Recommendations for Egypt’s New Constitution and Electoral System

With humility I write you about my perceptions and thoughts on our beloved Egypt, our New Constitution and Electoral System.

This dynamic revolution has put Egypt in the world’s spotlight and has thrown the gates wide open for unprecedented democratic opportunities for change in Egypt. Egyptians have the possibility of drawing from the best examples historically and worldwide while avoiding the horrendous pitfalls that have undermined democracy in other countries. As an Egyptian citizen, I have high hopes that Egypt will draw from these lessons both positive and negative. As a dual national (Egyptian and American) I hope that Egyptians will heed this warning: do not replicate an “American style” electoral process.

Research shows that the most democratic constitutions are the most detailed and therefore stand the test of time. One message is simple.Draw up a Constitution that will include in it all details for the execution of fair and just electoral processes. A well-written Constitution will not allow for money and media to take over politics and in turn dictate who will rule Egypt.
Heed this warning. Do not replicate other systems that have failed democracy. Here is a bad example:

A good constitution must include specifications for an electoral system of rules and regulations that will not allow for the kind of erosion of democracy that we are witnessing in the US today. The 2012 American presidential election cannot be called democratic. This was a race for money and money alone. There were a total of 28 presidential candidates at the beginning of the race. Most people never heard about the other 26 because they did not have the large sums of money to compete against the Democratic and Republican parties. Is this democratic? Absolutely not.

Total spending on the 2012 US Presidential and Congressional races reached a record $6.0 Billion according to the non-partisan Center for Responsive Politics. The estimated total cost of the 2012 elections jumped 7% from $5.4 billion (in 2008) to $6 billion in 2012 and is expected to continue to rise with every forthcoming election unless there is electoral reform, which is extremely unlikely. $2.3 Billion was donated by individuals and another $3.7 Billion was raised from corporations, Super PACs and outside private interest groups (often ideological groups) who do not have disclose who they are or what they stand for.
In early 2012 the US Supreme Court ruled that unlimited funds could be donated to candidates by corporations, Super PACs and other outside groups that don’t have to reveal their donors. Sheila Krumholz, executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics, reported that what is “more important than the total spent, is how great a portion of that money will come from purportedly independent, often secretive groups.”

Essentially this means that the US Presidency can be bought by corporations or any ideological interest groups with huge sums of money. This is not a democratic process. This is plutocratic process. A plutocracy is defined as a country or society governed by an elite or ruling class of people whose power derives from their wealth.

Egypt can be more Democratic than America

Egypt has the unprecedented opportunity of crafting the best possible Constitution that will incorporate lessons learned throughout the world. Egypt must draw from both good examples and bad and do better. There is much that can be done to produce an equal playing field for all candidates, real transparency, wider civil participation, rule of law, and greater democracy overall.
The next president of Egypt will serve for only eight years, while a well-crafted Constitution will serve Egypt for generations to come. It is therefore imperative that the Constitution include what we Americans wish we could have through a much need electoral reform.

A new Egyptian Constitution should stipulate the following and more:

1.The electoral presidential and parliamentary campaign season must be limited to only three months and tightly regulated by a National Election Commission.

2.No fundraising, advertising, mailings, debates or promotional activities can take place outside this three-month time frame. This must also be tightly regulated by the National Election Commission.

3.No corporation, special interest group, PAC, nor citizen can donate more than $100 to a candidate or a party. All donations must be recorded and regulated by the National Election Commission.

4.Each candidate and/or party will be limited to a set amount of money (determined by the Election Commission) to spend during an election campaign season. This amount will be the same for ALL candidates running for the same elected position. This must be tightly regulated by the National Election Commission.

5.All registered official candidates will have a specified number of free hours of media time to campaign and explain her/his policies, platform and promises. The number of free hours of media time will be the same for ALL candidate and no candidate can buy additional hours. This must be tightly regulated by the National Election Commission.

6.Egypt should be creative, look at and choose an electoral process that is as democratic as possible. A simple majority win is not always the most democratic. For example: Preferential voting or rank voting results in a consensus vote and a winner that is the most acceptable to the greatest number of people. This and other electoral processes must be considered by Egypt. There is a plethora of preferential voting systems, it is important to consider all. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ranked_voting_systems

Some Advice for Electoral Systems Designers
One of the clearest conclusions to be drawn from the comparative study of electoral systems is simply the range and utility of the options available. Often, designers and drafters of constitutional, political, and electoral frameworks simply choose the electoral system they know best—often, in new democracies, the system of the former colonial power if there was one—rather than fully investigating the alternatives. Sometimes the elements of a peace settlement or external pressures constrain the options available.
The major purpose of this text is to provide some of the knowledge for informed decisions to be made. It does not necessarily advocate wholesale changes to existing electoral systems; in fact, the comparative experience of electoral reform to date suggests that moderate reform, building on those parts of an existing system which work well, is often a better option than jumping to a completely new and unfamiliar system.

