April 28, 2011

Egyptians Score High - Everybody else: EPIC FAIL

Original Post: March 20th, 2011

Yesterday was a historic day.. As I write this note the final figures have not been released but initial estimates put the turnout at around 25 Million voters, a little over 50% of all eligible voters in a referendum that has addressed a highly technical and complicated topic. Regardless of the results of the referendum, the Egyptian population has scored the highest of all the different forces in this new era. This unprecedented turnout, the long lines, the persistence of the participants to vote can only reassure anyone who was worried about the future of democracy in this country that this is a population that has learned in less than 8 weeks how every individual vote counts; and in doing so have proved to all those that have accused us of being passive that we are more ready for democracy than democracy was ever ready for us. With this participation and such an enthusiasm, I am not worried about Egypt anymore.

Beyond this point, everybody else failed miserably:

The Army proved how unfit it is to manage a democratic process: 1) it has not prepared itself for a NO scenario or has deliberately eclipsed their plans for a NO scenario therefore scaring a significant percentage of voters from the UNKNOWN, 2) has done very little management of the campaigning for the YES and NO votes by allowing campaigners to circulate false information about the outcomes of the referendum without control 3) has continued to change the conditions of the referendum and the post referendum scenarios until 3 days before the vote, creating more confusion to both the intellectual community as well as the average voter and 4) played the same old trick of not allowing Egyptians abroad to vote in hopes to give the YES vote better odds.

The Liberals got a serious wake up call that 1) the Islamic block is not going to play fair and nice and 2) that the big fight is not on Facebook, Twitter and the streets of Urban Cairo but in the rural areas, the informal districts and the governorates. Moreover, the liberals have allowed the Islamic block to drag them down to their levels and play the Muslim Brotherhood game of deception and division pushing them to tint their camp with religious characteristics.  The Liberals also learned that the MB are significantly more organized and can hit the streets much faster and with far more reach. Finally, liberals and promoters of a true democracy need to to realize that they have to consolidate their efforts in order to ensure a healthy political life for all and create mechanism to penalize or exclude political parties that will not stick to the rules.

The Islamic block has shown that it is totally unfit for a democratic process. It has presented misleading information to unsuspecting voters, it has used the same old methods of bribery and spreading rumors. They have physically attacked promoters of a NO vote and in many cases have attempted to sabotage their conferences and awareness campaigns. By doing so, they have lost the support of a significant portion of the intelligentsia and have raised concerns about their role in an upcoming democracy. I suspect we will witness sever criticism by media that was previously more sympathetic to them. The one benefit of this behavior during this referendum is that their oppressive and fascist behavior have alerted everyone that further regulations need to be put in place to ensure the integrity of political parties.

The Egyptian government has failed miserably in organizing the logistics of the referendum. It has not been able to estimate the size of the turnout: 1) voting cards were unstamped and less than the number of voters, 2) Judges were not given instructions until Friday afternoon which lead to some stations not having judges or they did not show up until a few hours after the start time, 3) stations were not geographically distributed according to demographics leading to some stations being over crowded and others being significantly empty.

So, the bottom line is that we have a lot of work to do in order to reach a truly democratic life. Transparency and organization from the government is needed and a regulatory framework has to be developed by the political community to ensure that a healthy political life will emerge in Egypt. The good news is that Egyptians are ready and willing.

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