Egypt wins First Place for “International Peace and Security” According to the “Good Country Index”

The Good Country Index is a new way of looking at the world. It measures, as objectively as possible, what each country contributes to the common good of our world as a whole, and conversely what each country takes away. Within the index there are seven overarching categories and therefore seven possible gold medalists.

Many will be surprised to learn that Egypt has reason to be proud because Egypt is one of the Gold Medalists, ranking #1 for the category of International Peace and Security.

Why Egypt? On the whole, countries like Egypt that score well in this category International Peace and Security, do not export arms; they do not get directly involved in international violent conflicts (except in some cases as peacekeepers); they tend to have tight cyber-security, and they often contribute significantly to UN peacekeeping missions with troops and/or funds. Generally speaking such countries do very little harm overseas, rather than doing good. Still, the net effect is positive and this is what has earned Egypt the #1 spot in this particular category.

A composite overall score of all seven categories ranks the top 20 countries as Western developed countries. However, on the whole many of these Western countries rank very low in the category of International Peace and Security; France (92nd), United Kingdom (94th), the Netherlands (97th), Belgium (100th), Luxemburg (101st), Italy (102nd), Austria (104th), Canada (106th), Germany (109th), Sweden (111th), USA (114th) and Spain (120th).  On the contrary, many lower income developing countries rank highest in this category; Egypt (1st), Jordan (2nd), Tanzania (3rd), Lesotho (4th) and Uruguay (5th) as net creditors towards international peace and security.

The other six categories and the countries that rank number one are: 2.) United Kingdom in Science and Technology, 3) Belgium in Culture, 4) Germany for World Order, 5) Iceland for Planet and Climate, 6) Spain for Health and Wellbeing and 7) Ireland for Prosperity and Equality. See

In the overall composite score Ireland ranks #1 making it the “Most Good Country” in the world according to the Index, a great acknowledgement for Ireland. Developing countries that rank high in overall composite scores include; Costa Rica (22nd), Malta (23rd) and Chile (24th). Kenya (26th) scores the highest overall composite in Africa/ME.

The Good Country Index isn’t interested in how well countries are doing internally nor is making any judgment. The index is looking at countries through a new and different lens than previous indices. It is interested in how much each country is doing for the world as a whole. The concept of the “Good Country” is all about encouraging populations and their governments to be more outward looking and to consider the international consequences of their national behavior, both positive and negative.

While there are numerous indices that measure country performance in isolation (WB, UNDP, IMF): whether it’s economic growth, stability, justice, transparency, good governance, productivity, democracy, freedom, or even happiness, it’s always measured per country. The Good Country Index tries to measure the global impacts of policies and behaviors that contribute to the “global commons”, and what they take away. Try thinking of “good” as a measure of how much a country contributes to the common good. So in this context “good” means the opposite of “selfish”, not the opposite of “bad”.

Author/researcher Simon Anholt and his team have used 35 reliable datasets, which track the way that most countries on earth behave. There are five datasets in each of seven large categories that cover the big issues. Using a wide range of data from the U.N. and other international organizations each country has a balance-sheet to show at a glance whether it’s a net creditor to mankind, a burden on the planet, or something in between. The ‘Good Country’ concept and the Good Country Index were developed and funded by Simon Anholt. The Index was built by Dr Robert Govers with support from several organizations.

The author-researcher (Simon Anholt) of Good Country Index is posing important questions. Do countries exist purely to serve the interests of their own politicians, businesses and citizens, or are they actively working for all of humanity and the whole planet? The debate is a critical one.

Anholt argues that this index forms a truer and more realistic global balance sheet than those that look at each country in isolation as if each sits on its own private planet.

Anholt holds that the aim is to start a global discussion about how countries can balance their duty to their own citizens with their responsibility to the wider world, because this is essential for the future of humanity and the health of our planet.

He asserts that today as never before, we desperately need a world made of good countries. We will only get them by demanding them: from our leaders, our companies, our societies, and of course from ourselves.