There is much to be learned from the experience of others. For example, a country with an FPTP system which wishes to move to a more proportional system while still retaining the geographical link to constituents might want to consider the experience of New Zealand, which adopted an MMP system in 1993, or Lesotho, which did so in 2002. A similar country which wants to keep single-member districts but encourage inter-group accommodation and compromise could evaluate the experience of AV in the Oceania region (Fiji or Papua New Guinea in particular). Any deeply divided country that wishes to make the transition to democracy would be well advised to consider both the multi-ethnic power-sharing government the List PR electoral system in South Africa has facilitated and the more troubled history of the Northern Ireland Assembly elected by STV. Lastly, a country which simply wishes to reduce the cost and instability created by a TRS system for electing a president could examine the AV option used by the Republic of Ireland. In all these cases, the choice of electoral system has had a clear impact on the politics of that country.

The following guidelines summarize the advice contained in this topic area:

Keep It Simple and Clear
Effective and sustainable electoral system designs are more likely to be easily understood by the voter and the politician. Too much complexity can lead to misunderstandings, unintended consequences, and voter mistrust of the results.
Don’t be Afraid to Innovate
Many of the successful electoral systems used in the world today themselves represent innovative approaches to specific problems, and have been proved to work well. There is much to learn from the experience of others—both neighbouring countries and seemingly quite different cases.
Pay Attention to Contextual and Temporal Factors
Electoral systems do not work in a vacuum. Their success depends on a happy marriage of political institutions and cultural traditions. The first point of departure for any would-be electoral system designer should be to ask: What is the political and social context I am working within? The second might be: Am I designing a permanent system or one which needs to get us through a transitional period?
Don’t Underestimate the Electorate
While simplicity is important, it is equally dangerous to underestimate the voters’ ability to comprehend and successfully use a wide variety of different electoral systems. Complex preferential systems, for example, have been used successfully in developing countries in the Asia–Pacific region, while the experience of many recent elections in new democracies has underlined the important distinction between ‘functional’ literacy and ‘political’ literacy. Even in very poor countries, voters often have, and wish to express, relatively sophisticated orderings of political preferences and choices. Testing with appropriately drawn focus groups can provide useful information on what will and will not be usable.
Err on the Side of Inclusion
Wherever possible, whether in divided or relatively homogeneous societies, the electoral system should err on the side of including all significant interests in the legislature. Regardless of whether minorities are based on ideological, ethnic, racial, linguistic, regional, or religious identities, the exclusion of significant shades of opinion from legislatures, particularly in the developing world, has often been catastrophically counterproductive.
Process is a Key Factor in Choice
The way in which a particular electoral system is chosen is also extremely important in ensuring its overall legitimacy. A process in which most or all groups are included, including the electorate at large, is likely to result in significantly broader acceptance of the end result than a decision perceived as being motivated by partisan self-interest alone. Although partisan considerations are unavoidable when discussing the choice of electoral systems, broad cross-party and public support for any institution is crucial to its being accepted and respected. The reform of the New Zealand electoral system from FPTP to MMP, for example, involved two referendums which served to legitimize the final outcome. By contrast, the French Socialist government’s decision in 1986 to switch from the existing Two-Round System to PR was widely perceived as being motivated by partisan considerations, and was quickly reversed as soon the government lost power in 1988.
Build Legitimacy and Acceptance Among All Key Actors: All groupings which wish to play a part in the democratic process should feel that the electoral system to be used is fair and gives them the same chance of electoral success as anyone else. The paramount aim should be that those who ‘lose’ the election cannot translate their disappointment into a rejection of the system itself or use the electoral system as an excuse to destabilize the path of democratic consolidation. In 1990, in Nicaragua, the Sandinistas were voted out of the government but accepted the defeat, in part because they accepted the fairness of the electoral system. Cambodia, Mozambique, and South Africa were able to end their bloody civil wars through institutional arrangements which were broadly acceptable to all sides.
Try to Maximize Voter Influence
Voters should feel that elections provide them with a measure of influence over governments and government policy. Choice can be maximized in a number of different ways. Voters may be able to choose between parties, between candidates of different parties, and between candidates of the same party. They may also be able to vote under different systems when it comes to presidential, upper house, lower house, regional, and local government elections. They should also feel confident that their vote has a genuine impact on the formation of the government, not just on the composition of the legislature.
But Balance That Against Encouraging Coherent Political Parties
The desire to maximize voter influence should be balanced against the need to encourage coherent and viable political parties. Maximum voter choice on the ballot paper may produce such a fragmented legislature that no one ends up with the result they were hoping for. There is widespread agreement among political scientists that broadly-based, coherent political parties are among the most important factors in promoting effective and sustainable democracy.
Long-Term Stability and Short-Term Advantage Are Not Always Compatible
When political actors negotiate over a new electoral system, they often push proposals which they believe will advantage their party in the coming elections. However, this can often be an unwise strategy, particularly in developing nations, as one party’s short-term success or dominance may lead to long-term political breakdown and social unrest. For example, in negotiations prior to the transitional 1994 election, South Africa’s ANC could reasonably have argued for the retention of the existing FPTP electoral system, which would probably have given it, as by far the largest party, a seat bonus over and above its share of the national vote. That it argued for a form of PR, and thus won fewer seats than it could have under FPTP, was a testament to the fact that it saw long-term stability as more desirable than short-term electoral gratification. Similarly, electoral systems need to be responsive enough to react effectively to changing political circumstances and the growth of new political movements. Even in established democracies, support for the major parties is rarely stable, while politics in new democracies is almost always highly dynamic, and a party which benefits from the electoral arrangements at one election may not necessarily benefit at the next.
Don’t Think of the Electoral System as a Panacea for All Ills
While it is true that if one wants to change the nature of political competition, the electoral system may be the most effective instrument for doing so, electoral systems can never be the panacea for all the political ills of a country. The overall effects of other variables, particularly a country’s political culture, usually have a much greater impact on its democratic prospects than institutional factors such as electoral systems. Moreover, the positive effects of a well-crafted electoral system can be all too easily submerged by an inappropriate constitutional dispensation, the dominance of forces of discord internally, or the weight of external threats to the sovereignty of the country. But Conversely Don’t Underestimate its Influence Throughout the world, the social constraints on democracy are considerable, but they still leave room for conscious political strategies which may further or hamper successful democratization. Electoral systems are not a panacea, but they are central to the structuring of stability in any polity. Skilful electoral system engineering may not prevent or eradicate deep enmities, but appropriate institutions can nudge the political system in the direction of reduced conflict and greater government accountability. In other words, while most of the changes that can be achieved by tailoring electoral systems are necessarily at the margins, it is often these marginal impacts that make the difference between democracy being consolidated or being undermined.
Be Mindful of the Electorate’s Willingness to Embrace Change
Electoral system change might seem a good idea to political insiders who understand the flaws of the existing system, but unless proposals for reform are presented in an appropriate way, the public may well reject tinkering with the system, perceiving reform to be nothing more than a case of politicians altering the rules for their own benefit. Most damaging are situations when the change is seen to be a blatant manoeuvre for political gain (as was the case in Chile in 1989, in Jordan in 1993, and in Kyrgyzstan on several occasions since 1995, or when the system alters so frequently that the voters do not quite know where they are (as some observers have argued is the case in Bolivia).
And Don’t Assume that Defects can Easily be Fixed Later
All electoral systems create winners and losers, and therefore vested interests. When a system is already in place, these are part of the political environment. At a time of change, however, it may be unwise to assume that it will be easy to gain acceptance later to fix problems which arise. If a review of the system is intended, it may be sensible for it to be incorporated into the legal instruments containing the system change. Take the time needed to get it right the first time.
Avoid Being a Slave to Past Systems
Nevertheless, all too often electoral systems that are inappropriate to a new democracy’s needs have been inherited or carried over from colonial times without any thought as to how they will work within the new political realities. Almost all the former British colonies in Asia, Africa, and the Pacific, for example, adopted FPTP systems. In many of these new democracies, particularly those facing ethnic divisions, this system proved utterly inappropriate to their needs. Similarly, it has been argued that many of the former French colonies in West Africa which retained the TRS system (such as Mali) suffered damaging polarization as a result; and many post-communist regimes retain minimum turnout or majority requirements inherited from the Soviet era.
Assess the Likely Impact of Any New System on Societal Conflict
As noted at the very start of this text, electoral systems can be seen not only as mechanisms for choosing legislatures and presidents but also as a tool of conflict management within a society. Some systems, in some circumstances, will encourage parties to make inclusive appeals for support outside their own core support base. Unfortunately, it is more often the case in the world today that the presence of inappropriate electoral systems serves actually to exacerbate negative tendencies which already exist, for example, by encouraging parties to see elections as ‘zero-sum’ contests and thus to act in a hostile and exclusionary manner to anyone outside their home group. When designing any political institution, the bottom line is that, even if it does not help to reduce tensions within society, it should, at the very least, not make matters worse.
Try and Imagine Unusual or Unlikely Contingencies
Too often, electoral systems are designed to avoid the mistakes of the past, especially the immediate past. Care should be taken in doing so not to overreact and create a system that goes too far in terms of correcting previous problems. Furthermore, electoral system designers would do well to pose themselves some unusual questions to avoid embarrassment in the long run. What if nobody wins under the system proposed? Is it possible that one party could win all the seats? What if you have to award more seats than you have places in the legislature? What do you do if candidates tie? Might the system mean that, in some districts, it is better for a party supporter not to vote for their preferred party or candidate?

