By Philip Whitfield
CAIRO: Grace and pace they have not. Filibuster and bluster they’re full of. Can you believe the new crop of rags-to-riches whistle-stoppers are turning down a billion US dollars and some because their pride is hurt?
More likely they’ve been tipped off the US aid package to Egypt will end up as small pickings. Parliament’s attempt to switch the argument away from Egypt’s abominable human rights performance has rebounded.
The Islamists heading the charge look as emasculated as SCAF. Both are licking their wounds.
A spokesman for a group of middle class professionals collared me.
It’s all well and good for the papers to be covering HELP (Hosni, Elections, Losers and Parliament) he said. But they’re missing the real story.
What’s the scoop?
Everyone can see how hopeless the new parliament is. They haven’t got a fresh idea among them… they’re as stale as a week-old bag of baladi bread. The government’s no better.
That’s a scoop?
We kept our mouths shut when our staff — particularly those working in our homes —asked how to vote. When they told us we are giving some candidates a ‘little help’ to see them through hard times, we kept our mouths zipped.
And look what it’s got them? A dumb parliament that can’t even investigate a football match riot properly, a government that was rolled over by an American senator and a trial that’s going nowhere.
You mean the Hosni Mubarak case?
Exactly. Nobody believes the prosecution proved he did anything particularly out of the ordinary. So the only wise course is to keep postponing the result. By rights, he should be convicted, but it’s doubtful that will happen.
The real problem is not Mubarak and his corrupt clique. Good riddance to them. The problem Egypt faces is the flight of the technocrats. Hundreds of thousands who got a good education and applied themselves to working hard have fled.
Talented computer geeks are turning up in Tennessee, for example. Marketing people are spread across Canada. The European embassies are inundated with paper work. And to cap it all hundreds of applications for work permits to bring qualified people into Egypt are not being processed.
You can’t put your finger on who’s responsible. But it all seems to have come to a head after the election.
Aha. So what you’re saying is that the country is being governed by stealth?
Precisely…smoke and mirrors. The only thing that’s for sure is prices have gone through the roof.
Now it’s our turn to vote for a president with some pride.
Aren’t there 500 possible contenders?
We expect 200 by the time the forms are filled in.
So who is the middle class going to vote for?
Someone who knows the difference between pride and patriotism. Someone who will work selflessly to unite Egyptians of all flavors. Someone who has the courage to stand up to the bigots inside and outside parliament.
And who is this person?
Well, we haven’t decided to go public yet. There’s enough time for the other candidates to put their feet in their mouths. The most important thing is not to allow a religious zealot to get into the presidential palace.
We’ve seen it doesn’t follow that being religious is a sure way to govern. The Islamists ignore the Christians. That’s not right. No doubt the Christian politicians have grudges against some fanatics in their constituencies.
So what we don’t want is an ultra-religious president.
What about a woman?
We’re certainly not against women running countries. There are plenty around doing a grand job. Whether Egypt is up for a woman yet is another matter. But the professional middle classes are not against women playing the most important roles in society.
More important is to give Egypt a new face abroad. Look at the pictures in the paper of our politicians. They’re like snaps of geriatrics on an outing. They’re almost entirely old men.
Half the country’s under 25. The revolution was started by young people. They played a huge role in mobilizing their parents and grandparents onto the streets. What we need is someone not in their dotage.
Wouldn’t this be too revolutionary?
Not at all. Look, in my profession, dentistry? Lots of older dentists are retiring. To make a living they’ve had to work two shifts a day and another doing specialist work in hospitals. It can mean 4 hours driving from one place to another.
Post-revolution it’s almost impossible. On Monday a colleague spent two hours driving from Dokki to Al Salam Hospital in Syria Street. His patients had to wait an hour for him.
One of our most respected packed in his practice near the city center and just kept his other surgery in the suburbs. He handed the keys and his patient list to a younger colleague after he reckoned he was fully qualified and able to take over.
What happened? The new head of practice got a bank loan and upgraded all the equipment, spruced up the office and has doubled the number of patients he’s treating as word has spread.
It’s time for a change and the presidency should reflect the mood.
A youth is to be regarded with respect — Confucius. How do we know that his future will not be equal to our present?
Philip Whitfield is a Cairo commentator.