Egypt’s El Shura Council and General Assembly are the two entities compromising the country’s Legislative body. What really is the difference between them and what is the distinct authority of each? The answer is often ambiguous, due to their overlapping reality; A reality that leads to a weak system, with limited authority, short-term vision, and a very unclear role.
On a cab drive to Maadi I had one of the most interesting conversations with the cab driver. Furious with “the system”, as many cab drivers seem to be these days, he had an exceptionally good idea for fixing it: Fix the legislative bodies by freeing them of the control of “the people” in order to achieve a less-corrupt system. His idea was simple: people are, by nature, constantly seeking their individual well-being, which is usually focused on short-term gains and often goes against the collective good.
Having both bodies mostly elected and representing the people, which often means representing “the individuals”, surely leads to short-term strategies that serve the public-opinion and are solely influenced by individuals’ well-being. I played with the idea for a while and it seemed natural. If it works for corporations, why wouldn’t it work to run the country? I would like to look at the country as cooperation, with the General Assembly representing the stock-owners, while El Shura Council represents the Board.
The solution is to have one of the legislative bodies to serve as the “people’s assembly”, which would naturally be the General Assembly, and have the other legislative body represent the professional consultants, which would naturally be El Shura. Their names suggest that they were originally structured that precise way but that somehow the idea got skewed through time. The role of each should be different, so that the sum of both is greater than their individual values, synergistic.
The General Assembly’s role would be to represent the people’s opinion. The General Assembly, through a nominee elimination process, chooses the El Shura members. It directs The Shura on the issues to be tackled, the weaknesses in the system, and the performance of the managing Executive body. The General Assembly then votes on solutions proposed by the Shura. That’s it. The role of the General Assembly would then be to represent the people, as the owners, rather than managing the system.
That role of management falls on El Shura. A body of knowledgeable experts and specialized consultants, nominated by the other El Shura members, and elected by the General Assembly. They are the board that runs the country. Seventy-one members, each two specialized in one of the thirty-five departments of the Executive Body, in addition to the Chairman, who is elected by and from El Shura.
The members are chosen based on the achievements, integrity, and expertise in each of the fields they represent. We have a great number of Egyptians living abroad who are shaping the world in their respective fields. Allow them to make that change at home. Mohamed El Baradei, Ahmed Zewail, Dr. Magdi Yacoub, Dr. Akef El Maghrabi, Gamal Aziz, Abdel Shakour Shaalan and Mohamed El Erian are great examples to name a few.
Those names may fail miserably in the executive body. They would fail to execute. Many of them do not have good managerial backgrounds, a limited local executive knowledge, and even worse political capabilities that would lead to their failure fail in the executive body. Let them do what they know best and that is to advise on best practices and successful strategies. Let them be the think-tank, let them draw the plan, and empower the executive body to execute that plan.