“The biggest challenges facing humanity today are global and borderless: climate change, economic crisis, terrorism, drug trafficking, slavery, pandemics, poverty and inequality, population growth, food and water shortages, energy, species loss, human rights, migration and more. All of these problems stretch across national borders, so the only way they can be properly tackled is through international efforts” asserts Anholt.

“The trouble is most countries carry on behaving as if they were islands, focusing on developing domestic solutions to domestic problems. We’ll never get anywhere unless we start to change this habit.”

Anholt hopes that people the world over will use this information to urge their governments to look at the total impact of their policies. Anholt is somber “It is no longer enough to provide prosperity, growth, justice and peace to one population alone. The international consequences of every action must be considered. Economic growth is a good thing, but not if it’s at the cost of the environment or the wellbeing of another country or species. Competition between nations is increasingly looking like a dangerous idea. It’s up to us to tell these things to our politicians, and the Good Country Index can help get the message across.”

Note: All data and information herein is credited to Simon Anholt and Dr Robert Govers and can be found at

Nile El Wardani, PhD is a professor at the American University in Cairo and can be reached at




Reflections on Work and Life in Egypt Today

Here in Egypt, despite the ongoing negative worldwide media reports, Egyptians continue to work, live, study and play.

At this moment I sit around a large rectangular table with twelve Egyptian managers (6 women, 6 men, age 35-55) who are engaged in their bi-weekly steering committee meeting at Ipsos Egypt, the country office of the 2nd largest research firm in the world. Ipsos, based in Paris, France, is located in 85 countries worldwide.

These twelve young Egyptian professionals are skilled, educated, empowered and committed to their work, families, company and country.

As the only American working with them, I can say without trepidation that they are amongst the top professionals I have had the pleasure of working with for the past 30 years of professional life.

Not only are they competent, precise, effective, professional and ethical in all their dealings, they are also supportive and kind to each other. There is no semblance of back-stabbing or negative competition. It is a real pleasure to labor with them and I feel grateful to find myself in such a healthy and positive work environment. They get the work done, creatively and professionally and they laugh and smile at the same time.

Ipsos Egypt offices are located on the Corniche El Nil in Maadi, Cairo. As we participate in our steering meeting, we see the Nile River below us and the green banks of river on the other side remind us each moment of the ageless dignity and life in this marvelous country. We can see the farmers working in their fields, the donkeys carrying their loads, the water buffalo turning around the water pumps and again we are reminded that Egyptians continue to work, taking care of their small piece of this magnificent country, whether they be a corporate manager or a farmer, despite the turmoil Egypt finds itself in.

There is something so very real and romantic about this scene….something that the world news media never begins to understand or capture or relay. There is hope. There is resolve. There is endless love for this land, this people, this country. Something I have not seen or felt, quite like this, in any other country.

I see this hope and resolve and tenacity in my fellow Egyptian Ipsos colleagues and I see it in the farmers toiling on the banks of the Nile, outside our Ipsos window.

No wonder that Egypt was rated 4th most positive economic outlook, amongst 25 countries worldwide in the Ipsos Global Advisor, for the next six months.

The Ipsos Global Economic Pulse (a monthly syndicated survey of 25 countries) welcomed the addition of a new country: Egypt in Jan. 2014. Egyptians reflect notably positive assessments of their national economy (64%), raising the global aggregate two points (39%) and the regional aggregate in the Middle East and Africa three points (54%). More than half (54%) of Egyptians rate the economy in their local area to be ‘good’ while six in ten (61%) expect it to be ‘stronger’ in the next six months. After three months without change, the average global economic assessment of national economies surveyed in 25 countries inches higher this month with the inclusion of Egypt in the global survey. When asked to consider the current economic situation in their country, 39% of global citizens rate it to be ‘good.’ Without Egypt, the figure remains unchanged at 37%.

