In the aftermath of the anniversary of February 11, 2011, which marked the turning point in Egypt’s revolutionary transition, we are saddened by recent disturbances, and meaningless violence that resulted in tragic losses of innocent lives, and damage to public property. President Abdullah Gül and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on behalf of the Turkish nation shared the sorrow of the people and government of Egypt and conveyed their condolences to the grieving families and relatives of the victims.
Egypt is undergoing a phenomenal process of transition towards democracy. All Egypt’s friends sincerely hope to see that the process culminates into a just, lasting, accountable and representative new governing order rewarding the cradle of the Nile civilization and its beautiful people. This will obviously take time, since democracy is a system of values that can only be learned, built and exercised; and not genetically acquired. Therefore it is only natural that on the path to constitutional democracy there could be pitfalls, institutional and/or social differences; or the process may take longer than desired. There may also be moments when certain segments of the society may find it painful and appalling to relinquish old customs, adjust to the new realities, new rules, and give up the habits practiced in the past. Yet, centuries-old civilizational experience testifies to the fact that it is well worth paying this price, for democracy is priceless.
In my opinion, Egyptian people have already proven to the world that they want “genuine change” and this change should be “peaceful” towards democratic governance respectful of universal values. As it builds its own democracy, I am confident that Egypt will welcome contributions and support from its true friends through partnership and cooperation, but this should not be in the form of impositions and dictations.
Egyptian people and political forces are in need of hammering-out a new national covenant. A social contract that will unite all segments of the society, empower the people, give them the long needed safeguards for freedom, dignity, justice, and ultimately, the motivation to build a prosperous future by reviving the economy through accountable, transparent governance. Such an understanding will definitely inspire hope and sense of ownership which are essential for mobilization at national level to face the difficulties and build a common future.
It is not through despair, fragmentation and vengeance, but through hope and determination that a nation can lift itself up to mobilization, (now needed more than ever in the past in Egypt), to regain its glory and rhythm. It is high time to prove that Egyptian people are perfectly capable of charting their future based on dialogue and compromise, and not through confrontation.
I personally believe that overwhelming majority of Egyptian people and political forces want this. They are conscious about their civilizational responsibility, and actually during multiple phases of electoral transition they demonstrated again and again to the rest of the world that democratic governance is not a privilege only for certain “others” but it remains a sovereign choice, one that Egypt opts for. Yet, one has to also understand that, the road to democracy is not a short one, and I believe the people of Egypt will remain determined to walk it through, no matter how steep.
What one has to understand clearly is, democracy is not absolute rule of majority, but it is governing by majority, but through dialogue, consensus, and respect towards minorities. In other words, the strength of democracy lies in its very nature that minorities and/or dissenting opinions are not supressed, neutralized or disregarded, but they are respected, included and accommodated.
Regime changes and transitions are inevitably turbulent wherever they may occur, and the societies in question are exposed to extensive internal debate and arguments with varying aspirations and differences surfacing. The way to prevent those differences from evolving into violent conflict is to promote a climate of mutual compromises through balancing acts and “separation of powers.” In other words: while building a new harmony between various forces and sources of governance, the society needs checks and balances to safeguard the interests of different groups, and even more importantly to preserve sense of belonging and ownership through greater liberties and rights.
That is what democracy is all about. And I am confident that Egypt is capable of building solid foundations to nourish its nascent democracy by addressing all these concerns, and responding to the needs and aspirations of its people. In the final analysis, the virtue and strength of every democracy depends on the environment it creates, and also whether it can build a broadly representative viable order balancing individual freedoms, public life, and various interests inherent in every society.
Throughout history, the keys of solutions to mankind’s problems of governance have been imbedded in two fundamental areas “economy” and “education.” Without success in these two vital sectors, it will be difficult to achieve progress; and chances to maintain a rising pattern of progress will be limited. The challenges ahead of Egypt will not be different.
Egypt is at a crossroads in its contemporary history. It will take several generations, and more sacrifices will have to be made, till hardships and turbulence are overcome. But there is no easy way around. Progress and change always come with a price. Carrying Egypt into 21st Century as a viable democracy with a free society in dignity and hope, as laid down during the Tahrir Revolution, will also need sacrifice, patience and determination. Democracy is no easy task to achieve and one should never underestimate the challenges ahead.
Yet, I remain optimistic. People’s will shall prevail. The on-going debate, tensions and even occasional frictions, should not discourage the Egyptians, since they are natural. As long as they are peaceful, and conducive towards a truly democratic, broadly based, representative new order uniting the Egyptians, such convulsions will be well worth enduring. And the pain will vanish while crowning the birth of a healthy child.
The great River Nile rose again, yet this time it shall not flood its banks, but carry Egypt into the 21st Century as a shining democracy.
Hüseyin Avni Botsali is the Turkish Ambassador to Egypt.