The slogan of Ahmed Shafiq “Egypt for all … with all” sets the tone of his program for Egypt’s 2012 presidential elections. He explains that his slogan means “equality in rights and obligations between citizens regardless faith or sex”. Man or woman, Muslim or Christian, Upper Egyptian or Nubian, everybody should be equal before the law and should equally profit from economic developments. Shafiq promises to appoint a presidential commissioner to fight discrimination and to revise Egypt’s election system to ensure a better representation of Copts and women in parliament. Currently, nearly all parliamentarians are Muslim and male. Furthermore, Shafiq promises the Copts a law regulating the “building of places of worship and their restoration”. Currently, Copts may only build churches by presidential decree and are often attacked when they try to restore or maintain their churches and monasteries.
Egypt should be a civil state with a “modern constitution” according to Shafiq. He stresses again and again in his election program that he is an “adherent of the constitution”, which may signal a promise that he will to step down when his final term as president expires and he will not rewrite the constitution to extend his term. Egypt should further be a “democratically developed country” where human rights are respected. This includes the end of military trial for civilians and of torture and abuse by the police. Moreover, the population should play a greater role in local affairs and directly elect their governors from their midst. He also wants as president to keep in touch with the people by providing them with (electronic) means to express their opinions to him.
However, the most important topic of Shafiq’s program is the restoration of security and stability in Egypt. The increase in violence, weapon possession and crime after Egypt’s revolution has made people anxious about their security. Shafiq promises to restore security in the first three months of his presidency and crack down on further unrest (which may include peaceful protests), smuggling and weapon trade. To further enhance security, Shafiq wishes to create two additional security institutes. First, the National Security Advice Bureau that will research security issues and will advice the president on them. Secondly, the National Security Council for regular meetings between the commanders of the armed forces, the president, the prime minister, the ministers of Interior, Foreign Affairs and Defence and the head of the General Intelligence to discuss security issues.
Shafiq’s past support of Mubarak against the demands of the protesters on Tahrir square and his promise to crack down on further unrest, led to accusations that he wishes to turn the revolution back. Shafiq tries to counter these accusations by stressing his wish to serve his country and his people in accordance with their will. His election program is called “a contract with the Egyptian people”, in which he humbly asks them for their vote as citizen to citizen. He speaks of the “start of a new era” and promises to “achieve the goals of the glorious revolution”, which he defines as “bread, justice, freedom and dignity”.
First and for all, the economy of Egypt should be revived. Shafiq’s successes as minister of Aviation were often used during his campaign to underline his competence as reformer. He wants to attract foreign (Arabic) investment to stimulate the Egyptian economy. For this purpose, he wants to create a secure and stable investment climate in Egypt and “special economic zones in whole Egypt and especially in the Suez zone”. Furthermore, Shafiq address the underdevelopment of the country side and Upper Egypt. The country side should improve its agricultural production and should receive better government services. Upper Egypt should create additional archaeological tourism. From personal experience I can tell that Upper Egypt has many beautiful archaeological sites, which are currently hard to reach by road or train or are off-limit for Western tourists for security reasons. Shafiq promises to tackle all these problems.
Shafiq expresses the hope that the Egyptians will be able to realize their dreams and have a “better level of life”. This should be realized by providing security, jobs, affordable basic commodities, better public services and a minimum income for the employed and unemployed. Shafiq proposes the creation of a professional service to help the unemployed to find a job. Also, he wants Egyptians to work and study abroad to create income for now and a professional workforce for later. Finally, he promises to tackle corruption with help of a special anti-corruption commissioner, the introduction of anti-corruption laws and to “create a general culture against corruption”.
On the subject of the army, Shafiq takes as a former military man a firm pro-army position. He reminisces about the successes of the army in the 1952 Revolution (the disposition of the last Egyptian king by the army) and the October War (the attempt of Egypt to reconquer the Sinai on Israel in 1973). He calls the army the protectors of the revolution and of “Egypt and its democracy”. This last remark reminds me of the role of the Turkish army as protectors of the secular Turkish republic. The Turkish army used to dispose any government that treated this secularism. The Egyptian army might consider the same path to safeguard Egypt’s civil state.
Finally, Shafiq expresses his wish to “restore the leading role of Egypt and her place in region and world”. Most importantly, he wishes closer contact with Libya and Sudan, with which Egypt shares the water of the Nile. Further, he wishes more trade with the Arab world, more export to the European Union and secure import of meat and grain from Brazil. He does not mention the US or Israel in his plans, but he does mention the Palestinians expressing his “support for an independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as capital” (which is also claimed by Israel as its eternal and undivided capital).
How will Egypt look with Ahmed Shafiq as president? A secular, prosperous country kept safe by a strong army in which all people are treated equal? Or will it be, as his opponents fear, the return to the old regime, in which few prosper through corruption and many are oppressed? Only the future can tell which promises Shafiq will keep and which he will break, but his program may give us a glimpse of the possible future.
Main internet sources and further reading
– Campaign website Ahmed Shafiq – ahmedshafikeg.com
– Egyptian daily Egypt Independent – egyptindependent.com
– Qatari news organisation al-Jazeera – aljazeera.com