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Will Egypt defeat the pessimism? - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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The first Egyptian elections after the January 25th revolution are just around the corner, in two weeks from now. They are being billed as the first genuine achievement after the change which took place, though despite this, political debate remains at its peak. There is a sense of skepticism and concern intertwined with a general state of pessimism amongst the politically active elite, the repercussions of which have also extended abroad, to give the international community cause for concern about the political process and the fear of chaos.

There is a state of confusion and anxiety, which is normal in a phase of transition. There is also currently a clash between various social and political forces, some of which were previously not able to convey their voices, or express their will freely. All they want is to ensure their share in the forthcoming new regime, and the first real steps for this are the legislative elections.

The Muslim Brotherhood, the Salafis and the Islamists have been revitalized, and a sizable portion of Egypt’s Christians are concerned about the Islamization of society, and the attitudes of such forces. There are also the liberals, leftists and nationalists. This is not to mention the military establishment, which is administering the current stage and naturally facing criticism for its performance from unsatisfied political forces. All of the above form the current political composition or mixture. We hear the voices of their representatives loudly, whether on television, in the press, or at conferences.

Simply put, Egypt has transformed from 10 months of political stagnation that almost consumed it before the January 25th events, to a state of noisy political upheaval and mobility afterwards, which continues to this day. The optimists believe this is healthy and beneficial for the future of society, in the hope of reproducing a political elite with 21st century ideas, comparable or exceeding in stature to the elite that emerged after the 1919 revolution, and played a major role politically and culturally perhaps until the 1970s.

This is the optimistic outlook of how events will unfold, but on the other side there is also a pessimistic scenario, which unfortunately is more predominant in the political arena. The pessimists believe that the revolution is being hijacked or exploited, or that the path is not heading in the right direction, and the election results may not reflect the reality of the goals of the January 25th revolution.

These concerns and the prevalence of pessimism amongst some are justified by recent events and developments, but to surrender to such an outlook is a morbid phenomenon. In the end, it is the people that will make the future. As long as there is a ballot box and the means to determine the future through it, then there is a clear path towards change and establishing a new legitimacy.

Many have assumed in advance that the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafis will control the forthcoming parliament, along with some figures connected to the former regime. With this assumption, such people have admitted defeat before the event, and thus they have defeated themselves in advance. Yet this assumption is not valid until we hear the voices of the ordinary people through the ballot box. One feature of elections – even if they are not complete or perfect – is that they give us first and foremost a clearer picture of how various political forces are represented on the Egyptian street, and secondly they will grant the legitimate winning force with the necessary authority to say that “it represents the people”. At this moment we do not know the true size of all forces, and no one can claim to have a mandate to rule the country.

We are counting on the mass mobilization of voters and we are seeking the widest possible participation in the election ballot. Ordinary people have the ability to make the correct choice and defeat the pessimism, but the election is only the beginning.

Ali Ibrahim

Ali Ibrahim

Ali Ibrahim is Asharq Al-Awsat's deputy editor-in-chief. He is based in London.

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