Arrived Cairo to much political energy!

Wednesday 27 June, 2012

Just arrived Cairo. And yes, we know for sure that Morsi has been declared the victor with a margin of 51.7% – compared to Shafiq’s 48.3%.

Such a close race. And such division in and amongst Egyptians and yet a sense of hope and excitement that has not been felt since perhaps the Egyptian deposition of the colonial Brits in 1952.

I actually felt that I was already in Egypt when I boarded the Lufthansa flight in Munich that brought us to Cairo. Before the plane took off I could hear people on my left and right and behind me discussing the political situation in Egypt with great passion and knowledge. Nearly everyone was engaged in conversation with their fellow Egyptians, all strangers to each other until this moment. The air was electric.

A young Egyptian logistics worker from Norway, a middle aged Egyptian business woman living in Germany, a retired elderly Egyptian man living in Nice, France, a religious man and his three children returning from vacation and another religious (yet secular politically) couple beside me. Everyone was discussing the current situation. Did they vote? Who did the vote for? Why didn’t they vote. Every paradigm was represented. Another Egyptian woman living in the US walked down the aisle and asked if she could join our discussion.

Yes, indeed, things have changed in Egypt. Even the plane ride to Egypt was dynamic. People are excited. They are engaged. There is a sense that they have some control.

Morsi’s acceptance speech was a hot topic. Everyone agreed that he said fantastic things. He said he would choose a Vice President that will be either Coptic or a woman, that his cabinet will be represent all Egyptians, that he will promote a moderate Islam. Morsi spoke of the wealth of Egypt, the human, natural, touristic and political resources. He spoke about Egypt’s need to become independent and lessen its ties to the West, especially the US. We all agreed that this was good news, but a few could believe his words. How could he change over night? How could this man they saw as religiously fundamental really live up to such promises. Who is he really? Where does he really stand?

I suggested that we really don’t know yet. His words have changed from before the election (pandering towards the stricter religious segments of society) and now flipping a bit to the other side. Words are words, but deeds speak much louder. We will wait and see and all of Egypt will be ready to tell Morsi what they think and need and expect. And they will all want something different.

And thats what we call democracy! Viva la revolution! As an American, I am amazed and full of respect for the Egyptian people who are making this democratic change. It will take time for sure, but already there is huge change, people are engaged!

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The Egyptian Pharaohs would not have approved.

Sunday 24 June, 2012

The Egyptian Pharaohs would’ve approved. As an Egyptian-American I beg to differ!

The Los Angeles Times article (http://articles.latimes.com/2012/jun/25/entertainment/la-et-levitated-mass-20120625)

“Mass appeal” about the newly unveiled “Levitated Mass” of a 350 ton boulder at LACMA certainly did not even attempt to portray the views of the masses of Angelenos. We live three blocks from the Levitated Mass. As sometimes rock climbers, avid travelers and campers worldwide – what was more impressive than the boulder was the massive wide specialized truck (which had at least 40 wheels) which transported the boulder and sat on the grounds for months. My 11 year old son certainly was awe struck by the truck. The boulder, while huge, looks small on the much larger LACMA grounds that are its new home. Perspective is everything! But the real problem my son had was the price tag! “Ten Million dollars! They should have built something for the thousands of kids that live here. They won’t even let us climb it. They should have built a huge swimming pool or better yet paid for our ARTS programs at our schools!” LAUSD, the second largest school district in the country, has an established ARTS program (began in 1880) which is being shredded. No more orchestra, chorus, theater, dance or arts for LAUSD elementary school children, beginning this September 2012. “Levitated Mass” has NO Mass Appeal in the the neighborhood in which it sits. It is a waste of money where much is needed for our children and their education – for a start.

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Egyptian political satirist Dr. Bassem Youssef gives me a great send off to Egypt – from LA.

Saturday 23 June, 2012

What a great send off – as I prepare to fly off to the “new” Egypt Monday. I had the opportunity to hear Bassem Youssef, the cardiothoracic surgeon and popular Egyptian political satirist who made Egyptians proud on The Daily Show this week in his interview with Jon Stewart.

Bassem Youssef has emerged in Egypt in a show “alBernameg,” which premiered in Ramadan 2011, as a satirical voice for the woes of the Egyptian people. Youssef has been profiled by press throughout the Arab world, including Al Jazeera, The Guardian and Bloomberg Businessweek. He was also recently featured on CNN (“Youssef: Egypt Politics Must Accept Humor”).

Fantastically Egyptian in his mannerisms, expressions, gestures and imitations of others from poof poof ladies getting their pictures taken to all of the presidential candidates that ran for office in the first round. Bassem Youssef is an intelligent, funny man with a lot to say. He has thought about the political sphere from up and down, rich and poor, educated and not, woman and man, minority and majority, religious and secular, he understands all the angles.

