Essential steps to a democratic Egypt

Egypt has been fundamentally changed by the events since Jan. 25, which resulted in the resignation of President Hosni Mubarak on Friday. The challenge now is how to translate the changes flowing from the popular uprising into the concrete procedures and safeguards necessary to underpin a genuine transition to democracy. We must take steps to protect against anarchy and lawlessness, from which too many people throughout Egypt have suffered in recent days. We must also begin to implement citizens’ legitimate and just demands to bring an end to Egypt’s authoritarianism.

Recent events have compelled Egyptian intellectuals, politicians, entrepreneurs, journalists and others to join together to find a way out of the impasse between protesters and the Mubarak government. The Committee of Wise Men, for which I serve as spokesman, aims to be a mediating body between the two sides as well as present some kind of a road map for the transition.

We called on Mubarak to demand a set of constitutional amendments before delegating control of the transition process. This transition must include a lifting of the state of emergency; the dissolution of the illegitimate People’s Assembly and Shura Council (the two chambers of Parliament that have come from rigged and flawed elections); the formation of an independent legal committee to amend the constitution; and the lifting of laws restricting political freedoms. These are the essential steps that will put Egypt on a safe path to democracy. They are also the steps by which the international community should judge our government’s commitment to reform.

Only with clear and serious guarantees will the hundreds of thousands of people who have protested peacefully for a democratic government be convinced that this a serious proposition, one that underpins their security and safety and ensures that those responsible for the violence, human rights abuses and bloodshed in recent days are to be brought to account.

Otherwise, the long heritage of suspicion and distrust that so many in Egypt share about the regime’s promises to allow real change will be entrenched, and it will make them fearful of what will come next if they no longer demonstrate.

Egyptians must do more than just protest. The absence of a youth movement with clear leadership and representation has been one obstacleto meaningful negotiation. There has been limited dialogue between state institutions and the youth groups as well as between the state and various political actors and committees. We believe we have responsibilities, starting with helping our young people see how to establish a democratic framework to represent their interests as a viable collective force and not as individuals. State institutions must in turn accept a collective dialogue with representatives of our youth.

We are convinced that the best way forward is to institutionalize the dialogue taking place today and convert it into a national conference or round-table negotiation between state institutions, youths, the political forces and independent national figures. This model would establish the powers and set the specific timeframes to produce a democratic political system in Egypt. And only then will the people’s revolution be safe.

By Amr Hanzawy, spokesman for Egypt’s Committee of Wise Men.

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