Monday, November 29, 2010

Letters from Egypt: Don’t Forget to Vote

Associated Press
Yesterday Egypt held its Parliamentary elections, but something for those of you from the West to remember is that just because you are given the right to vote, doesn’t mean a free and fair election process – or even that you will be allowed to partake in the process.

Across the newswires are stories of the protests coming from Egypt’s largest opposition party, the Muslim Brotherhood. It claims that it didn’t win the majority vote for any seats in the first round, but a few candidates will stand in the run-offs to be held Dec. 5. The BBC reported that two people died in clashes when protests were conducted after the poll. "Only a few will stand in a run-off, but not a single Brotherhood candidate won in the first round," said Saad al-Katatni, the head of the Brotherhood's bloc of 88 seats in the outgoing parliament, equivalent to a fifth of the assembly (BBC).

Another note for those of you that are unaware, the Muslim Brotherhood is officially banned in Egypt and must run under the guise of independent. Therefore, it is baffling as to how proper figures are reported on the MB (88 seats in outgoing Parliament, much less the so-called leader al-Katatni). This is just another reminder for you when reading such reports.

Remember, there are three sides to every story: hers, his and the truth.

The BBC also reported that some 42 million people were eligible to cast their ballots. The CIA World Factbook says, with last update from July 2010, that the country’s total population is a little over 80 million people. While there might in fact be 42 million eligible, the article failed to put the overall population which might give readers more insight as to the supposed “transparent” electoral process in Egypt. And how many of those eligible actually receive their voter cards?

If you do live here, ask your Egyptian friends if they voted. When they say no, which they will, ask if they even have a voter registration card. When they say no, ask them why. Either you’ll hear: I just never got it, but it doesn’t matter anyway because things will never change. Or, you’ll hear: I have tried, but the government denied me.

This is what isn’t reported.

When we live in the comfort of our homes, myself included, perhaps we don’t consider this. I read news reports from the New York Times and the like discussing the first democratic elections being held in other countries. How exciting right? People are finally getting to have their say. We don’t realize that while we know the ballot boxes are going to be stuffed and election proceedings will be rigged, we still think that people have a chance. However, look at Egypt – supposedly one of the most democratic of the Arab states, but that doesn’t mean its people have a say.

A colleague of mine applied for a voter card once – denied. His brother, five times – denied. They go to the offices to register and each day they come back, the official tells them they’re missing paperwork. Everyday there’s new paperwork missing. This is from Coptic Christians, but Muslims are denied the same. I asked another Muslim colleague of mine if he had his voter card. Naturally he said no, so I inquired as to why. “I have dual nationality with the US, they don’t like us to vote.”

Don’t be jaded about the electoral process in Egypt. Some analysts say Egypt is a ticking time bomb and the Mubarak regime will continue at its own pace, only making the timer countdown quicker.

I don’t think that it’s in the best interest for Egypt to do a complete 180 in government leadership, but I do think there has to be change and soon. The Egyptian people aren’t going to continue to live this way.


  1. The elections here are a big joke. You have to read this:

    But I am surprised by your last comment, that the Egyptians are not going to continue living this way... frankly, if I mention my dislike for anything here, the Egyptians will say "WHY?? Why you dont like Egypt?" Like this place is Paradise or something.

    As foreigners we can see them poking at each other day and night, and wonder when they might explode into a revolution. But frankly, many of them simply deny there is ANYTHING wrong with the circumstances here. But then again - thats just my experience.

    Great blog, by the way.

  2. You're completely right, it is the majority and it's unfortunate. It affects your view on this country and society a great deal, and this is something that I'm in constant struggle with. I get so angry with myself for feeling the way I feel at times, but always note that it isn't unjustified. There are many situations that I have faced that I do not put on my blog, so some people reading may think I have no room to talk.

    And while I wouldn't want to generalize, it is important to remember that generalizations do not exist without reason.

    I think the key is to leave a place before you find yourself having trouble remembering all the fun times you had there. And also to know that without the down times, we'd never truly appreciate the good times.

    Thanks again for your comment.