News / Africa

Egyptian Opposition Announces Boycott of Upcoming Parliamentary Election

Opposition leader Ayman Nour speaks to reporters at a press conference in Cairo, Egypt, 06 Apr 2010
Opposition leader Ayman Nour speaks to reporters at a press conference in Cairo, Egypt, 06 Apr 2010

Multimedia

Audio
  • Full interview with Shadi Hamid, Brookings Institute's Doha Center

Egypt's al-Ghad or Tomorrow Party has announced a boycott of the upcoming parliamentary election.  Al-Ghad's leader, former presidential candidate Ayman Nour, is calling the November elections "rigged," echoing earlier calls for boycott by opposition figure and Nobel Prize winner, Mohamed ElBaradei. This wouldn't be Egypt's first boycott.  Two decades ago, opposition parties banded together and refused to participate in the 1990 Parliamentary vote.

But most analysts say that was likely a mistake. Shadi Hamid is Director of Research at the Brookings Institute's Doha Center and a Fellow at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy.

Hilleary: Egyptian Opposition figure Mohamed ElBaradei has been calling for a boycott of elections similar to that which was undertaken by opposition parties back in 1990. Take us back twenty years-what happened and what was the outcome?

Shadi Hamid, Director of Research at the Brookings Institute's Doha Center and Fellow at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy
Shadi Hamid, Director of Research at the Brookings Institute's Doha Center and Fellow at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy

Hamid: The 80s had been a period of greater political openness.  There had been some hopes for democratization, so for much of the decade, things were looking up.  Then, toward the end of 1988, things started to go downhill. 

The regime started to reinforce its grip on power and it instituted a new electoral law that the opposition found to be unfair.  They weren't consulted about it and they saw this as a major regression on the part of the regime.

So based on that and also based on a generally more repressive posture from the government at that time, the opposition got together-and this includes primarily the liberal Left party, the leftist Tegemmo Party, as well as the Muslim Brotherhood, and in what was actually a fairly rare instance, they were able to actually agree on a common position.  So they boycotted.

Hilleary: But it didn't work out well for them in the end, did it?

Hamid: No, it didn't.  The first thing the Left Party definitely didn't consider it to be a success because-and throughout the 80s-they had had a significant representation in Parliament and obviously with a boycott, they were out of the scene for a few years, and when they ran again in 1995, they had become much weaker and weren't able to win many seats. 

And that's the problem with boycotts in general. It removes you from the political scene to some extent. You have less of a voice; you have less of a platform.  Because in the end, even though the Egyptian Parliament isn't very strong, it still gives opposition groups a venue to articulate their concerns, to get media coverage, and so on.   So that's one of the major costs that opposition groups have to consider when they are making this decision

Hilleary: If there's a boycott of these upcoming elections, what impact will that have on the presidential election next year?

Hamid: Well, first of all, there won't be much of a boycott in the upcoming parliamentary election.  Mohamed ElBaradei is obviously making this a key part of his campaign and he's really trying to bring the opposition together around that vision.  But so far, he's largely by himself in that even his closest ally in Egypt now -- the Muslim Brotherhood--is leaning towards participation.

So we're starting to see some division in the ranks of the opposition.  The Wafd Party has also made clear that they're going to participate.  And the Brotherhood and the Wafd are really the two strongest organized political forces in Egypt today.  So considering that, any boycott is going to be weak and largely ineffective.  Boycotts only work if all the major parties agree and are able to form a unified stand.  And that's not the case now.

You know, I don't think the question is whether or not a boycott would be successful.  I think the question is why did the opposition fail to unify and fail to have a strong stand in facing the regime. 

I think there's a very strong argument that now was the right time for a boycott and to really send a strong statement, not only to the regime but to the international community, that the process is no longer considered legitimate, and a stronger stance has to be taken. And that's what ElBaradei has been trying to promote? 

There have been parliamentary elections since 1976, and things have actually gotten considerably worse, more authoritarian than it was in the mid-1980s.  So considering that history, you have to start to wonder, is the current strategy working?

You May Like

Disappointing Report on China's Economy Shakes Markets

In London and New York shares lost 3 percent, while Paris and Germany dropped around 2.4 percent More

DRC Tries Mega-Farms to Feed Population

Park at Boukanga Lonzo currently has 5,000 hectares under cultivation, crops stretching as far as eye can see, and is start of ambitious large-scale agriculture plan More

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Areas are spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, source of livelihood for fishermen and herders who have called the marshes home for generations More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs