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The continuation of the political turmoil in Egypt has begun to cause jitters everywhere. As each day passes, parties and groups are pushing themselves to seemingly irrevocable positions. Tempers are running high and selfish and ulterior motives are gaining precedence over national interests and unity. As the revolution marches on without any end in sight, an Arab power which was once held up as a beacon of hope is becoming a symbol of everything which could go wrong in Arab Spring.
The concern of the international community at the sordid turn of events in the country was reflected in the statement of US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland who expressed “deep concerns” over the situation in Egypt and repeated calls on protesters to demonstrate peacefully and on security forces to act with restraint.
The destabilising series of protests which started when President Mohamed Mursi awarded himself sweeping powers on November 22 are still continuing. Yesterday, thousands of rival protesters gathered at several venues and chanted slogans in support of their leaders. The opposition has called for major protests in the coming days to force Mursi to postpone the referendum on a draft constitution scheduled for Saturday, while the president is determined to go ahead with the vote. As both sides refuse to step back, the country is sliding into chaos, with the economy in peril, and prospects of peace and stability receding.
The only hope in the current turmoil lies in army’s call for talks on national unity. The army chief has called a meeting today after thousands of pro and anti-government demonstrators took to the streets. The armed forces chief and Defence Minister Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said that they “will not speak about politics nor about the referendum and … sit together as Egyptians.” His statement points to the deep schism in the country because any talks about politics and referendum will be a non-starter and the focus therefore would be on bringing peace and stability. The Brotherhood has agreed to take part in the talks, while the opposition is yet to make up its mind.
The vote on draft constitution too threatens to deepen the divisions. It’s difficult to predict who will win the vote, but whoever wins, the opposing sides are unlikely to give up and will continue their protests. One way of ending the crisis is by accepting the popular verdict on the constitution. Even if people vote Yes, the ruling party needs to accommodate the views of the opposition and make necessary amendments for national unity. In a democracy, there is nothing wrong in listening to the voices of the opposition and what Egypt needs today is consensus, not division.