Saudi Arabia (86%) is the country with the highest proportion of respondents rating their national economies to be ‘good,’ followed by Germany (75%), Sweden (72%), Egypt (64%), China (63%), and Australia (59%). On the other end of the spectrum, a small minority (5%) of those in Italy rate their national economies as ‘good’, followed by Spain (7%), France (8%), South Korea (17%) and Hungary (17%).

So lift up your heads Ipsos colleagues because we have something to smile about.

EGYPT: We need our funny man back!


Word on the street is that Bassem will be back On Air in a matter of weeks, albeit on another Network since CBC caved into and sucked up to the Interim government and broke the contract. Why? Because Bassem took pot shots at everyone including the Interim government.

But will Bassem have the guts to take pot shots at the same Interim government who shut down 1000 Egyptian NGOs yesterday, many of whom provide much needed healthcare to the poor of Egypt? We need our Funny Man back!

Will Bassem be allowed to criticize the new law that criminalizes any Egyptians who take part in demonstrations without first acquiring a permit? A permit???? Can you imagine Egyptians WAITING for a Permit? Now that is FUNNY!!!

The good news is that Bassem and his team have TONS of new material for the upcoming episodes!!!

________Below Written 3 November 2013_______________

Life in Egypt is so unpredictable. Totally the opposite as it used to be. Nothing changed for years. One could leave for a year or four and come back and nothing had changed. Now it changes every day. The American University announced at 4pm today that it will be closed tomorrow because of the trial of Pres. Morsy and the possibility of unrest. So I don’t teach as expected. No one, including the Americans ever have a game plan in advance. Everyone seems to be responding to events instead of creating the future.

Friday I sat in front of my television set at 10pm ready to watch the much awaited second-show-of-the-season of Egyptian comedian Bassem Yousef (the Egyptian John Stewart). The entire country sat waiting and it never came on. The previous week Bassem Yousef took pot shots at everyone including the Interim Egyptian President and General Sisi (who is really in charge of the country). It was brilliant and funny and cutting edge. He spared no one as he has done for the past year – during the Muslim Brotherhood (MB)year of Pres. Morsy. Of course he was slammed with some law suits that went no where and he stayed on air. Now under a new interim government – one episode and he was Unplugged! Rumors flew on Twitter that BY even fled the country.

The fact that most of the country was sitting in front of the television (politics is now the national sport taking over football since January 2011) and then got stiffed was a BAD sign. What could the new interim government be so afraid of? A comedian? We have all taken this as a bad sign and many of us feel that this means that we are back to square one in terms of revolution and the reasons for revolt. The economy certainly has not improved – the main cause of the revolution – rising cost of living, high unemployment, poverty rising, no future for the average Egyptian, etc. Now it seems that censorship is back in style – even greater censorship than under Mubarak. The difference is that the genie is out of the bottle, meaning Egyptians have no fear any longer, they know what their rights are supposed to look like and feel like and they are not going back to the bitter days of stagnation, control and despotism.

In other words, shutting down Egypt’s number one comedian was a bad move, a very bad move. It may seem insignificant to people outside Egypt but it is very significant here in Egypt. It means the revolution is still ON! (Remember the French Revolution lasted 100 years and they rewrote their Constitution 13 times.) Is Egypt in for the long haul? Do we have the patience and the resources to endure a long lasting revolution?

No matter what camp you are in: “It’s a coup” or “It’s NOT a coup” or whether you are Anti-MB or Pro-MB blacking-out Bassem Yossef was a slap on the face of ALL Egyptians. A huge wall (15m x 4m) in my neighborhood reads: OUR REVOLUTION IS CONTINUOUS.

As I sit on my balcony overlooking this magnificent scene, this auspicious antique land of the Nile River, I see one of the main arteries of our Mother Earth. I see an ancient body struggling to regain its power and beauty. The land, the river and the people have such character and depth that even after 7,000 years of pillage and abuse it still survives. Have you ever seen faded glory? This is Egypt. I can see nine pyramids across the Nile that stretch from the Giza Pyramids in the North to Sakkara Pyramids in the South. It enfolds before my senses and gives me pause.