The mass media are essential to the conduct of democratic elections. A free and fair election is not only about casting a vote in proper conditions, but also about having adequate information about parties, policies, candidates and the election process itself so that voters can make an informed choice. A democratic election with no media freedom would be a contradiction in terms.
But the paradox is that, in order to ensure that freedom, a degree of regulation is required. Government media, funded out of public money, should be required to give fair coverage and equitable access to opposition parties, for example. Media often may not be allowed to run reports – for example on exit polls or early results – before every vote has been cast.
The mass media – often referred to as just “the media” – are usually understood to refer to the printed press and to radio and television broadcasters. In recent years, the definition has perhaps become broader, encompassing the Internet in its various forms and other new forms of electronic distribution of news and entertainment, such as short message services to mobile telephones.
The prime concern is the right of voters to full and accurate information. But this is not the only right involved. Parties and candidates are entitled to use the media to get their messages across to the electorate. The media themselves have a right to report freely and to scrutinize the whole election process. This scrutiny is itself an important additional safeguard against interference or corruption in the management of the election. Finally, the electoral management body (EMB) has a crucial need to communicate information to the electorate – and to a variety of other groups, including the political parties and the media themselves.
The relationship of the EMB to the media is hence a fairly complex one. Potentially, electoral managers may stand in three distinct relations to the media:
• As regulator: the EMB may sometimes be responsible for developing or implementing regulations governing media behaviour during elections (especially relating to direct access to the media by parties and candidates). It may also be responsible for dealing with complaints against the media.
• As communicator: the EMB will also, invariably, want to use the media as a vehicle for communicating its messages to the electorate.
• As news story: the EMB will be a focus of media interest throughout the election process. The media will be interested in the information that the EMB can provide, as well as trying to scrutinize the EMB’s performance and the efficiency and integrity of the elections.

