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Since 1st March, 1999
 
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LOSING GAME

Although it might still take some time for Egyptís election commission to put a formal stamp on the results of the referendum, there is no uncertainty over the fact that the countryís new constitution has the approval of 63.5 per cent of those who voted. However, instead of jubilation, Egypt faces a deeper gloom over the results. This is felt no less within the winning camp itself. No matter what the percentage that has gone in his favour, President Mohammad Mursi cannot but be uncomfortable about the fact that the referendum was decided by less than one-third of the voting population. That alone, even if the allegations of fraud were to be discounted, strengthens the oppositionís claim about the hollowness of Mr Mursiís victory. The good thing is that the opposition is not betting its life on invalidating the referendum itself ó a step that could have hindered Egyptís education in the exercise of democratic choice. Consolidated under the umbrella of the National Salvation Front, the opposition wants the numbers to do their own talking. The numbers, obviously, are speaking out so loudly that Mr Mursi appears to be falling over himself trying to make up to the dissenting sections of the population. He has fallen on his tested strategy of co-option and offered almost the majority of the nominated seats in the upper house of parliament to liberals and non-Islamists. Of course, this could be interpreted as his attempt at inclusive governance. Unfortunately, Mr Mursi seems to have waited too long to initiate such efforts. Egypt has become far more polarized than the time he secured his narrow victory over Ahmed Shafik. The aggrandizing ways of his party, the Muslim Brotherhood, that has marginalized the liberals, the seculars and the minority Christians, Mr Mursiís attempt to consolidate power in his own hands, and the more recent experience of having a hurriedly-written Islamist constitution foisted on the nation have left the people divided and mistrustful of the president.

Mr Mursi has to prove to his nation that he is much more than the flag bearer of his party. To do that he has to ensure that the opposition has a level-playing field when Egypt goes for the momentous parliamentary elections next year and carry out the necessary amendments in the constitution. The witch-hunt in the name of taking out the feloul that has denigrated the judiciary also has to stop.