If Egypt is allowed to fade even further and implode politically it will be the fault of all of us. Yes, you in New York, you in Dehli, you in Beijing, you in Paris, you in Washington DC, you in Cairo, Alexandria, Assuit and Aswan. For Egypt is the Mother of the Earth (Om Il Donaya). We should all be taking care of her. Egypt has given the world so much of what we humans treasure in life; from wheat to astronomy to pottery to glass to medicine and surgery. From agricultural methods to artistic techniques… Two of the nine original Wonders of the World – the Giza Pyramids and the first Light House (Alexandria) ever built – are in Egypt. Today Egypt holds 85% of the ancient anthropological and archaeological sites of the world.

Egypt is inhabited by 90 million people who like everyone else in the world simply wish to work well, live, marry, have a family, take care of their children, eat their delicious food, enjoy their families and friends and most of all ensure the future of their children. Egyptians truly live for their children. Economic and political policies and alignments, corruption brought from outside and fomented inside the country, resources spent on military instead of education, these are the macro reasons that have led the Egyptian people to despair, poverty and revolt. And don’t be fooled these same scenarios are being played out slowly in the west as well.

Is this future foreordained? I don’t think so. I think it is a matter of choice. Our choices everywhere, no matter where you live. If you are on my email list, chances are you are not part of the 1% elite that are greedily destroying our world for profit. We the 99% need to do more to make the rulers, corporations and bankers of our world more accountable to us. They and we must be accountable and care for our Earth. We must do what is good for us the people of the Earth, our children, our animals, our rivers, lands, seas, our souls, our life. For in the end it is a matter of life or a slow miserable death. I choose life.

Please ask your Congress People why the US administration continues to support the Muslim Brotherhood – Why?

“This NY Times article (see below) is very biased towards the Muslim Brotherhood (MB), as is the US government. Today a young Egyptian man told a German woman, “What we have done in Egypt what you could not do in Germany, when you allowed the Nazi party to continue its ideological treason that destroyed nations, killed millions and led to war. We in Egypt have ousted the MB because that is the course they were taking us down. They would have destroyed Egypt as a nation and spread hatred and intolerance of all those who do not prescribe to their radical Islamic belief system.” While 90% of Egyptians are Muslim, they do not prescribe to such radical Islamic beliefs. They are moderate. The MB had to go to preserve Egypt.” — Nile Regina El Wardani

First, Please do not assume the MB was democratically elected. It was not. The elections were rigged from the first round. Secondly once the MB was unfairly elected they proceeded to divide and destroy the country. Thirdly, the MB rewrote the Constitution which took out ALL political and legal tools to impeach or recall the president. There was no legal tool to unseat the president. This why we had a massive popular uprising on June 30, 2013 when 40 million Egyptians took to the streets in peaceful protest. If the German people had done this and taken out the Nazi party millions of lives would have been spared and a world war averted.

June 30, 2013 was our real revolution. This article is biased towards the MB and we in Egypt wonder why the NY Times and the US administration continue to support a terrorist organization that is a threat to Egypt, the Middle East, the US and the entire world. Why? Can anyone tell me why? Please ask your congress people in the US, why?

Egyptian Court Shuts Down the Muslim Brotherhood and Seizes Its Assets

Tara Todras-Whitehill for The New York Times

Anti-Muslim Brotherhood graffiti depicting former President Mohamed Morsi in Cairo.

Published: September 23,

CAIRO — An Egyptian court on Monday issued an injunction dissolving the Muslim Brotherhood and confiscating its assets, escalating a broad crackdown on the group less than three months since the military ousted its ally, President Mohamed Morsi.

