Is the Egyptian government at war with its people?
|Wednesday, January 23,2008 22:09|
When riot police point rifles loaded with rubber bullets at Egyptians trying to vote we have to ask: Is the Egyptian government at war with its people?
When women huddle in a corner out of fear of these same security forces, we have to ask are we in Egypt or in Iraq, from where Arab media daily beam pictures of Iraqi women huddling in fear and anguish from American soldiers? When thugs (more often than not hired by the government) holding up swords and machetes stand between voters and polling booths, clearly challenging anyone who wants to vote to get past them and their weapons first, what else is there to conclude other than that the Egyptian government is at war with its own people? Watching the blood-marred third round of Egypt"s parliamentary elections and its even bloodier run off last Wednesday in which eight people died, it was impossible not to wonder why these elections were held at all if the government didn"t want people to vote.
As Judge Hisham el-Bastaweesy said at a seminar at the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies on Saturday, the government spent millions of pounds on election advertisements urging Egyptians to vote. But it spent millions more to bar from the election booths those Egyptians who believed the advertisements and tried to vote. Perhaps the biggest question of all though is how we can analyze the results of these elections with any certainty when the judges who supervised the voting and the independent monitoring groups at the polling stations have made clear the massive violations that took place. When a candidate is on the verge of victory, with a comfortable margin in the thousands, and then is declared by state-run media to have lost by an equally comfortable margin, where is the truth? How do we know for sure that the Muslim Brotherhood did indeed win more than 80 seats? How do we know for sure the ruling National Democratic Party maintained its two-thirds majority?
I met a young man whose brother voted once for one hundred pounds, a second time for two hundred pounds and would have made five hundred pounds if he had waited till just before the polling booths closed. Imagine a poor family of four which can make two thousand pounds in just five minutes? It is a shame that the Egyptian government has put up its people for sale. What kind of elections did we have when vote rigging, vote buying and violence were the abiding images we are left with?
I have to agree with Bahey Eddin Hassan, head of the Cairo Institute, when he says "These weren"t elections. They had the tools and appearances of elections but in essence we didn"t have elections." And so instead of trying to explain to you why Egyptians voted one way or another, let"s concentrate instead on two concrete issues that have implications for the future of reform in Egypt.