By Mohammed Nosseir
‘Politics is a dirty game!’ is a phrase often used to justify the behavior of politicians. If you are a believer in this maxim, please vote for the most corrupt politicians you know and bring them into government or parliament. This will ensure that, ultimately, Egypt’s governing authority and legislative council will be led by a group of well-established lawbreakers, best qualified to play the aforementioned dirty game.
If, as many people have remarked, politics in Egypt is a dirty game; what about the other professions, those that require higher education degrees and eventual social recognition such as physicians, engineers, lawyers, accountants, and the remainder of this long list? Do these people abide by higher values and a code of ethics? The vast majority definitely does not.
A large proportion of Egyptian professionals, particularly members of popular professions, either inflate their fees or create unnecessary services to collect additional amounts of money. These practices take place across all fields, from basic manual labor to the most exalted and complex professions. Politics is therefore not an exception to the phenomenon. Even those professions that have syndicates whose role should be to guide members in the application of norms and ethics are not able, for most part, to regulate their professional fields successfully. On the contrary, they too are apparently benefiting from this reprehensible pattern.
What if we were to reverse the relationship? Meaning, what would happen if beneficiaries were enabled to pay only upon receiving anticipated services? Would they pay the agreed-upon fee? Or would they make up excuses about poor deliverables so as to pay less or simply run away? Somehow, I believe that the latter alternatives are the most probable ones.
Politics is similar to any given professional field; it requires particular skills, knowledge, and attitudes. However, politics has a downside; no specific qualifications or criteria are demanded of citizens who want to become politicians. The door is opened to anybody simply claiming to be a ‘politician’. No one will challenge his or her status since the vast majority of players have no credentials of their own. In addition, while politics shares the element of corruption with all other professional fields, it incorporates an additional human craving: the thirst for power. The combination of power and money in this corrupt environment, accompanied by the significantly lower qualification requirements, mean that any citizen may acquire additional ‘privileges’ simply by becoming a politician. It is no wonder therefore that politics is held in such low repute.
In a country that is known to be highly corrupt, where money is the key driving factor and where laws are sloppy and the illiteracy rate quite high, the adherence to high value standards is rare in all fields, including politics. In my view, most Egyptians of all professions don’t abide by, care about, or even understand the terms ‘ethics’ or ‘values’. In this regard, Egyptian politics is quite simply not isolated from the environment as a whole.
A politician’s success in furthering his or her career by being elected to parliament or securing a cabinet appointment does not signify that he or she is more highly qualified than his/her peers; it merely reflects the politician’s superior ability to get along in this murky environment. Obviously, politicians don’t work on reforming the structure that has served them so well and raised them to the height of their careers, because any attempt to change the status quo might challenge their status.
Politicians and other professionals are part of this corrupt society that we have been living in for decades. Key players in all fields are corrupting the society, and in return society makes popular figures of them. Egyptian citizens are the ones who brought these people (especially the politicians who are voted into power) to the top of the social pyramid.
Blaming a few activists for being corrupt is an issue of applying double standards, and it does not reflect the complete picture, which was, for other reasons, simply hidden. The corruption element here is not about accusing a few activists of corruption; it is about turning a blind eye to thousands of other activists, politicians and professionals whose corruption is well known to the authorities, but whom nobody cares to take action against. Since the conversations of all members of society are tapped, let’s listen to all of us and find out who is corrupt.
“Corruption exists everywhere in the world!” is another false claim often put forth by both the authorities and those citizens who benefit from corruption. In countries with well-established democratic systems, any citizen may bring legal action against a corrupt person or transaction, and the law will be applied to all individuals, regardless of the status they enjoy. By contrast, in Egypt only citizens whom the regime wants to punish or to marginalise from the scene are subjected to investigation.
Nevertheless, I have come across many Egyptians with a true sense of values who wanted, at least, to abide by their moral principles and, in some cases, attempted to introduce certain changes in their respective fields. However, those citizens were harassed by the current structure and received no support from society.
Egypt will soon hold presidential and parliamentary elections, wherein money will play an essential role in determining the winners. This is an excellent opportunity for the ruler to enact a law to monitor candidates’ expenditures in both elections. Such a law would allow Egyptians to learn about the sources of income and the campaign expenditures of each candidate, and would subject candidates who misinform the authorities to a fine. The loose laws under which the previous elections were held helped to keep corrupt politicians in power (thus providing the means to eventually trap them). Maintaining these laws in the coming elections is proof that Egypt has not changed.
Mohammed Nosseir is an Egyptian Liberal Politician working on reforming Egypt on true liberal values, proper application of democracy and free market economy. Mohammed was member of the Higher Committee, Headed the International Relations of the Democratic Front Party from 2008 to 2012.