EGYPTIANS ARE READY FOR DEMOCRACY. THE LEADERS ARE NOT.
by Nile El Wardani
Egyptians of every shape and color lined up for as much as four hours to vote yesterday. More than willing to do their part in building a democracy, Egyptians traveled from their places of employment to their homes, in many cases several hours away, to vote. All over Cairo I saw long lines of men and women waiting to vote. Egyptians are active in the political process. Politics has completely replaced soccer as the national past time. Egyptians are ready for democracy. It is the leaders that are not ready. The Muslim Brotherhood has shown the world that they will pull out the same tried and true tactics of suppression and corruption as have been used for the past thirty years under Mubarak.
I too felt the responsibility and privilege of voting. I went to an area of Cairo called Mokattam which sits at the top of a mountain, the highest point in Cairo. Here the Muslim Brotherhood has its headquarters. I was obliged to vote there because my Egyptian ID has the address of my male cousin Ashraf El Wardani. I arrived at 9am and joined a line of at least 300 women. Wrapped around a public school in a large square we stood in the brisk 54F air. About 70% of the women wore the hijab (scarf) while the others let hair blow in the morning breeze.
The women stood together in good humor joking about democracy being “the right to stand in line for hours” while “we really had little confidence that the referendum would be clean” but we had to join in regardless, just in case it might make a difference. The women shared openly whether they would Vote YES or NO.
A 15 year old girl stood next to me with her mother. Although she could not vote, she had come along for the experience. Her mother would Vote YES, when I asked her why, she told me “She was tired of all the demonstrations and politics and the stand still of economy. She wanted things to go back to normal and so she was voting Yes in any effort to stop the political maneuvers and hope for a change towards consistency.” Little did she understand that this kind of thinking was precisely what got us where we are today.
In all fairness, the handling of the referendum was very smooth and organized. I was able to call 140 on my phone, give my ID number and receive the location, the line number and my exact voting number. This all worked out perfectly. The line moved steadily and after 1 hour 15 minutes I had voted.
However, the ballot I was given was just the opposite of the one that I was trained to read. The NO Vote had been on the Right. The YES Vote on the Left. This ballot was the opposite. There are an estimated 40-50% of voters that are illiterate in Egypt. Many voters would be confused by this switch in position and would therefore check off the wrong circle. Why was it done? Was it deliberate? What will be the outcome of this inconsistency? Will we ever know?
I placed my folded ballot in a clear plexi-glass box. It was also clear that each ballot would have to be counted by hand. Even if there was no corruption, there is plenty of room for human error. After all the computerized lists of names, the actual ballot collection was no more sophisticated that putting your number in hat to win a door prize – or loose all together.
There were no external observers as the opposition had asked for. The vote was not taking place on one day as the opposition had asked for. In fact the vote is to take place on two days – seven days apart – with plenty of time to readjust the votes and campaign for more Yes votes in the villages and towns that will vote next Saturday.
The MB gave out 16,000 volunteer badges to work in the Referendum Vote yesterday, while friends that are members of the opposition were turned away when they asked to volunteer.
There is evidence that the MB has been distributing false copies of the Constitution that do not contain the articles that the opposition are contesting. People receiving the copies are fooled into thinking this is the real draft of the Constitution and seeing nothing wrong with it and will therefore Vote YES in the referendum.
The MB is also passing out oil, sugar and cash in the poor villages and towns of Egypt and telling the people that a YES vote means you are a good Muslim and a NO vote means you are an infidel.
The young man that was killed last Tuesday in front of the Presidential Palace while peacefully protesting (along with more than a million others) against Morsy and the Constitutional Referendum was pictured today on the front page of the Muslim Brotherhood’s paper as martyr for Morsy, completely falsifying his political alignment as well as the circumstances of his death.
The bottom line here is that while the Egyptian people have proven over and over again for the past two years that they are ready for democracy; that they are willing to die for it, loose an eye for democracy, be imprisoned for democracy, stand in line for hours, miss work to demonstrate and participate politically for democracy – while the Egyptian people are ready for democracy – Egypt’s politicians and leaders are not ready for democracy at all.
by Ahmad Shokr | published December 7, 2012 – 7:51pm
Perusing US media coverage and analysis of the crisis in Egypt over the last two weeks has been quite disappointing. As the protests against the elected president Muhammad Mursi escalate, the main players in the struggle and the stakes involved are often mischaracterized. Some might ask: Why does this matter?
