[This is a syndicated post from the blog: Egypt.]
“That’s the most expensive vote I have ever made,” exclaimed my daughter after she sent her vote off to the Egyptian Embassy in Ottawa rush mail, at a cost of $27. My daughter had never voted in an Egyptian election before; neither had I for that matter, but for both of us, the opportunity to do so was phenomenal.
However, the voting process for Egyptians abroad was filled with trials and tribulations. The forms were made available only 72 hours before the closing date (time); and since it fell on a weekend, the possibility that my ballot had reached its destination in time to be part of the count was dubious.
Then came the repeat, and this time neither I nor my daughter voted. Egyptians abroad had two short days to send their votes off to their embassies, and again the deadline fell on a Sunday. Why bother, we said? And this was the feeling of many Egyptians overseas.
I can understand that elections for those abroad was not perfect the first time round, and persevering seemed a futile and mute effort for the repeat. But what about Egyptians in Egypt? In particular, why did moderate Egyptians not go back to the polls the second round?
Between the primary and the repeat vote, the results came out naming the Islamists as the dominating majority. At that point, the media went ballistic sensationalizing matters to extremes and bringing dozens of Salafis on board to explain their guidelines and expectations. The staggeringly horrific views of the Salafists produced a level of anguish and despair in the general public in particular the non Islamists. Harrowing notions on women’s liberty and attire, Copts’ rights, and artistic endeavours, such as Nobel Laureate Naguib Mahfouz, left the Islamists in murky waters.
It goes without saying that the Islamists’ views remain radically different from what Egyptians are used to. And yet, Islamists have enjoyed their moment in the limelight, immediately after the primary rounds, pumping out those intrinsically wrong beliefs for Egyptians to fathom. Obviously, the Islamists, themselves, share the responsibility with the media in digging their own grave. They were actually misled by the media and entrenched themselves further focusing on superficial matters and leaving the core issues—poverty, rights, freedom, education, medical systems—unexplained. They came across as trivial, superficial, and ignorant of the necessary basics.
A halo of mistrust emerged daunting moderate Egyptians further. But their reaction was clear: it’s a hopeless case. Since the Islamists are here with a majority, my voice won’t matter; let it go to the dogs.
The second reason why Egyptians in general failed to show up for the repeats is that the first round was extremely exhausting. Neither the election council nor the public itself thought that the turnout would be that high. The lineups were dreadful, yet voters stood their ground and lined for, in many cases, five and six hours. When these zealous folks realized it was futile, they didn’t want to stand in a queue for long again.
The third reason is that, in spite of the high turnout and the joyous feeling of belonging that engulfed Egyptians, in many cases, people’s votes were neglectfully mishandled. Though most ridings were diligent and meticulous, footage of forms spilled on the ground, of messy handling of votes, and of devious actions on behalf of certain parties outside ridings emerged. Footage was projected on television leaving Egyptians with a sour taste in their mouths. Again, why bother they said?
This is a real shame since election is the epitome of freedom. An election that is not rigged, in spite of some scuffles and some messiness, is still an amazing sign of freedom and independence.
What’s more, the second round brought many positive signs. Dr. Abdel Moneim El Shahhat of Alexandria, of the Nour Party, conceded to his moderate opponent, which was a truly remarkable feat for liberalists against radical islamists. The second success story lies in the Nasr City riding, which gave its voices to two liberalists in their thirties.
I wish more moderate Egyptians had gone to vote the second round. I wish they hadn’t lost hope ever so quickly. However, not all is lost. Only nine regions in Egypt have voted. Many other regions will have their voting phase on Wednesday and Thursday, December 14 and 15. If the interim between the first and the second voting in the first round gave us two completely overturned ridings, then maybe we can continue this campaign against the Islamists and come out at the other end with a more balanced parliament.
Liberalists in the remaining ridings: do your part. Pursue a liberal, moderate and free Egypt.