http://aceproject.org/ace-en/topics/media-and-elections
tahrir1

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Journey to SIWA

If my education had been any good I might have become a good essayist. As it stands today, I have just started to learn what makes a good essay. What age am I? Let’s just say I am ripe. George Orwell was already dead by the time I even opened my mouth or picked up a pen or embarrassingly read his essays.

My 13 year old son knows more about the injustice and lies of the world than I did at 40. Have I robbed him of his innocence? Does he need to know about the NSA wiring tapping on American citizens or the children killed by drones lying peacefully in their tiny cots in a room shared with their parents in a grey village in Pakistan?

An American man who was interested in me called himself a misanthrope. Isn’t that a person who dislikes humankind and avoids human society?

My son and I sat in a public bus for 12 hours across the Sahara desert. We were the only ones who were not Siwan Berbers. I wish I could say we wound our way across the lush landscape but the truth is the road was as straight as the horizon. It had a slight bend. There was nothing lush about it, until we got hit by an enormous sand storm that totally engulfed our vessel and brought us to a dead halt. The sand entered every crevasse covering our view of the planet and our bags underneath. We saw nothing but white and then it passed. As quickly as it had come, the sun burst upon our senses.

Inside our vessel was adorned with baskets made of plastic, sod, striped canvas, a Sponge Bob doll hanging from the oversized bus mirror with an Eye of Horus dangling around his torso.

Our fellow mates aboard our sandship were occupied with sleeping and eating. Eating dates and pomegranates and salted pumpkin seeds and talking about their troubles with money and their children’s marriages and their government’s corruption and what one ought to do when one’s mother goes mad and her eyes roll backwards. They told jokes and wagged their index finger at each other imitating the scoundrel who was now called al rice the president.

Outside the desert was beautiful and monotonous like a Barbie doll woman.

The sky moved like a massive wave in the sea and clouds began to align themselves like soldiers on the frontline of long ago wars. The clouds moved at full tilt, as fast as their legs could carry them they galloped onto the Sahara and like greased lightning they dumped their lake, their river, their ocean, upon us without sacrifice. In a flash, the desert was flooded and again our vessel stopped, begging mercy min al donya the mother of earth.

In a swift instant or the blink of Horus’ eye the sun burst through creating a triple spectrum of light in-fractured upon the desert sand. We saw pools and puddles and seas of water gathered across the sandscape colored by the arcs.

We all gazed out the window in wonderment exuding ma shah allah – allah ahkbar. The water on the road dried up and moved and disappeared in moments and our vessel moved on. Two more times during our voyage the gods flashed upon us and the Sahara became a great ocean for minutes.

After many hours of sleep and eating and reading and card playing we left the straight road and existed on to a much smaller straight desert road that head south to the Oasis of Siwa, the largest oasis in all of Africa. It was there that the great pharoah Akhnaton, the inventor of monotheism, built a temple to the one and only god Amun Ra, the god of the Sun, the god behind all the other gods, the god of gods, the only god.

He built the temple in the most auspicious of places in the very center of this magnificent miracle of an oasis that comprises hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of date palms, thick as my son’s hair. Hundreds of natural hot springs venture up from the depths of il donya.

Upon our metal horses we cycled for hours between the palms and lands and springs. We shedded our clothes and bathed in the bath of Cleopatra and Anthony, where in love they bathed in preparation and cleansing to pray in the temple of Amun Ra.

In the evenings we ate Berber delights by the fire of our temporary home, the Shali Lodge. There my son played with the fire for many hours, feeding it, rebuilding it, throwing salt rocks into her mouth and catching the sparks in his eyes. There his mind was at peace, there was no talk of Ed Snowden or wiki-leaks or drones. There was peace. There were kind Berbers feeding us from their souls and their handmade bread.

There in Siwa we were one with the earth, the soil and sand and dates and palms. Our home was made from the earthen clay just as we were made. Our window shutters made of palm wood with elaborately simple latches that turned and held tight in our minds. We slept on cots made soft by the palm leaves and downy silken Egyptian cotton bedding that embraced us fully.

We didn’t speak profoundly. We just lived. We saw. We smelled. We tasted. We felt all that was Siwa.

Make No Mistake – Egyptians Want Democracy

As an Egyptian American living in Egypt it has been a life changing opportunity to participate on the streets of Cairo with my fellow Egyptians as we stand together peacefully demonstrating for justice, peace and democracy. As an American I feel it is my duty to shed some light on the current situation in Egypt. Let it be clear that the uprising of the Egyptian people on the 30th of June 2013 is real democracy at work. We are fighting for a government by and for the people.

