaleej in its editorial yesterday.

Arms trade is worth hundreds of billions of dollars. The major traders are the US, which accounts for 40 per cent of global arms exports, and Russia with 24 per cent. The rest is mainly shared between European countries and Israel.

If these large sums involved in military spending had been invested in other sectors, they would have cushioned the blow of the economic crisis, both in rich and poor countries.

The high military budget of developed countries is ill-advised. It only mirrors a quest for domination, and sometimes it fuels wars involving colossal sums of money that the practitioner of war must incur.

"The rich countries could have exerted a benign influence on other poor countries had they used spending as a means to support these countries' economic development. But the greed and the quest for hegemony always tip the scales in favour of war."

Major powers should beware. Huge arms expenditures do not help enhance their security. Instead they maximise threats.

* Digest compiled by The Translation Desk