Timeline of Turmoil in Egypt After Mubarak and Morsi
 The ruling, by the Cairo Court for Urgent Matters, amounts to a preliminary injunction shutting down the Brotherhood until a higher court renders a more permanent verdict. The leftist party Tagammu had sought the immediate action, accusing the Brotherhood of “terrorism” and of exploiting religion for political gain. The court ordered the Brotherhood’s assets to be held in trust until a final decision.

If confirmed, the ban on the Brotherhood — Egypt’s mainstream Islamist group — would further diminish hopes of the new government’s fulfilling its promise to restart a democratic political process that would include Mr. Morsi’s Islamist supporters. For now, though, it effectively formalizes the suppression of the Brotherhood that is already well under way.

Since Mr. Morsi’s ouster, the new government appointed by Gen. Abdul-Fattah el-Sisi has killed more than 1,000 Brotherhood members in mass shootings at protests against the takeover and arrested thousands more, including almost all of the group’s leaders. Security services have closed offices of the group and its political party in cities around the country. Members are now sometimes afraid to speak publicly by name for fear of reprisals.

And even before Mr. Morsi was overthrown, the police watched idly as a crowd of anti-Brotherhood protesters methodically burned down the group’s gleaming Cairo headquarters — a symbol of its emergence after the 2011 revolution from decades underground. The destruction capped weeks of attacks on its offices around the country.

Some Islamist lawyers said Monday that they would appeal the injunction, but the Brotherhood’s legal status is likely to remain uncertain for some time. Amid the anti-Islamist fervor after Mr. Morsi’s ouster, the group now faces several similar legal claims seeking to rescind its license or prohibit its work, and it is unclear how long it might take to resolve them.

In a statement issued from an office in London — out of reach of the Egyptian police — the Brotherhood called the verdict “an attack on democracy,” arguing that the court overstepped its jurisdiction and failed to allow the group to present its side of the case. “It is clearly an attempt to ban the Muslim Brotherhood from political participation,” statement said, accusing the military leaders of “throwing Egypt back into its darkest days of dictatorship and tyranny.”

“We have existed for 85 years, and will continue to do so,” it continued. “We are part and parcel of the Egyptian society, and a corrupt and illegitimate judicial decision cannot change that.”

Laying out its reasoning, the court reached back to the Brotherhood’s founding as a religious revival group in 1928, when Egypt was in the last tumultuous decades under a British-backed monarchy. From its beginning, the court argued, the Brotherhood has always used Islam as a tool to achieve its political goals and adopted violence as its tactic.

The state newspaper Al Ahram elaborated further, declaring on its Web site that the court found the Brotherhood had “violated the rights of the citizens, who found only oppression and arrogance during their reign” — until fatigued citizens had risen up this summer “under the protection of the armed forces, the sword of the homeland inseparable from their people in the confrontation with an unjust regime.”

Despite the tone of the official news media, it was hard to discern whether the court’s ruling was part of a plan by the generals now leading Egypt or a more ad hoc judicial decision, said Michael Hanna, a researcher who studies Egypt at the Century Foundation in New York. “It could be part of a broader strategy with respect to the Muslim Brotherhood, or it could be that people in the military were as surprised as anyone,” he said.

In a sweeping injunction, the court banned both the Brotherhood itself and “all activities” it organized, sponsored or financed. It immediately returned the Brotherhood to the outlawed, underground status it occupied for most of its 85 years, including the long decades from President Gamal Abdel Nasser’s 1954 crackdown on the group until the 2011 revolt that ousted President Hosni Mubarak.

If enforced, the ruling could take a toll on communities across Egypt where the Brotherhood has often played a philanthropic role. For decades, the Brotherhood has also played an open role in political life by sponsoring candidates who formed a minority bloc of the Parliament.

Mayy El Sheikh contributed reporting.


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.

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.

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.
Nile El Wardani, MPH, PhD

Here are the links:  Please GIVE US FEEDBACK!

Domestic Violence:


Sexual Harassment : Group 1

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