More than 33 Million Egyptians took to the streets that day in peaceful demonstrations against the performance and failure of the Muslim Brotherhood regime in tackling the serious problems facing Egypt; including the economy, security and social services, together with the misuse of power.
This was not a coup d’etat, but an exhibition of true democracy the likes of which the world has never seen before. This was the largest people’s movement in the history of the world.  A few days before the 30th of June, the majority of the Egyptian people exercised direct democracy by appealing to the army to stand behind the will of the people and to intercede to correct the wrongful political process and restore the principles of the 25th of January 2011 revolution. Hence, the intervention of the Armed Forces was a response to the will of the Egyptian people and a realization that the national security of Egypt was threatened.
The future plan laid out by the Egyptian people and declared by the Armed Forces was mapped out in coordination with all political and religious forces and most importantly the youth whom had, once again, launched the uprising of 30th June. The future plan essentially fulfills the original demands and hopes of 25th of January 2011. Most importantly, an interim civilian government capable setting up a democratic political process and dealing with pressing domestic issues was appointed.

On the 8th of July 2013, a constitutional declaration set a time frame of 7-9 months for the following steps:
    1.    Drafting a constitution which will be implemented after a popular referendum.
    2.    Preparing for a parliamentarian elections wherein all political parties  will participate on an even playing field.
    3.    Followed by preparations for a presidential election wherein all political parties will participate on an even playing field.

It is the hope and will of the Egyptian people to institute a democratic political process and system based on established institutions which will include all political parties and factions. It is important to state that the Muslim Brotherhood must also be included and that it must, with all parties, be committed to non-violence.

Egypt can become more democratic than many existing “democracies.”

Egypt has the unprecedented opportunity of crafting the best possible Constitution that will incorporate lessons learned throughout the world. A well crafted Constitution will serve Egypt well for generations and centuries to come. The next president of Egypt can only serve for a maximum of eight years. It must include what we Americans wish we could have in our Constitution; a detailed political process that assures that all candidates are given equal and fair opportunity.  Several countries throughout the world have incorporated democratic processes that assure greater equality amongst candidates.  

Personally, I think that a 7-9 month time frame is far too short and will rush the process. This process must not be rushed. It must be done well and correctly. Many countries which have had successful transitions from autocratic rule to democratic rule – have taken 2 to 3 years to set up the political process and write their Constitution before any elections took place. Egypt must take the time needed to do it correctly, there is no rush. It is far more important to get it right.

A new Egyptian Constitution must be detailed and must stipulate all details of the political electoral process and much more, beginning with:

    •    The presidential campaign season must be limited to only three months and tightly regulated by a National Election Commission.
    •    No fundraising, advertising, mailings, debates or promotional activities can take place outside this three-month time frame. This will be tightly regulated by the Election Commission.
    •    Candidates cannot receive funds or donations from any corporation, special interest group, external government or organization, nor citizen. This will be tightly regulated by the Election Commission.
    •    Each candidate and party will be limited to a set amount of money paid for by the government and determined by the Election Commission for expenditures during a campaign season. This amount will be the same for each candidate running for the same elected position. This will be tightly regulated.
    •    Each official candidate will have a specified number of free hours of media time (paid for by the government and determined by the Election Commission) to campaign and explain her/his policies, platform and promises. The number of free hours of media time will be the same for each candidate and no candidate can buy additional hours. This will be tightly regulated.
    •    Egypt should choose an electoral process that is as democratic as possible. A simple majority win is not always the most democratic. For example, a Rank Order Electoral Process results in a consensus vote and a winner that is the most acceptable to the greatest number of people. This and other electoral processes should be considered by Egypt.

Egyptians have shown the world that they want democracy. This is Egypt’s unprecedented opportunity to usher in a new Constitution and electoral process that will assure greater democracy than most countries in the world. This window of opportunity must not be lost to power grabbing opportunists in Egypt who wish to push through a quick election in order to control the process and hang on to power. This process must not be rushed. It must be done well and correctly.  

Now is the time for all Egyptians to demand that a new Constitution and electoral process be ushered in before parliamentary and presidential elections take place. There is nothing more important. The future of Egypt hinges on this. Rushing into elections in 2011 without a Constitution and a democratic electoral process undermined the revolution. We must learn from this disastrous mistake and not repeat it.

On 30 June, the Egyptian people called for a new chance to get it right. Thanks to God we have been given this chance once again. Let’s get it right this time.

Shout it from your TV sets, your radios, villages and hamlets, spread leaflets and shout it from your rooftops. With the leadership of this interim civilian government and the in-put of all Egyptians we must take our time to develop a truly democratic political process and system that will stand the test of time, that will usher in a  democratic Constitution beyond reproach. We must institute a fair and egalitarian electoral process. Now is the time to build a democratic Egypt for centuries to come.

# # #

Nile El Wardani, Ph.D. is an Egyptian American peace activist, political analyst, radio host and writer. She teaches at the American University in Cairo in the School of Global Affairs and Public Policy.

