Tuesday 22 May 2012

Final Thoughts Before These Inspiring And Depressing Presidential Elections

There is no doubt that tomorrow's presidential elections in Egypt are an inspiring historic milestone. 

For the first time in the life of this nation we will get to "elect" our leader, through (hopefully) free and fair elections. With more than a dozen candidates "fighting and competing" to win the votes of their fellow Egyptians through conviction, citizens seem to have finally become more in charge of their own destiny, and from now on (theoretically) parties and individuals will compete for the betterment of Egypt and Egyptians in order to win, and continue to win, these precious votes that define their worth. Democracy just as it was intended.

And these elections come in the backdrop an Arab Spring and a revolution that promise freedom, equality, prosperity and dignity. Therefore, the success of these elections and the nation as a whole, now and over the next few years, could help breathe new life in this now-struggling wave of democracy that has inspired the region since last year, and possibly change the lives of more than 300 million Arabs for the better.

Nevertheless, there is a sombre feeling in the air as well. These elections come while virtually not a single officer has been punished for the murder of protesters in the January Revolution, and with the revolution itself now regarded within a significant segment of the population with much less enthusiasm as used to be one year ago, essentially due to the difficulty of the current conditions and the ambiguity of the future. The true overwhelming size of the Deep State that has governed Egypt since the 1950s has only begun to reveal itself, and reveal with it the process the true weight and length of the struggle for democracy that is actually at hand. The economy, the bloodstream of the people, is ailing and struggling from the uncertain and volatile political and security conditions, as well as from the excruciating mismanagement by the consecutive governments and the SCAF. 

The first ever freely-and-fairly elected parliament has overall been a national disappointment, and seems to be continuously turning perhaps a bit too soon into a traditional political battleground rather than a place for  an all-too-urgent national reconstruction and reconciliation as was needed of it for at least one more year. Further, it seems to have been dedicating much of its time for the discussion of the ridiculous, the petty, and the disturbing. It either often ignores what is truly needed of it, or serves what seems to be hastily cooked output in order to save face or simply because of what could be sheer  collective ineptitude (for one, the shallow and outright "bad" Education reform law was nothing more than a waste of resources and time for the nation.)

The growing conservative-moderate-liberal polarisation within the country was also expected to be sure, and these presidential elections have seem to have only heightened the polarisation and introduced new sides to it, again expectedly. Yes, you might say "that is democracy," and you would be right, but I only regret it happening this fast while there are so many purely technocratic areas of consensus on political and economic reform we could be working on. Moreover, I regret the "depth" of the polarisation itself, as I perceive it. Still, I know for a fact that it is not at all beyond repair.

And what is particularly heavy on the heart is how, it often seems, that these elections are also about the future of not just our healthcare, education and economy, but even our most basic and fundamental freedoms and rights, including the freedom of thought, freedom of expression, and the equality of all citizens under the law. The fact that these globally enshrined rights and freedoms seem to be somewhat  further at stake, even if theoretically, is a frightening and disconcerting notion.

Of course, there is also the fact that the coming president will be elected with a vague future and an undecided mandate. SCAF will issue an annex to the existing constitutional declaration or a new declaration altogether, setting the still-undecided powers of the next president until the next constitution is written and finalised. And this next constitution itself might see an assault on the office of the presidency in general, especially if the parliamentary majority selecting the Constituent Assembly that will draft the constitution and influencing it ends up with a distaste the elected president. This would potentially render a popularly elected president powerless, incapable of fulfilling a single one of the many lofty campaign promises, and rendering much of our current excitement and inspiration nothing more than a practice drill for something else.

It is for such reasons, and many others, that I will go as an Egyptian to the polling station with both an inspired and elated mind, and a genuinely heavy heart. Perhaps there is too much bleakness in these words above, and perhaps much of it is an expression of frustration with the more negative sides of democracy as it exists in the world, but believe me when I say that I remain hopeful. I truly remain hopeful not just out of a survivalist need to be hopeful, but also out of true conviction that there is so much to be hopeful for, and so much to be hopeful from.

Good luck to the nation, tomorrow.

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