Discussions about Egypt’s current moment in the United States are important precisely because the Muslim Brothers are eager to secure international legitimacy. The fact that they have a team of high-level foreign policy aides lobbying for them in Washington, when they have yet to open meaningful discussions with the domestic opposition, speaks volumes.
Liberal American analysts and commentators, keen to distance themselves from the post-September 11 legacy of Islamophobia and to give the newly elected Islamists a fair chance, seem to have allowed their allegiances in the US context to shape their understanding of what is happening in Egypt. In the process they have reinforced a number of faulty assumptions.
First faulty assumption: The rival camps in Egypt embody a divide between Islamism and secularism.
That is certainly the line the Muslim Brothers have tried to project in their talking points. But the view from the other side looks different. None of the leaders of the opposition have rejected the long-held dictum that the principles of Islamic law (shari‘a) should be a source of legislation, as stipulated in Article 2 of the constitution. Nor have any of them called for a total dissociation of religion and politics. On the streets, as far as I’m aware, not a single slogan or chant has called for secularism. The opposition’s anger is directed at a more specific target, the Muslim Brothers, who they see as trying to dominate Egyptian politics. These fears are largely grounded in the Brothers’ actions over the last two years.
The mistrust between the Brothers and its opponents has been brewing for a long time. It has less to do with religious convictions and more to do with politics. From the day Mubarak was deposed, the Muslim Brothers have shown disdain for other opposition groups and little interest in building consensus on a road map for the political transition and the fundamentals of the new political order. Instead, they pushed for speedy elections, knowing they were poised to win a near majority, and emerged as an elected power broker rather than a partner in a democratic revolution. When demonstrators returned to Tahrir Square in November 2011 to demand a swifter and more genuine transfer of power to civilians, the Brothers stayed away and claimed the protests were instigated by saboteurs trying to derail the parliamentary elections. After reneging on their promise not to field a presidential candidate and winning the election in June (in part by attracting non-Islamist voters who feared a restoration of the old regime under Ahmad Shafiq), the Brothers failed to deliver a more inclusive constituent assembly, which continued to be dominated by Islamists. After a series of boycotts and withdrawals, many groups — Christians, women, liberals, leftists — were left with almost no representation.
Then came Mursi’s November 22 decree, which for many was the last straw. By granting himself sweeping powers and rushing to call for a December 15 referendum on the new constitution, Mursi has given Egyptians a stark choice between being ruled by an unrepresentative constitution or by a dictator. Many have refused this kind of political blackmail. Leading opposition figures, many of who were dissidents under Mubarak, have called on Mursi to revoke the decree and open the constitution drafting process to broader input. Egyptian human rights groups have almost unanimously echoed these demands. Tens of thousands who joined the protests that brought down Mubarak are back on the streets. Their fight is not for an ill-defined secularism so much as it is for political inclusion and democracy.
Second flawed premise: Islamists are authentic representatives of the majority of Egyptians.
The corollary, of course, is that the opposition represents a secular minority resentful of Islamist rule and unwilling to accept the outcome of legitimate elections. One analyst with the International Crisis Group told the New York Times the persistence of protests was partly due to the opposition’s inability to “come to terms with these defeats, so it tries to delegitimize the Muslim Brotherhood.” While the latter description may be true of some Mubarak-era state elites that are falling from grace under the new regime, it barely holds for the thousands of protesters who have opposed Mursi’s anti-democratic maneuverings.
There are no empirical grounds for any side to claim a definitive majority. Both the Muslim Brothers (along with their Islamist allies, including the salafis) and the opposition have been able to rally hundreds of thousands of supporters over the last two weeks, evidence of the deepening polarization in Egyptian society. The result of the last election, which Mursi won by the skin of his teeth with a 51 percent majority, suggests the Islamist camp is not the undisputed representative of the masses that it claims to be.
