Piece originally published in Bikya Masr. Egypt, the elections and a culture of waste.
Everyone in Egypt is playing the guessing game. Conspiracy theorists are of one opinion one day and another the next – a great indication that win by either candidate is a disaster to both the future of Egypt and to the revolution. If the Muslim Brotherhood wins, it is the end of a dream towards a secular state and a blow to the struggle towards equality. If Shafiq wins, then it’s the end of the freedom of expression and many of us will probably be rounded up, legally of course, and we will be sold the idea of stability at the price of civil freedom. There is currently one thing that is occupying my mind more than the question everyone is trying to guess the answer to, of whether Moursi, or Shafiq will win the current Egyptian Presidential Elections. This thing is: waste.
I cannot get over the idea of waste in the last 18 months since the start of our fight to overthrow the 60 year old dictatorship in Egypt. The waste of life is self-explanatory – those who died during these months were peaceful protestors, mostly young with many dreams of a future with the most basic of rights demanded. They were part of a wider group of people that were counted in millions. Killing these hopefuls did not curb the numbers. The oppressors we are still fighting today wasted these precious people’s lives. But this is not the waste I am speaking of today. I am writing about material waste – money, time and opportunity. We have had, in the last 18 months, 3 occasions where the people of Egypt were granted official days off approved by governments which were not approved by the people and millions of scarce Egyptian pounds spent on campaigns, on the process – only to be told a few months later that their vote actually did not mean all that much and either the result was invalid or they were voting for something unconstitutional etc.
We were all proud in March 2011 when the queues for votes were longer than the queues for bread. I am not sure who went out counting either queue, but we were proud, nonetheless, and we saw this as the first fruit of democracy that we were reaping. People watched closely and began to lose focus as we started to lose understanding of how these votes were being used. The constitution; which the referendum was about got beaten and baked into a completely sour dish and not the cake people were expecting. Then, last winter, 9 months after the referendum, perhaps this is the length of time for Egyptians to get over their disappointments and forget, a huge Parliamentary campaign began for candidates whom we have never seen the faces of before. I was part of one of these campaigns. I was not advocating a party or a particular candidate; I was tagging along networking and grabbing the chance to visit parts of Egypt for my own PhD research. Again, all I could think of was “waste”. Other than the obvious mishap this is for real democracy, whatever that term actually means, what angers me the most is the amount of wasted money in a country whose economy has been crippled by the uprising! I’m here doing research with street kids for my PhD. One of the most reputable organizations, Hope Village who does phenomenal work with these kids for the last 24 years has seen its donations fall by 50 % over the last year!
Everyone was complaining about the “wheel of production” (which, by the way, no one speaks of now since this wheel is not being touched by protestors any longer) and that Egypt was at the brink of a devastating economic fall. And here were candidates who spent millions for a chance of gaining and securing more votes in constituencies they knew nothing of, candidates who burnt their own campaign offices to create negative press for their opponents. The vote resulted in a parliament that was non-representative of the people and definitely not representative of the whole population – one look and you could not find Wally – where were the Copts? Where were the women? Actually, stop, where were the representatives of the revolution – and I am talking about the all the revolutionary youth, including the Muslim Brotherhood revolutionary youth? They were scattered and weak in numbers, weak in power and weak in support. If this was not enough to dampen the spirits of the voters who tuned into their TV sets to the embarrassment of a Parliament with no political experience, with no history of debate of compromise flooded their sets, then what did flood their enthusiasm was a ruling, backed by SCAF, 6 months later, which saw the entire parliament dissolved, as being unconstitutional. People were quick to call this a smooth military coup – umm, where were you on the 11th February 2012 when the smoothest of military coups was taking place?
This was all after the voters had taken their third leap of faith and gone out, again in millions, to vote for the next president. Here came the waste of opportunity. The final results showed that a vote for the “revolutionary” candidate’s far outweighed those that went for the votes towards fake stability (or candidate’s that had ties to the old regime). Now my question is, why did they not unite? Why were no coalitions formed, when four out of the twelve, yes twelve, candidates were revolutionary leftists?! And now we wait to see which twist of fate awaits us, for in Egypt, there is no logical sequence of events, it seems that the results, just like constitutional declarations are “divine” and cannot be predicted.
So here we are here awaiting the results of our wasted opportunities, we are kept busy by conspiracy predictions (did you know that a case that may see the Muslim Brotherhood declared void as a political party and have their assets confiscated was adjourned to September this year?) And of course, we are kept more then occupied with rumors. Do you have any idea, reader, how many times Hosni Mubarak died in the last fortnight?!
Even if we are to assume best intentions of all involved, Egypt today is in a complete political mess. I abstained. I boycotted – and, may I add, I did so proudly. I said it before, I will say it here for the record: voting for Moursi was like amputating the legs and arms of the revolution; voting Shafiq was like giving it a shot in the brain, close range. Depending on your views on Euthanasia, you would have voted. Personally, I don’t think we should have either maimed or killed the revolution. I believe that all things worthwhile take time, and we should be willing to sacrifice during this time and fight for a tomorrow that we may not live to see, but one which we would be proud of creating for generations to come, as long as we are insisting on bring them into this world.