 
Make No Mistake – Egyptians Want Democracy
by Nile El Wardani

As an Egyptian American living in Egypt it has been a life changing opportunity to participate on the streets of Cairo with my fellow Egyptians as we stand together peacefully demonstrating for justice, peace and democracy. As an American I feel it is my duty to shed some light on the current situation in Egypt. Let it be clear that the uprising of the Egyptian people on the 30th of June 2013 is real democracy at work. We are fighting for a government by and for the people.
More than 33 Million Egyptians took to the streets that day in peaceful demonstrations against the performance and failure of the Muslim Brotherhood regime in tackling the serious problems facing Egypt; including the economy, security and social services, together with the misuse of power.
This was not a coup d’etat, but an exhibition of true democracy the likes of which the world has never seen before. This was the largest people’s movement in the history of the world.  A few days before the 30th of June, the majority of the Egyptian people exercised direct democracy by appealing to the army to stand behind the will of the people and to intercede to correct the wrongful political process and restore the principles of the 25th of January 2011 revolution. Hence, the intervention of the Armed Forces was a response to the will of the Egyptian people and a realization that the national security of Egypt was threatened.
The future plan laid out by the Egyptian people and declared by the Armed Forces was mapped out in coordination with all political and religious forces and most importantly the youth whom had, once again, launched the uprising of 30th June. The future plan essentially fulfills the original demands and hopes of 25th of January 2011. Most importantly, an interim civilian government capable setting up a democratic political process and dealing with pressing domestic issues was appointed.
On the 8th of July 2013, a constitutional declaration set a time frame of 7-9 months for the following steps:
    1.    Drafting a constitution which will be implemented after a popular referendum.
    2.    Preparing for a parliamentarian elections wherein all political parties  will participate on an even playing field.
    3.    Followed by preparations for a presidential election wherein all political parties will participate on an even playing field.

It is the hope and will of the Egyptian people to institute a democratic political process and system based on established institutions which will include all political parties and factions. It is important to state that the Muslim Brotherhood must also be included and that it must, with all parties, be committed to non-violence.

Egypt can become more democratic than many existing “democracies.”

Egypt has the unprecedented opportunity of crafting the best possible Constitution that will incorporate lessons learned throughout the world. A well crafted Constitution will serve Egypt well for generations and centuries to come. The next president of Egypt can only serve for a maximum of eight years. It must include what we Americans wish we could have in our Constitution; a detailed political process that assures that all candidates are given equal and fair opportunity.  Several countries throughout the world have incorporated democratic processes that assure greater equality amongst candidates.  

Personally, I think that a 7-9 month time frame is far too short and will rush the process. This process must not be rushed. It must be done well and correctly. Many countries which have had successful transitions from autocratic rule to democratic rule – have taken 2 to 3 years to set up the political process and write their Constitution before any elections took place. Egypt must take the time needed to do it correctly, there is no rush. It is far more important to get it right.
A new Egyptian Constitution must be detailed and must stipulate all details of the political electoral process and much more, beginning with:

    •    The presidential campaign season must be limited to only three months and tightly regulated by a National Election Commission.
    •    No fundraising, advertising, mailings, debates or promotional activities can take place outside this three-month time frame. This will be tightly regulated by the Election Commission.
    •    Candidates cannot receive funds or donations from any corporation, special interest group, external government or organization, nor citizen. This will be tightly regulated by the Election Commission.
    •    Each candidate and party will be limited to a set amount of money paid for by the government and determined by the Election Commission for expenditures during a campaign season. This amount will be the same for each candidate running for the same elected position. This will be tightly regulated.
    •    Each official candidate will have a specified number of free hours of media time (paid for by the government and determined by the Election Commission) to campaign and explain her/his policies, platform and promises. The number of free hours of media time will be the same for each candidate and no candidate can buy additional hours. This will be tightly regulated.
    •    Egypt should choose an electoral process that is as democratic as possible. A simple majority win is not always the most democratic. For example, a Rank Order Electoral Process results in a consensus vote and a winner that is the most acceptable to the greatest number of people. This and other electoral processes should be considered by Egypt.

Egyptians have shown the world that they want democracy. This is Egypt’s unprecedented opportunity to usher in a new Constitution and electoral process that will assure greater democracy than most countries in the world. This window of opportunity must not be lost to power grabbing opportunists in Egypt who wish to push through a quick election in order to control the process and hang on to power. This process must not be rushed. It must be done well and correctly.  

Now is the time for all Egyptians to demand that a new Constitution and electoral process be ushered in before parliamentary and presidential elections take place. There is nothing more important. The future of Egypt hinges on this. Rushing into elections in 2011 without a Constitution and a democratic electoral process undermined the revolution. We must learn from this disastrous mistake and not repeat it.

On 30 June, the Egyptian people called for a new chance to get it right. Thanks to God we have been given this chance once again. Let’s get it right this time.

Shout it from your TV sets, your radios, villages and hamlets, spread leaflets and shout it from your rooftops. With the leadership of this interim civilian government and the in-put of all Egyptians we must take our time to develop a truly democratic political process and system that will stand the test of time, that will usher in a  democratic Constitution beyond reproach. We must institute a fair and egalitarian electoral process. Now is the time to build a democratic Egypt for centuries to come.

# # #

Nile El Wardani, Ph.D. is an Egyptian American peace activist, political analyst, radio host and writer. She teaches at the American University in Cairo in the School of Global Affairs and Public Policy.