Herein lies the crux of the political crisis in Egypt. With the Muslim Brothers convinced that most Egyptians are behind them and that their opponents are a small, feckless elite, the Brothers have acted as though they possess a democratic mandate to bully their way through the political process. Until their leaders cease to speak of majorities and minorities, and instead recognize that there are different constituencies in Egypt that are large and have legitimate aspirations, the political system will likely remain deadlocked. Or worse, the Brothers may be tempted to resort to repression of political opponents in order to get their way. The incitement of Brotherhood members to clash with opposition protesters on Wednesday, and Mursi’s subsequent threats of legal action against political figures he claims have been financing chaos and violence, could set Egypt on a dangerous path.
Third analytical error: Mursi has made great strides toward civilian democracy and his downfall would mean a return to military rule.
Accusations that, by stalling the political process, the opposition is courting a coup misread the military’s role in the current crisis. The army is equally invested in the existing draft constitution, which keeps their core prerogatives intact: a secretive budget, officers’ control over the Defense Ministry, a strong say in national security decisions and the right to try civilians in military courts. The generals are relieved to have found a civilian partner who can manage day-to-day political affairs, while ensuring that the military has the autonomy to pursue its own interests outside the purview of democratic oversight. These concessions are consistent with the Muslim Brothers’ pattern of refusing to stand up to the generals whenever their own path to power has been at stake.
The draft constitution does not reflect a democratic consensus, as many in the opposition have argued that it should. It reflects an emerging relationship between the Muslim Brothers and existing state institutions, like the army, along with a great deal of appeasement of the salafis, whom the Brothers have embraced as junior partners. The rush to a referendum suggests a deep anxiety among the state elites about continuing instability and a desire to seize the opportunity to cement a new political framework as quickly as possible. More worrisome than the text itself is the vision these leaders have for which voices count and which alliances matter in the new Egypt. Should this vision go unchallenged, the losers would be all those who have been calling for more pluralistic and inclusive system.
In his December 6 post, Jason Brownlee writes, “It is important that the ideological debate between liberalism and Islamism not be seen as a battle between democracy and authoritarianism.” Perhaps recent events in Egypt call for a rethinking of these terms. True, liberalism and democracy are not automatic counterparts, no more than Islamism and authoritarianism are. But the battle in Egypt is indeed one between a democracy that reflects the country’s political diversity and a remodeled authoritarianism, led by the Muslim Brothers and their allies, that seeks to circumscribe it.
For Americans who are confused and asking: Who are the Bad Guys in Egypt?
Posted on December 9, 2012
Many American friends have asked me “Who are the bad guys? I am confused.” Here is your answer: The Bad Guys are The Muslim Brotherhood + The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) the Egyptian Military who are essentially ONE – they are together and trying to continue to DICTATE Egypt under a new Dictator Mohamed Morsy. Unfortunately Washington DC is supporting Morsy and wants another Dictator-Ally in Egypt. Nothing new. DC is comfortable with Egyptian dictators that do what DC wants and serve “American interests” rather than the interests of their own people the Egyptians. As an American, I believe DC is wrong in its calculations. The ongoing policy of supporting a dictator in Egypt will NOT serve “American interests” in the long term. It is time for DC to have a paradigm shift and really think about what will serve the American interests. A democratic Egypt will ultimately be a great ally for the US.
Who are the Good Guys? The Egyptians on the street who are opposing dictatorship. My son and I have been in Tahrir Square along with our family members and most of our friends. We are the people who want freedom, democracy, equal rights for all, justice, clean and fair elections, etc. Is that clear enough? We represent at 75% of all Egyptians. There are 90 million Egyptians. Estimates range from 3 to 8 million Muslim Brotherhood (a clear minority and a very poor minority). There is an approx 15-25% of Egyptians that are uneducated and do not know where they stand politically. They are poor and very easily swayed and bought off by the Muslim Brotherhood with a bit of money or even some oil and sugar. The MB is established and organized and they are mobilizing all the time to recruit more members through bribes and the false promise of religious piety. This is dangerous. The Egyptian government under the past dictator Mubarak failed (for 30 years) to raise the standard of living of the people. They were neither educated or nor given work and so poverty is at an all time high which is a fertile ground for the MB and their recruiters.
