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Why Egypt's Presidential Election Is Not Really About Change

Op-Ed: Elections can be both democratic in appearance, and anti-revolutionary in substance. Egypt's post-Mubarak presidential election does mark a moment of transition, though it is likely to be followed by a not-so-subtle return to the past.

Article illustrative image Partner logo Women at a Cairo polling station on May 23, 2012 (Sonia Dridi)

CAIRO - Before going to bed, I decided I was going to write an article on the presidential election first thing in the morning. I closed my eyes and before falling into a deep sleep I wondered if there was any use to add to the unbearably noisy pool of voices debating the elections.

Many of those belonging to the revolutionary and civilian forces feel that the upcoming presidential election is nothing more than an unavoidable dark nightmare. The revolutionary camps oscillate between positive and negative boycott, the former through invalidating their votes in the polling station.  Other pro-revolution groups support the idea of ??voting for one of the candidates vowing to establish a country that upholds the law and safeguards human rights, freedom and social justice for its citizens — in other words, one of those candidates who has no chance of winning in this elections.

The reasoning behind these choices is influenced by the sad reality that everything leading up to these elections was characterized by stupidity, cruelty, corruption, illegitimacy and the domination of capital, as well as the fact that the results will be influenced by illegal financing of the electoral campaigns. Elections are usually an anti-revolutionary measure, a process that aborts revolutions by imposing a system — under the pretext of democracy — based on the domination of capital.

Who can succeed in this farce called elections without pumping tens of millions of Egyptian pounds into them? No one knows the exact amount of money being spent on the electoral campaigns or the sources of these funds. Who really has the money to provide these astronomical figures?

The answer is the conservative forces that are opposed to any change and, in the case of Egypt, these could be divided into two groups: the businessmen loyal to the Mubarak regime, who benefited from his economic policies and who are opposed to any “revolutionary” change that could damage their financial and economic interests and the backward businessmen involved in the petrodollar system who support a seriously reactionary political power.

Egyptian roulette

For the secularists, these elections are like a game of Russian roulette. In the Egyptian presidential elections the pistol will contain four bullets, namely Mohamed Morsy, Ahmed Shafiq, Abdel Moneim Abouel Fotouh and Amr Moussa. These are the presidential candidates who have received funding for their campaigns, and whose posters can be found everywhere. Their chances of reaching the Egyptians wishing to play Russian roulette [the voters] are reinforced by the sugar, flour, potato and liquefied petroleum gas cylinder handouts that serve as bribes.

The bullets — aka candidates — are different, but they all belong to a conservative camp opposed to change. Mohamed Morsy and Abouel Fotouh are opposed to the civil camp that advocates human rights, while Shafiq and Moussa belong to a camp opposed to the values of social justice.

Oddly enough, two of those candidates have been able to penetrate the civil front. Abouel Fotouh, for one, presents an ambiguous platform. He has also been able to spread the idea that he belongs to the revolutionary camp and everyone has started echoing this, despite the fact that his regressive project goes against any revolution in history. In addition, Abouel Fotouh has not given a single statement that upholds his defense of citizenship and equality as understood by the civil groups.

The second candidate who has the support of some civil groups is Amr Moussa, who is a typical Egyptian civil servant. Nurtured to become an Egyptian technocrat, Moussa is like water — colorless, tasteless and odorless. He too was able to penetrate the civil camp. Some liberal powers support his candidacy because he is an old man who would not want to run for a second presidential term and who is believed to have no financial or political ambitions. He is thought to be the perfect pick for the transitional period.

Shafiq and Morsy, meanwhile, are blatant opponents to revolutionary and civil powers. The first belongs to the army, while the other to the Brotherhood. The first promotes a police state and the second a religious one. The first belongs to the era of the Mamluks, while the other belongs to the time of the collapse of the Abbasid State.

Hundreds of millions were spent on these electoral campaigns, and the media machine has been working to make the Egyptians feel that they are going through a historic experience. They promoted the idea that this presidential election is the outstanding result of the Egyptian revolution and that the people now have a say.

The truth is, this election is worthless, for it is being conducted in a society that lacks a healthy political life, one that lacks genuine parties and political powers. This election will bring a useless president who will be unable to change the structure of the old regime.

Hope lies in the revolutionary and social mobility. Change will come from the bottom, at the hands of the hundreds of movements, coalitions and blocs that emit hope. It is this that will change the face of Egypt.

Read the full article in Al-Masry Al-Youm

Translated by Dina Zafer

Photo - Sonia Dridi


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