x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Internal forces are tearing Egypt apart

Egypt's wise people have disappeared from the scene at a time when they are badly needed, a commentator says. Other topics: Palestinians' victory and Kuwait's elections.

Demonstrations in Egypt continue amid worsening odds of reaching a way out of the crisis, wrote the pan-Arab newspaper Al Quds Al Arabi in an editorial yesterday.

In response to the demonstration by Egypt's liberal opposition, Islamists staged a sit-in near Cairo University, with some estimating hundreds of thousands attending.

The worsening political turmoil was ignited by President Mohammed Morsi's constitutional declaration that gave him sweeping powers and tasked the Constituent Assembly with drafting the constitution, which will be put to a referendum on December 15.

The political unrest in Egypt worsens by the day, and should Mr Morsi's opponents shift their protests from Tahrir Square to the presidential palace in Helipolis, it could get worse.

The Supreme Constitutional Court, whose integrity has been questioned by the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafist supporters of Mr Morsi, announced on Sunday that it would suspend work in protest of the "psychological and physical pressures" on the judges.

The court halted work because of a demonstration on Sunday, and the judges announced they would boycott the referendum on the new constitution. This basically means the unrest is no longer limited to demonstrations and slogans, but reaches the most disciplined and wisest of state institutions, the judiciary.

In any democratic nation, the judiciary should be the arbiter, acting as a neutral party between the government and the opposition. Compromising its neutrality strips the judiciary of its reason d'être.

No wonder many in Egypt and beyond expected this institution to throw out a lifeline, but as it stands the court has no desire to undertake such a role.

As a rule, judges should apply the law to the letter. But, as legal experts assert, when necessity and public interest require otherwise, they should act in the spirit of the law.

The editorial warned: "Egypt is rapidly plunging into an apparently bottomless precipice, while everyone without exception trades accusations and blame, turning their backs on the house on fire.

"We are in bitter pain as we follow the episodes of Egypt's current crisis, and all we can say for the time being is that there are people seeking to undermine the Egyptian revolution from within. But foreign military intervention, as has happened in other countries, is still unlikely," observed the newspaper.

It is sad that there are internal forces racing each other to accomplish this task, which they are trying hard to legitimise.

The paper concluded: "What is more painful … is that Egypt's wise people - whom we believed were many - have disappeared from the scene at a time when they are badly needed."

Kuwait is caught up in the same old crisis

Kuwaitis went to the polls on Saturday to elect their sixth parliament in less than seven years, which in itself is a clear indication that a chronic issue persists, suggested Dr Abdullah Al Shaiji, chair of the political science department at Kuwait University, in an article for the UAE newspaper Al Ittihad yesterday.

"Many Kuwaitis are fed up with politics, and with the constant and frustrating conflict between the executive power and the legislature … which results in more cabinets resigning and parliaments getting dissolved," the writer said.

Elections were held just last February, giving Islamists and tribal representatives a comfortable majority in the 50-seat council. This weekend, the so-called "pro-government" candidates (a good number of whom are Shiites) emerged as the victors.

The turnout stood at about 40 per cent, down from 60 per cent in the previous poll. Opposition groups had called for a boycott after the Emir of Kuwait decreed amendments to the elections law, restricting voters to choosing only one candidate, whereas previously they could vote for four.

Kuwait is still a leading example of pluralism and democratisation, he noted. "Not a month ago, Kuwait was celebrating the 50th anniversary of the adoption of Kuwait's, and the region's, first written constitution."

But the system's unwieldy complexity is something Kuwaitis could do without.

Third victory expected for Palestinians

Talestinian national reconciliation may have seemed like an impossible mission only a few weeks ago, but there is a rare opportunity for its realisation today, said the columnist Areeb Al Rantawi in the Jordanian daily Addustour.

"Both factions are in dire need of reconciliation especially in that each of them has a strong card to bring to the table," he said.

In fact, Hamas came out of the latest Israeli aggression with impressive battlefield and political victories, and President Mahmoud Abbas returned from New York with a resounding political and diplomatic victory too.

"Both parties could now sit together as equals to draw a road map for the future and achieve a 'third victory' for the Palestinians after six years of division," the writer added.

The mediator - Cairo - that until recent times had played a biased role is now showing a degree of balance and wisdom in its approach to this issue. The Palestinian reconciliation and a return to unity are supreme Egyptian interests at this point.

Past Palestinian reconciliation efforts suffered from weak political will. They ended up as quota-distribution schemes and simple divisions of power. A durable reconciliation must be based on a clear political agenda and a new strategic vision.

* Digest compiled by Translation Desk