Only through an open democratic process and qualified educated leadership can Egypt begin to grow politically, economically and socially. Only through such means can the poor rise out of poverty, through investment in education and creating jobs (rather than destroying jobs by signing IMF loans that do away with jobs by the millions through the attached conditions). Egypt is filled with educated specialists in every sector who can lead Egypt to prosperity – if they are allowed to do so. Mohamed ElBaredai is one such person. There are many other highly qualified Egyptian citizens and moderates who should be taken seriously by the Americans in DC.
We Egyptians are on the streets because we don’t want our beloved Egypt to go backwards. We do not want this new Constitution rammed down our throats in a referendum Dec. 15th. We do not trust that the referendum will be clean or fair. We believe it will surely be rigged. This new Constitution was written by a Constitutional Assembly that is a NOT at all representative of the Egyptian people. It was essentially written by the Muslim Brotherhood who do not represent the vast majority of Egyptians. It does not represent the diversity of Egyptians by any means.
Morsy and his clan have refused to STOP the referendum vote and allow for a representative assembly to draw up a Constitution that represents all Egyptians. We are better off keeping the Constitution of 1971 that now stands rather than This new Constitution which takes Egypt backwards in so many ways.
Egyptians will never give up. We will not allow our country to become like Saudi Arabia. This is not the character of Egypt or the Egyptian people. It has never been. Egypt is a nation that is 7000 years old and we have always been free until recent years under Western colonization followed by Western backed dictators. If the Muslim Brotherhood is allowed to take over Egypt – the US will have more enemies than ever. This is NOT in America’s interest. Eventually the OIL will run out and we (the entire world) will have to rely on alternative energy sources (let’s do it now, not later). Eventually the Israeli Likud Party will have to give up Occupation of the Palestinian people. The occupation is untenable for Israel to carry on and not good for the Israeli people who want to live in security and peace. Eventually Israel must become interested in real peace with its neighbors, who are more than willing to make peace. Eventually the Saudi Royals will have to give up their positions of power and repression. When their oil runs out the Americans will dump them and stop protecting them. The Saudi people also yearn for freedom from repression. Eventually they will get it. The Saudi Royals would be wise to usher in freedom and democracy on their own rather than wait for their fate. The same goes for Qatar and its Royals.
The biggest obstacles to Egypt’s freedom and democratic emergence are: the Muslim Brother, the SCAF, combined with American, Saudi and Qatari support of the MB and SCAF. The US, SA and Qatar are undermining democracy in an effort to keep the status quo i.e. control over the OIL by the US and Saudi and Qatar Royal’s control over their countries and even their own survival as royals. The Americans, the Saudis and the Qatars are standing in the way of history and the eventual freedom of Egypt and the entire region. It is absolutely clear that this is the WILL OF THE EGYPTIAN PEOPLE – FREEDOM AND DEMOCRACY.
The people of the ME region want peace, security and prosperity. It is time the world side-lined the extremists (including Israel’s Likud Party, Hamas, the Saudi Royals, Qatari Royals, the Muslim Brotherhood and Al Qaeda) and supported policies that will bring peace to the people of the region and the ENTIRE WORLD. The corporations (Lockheed Martin, Bechtel, SAIS, etc.) that are making HUGE PROFITS from the ongoing wars – must eventually come to realize they can and must make money by WAGING PEACE. The cost of preparing one US solider for Afghanistan is $1 million. The cost of producing one mobile hospital is $1 million. The same corporations that build weapons of war, can make their money producing for peaceful means.
As the epi-center of the Middle East – Egypt must be free. If it is not all the entire world will suffer. It is in the interest of the entire world (the US, Saudi Arabia and Israel included) to help Egypt usher in a free open society that is democratic and serves all the Egyptian people equitably and fairly.
I deplore the world and DC particularly to heed these words. Change the paradigm. Think about peace, democracy, openness, equality and justice in the region. And support it – not another dictator!
Watch this MSNBC Video to the very end. Mona Eltahway gives a very good answer to this question – Who are the Bad Guys in Egypt? http://video.msnbc.msn.com/msnbc/50130017#50130017