His main theme of the evening – “we Egyptians got the BEST two top candidates” Shafiq and Morsi. Always convincing in his delivery, at the same time leaving half his audience uncertain whether he is joking or serious, he finally leaned forward to a few members in the first row and gave them a wink “in case you didn’t get it, I’m sarcastic.”

Bassem’s humour, like him, is often sophisticated and it is important to know the inside story to get the joke. Most Egyptians do. Egyptians are made of humour, always sharing jokes, so it is no surprise that political satire is finally breaking through on Egypt’s ON-TV. What has always been missing is the opportunity to take shots at Egypt’s leaders – it has been mamnouh or forbidden. Now everyone is making fun of them.

Abandoning the satire for moment, Bassem let us know straight out that he couldn’t possibly have voted for Shafiq and all that he stood for – the old regime – the nihilism of Mubarak and his cronies. He let us know that if the Muslim Brotherhood’s Morsi is to be the next president of Egypt it could be a good thing, even though it is clear that Bassem is a secular Muslim.

Why? Because whomever takes over Egypt now will be in the most vulnerable position. Egypt is shambles. The economy. The infrastructure. People need work. The country is divided. Let the Brotherhood take control, in this most vulnerable state they will be in the hot seat. They will have to prove themselves. There is much to do for the country, for the Egyptian people. If they do it – chapeau – he will take his hat off to them. If they do nothing, then they are finished and the people will see them as just another political party that is full of hot air and are not able to deliver.

Fair enough. And so it will go. Day by day Egypt will emerge stronger and better or it will continue to fall and the people, secular, moderate, Coptic or Islamist, will be shouting from Tahrir Square for their rights, for jobs, for an economy that they can simply live in and raise their children in with dignity.

The people want deeds not words. And they will demand it.

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Egyptian Presidential Election has been a 
Farce from the Beginning

There can be no democratic outcome without a democratic process.

Egypt continues to reel in the unknown. The Muslim Brotherhood’s candidate Mohamed Mursi has claimed victory with 52 per cent of the vote while Ahmed Shafiq, the Military SCAF’s preferred candidate dismissed such claims stating that he was in the lead with 51 per cent of the vote. (Meet the Candidates: http://english.ahram.org.eg/Elections2011/Meet-the-candidates/36/124/0.aspx)
The voting margin is just over 887,000 votes out of 25.5 million votes cast.
According to the Judges for Egypt, a group of Egyptian reformist judges who helped monitor the recently-concluded runoffs, Mursi’s held victory with 13,238,335 votes against 12,351,310 for military man Shafiq. This is a difference of only 887,025 votes. Less than one million. The millions of Egyptians (in Egypt and abroad) who were excluded from voting is hugely significant. The election may have been entirely different.

Inside Egypt it has not been divulged the large number of Egyptian that were not allowed to vote because they could not reach their home of birth. More than fifty percent of Egyptians have migrated from their homes of birth to cities. Millions of Egyptians work and live in areas of Egypt that are not their place of birth. Taxi drivers, laborers of every sort, and professionals have had to move wherever they have found work. These Egyptians were not allowed to vote unless they had the means and the time to travel to their place of birth to vote on June 16/17. Most could not. This was also the case during the first round of votes in which 13 candidates competed.

I for one would like to know how many millions of Egyptians were excluded from voting because of this ruling.

Furthermore, seven and half million, out of eight million, Egyptians living outside Egypt were not allowed to vote due to various administrative obstacles that most of us feel were formulated and concocted to be sure that we could not vote. If we had been allowed to vote this margin of 887,025 votes would have been considerably different.

I arrived at the Egyptian Consulate in Los Angeles last December 2011 with my up-to-date Egyptian passport, my father’s Egyptian birth certificate, my own birth certificate, my Egyptian ID card and my American passport and ID. This was not enough. I was not allowed to register to vote because I did not have the “new” Egyptian ID which contains a smart chip. I had not been to Egypt since it was issued. This was the case of millions of Egyptian living outside Egypt. I know of other reports of those who did have the “new” Egyptian ID but were unable to vote because the lines were too long and the poles closed before they reached the front of the line. Others were excluded because they were traveling and were not allowed to vote unless they were home.

These concocted administrative obstacles have determined much of the election results from the very beginning. The difference in votes between Mursi, Shafiq and Sabahi in the first round was between 200-300,000. These are insignificant compared to the 7.5 Million Egyptians aboard that could not vote.

I doubt seriously that Mursi and Shafiq would have been the top two finalists had Egyptians abroad been able to vote in the first round. I believe that had we been able to vote we would have seen others (Hamdeen Sabbahi, Amr Moussa, Khaled Ali and others) seriously vying for the two top spots. This would have changed the entire election from the get go.

This election has been a fraud from the very beginning and should be declared so by both the internal and external monitoring groups as well as the Judges for Egypt.

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