By Philip Whitfield
‘Tis the season to be agog. Pity Morsy’s pickle.
He’s Ebenezer Scrooge in Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol closing his eyes to the plight of the poor.
Until the ghost of his partner Jacob Marley arrives.
Marley introduces Scrooge to the spirits of the past, present and future. Scrooge discovers business is not balancing ledgers. It’s one’s obligation to the lesser off.
A first glance, most eligible ignored the referendum. Of 51 million registered only 16 million bothered – less than one in three.
That’s down from more than one in two, when 27 million voted in the parliamentary elections. A whisper took part in the Shura council election. In the presidential vote, absolute power came within a whisker of democracy.
A close shave. The chambers for debate were bolted shut.
What should we glean from the referendum?
Power has shifted among the few deciding its fate.
Cairo votes “No” to an Islamist charter, but plays second fiddle to the country as a whole, who tally up a national “Yes.”
That’s often the case. In the United Kingdom the ignored regions of Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales elect their own parliaments.
They legislate for themselves and leave Westminster to preen, deaf as coffin makers hammering nails to batten down the lifeless.
In America it is the states which provide health, education and welfare. Not Congress. Parisians dance to their own tune. Beijing’s elite inhabits a walled city.
Where do the parliaments of Australia, the Netherlands and Brazil sit? Not in their biggest metropolises.
Why does the European parliament headquarter in Strasburg, whose citizen population is half Zamalek’s? And the French speak German?
Egypt’s People’s Assembly should take note. Why not sit in Marsa Matruh, much favoured by Alexandria the Great. He renamed the seaside town of Paraitonion (Store of Beans) Amunia, which became Mamunia in Arabic – Safe Haven to you and me.
It’s time Egypt devolved local government and lets Cairenes take care of themselves. A leader like London’s mayor Boris Johnson calls a spade a spade; he is the most popular politician in the land.
Morsy’s in an invidious spot. If he tries being a healing president he’s toast with the Muslim Brotherhood. If he’s arbitrarily Procrustean, he’s dead meat with the rest.
There’s one way to resolve the stalemate in Egypt, do what Morsy said he would: Pick the best brains and the most adroit from whichever party, to run the country.
Relying on party hacks engulfs him in a morass. He doesn’t see his presidency drowning. Of course he doesn’t. Sycophants shield him from the truth.
Hans Christian Andersen portrays a ruler besotted with style, tricked by two tailors into believing they’d stitched him a magnificent glittering raiment.
Naked before a mirror the emperor believes his finery is as the weavers described.
See, here are the trousers! Here is the coat! Here is the cloak!
The crowds cheer as the emperor rides out to show off his new garb.
O, how well they look! How capitally they fit, they cheer.
But he has nothing on, a little child observes. Just hear that innocent, says his father.
And one whispers to another what the child has said.
He has nothing on, say the people.
That touches the emperor, for it seems to him that they were right.
But he thinks within himself, I must go through with the procession.
And so he holds himself a little higher and the chamberlains hold on tighter than ever and carry the train, which does not exist at all.
The emperor has no clothes.
Word eking out of Morsy’s palace is a few nip and tucks in the constitution, another new parliament and a cabinet reshuffle will do the trick.
That’s churlish. Law making by whimsy – rules for victory, not virtue.
The four-times British Prime Minister William Gladstone (1809 –1898) said men are apt to mistake the strength of their feeling for the strength of their argument. The heated mind resents the chill touch and relentless scrutiny of logic, he opined.
Egypt’s voting is Pyrrhic, circumnavigating the schism.
Politics is the art of the possible, not tricky-dick Nixon necrosis, Assad asininity, Gaddafi grave grovelling or Saddam spite.
Seventy per cent of Egyptians don’t believe the emperor’s clothes are worth a glance.
Scrooge sees under the robe of the Ghost of Christmas Present, a boy and his sister, Ignorance and Want.
The ghost tells Scrooge to beware of the boy most of all because ignorance allows poverty to continue.
Philip Whitfield is a Cairo commentator