Friday, 9 December 2011

Why I didn't boycott the elections

Some people decided to boycott the elections, insinuating that voting was equal to selling out Tahrir while giving legitimacy to the Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF), the ruling military. While I was torn for a moment, I decided to vote in the end. This post attempts to explain why I decided to vote and why one does not have to come at the expense of the other.

I voted because I wanted to participate in this historic moment. Like many Egyptians, I was excited to take part in this process and I wanted to give my preferred candidate the chance to get into parliament. By voting, I could play a small role in shaping the future of Egypt.

By being inside parliament, you have your ears to the ground. You have access to decision makers and you can monitor what is going on. By excluding yourself from this process, you give all the cards to the opposition. Whoever boycotted the process, boycotted the possibility of influence inside parliament, no matter how limited that influence might be. I understand the process is not perfect and that parliament will lack the power to make much change, but it's a first step towards exercising my right as a citizen. 

The road to democracy is a long journey ahead and where would we be without hope and optimism? Let's recall for a moment that advanced democracies did not get there over night. And they're not ideal examples either. The occupy movement proves it. 

So while the naysayers were boycotting the elections, and dampening the experience of those that decided to vote, I was looking at it differently. For the first time in 60 years, Egyptians were happy to have a say in the future of their country, as they cued for endless hours outside polling stations, optimistically looking towards a new future. And there was a merit in participating. People were consciously engaging with their rights as citizens, a further step towards citizenship in a democracy. 

So while some people look sceptically at those that voted and while those that voted think Tahrir should pack up and go home, I say, why can't the two work together? A healthy democracy should encourage participation in a variety of ways. The street is one way. Parliament is another way. Why does one have to exclude the other? Surely both voices are legitimate. Why can't both voices unite to ensure we don't fall back into old habits, paving the way for new dictatorships along the way?

Tahrir and parliament should work together in an ideal democracy, so that people continue to feel empowered. A friend of mine once said, Tahrir is like a platform that can hold the government accountable. It's also a place where people experience the meaning of democracy. Let's take a moment to remember, we got here thanks to Tahrir.  


  1. That is all nice in theory! In reality, Tahrir was silenced by the elections! As people lined to vote, they abandoned Tahrir and many did not return to Tahrir. The elections were a way for those who half-heartedly support Tahrir to tell those in Tahrir that it was time they went home and let the "legal channels" take their course. Which is not the case in Egypt!

    1. The dead (also their families) and wounded people of Tahrir didn't get their rights after the first initial 18 days and they are still not going to get it!
    2. As people were voting Tahrir was not much calmer than it used to be at the time, the shooting continued. And the thugs even entered the square just as the voting was finished! And a few days later the protests were over powered and terminated to the most extent!
    3. The parliament has no power! The parliament elected to write the constitution only represent 20% of those who will write it, the rest is SCAF appointed. And like that was not enough, SCAF comes out and says that they will have the last say on any part of the constitution that they don't like.
    4. These were not fair democratic elections. Maybe they were not 100% rigged, but nevertheless rigged. There were disqualified votes that were literally thrown in the street! There was campaigning outside of the voting booths. There were manipulations and other ways of forcing people to vote for one party over the other. Besides, there was clear and obvious change of votes at the hand of some of the voting supervisors!
    5. What does a parliament do? Anyone know? What are its powers? These are all things we know because we would have a constitution, which we don't have, thus we are clueless. It's like signing a work agreement, and they will tell you later what your job really is and what it entails. I would not sign this contract!
    6. You and I are not the majority of Egyptians, who have blamed everything on the revolution! In reality the fact that the elections were safe and there was police present, made the people believe even more that it is the revolution that is causing the chaos!
    7. Why do you think SCAF supported people to go vote? Especially with the 500LE fine if you don't vote! I immediately knew that they were up to something! They want legitimacy, which they have achieved! And many people who went to vote, went because they didn't want to pay the fine. So in the reruns, not that many people participated!
    8. I want to add that just the desire for democracy does not bring democracy! And there is a process which needs to be followed for democracy to actually take place. There needs to be clear rules and guidelines (constitution) that are the law! Remember that Egypt has literally never had democracy! Not just 60 years, we never had democracy! Now we are in the hands of MB or worse even Salafis (and our liberal vote does not count, because the poor will always vote for those who give them basic needs, such as food! Even if we call it bribery, they have to take care of their children) and we will go into the dark ages for another I have no idea how many years. What is even more scary is the fact that with MBs they will improve the socioeconomic aspect of life in Egypt (that is not the bad part), which will in turn calm people down enough to accept their dictatorship for another while!

  2. Thanks Mona for sharing your thoughts.