Monday, January 23, 2012

May I have more votes please?


A bit later than initially promised, here's some more on the whole
voting thing here in Egypt.
Disclaimer: since they didn't want to have my vote, I didn't bother to vote
at all. So most of it today is what I got from talking to Egyptian
friends and colleagues.
The voting here in Cairo (and Giza) took 6 days, all in all. It
started in Cairo, 2 days of voting. Then 2 weeks later there would be
voting in Giza, again for 2 days. Just because the schools and other
public places where people could cast their vote had to be secured. And then it was all over, more or less.
An important fact to keep in mind is that for many people this was the first time to vote ever. For most because they never bothered to vote because they felt the elections were rigged anyway. So a true democratic process was key to be proven. Now think about this; there were 2 weeks between the voting in Cairo and Giza, enough time to 'update' some of the votes in Cairo to predict the outcome of the elections. So what happened, the votes from the 1st round were already counted and published. The Brotherhood turned out to be the big winners, but a big chunk of the votes was still out there. Publishing the outcome can be considered a way of manipulating the second round. Although this is realistic, I would say it is more realistic in the Western world. Why? Because here in Egypt a big part of the population didn't even know how to vie in the first place. People at the voting stations, of course affiliated with one of the parties, where available to 'help' those that were not able to understand how to cast their vote. And if somebody tells you to just select the little triangle when you consider yourself a good Muslim... You can imagine the rest. Again, I got all this information from talking to friends and colleagues.

Now there is one thing I want to share which I believe is really awesome. I will try not to be speculative on this. One thing I learned is that in the rural areas, owners of the large farms and other companies actually hired busses to take their employees to the voting office to be able to cast their vote. How about that for facilitating democracy? I could be cynical and assume that during the bus ride the propaganda engine was blasting away, but that would be cynical and highly speculative as nobody I talked to hinted in that direction at all.

In the end it turned out that the majority of the votes has gone to the Brotherhood and that is no surprise. The Brotherhood insists that they are not proponents of an Islamic government but time will truly tell. For now, I still think that the army is still the party that is really wielding any power. There is still a lot at stake for them and the presidential elections still need to take place.
Still, the first steps are taken and the elections passed by relatively peaceful, although we shouldn't forget the massacre a few weeks ago after the soccer match. According to many instigated by Mubarak followers and a group of rich people that have much to loose when the army looses their grip on every day life and the economy.

In any case, democracy in Egypt still has a long way to go. But then again, when you look at the Netherlands, it took more than a century to get to where democracy in the Netherlands is today.

"This is true: the world is better off with some people gone. Our lives are
not all interconnected. That theory is a crock. Some people truly do not
need to be here." from American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis

Monday, January 9, 2012

May I have your votes please?

Hi there, happy New Year,

You might have been wondering where my blogposts went and why nothing about the elections in Egypt. Well the answer is not that simple. Let me explain; As you might know by now, Egypt is a big country, most of it is inhabitable desert. The majority of the population lives along the Nile and around the Red Sea, for obvious reasons. That population by the way consists of about 80,000,000 people, about 5 times the Dutch
population. Most of them living in the greater Cairo area. This is one of the tidbits I recently learned; Cairo is not just one city, it's a few cities together, or governerates they call them I believe (sorry, didn't do too much research). The main two governerates are Cairo and Giza. I live in Cairo and work in Giza. I guess that it compares with the Randstad in the Netherlands. There are about 20 mln people living in this area, commonly referred to as Cairo.

Back to the elections.

In the last bit of 2011 there were the elections in Egypt. These were about the parliament, the new parliament after the revolution. The weeks prior to the elections were full of disturbances again and
Tahrir square was the arena for fights between revolutionairiess and the army.
But even before that, it was decided that there would be several days with some time in between to do the elections! Or rather the voting. This because the government couldn't guarantee safety for all voters at all voting centers, which were schools and other public facilities. The voting was rather uneventful but than again, there were a lot of soldiers on the streets. Although I also think that in general the Egyptian people are not that 'riotish' in the first place.
So, once the first round was done, which took 2 days, there was a period of 2 weeks during which the army relocated and another 2 days of voting was done. First Cairo, than Giza. To me this was very odd, unprecedented in fact. But understandable.

Was this the better solution? Were there alternatives? Are these elections really democratic? Will the new parliament bring stability? Read about my view on things later this week.