 

Raising Public Awareness Through Televion

This Spring 2013 I created a new course at the American University in Cairo (School of Global Affairs and Public Policy)  called Raising Public Awareness through Television Production.  Here is a bit about the course followed by the LINKS to the Videos that the students produced under my leadership.Students were required to conduct in-depth research on their topic and create mind maps.  They were then required to conduct focus groups in the community and test their ideas and ultimately their scripts with their target audiences before filming. Their community partners were amazingly helpful.The students decided to address the following issues:
1.) Domestic Violence, 2.) Trash and 3.) Sexual Harassment.

Students talk about awareness-raising and this class gives them a chance to go beyond talk and develop the research, writing, and film-making skills to make concrete progress in that direction. My students have been very enthusiastic about this experiential learning opportunity and I hope that AUC will be able to repeat it in the years to come. We already have request from UNDP to explore working on Regional women issues and empowerment by collaborating to have PSAs on common issues amongst Arab women to be aired on Satellite Channels.

A course such as this is an excellent way for AUC students from different disciplines to work together and at the same time to work within their communities and give real service to their country during this transitional period.  I can see this course expanding to include working partnerships between students in other disciplines including environment, women’s studies, public health, urban planning, development studies, water, etc.

After decades of keeping Egyptians in the dark about issues that affect their every day life, it is time that Egyptians are given pertinent information that will help the country develop and the people become educated and aware of their problems and more  importantly their solutions. PSAs televised on Egyptian TV are one instrument that can fulfill this promise.

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. – Margaret Meade

I am very proud of my PPAD 570 students. They have worked very hard. I admire them and I expect great things from them in the future. I know they will continue to serve their communities and their countries. They have proven to be committed, intelligent, sensitive, tolerant, hardworking, thoughtful and I believe some of them will be Egypt’s future leaders.  FYI – they are all young women.  Below are the PSAs that they produce under my teaching and leadership.

The PSAs are all in Arabic and are made for Egyptian Audiences.  (We are working on English Subtitles for international audiences).

I would love to hear your comments and reactions.

Many thanks for your consideration.
Please share the PSAs with others.
Sincerely,
Nile El Wardani, MPH, PhD

Here are the links:  Please GIVE US FEEDBACK!

Domestic Violence:

http://youtu.be/pRmA2olerAY

http://youtu.be/DKAbAQ7luX0

Trash:

http://youtu.be/L40B5Tvst-Q

http://youtu.be/qfeCsZH-dzQ

http://youtu.be/8H_B8FpRnJE

http://youtu.be/zIJtjq6H-qg

Sexual Harassment : Group 1

http://youtu.be/pq5f0xz846A

http://youtu.be/n7O3i_RhR9k

Dr. Nile Regina El Wardani, MPH, PhD
Adjunct Professor in Public Policy
Public Policy and Administration Department
School of Global Affairs and Public Policy
American University in Cairo
Cairo, Egypt
www.nileelwardani.org

Why the EGYPTIAN PEOPLE had to SAVE EGYPT NOW

tahrir1Hubbard’s Article on NY Times

If someone wants to understand what is going on in Egypt he has to ,more importantly, read what Egyptians are saying in their own newspapers. Relying on analysis by Ny Times or WP etc…. Is not sufficient. There’s a lot of opinion and analysis by respected unbiased Egyptian researchers, but it is in Arabic. If you don’t read what is written in Arabic, you cannot begin to understand what is going on in Egypt.

What happened in Egypt does not fit the West’s established paradigm of civilian vs military Or secular vs religious. A much broader and deeper look is needed to understand why 30 million people decided to save their country from the grips of an international MB organization that successfully manipulated a sham democratic process that followed the January 25 revolution. Egyptians had decided to be patient and give the MB their fair chance at governing, but especially with the blatant illegal November constitutional declaration that immunized the presidents decisions from any legal oversight, and the virulent attempts to destroy the judiciary by trying to remove 3000 judges through passing a law by a temporary legislative body (shoura) lacking legitimacy, it became clearer and clearer that they were in the grips of an international mafia that was trying to destroy Egypt from within.

The lawlessness in Sinai and the free rein given to terrorists there completed the grim picture of what was really going on, especially when the attack and killing of 16 army soldiers last Ramadan was left unresolved and unpunished, in addition to the incredible incomprehensible tolerance of the hundreds of tunnels built by Hamas for the illegal crossing of people, arms, Egyptian subsidized petroleum products etc..to and from Gaza ( governed by another branch of the international MB).

Then came the unbelievable fiasco with the building of the Ethiopian dam that threatens Egypt’s very existence and the irresponsible and “comic” way it was dealt with on live television.

Egyptians realized more and more that their vital national security interests were in extreme danger and the threat, incredibly, was coming from their own government.

On top of that, came the unbelievable hate rhetoric being spewed with official blessing by the President’s supporters in mass rallies attended by him. All the opposition as well as Christians, and even Shiites, were publicly insulted in those rallies as “infidels” whose lives could be taken legitimately. ( sure enough a few days after such a rally, a whole Shiite family in a Cairo suburb was brutally murdered.)

All the while , due to the incompetence of the MB government which the President insisted was doing a great job, the economy was spiraling rapidly downwards pushing millions of Egyptians deeper into extreme poverty.

