Friday, 30 November 2012

Dying, Egypt, Dying?

The election of President Morsi could have been for the best. A narrow victory the other way could have been blamed on the Copts. But this way, they had a President whom they could instead have placed under considerable internal and very considerable external pressure to cut a deal with them. Instead, they seem to have decided that they are not going to be at the table, thereby ensuring that they are on the menu.

One quarter of the Egyptian Parliament should be elected on a constituency basis, one quarter elected on a proportional basis, forty-five per cent (an equal number of men and women) nominated by the General Guide of the Muslim Brotherhood, and five per cent (an equal number of men and women) nominated by the Coptic Patriarch.

No legislation could be introduced unless sponsored by at least one MP from each of those four categories, nor could it be enacted without the approval of all four of the General Guide, the Patriarch, and the first and second-placed candidates in a direct Presidential election, termed the President and the Vice-President but enjoying exactly equal powers. Why not?

On social justice issues, the Muslim Brotherhood is not what it was, having changed direction to recant the public ownership and the wealth redistribution for which it used to campaign, and to support Mubarak's land reform reversals. But it could easily be talked into changing back, especially since it is by no means clear how convinced the party at large has ever been about these revisions at the top. Remind you of anyone?

If Iran, Syria, the Palestinians, and the Lebanese coalition including Hezbollah are anything to go by, then the Copts are very well-placed to strike an excellent bargain, in stark contrast to our beloved Israel, Turkey and Mubarak. If the Copts are going to be annoyed over anything, then it is going to be over the retention of the peace treaty with Israel, which they have always strongly opposed.

And the Muslim Brotherhood, founded by British intelligence in order to agitate against independence, has always enjoyed excellent Foreign Office connections; its Anglophilia is exactly what it is so hated by its Israel First, American Second, Britain Nowhere detractors in the Murdoch papers, on Telegraph Blogs, and so on. Commonwealth membership beckons, especially for a country which even still has a currency called the pound.

This is Britain's moment. Otherwise, such are the historic ties and the widespread proficiency in English, that we should expect each of our cities to contain several, and each of our large towns to contain one, of those Coptic churches. One tenth of the Egyptian population would have decamped to the most obvious alternative country from their point of view.

As with the Arabs inside Israel's 1948 borders, why did we never do for them what we later did for the East African Asians, but a generation earlier, when we were still just about in a position to back it up?

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