After Khairat al-Shatar decided to run for the presidency in Egypt, as the Muslim Brotherhood's chosen candidate, many people have warned that he will be a new pharaoh. The question to raise here is: Has the character of the pharaoh been unfairly tarnished to instill fear in the people?
Only the ignorant would doubt that the pharaohs were the greatest rulers of Egypt, and that Egypt's pharaonic history was one of the most prosperous periods throughout world history; an astonishing era that has merited extensive study. If Egypt were to be ruled by a real pharaoh, then we would see an emerging force capable of rescuing the country from the state of misery it has inherited from a half-century of failed regimes.
I am aware that the negative use of the word “pharaoh” bears no association to civilization, pyramidal science or long eras of stability; rather it evokes connotations of tyranny, injustice, and slavery. The pharaoh, as described in the Holy Koran, is a symbol of injustice and tyranny. Yet in reality, this cursed pharaoh was part of a long dynasty of rulers who governed Egypt, and like all other rulers, the pharaohs were responsible for reformative and harmful measures. Present-day Egypt is in need of a pharaoh characterized by their strength, ambition, and awareness of the country’s significance, otherwise we will experience another bureaucratic failure.
In any case, those who fear the pharaoh – the one who "exalted himself in the land and made its people into factions" Surat al-Qasas; Verse 4 – must be reassured that under the new regime it will not be easy for a savage pharaoh to be born. There will be no absolute powers in the hand of one person. The new Egyptian president will not have the same powers of his ousted predecessor Hosni Mubarak, who will be the last tyrannical pharaoh if Egyptian society commits to the rules of the democratic game. In the battle for reform, the president, the prime minister, the parliament, and perhaps the military will all fight one another, in everything they seek to accomplish. The challenges facing the new regime are increasingly numerous, whether the ruler is al-Shatar, Musa, Suleiman, Sabbahi, Ismail or anyone else.
The revolution in Egypt may serve as the lifebuoy but it could also be the hangman’s rope. The country is on the verge of a terrible bankruptcy which no one wants to talk about. The country is also on the verge of chaos caused by disputes sparked anywhere from protests to football matches, and the presidential candidates are struggling for power at a time when the country's potential and executive authority, including the security apparatus and the police, are in decline. Still there is a long way to go even after the president is elected, a new government is appointed, and the constitution is drafted and approved. This is because current expectations are beyond the country's capabilities.
The current “democratic” scene - with its complex legislative and executive partnerships - is reminiscent of the situation in Lebanon: a parliament, a prime minister, a president and other powers on the ground. Each of these powers is capable of thwarting any positive developments, whilst none of them can do anything positive on their own.
The Egyptians need a man or a woman whom they can trust; one with a truly extraordinary character that can save Egypt from the surrounding dangers.
The writer is the General Manager of Al Arabiya. The article was published in the London-based Asharq al-Awsat on April 4, 2012