Ahram Online - The runoffs: A Berma dilemma
- Ahram Online - Friday, 01 June 2012
The runoffs: A Berma dilemma
The runoffs are what Egyptians call a Berma dilemma - there is no simple
way out - might the military as an institution be able to offer a way out?
Ahmed Mahmoud , Wednesday 30 May 2012
The presidential election results are what Egyptians might calls a
"Berma dilemma", because they present a conundrum that is perplexing
many major political forces in the country.
The Berma dilemma refers to an Egyptian proverb about a tale that
occurred in a village called Berma in the northern Egyptian Delta. It
tells the story of an accident when a man that bumped into a woman
carrying a basket of eggs all of which were broken. He asked her how
many eggs were in the basket, and she answered him, "if you count by
three, one will remain, and if you count by four, one will remain and
the same goes if you count by five or six. But if you count by seven
nothing will remain." And the man knew that the answer was 301 eggs. A
Berma dilemma, then, is a situation where the answer is difficult to
reach and the process is uncertain.
Much of the country's forces were in a state of partial confusion when
it came to choosing a preferred presidential candidate, whether Islamic,
revolutionary or former regime candidates. The confusion has only become
exacerbated when it comes to the runoffs between Muslim Brotherhood's
Mohamed Morsi and Hosni Mubarak's last prime minister Ahmed Shafiq.
Faced with the situation of choosing from what are for many two
undesirable candidates, the country has been plunged into a "Berma dilemma."
If people vote for Morsi, this means that people choose the “Muslim
brotherhood plus one” which is the military institution,
The FJP have a programme that they say would take 28 years to realise.
Brotherhood businessman and leading figure Khairat El-Shater would
probably play a major role. Once this project is completed it would
enable the Brotherhood and their party to stay in power for at least 100
On the other hand, if people choose Shafiq then this will mean they have
chosen the “ex-regime plus one” which is the military institution as
well. Either option, in other words, brings us back square zero, as if
there were no martyrs who sacrificed their lives for the sake of the
liberty of this nation.
But even if the security institutions do not go back to their old – and
unacceptable – ways in dealing with the people, there will be the
problem of the businessmen of the old regime regaining their power and
influence. This will bring the country back in a vicious circle of the
marriage between power and money, bringing the people back to the
situation they were in before the revolution. Or perhaps even a worse
If we consider the matter carefully, however, we will note that it is
the military as an institution that remains the common player in this
dilemma. This is natural as the military managed over the past sixty
years to establish its position in the country and cannot be taken out
of the formula that easily when it comes to the future of Egypt.
Moreover, it is an important shield to protect the existence and the
continuation of the Egyptian state, even if we do manage to turn Egypt
into a civil state. Whether or not we agree with their procedures, the
military institution plays an important role in maintaining the
structure of the state.
Even if people are willing to swap democracy for the sake of security
and stability, whether it is Mursi or Shafiq who becomes the country's
next president, there may well be unrest. That unrest might take the
form of a revolution, more virulent than what came before, a possible
clash between different players in the political arena competing for
money, money and influence. It is this that makes the dilemma
disturbing, if not frightening, for the vast majority.
So, what we need to do is seek assurances, not from the presidential
candidates but from the military institution itself. They are the only
player now with the ability to solve this dilemma because they have the
constitutional enactment and the right to issue legislation and
constitutional declarations. Let’s ask quietly but clearly: isn’t it
better now and before the runoffs that the military council issues a
constitutional declaration determining the powers of the incoming president?
Is that not the guarantee of stability for political life in Egypt,
regardless of who becomes the next president? And then, the most
important thing, is this not the guarantee of continuity, stability and
the means to progress of the state which the military institution has
the responsibility to maintain?
This may sound like a naive argument, simply because it's so obvious.
But didn't we learn in the science of logic that when the issues become
more complicated, to go back to the logical axioms and basics to find a
Here, I am not pushing people to vote or not to vote for a specific
candidate in the runoff. Rather I raise these questions, so that we all
think together and try to find a solution to get us out of this crisis
and to move forward to find a democratic way out of the berma dilemma in
which we find ourselves.