Anger was rising within all segments of the population, but the President turned a blind eye and a deaf ear refusing to listen to the complaints of the people. Given that he was democratically elected for four years, the rising demand from all sectors of society coalesced into a demand for early presidential elections. That was the peaceful way to resolve the impasse. And to show that this demand was widely supported, the Tamarod campaign took off, obtaining 22 million signatures demanding early presidential elections and announcing a popular demonstration on June 30 if this demand was not met. Still the president and MB refused to give in to this reasonable demand. The army, seeing the rising swell of discontent and fearing a bloody confrontation, a week before june 30 called on the President to resolve the issue through compromise. The President ignored this. He was then given another two days ultimatum by the army after 30 million Egyptians took to the streets peacefully on June 30. The president said ” over my dead body”.

That is, in a nutshell, how we came to this day.

Each one can judge for himself whether Egyptians and their army should have waited for another three years …….

But as seen on June 30 and again on JTahrir Square Millionsuly 6 the overwhelming majority of Egyptians took to the streets, deciding that their country had to be saved NOW.

The Egyptian Revolution is about Egyptian Interests and Identity and NOT “American Interests”

Correction: Many Western people believe that Morsy was fairly elected by the Egyptian people. This is what the US administration is parroting to justify their continued support of Morsy (their new puppet).  This could not be further from the truth. The Egyptian election process that took place two years ago (2011) after the fall of Mubarak was Unfair, Corrupt, Manipulated and Undemocratic. It is not accurate to say that the Egyptian people elected Morsy. They did not. The election process was totally rigged from the very first round when 13 candidates were on the ballot. Tens of Millions of Egyptians were prohibited from voting inside Egypt. Another 7.5 Million Egyptians outside Egypt were prohibited from voting (including me). The elections were rammed through in a matter of months (by the US administration with the support of SCAF) and this insured that the top 2 run-off parties would be the NDP and MB and not any of the other 11 smaller and newly established parties. This rigging sealed the deal and continued into the second round. The Carter Foundation (international observers) left Egypt after the first round because they saw that the process was corrupt and rigged and therefore they could not continue to fairly observe in such a situation.

As of today June 30, 2013 – More than 22 Million Egyptian people (including me) signed a petition stating our discontent for the Muslim Brotherhood and demanding that Morsy and the MB step down. Even in a rigged election Morsy only got 13 Million votes total, far less than those who are calling for him to step down now. You have seen on TV Millions of Egyptians peacefully take to the streets in the past three days asking for the same. Again the US government is interfering. The US has told Morsy to stay firm and not step down. The US has once again ignored the calls of the vast majority of Egyptian people. The US has once again defaced democracy.

The US government should stay out of Egypt’s internal affairs completely. That means not backing Morsy nor the Military SCAF. Not calling for early elections, as Obama has done yesterday. That mean Not taking any stand at all. That means letting Egyptians control their own destiny without intrusion.  Urging early elections is what the US did 2 years ago. It was a horrendous mistake and now Obama has done it again. South Africa took 2.5 years to get ready for elections and the US supported this. Why did the US push for quick and early elections in Egypt in 2011? Why are they doing it again? To control the outcome.  The US has always depended on an Egyptian puppet/leader to do its bidding and uphold “American Interests” over Egyptian interests.The US will accept either the NDP or the Muslim Brotherhood, so long as the leader/puppet is compliant. This explains why the US was willing to back the MB.

The main goal was to make sure real democracy did not take hold in Egypt. Why? A truly democratic Egypt will eventually change the face of the entire Middle East and certainly Egypt right away. Egypt will be for Egyptians and not another pawn of American interests, American markets, American political maneuvers and one of America’s largest loyal weapon’s clients.  All this will stop with real democracy in Egypt. Egypt does not need American AID in the form of F-16 bombers and tear gas that makes us sick.  America can keep your $1.4 Billion/ year in military hardware to Egypt. We don’t want it. We have no interest in waging war with anyone. We want peace. We want bread, justice, freedom and democracy.

This is exactly why Egypt needs to take its time and learn from examples (Portugal, Spain and So. Africa when under transition). 1.) Egypt must Create and Usher in an Interim Civilian Government 2.) Utilize Egyptians experts and lay persons from all spheres to write a new Constitution 3.) Outline a democratic political process that is fair and open 4.) Then (and only then) Call for elections that must be fair for all candidates (regulated equal money and media time for all candidates, limited 3 months for campaigning, rank-order voting, etc.) and open to international observation and 5.) By all means TAKE the needed TIME 1-3 years to do this all accurately and methodically.  Don’t rush. Do it right. Learn from the best. Learn from the worst and don’t do it. Take this opportunity to outline a truly open consensual and democratic system for Egypt’s future generations. Include ALL segments of Egyptian society in this process, at all times, at all levels, for all.

Generally, this is what the revolution was demanding two years ago. The Egyptian people have not rested. They have not and will not give up on their country. They will continue to press for democracy.  They must be given the chance to fulfill this desire and promise. If the US or any other nation does not support this – then simply stay out – don’t do a damn thing. The Egyptian Revolution is not about “American Interests” it is about “Egyptian Interests.”