Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Democracy cloaked in tyranny! | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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I have been trying to tell the difference between the mechanisms of the legislative elections that were held during the era of former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, and the preparations that are being made for the forthcoming elections, with regards to granting all Egyptians, without exception, the right to stand for election in a transparent and fair manner, and accepting the election results, regardless of who is elected.

The old complaint was that politics, during the Mubarak era, was plagued by corruption and that there was no real chance for political competition, particularly as the stench of vote rigging could be smelt at every polling station in every Egyptian governorate, whilst the judiciary remained crippled to do anything. This meant that the only election monitors were the regime itself, who were reassured of the election result even before voting had begun!

Today, the same scene is being repeated, but with a different flavor. The Egyptian revolution’s youth and the political opposition parties are now concerned about what they term the “remnants” of the dissolved National Democratic Party [NDP]. They fear that former members of the ruling party could corrupt their elections, particularly as some of the former NDP members are insisting on running. For the revolutionaries, these “remnants” are nothing more than an extension of Mubarak’s ousted regime, and they believe that anybody who was part of this regime should be banned from the [political] game.

The reality is that the revolutionaries have created a scarecrow of their own which they have called the “remnants” of the NDP, and the source of their fear is that the election results will show that this party still exists in the Egyptian political scene and that it has been able to survive and even mobilize votes [despite being dissolved]. They may be right to fear this, but this is the nature of democracy, and therefore any attempt to exclude any party would mean that one despotic regime has been replaced by another one. So, we must make sure that the [political] game is an open one in which the rules of democracy are applied correctly. The forthcoming elections will be a difficult test for the Egyptian revolution, not only because it will gauge the Egyptian people’s position towards the revolution, but because it will also serve as a test of the credibility of the revolutionaries who rose up against the former regime because of its suppression of the freedom of opinion and its tight grip on power. It would be a shame if the revolutionaries resorted to using the same tools that their opponents had previously utilized against them!

Members of the former ruling party who have been found guilty of financial or political corruption or inciting violence, in any form, should legally be denied the right of political participation. However, for those who have not been taken to court or found guilty, excluding them from political participation is nothing more than fearing a past – where votes could be rigged or counterfeited –that will not return.

Tunisia, which was the first state to see the outbreak of revolution and the establishment of elections [in the Arab Spring], experienced extremely high voter turnout of nearly 90 percent in its recent parliamentary elections. Such high voter turnout would previously have been a sign of vote rigging, yet this time it reflected the genuine electoral turnout in the first elections following the ouster of the Ben Ali regime. As expected, the al-Nahda Islamist party won the elections, most importantly because this party had been an opponent of the former regime, something that meant that the other secular and leftist political parties [during the Ben Ali era] were wary of entering into alliances with it. The story of alliances itself is unimportant, but any rejection of the election results would mean that the revolutionaries demands for democracy were nothing more than propaganda, and that they never genuinely believed in this, and that their only objective was to distort the image of the previous regime, replacing an old despotic regime with a new one.

The opponents of the Islamists have unintentionally contributed to popularizing the Islamist trend, whilst also exaggerating the danger that it represents, resulting in the adherents of this trend appearing [to the public] as saviors who alone can offer solutions that champion political pluralism and the acceptance of political dissent. The fear that Islamist parties would invade the Tunisian, Egyptian, Libyan, and Jordanian parliaments is a fear that will be alleviated as soon as it occurs.

The Islamists today do not resemble the Islamists in Algeria who won the 1991 parliamentary elections; only for the Algerian military to rush to overturn the election results for fear that the hard-line Islamists would seize power. Today, the Islamists are pragmatists who may renounce their most deeply-held principles under the justification that this serves national interests or the demands of the public. Indeed, these Islamists may even enter alliances with the devil if this can guarantee them success. Look at Hamas, this was an organization that was a thorn in the side of Israel in the field; however when Hamas entered the political arena, it submitted to general political practices and found this to its liking, and now it is Hamas that is working to protect Israeli soil and detaining any Palestinian activist who dares to strike at Israel [as part of the Hamas – Israeli ceasefire].

Therefore, all that remains is the truth that nobody can escape from; democracy cannot be custom-fit, it cannot be tailored to fit the Egyptian, Tunisian, Yemeni or Kuwaiti societies. Anyone who calls for democracy should accept all of its rules and principles, or leave it to those who know better!