My Dear Egyptian friends,
On the eve of the first anniversary of 11 February 2011, which marks a turning point in Egypt's revolutionary transition, our hearts are heavy due to recent popular disturbances and meaningless violence that resulted in tragic losses of innocent lives, and damage to public property.
President Abdullah Gul and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on behalf of the Turkish nation shared the sorrow of the people and government of Egypt and conveyed their condolences to the grieving families and relatives of the Port Said victims.
Egypt is undergoing a phenomenal process of transition towards democracy. All Egypt's friends sincerely hope to see that process culminate in a fair, lasting, accountable and representative new governing order rewarding the cradle of the Nile civilisation and its beautiful people. This will obviously take some time, since democracy is a system of values that can only be learned, built and exercised, and is not genetic. Therefore it is only natural that on the path to constitutional democracy there could be pitfalls, institutional and/or social differences; or the process may take longer than desired. There may also be moments when certain segments of society find it painful to adjust to new realities, new rules, and give up old habits. Yet centuries of experience testify to the value of paying this price, for democracy is priceless.
In my opinion, the people of Egypt have already proven to the world that they want "genuine change" and this change will be a "peaceful" one towards democratic governance compatible with universal values. As it builds its own democracy, Egypt will welcome the contributions and support of its friends through partnership and cooperation, but not in the form of dictates and lectures.
The Egyptian people and political forces are poised to hammer out a new covenant. A social contract that will reunite all segments of society, empower the people, give them long-needed safeguards for freedom, dignity and justice, and ultimately the hope for a prosperous future by reviving the economy through accountable government. Such an understanding will definitely inspire hope and a sense of ownership that are essential for mobilisation at the national level to build a common future together.
It is not through despair, fragmentation and vengeance but through hope and determination that a nation can lift itself up to a level of mobilisation now needed in Egypt, to regain its genuine glory and rhythm. It is high time to prove that the Egyptian people are peaceful by nature and capable of charting their future based on dialogue and compromise, and not through confrontation.
I personally believe that the overwhelming majority of Egypt's people and political forces are conscious about their profound responsibility, and during the elections they demonstrated to the rest of the world that democratic governance is not a privilege only for certain "others" but remains a sovereign choice, one that Egypt opts for. Yet, one has to also understand that the road to democracy is not a simple and short one, but is one the people of Egypt will remain committed to pursuing.
What one has to understand clearly is that democracy is not absolute rule of the majority, but rather governing by the majority, through dialogue, consensus, and respect for minorities. In other words, the strength of democracy lies in its very nature that minority and/or dissenting views are not suppressed, neutralised or disregarded, but they are respected and accommodated.
Regime changes and transitions are inevitably turbulent wherever they occur, with the societies in question exposed to extensive internal debate and arguments that bring to the surface people's aspirations and differences of opinion. The way to prevent those differences from evolving into violent conflict is building by compromise, through checks and balances and the "separation of powers". In other words, while building a balance between various forces and sources of governance, society needs to draw clearly the lines of distinction between the legislative, executive and judicial function in a way that safeguards and provides for liberties, rights and responsibilities. That is what democracy is all about. And I am confident that Egypt will build its genuine democracy by addressing these concerns and responding to the needs and aspirations of its people. In the final analysis, the virtue and strength of every democracy originate from the environment it creates by striking a broadly representative order and sustainable balance within society.
Throughout history, solutions for mankind's problems of governance have been embedded in two fundamental areas: "economy" and "education". Without success in these two vital areas there will be little hope for progress, or for any government to succeed, and the opportunities for building a lasting democratic order will be rather limited. Egypt and its future governments will also have to face these challenges.
Egypt is at a crossroads in its contemporary history. It will take several generations, and more sacrifices will have to be made, until hardships and turbulence finally come to an end. But there is no easy way: progress and change always come at a price. Carrying Egypt into the 21st century as a viable democracy, promoting dignity, freedom and justice, as laid down during the Tahrir Revolution, will also have a price. Democracy is no easy task. Therefore I do not underestimate the challenges ahead. Yet I remain cautiously optimistic since I believe in Egyptian people's willpower, and ability to deliver. The ongoing debate, tensions and even occasional frictions are natural, but only as long as they remain peaceful, and the ultimate objective is to build a truly democratic, broadly based, representative new order. Even if it is occasionally uncomfortable or even painful.
The great River Nile rose again, yet this time not to flood its banks, but to carry Egypt into the 21st century as a shining democracy. The Egyptian nation will once again make history by uniting the diverse strengths of its society, public and private, urban and rural, wealthy and poor, women and men, as a vibrant model for the world through its peaceful revolution that unleashed the creativity of all segments of society in pursuit of participatory democracy.
Hüseyin Avni Botsalı is the Turkish Ambassador to Egypt.