Egypt is ruled by the maxim: “You must have a stake to have a say.” Egyptians are not governed based on citizenship, which gives everyone equal rights, but based on a stakeholders’ concept that gives more power to citizens who have more wealth and who are closest to the ruler. Egyptian citizenship enables Egyptians to live in their country, but does not give them the right to voice their opinions about their country’s progress. These decisions are in the hands of a few thousands who “know better” and “have more”.
Egyptian opportunists are a product of Mubarak who contrived to create a sick layer of society to help him better manipulate Egypt’s large population. This is not a small, secret group; on the contrary, they are well recognised in society and they proudly show off their powers, especially their proficiency at overcoming state bureaucracy. As long as this group of opportunists abides by the state’s “vague” rules of the game, the state is happy to allow it to expand. Corruption, in this case, is the means towards the vital end: controlling society.
A few decades ago, when the economy and the media were fully under state control, manipulating the Egyptian people used to be an easy task for the state. Today, due to the rapid growth of the private sector (including privately owned media channels), the state is no longer able to maintain a strong grip on all sectors. It was therefore essential to develop a corrupt facilitator group that directly interacts with Egyptians as a means to spread the state’s narratives and mobilise citizens when needed.
Egyptian opportunists are usually placed in key functional positions, but are rarely appointed as top government executives. Opportunists, in essence, are meant to work less while accumulating wealth, and consequently status, through being favoured by the government. Appointing them to socially exposed, high-ranking positions where they would be held accountable (such as ministerial posts) could easily neutralise them. To ensure that they will value their new status highly and thus easily fall under state control, the vast majority of these opportunists often come from the lower and middle classes of society and has very limited talent.
Egyptian opportunists tend to develop their own empires by spreading and strengthening their network of connections to include many government entities and authorities. The game here is not only about accumulating wealth; it is also about opportunists who, supported by their wealth, strive to maintain their status in the event that the state decides to get rid of them. Opportunists know in advance that they will get away with any illegal practices they may engage in—or eventually be allowed to settle with the government in exchange for paying a minimal compensation.
To better control this group, the state often works on shrinking their power; obstructing new business opportunities is meant to convey the message that the state is not happy with the opportunists’ further business expansions. The state tends to withdraw its political protection from a few of these opportunists every now and then, to prove that it is more powerful than they are and that it could even bite into their empires, if it so desired. When Egyptian opportunists were slightly hesitant about contributing to the Long Live Egypt fund, the state had to remind them that, without its blessing, their wealth was at risk.
Much of what used to be good in Egypt has been ruined by this group of opportunists who are bent on disseminating the message that their money is the most valuable asset in the country. These people have undermined the morals that Egyptians used to abide by, along with, for example, historic villas that were torn down to make way for high-rises that advance their wealth. The government often rewards opportunists who are involved in business by granting them land at a fraction of its real price.
Egyptian opportunists always offer their services to the president, gather around him to praise his politics and policies (that in reality serve them better), while eagerly amassing business opportunities as soon as they are provided by the government. The ruler also relies on opportunists to propagate the false argument that democracy and modernisation are not good for Egypt. Since applying either one would obviously diminish their status, opportunists consistently direct the full power of their empires towards ensuring that the country continues to live in a darkroom.
Mohammed Nosseir is an Egyptian liberal politician working on reforming Egypt based on liberal values, proper application of democracy, and free market economy.