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.