Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Democracy in Egypt: The wrong path

Democracy as defined by the Free Online Dictionary is “Government by the people, exercised either directly or through elected representatives.” This is a basic definition that doesn’t help us much understand the concept of “Democracy” but it does help analyze the Egyptian political scene where all the actors seem to act on the name of Democracy.

It is very hard to say that Egypt is a country that is democratic or that is even moving toward democracy. The “National Democratic Party” the ruling party, is more of a tool to last in office than a tool to protect democracy. The plan of the party is to allow objective and fair elections. In doing this the Party will have several gains. First is to contain the external pressure, second is to eliminate other parties in a legal manner. The third reason is to make the party be a legitimate party, and in the same time give a message to the rest of the world that Egypt is moving toward democracy.

The “National Democratic Party” entered the 2005 elections with a new spirit of fairness and neutrality. This new spirit despaired shortly after the threat that the “Islamic Brotherhood Party” caused by winning almost 20% of the seats in the Parliaments. The current government quickly returned back to its old ways, including putting guards in front of the polling places that put pressure on all the people that may not vote in favor of the ruling part to do so. Also the government used wooden boxes instead of transparent one. These boxes most of the time are filled before even arriving there. The government obviously does not want the result of the elections to be anything different from the previous elections.

It is sufficient to say that in 2007, during the shura council elections, the opposition parties were enables to organize a peaceful protest to demand their constitutional rights, like the right to organize meetings and the rights of speech in public media that is owned by the government. Also it should be noted that while there is 15 opposition parties only four are able to make noises: “New Wafd party, Progressive National Unionist Party, Arab Democratic Nasserist Party, and Islamic brotherhood”.

The initial victory of the Islamic brotherhood party is not an indicator of the support by the Egyptian people. Most of the voters were members. This party is considered enable to rule a nation that is as large as Egypt. They are viewed by most voters as trying to gain legitimacy to defend their own interests and that their goal is not change but is to challenge and to prove their identity. Islamic brotherhood Party was isolated for 75 years. It needs plenty of time to understand their “real” intention.

In addition to the ruling government’s cruelty and incompetence, there is the problem of the weakness of the political understanding to the Egyptian voters. Most of the voters are not educated, have not even the basic understanding of their rights. Most of the voters believe in the common saying that “the change has to come from above”.

The only part taking benefit from this situation is the ruling party. They are receiving materiel and political support from the United States and the west in general for ruling in a “democratic way” Egyptian people and also for making peace with Israel. Husni Mubarak, the Egyptian president, is not only protecting his seat for decades with the help of the world powers but is also trying to make of his position a hereditary one, leaving behind all the principles of Democracy that becomes today a political symbol more than a theory that should help people get rid of authoritarian governments and participate in governing their state and in making decisions for themselves through their chosen representatives.

I would say that Democracy for some countries in the world is nothing more than a source of legitimacy for seizing power, like religion in other parts of the same world as Saudi Arabia. What is happening in Egypt proves that there is a deep misunderstanding for democracy from all sides; it needs time and effort to make real and significant change. But this cannot happen without improving education and awareness of Egyptians about their rights as citizens.