News / Middle East

Voters Remain Pessimistic as Egyptian Elections Approach

At a polling station in Cairo (file photo)
At a polling station in Cairo (file photo)
TEXT SIZE - +

Egypt's parliamentary elections are less than a week away and even though government officials insist the balloting will be free and fair, many Egyptians remain pessimistic the process will lead to fundamental change.

Some are too busy simply trying to make a living in tough economic times to get involved in politics. Others are skeptical about the political process in a country that has been ruled by the same man for almost 30 years. And still others point to what they see as suppression of any credible political opposition.

In the middle-class Cairo suburb of Dokki, election posters dangle from billboards or hang from lamp-posts alongside the heavy bustle of traffic. Merchants go about their business, mostly ignoring the political undertow of the November 28 parliamentary balloting.

Voter indifference

Ahmed, a vegetable seller, says the election doesn't matter much to him. Even though he comes from the same province as President Hosni Mubarak, the street merchant places little faith in Egypt's political process.

"I'm tired from working two jobs," he complains, "and I don't have time to worry about politics."

Egyptian political analysts say those kinds of attitudes are likely to persist unless Mubarak's government offers more transparency in the way leaders are chosen. And few are optimistic that will happen.

Voting irregularities occurred in past elections. Human rights groups have accused Egyptian authorities of using force against political opponents and voters to keep Mubarak's National Democratic Party in power. In recent days, Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood opposition group says security forces have arrested several hundred of its supporters in fresh clashes around the country.

Government: poll will be fair

Egypt's foreign ministry is bristling over a recent U.S. call for international observers to monitor the elections. Ministry officialssaid the U.S. demand amounted to meddling in Egypt's internal affairs and was a violation of the nation's sovereignty.

Karim Haggag, director of the Egyptian Press and Information Office, told a recent panel at the Voice of America that the use of international observers was not necessary to guarantee transparent elections.

Haggag said the polling will be supervised by an independent high elections commission and complemented by a system of judicial observers.

"I think taking these things together you have a very robust system of safeguards that will insure that these elections will be free and fair," he told the symposium hosted by VOA's English to Middle East Service.

Analysts skeptical

But many analysts are less than optimistic about the election's transparency and chances the results will lead to significant reforms. The elections are a prelude to a presidential vote next year that is lining up as a referendum on President Mubarak's positioning to stay at
Egypt's helm.

Abdallah al Ashaal, international relations professor at the American University of Cairo, says the ruling National Democratic Party has been using a variety of methods to hold on to power and discourage competition in the parliamentary vote. Ashaal has expressed an interest in running for president himself, but says he expects Mubarak and his ruling party to maintain power.

"There is a culture of despair over reform," Ashaal says.

From his book-lined study overlooking both a church and a mosque, analyst Amr Hamzawy, too, sees little competition in Egypt's political landscape.

Egypt recently cracked down on the media and members of opposition groups, Hamzawy says, including the Muslim Brotherhood. He says the crackdowns are indications that the government has no intention of opening up its political systems.

"Most probably, after the (November) elections, we will still have pretty much the same picture we are looking at as of now," says Hamzawy, an analyst at Carnegie Endowment for Peace in the Middle East. "The NDP will continue its dominance over the legislative process. So, at the macro level, not much will happen."

Hamzawy expects that the Muslim Brotherhood will lose many of the 88 parliament seats that it now holds in favor of moderate opposition parties, including the liberal Wafd and the leftist Tagammu Party.

Fouad Ajami, director of Middle East Studies at The Johns Hopkins University in the United States, says despite any claims to the contrary, Egyptians are convinced the elections ultimately "reflects the will of the ruler (Mubarak), the family members around him, and the security apparatus."

"Egyptians are a shrewd and knowing people who see through the pretensions of the regime and the melodrama of the ruling party, offering a measure of false choice," Ajami says.

Still, some analysts hope that international pressure might lead Egypt on a new road toward Democratic reform.

Glimmer of hope

Saad Eddin Ibrahim, an Egyptian-American political sociologist and democracy activist, argues that the elections are crucial to planting deeper democratic roots not only in Egypt but throughout the Middle East. "Egypt is the biggest Arab country in the Middle East," Ibrahim says. "It is the center of the Arab world. It has always led culturally and politically and if the election is carried out freely and fairly, Egypt can hope to lead the democratic transformation of the region."

 

NEW: Follow our Middle East stories on Twitter
and discuss them on our Facebook page.

You May Like

Algerians Vote in Presidential Election

There were few media reports of protests and clashes around the country, but so far no significant violence More

Sharks More Evolved than Previously Thought

The discovery could “profoundly affect our understanding of evolutionary history” More

Pakistan Military Asked to Protect Polio Workers

Request comes as authorities say a Taliban ban on vaccinations in 2012 and deadly attacks on anti-polio teams have prevented thousands of children from getting inoculated 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.
Google Buys Drone Companyi
|| 0:00:00
...
 
🔇
X
George Putic
April 15, 2014
In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ray Bonneville Sings the Blues and More on New CD

Singer/songwriter Ray Bonneville has released a new CD called “Easy Gone” with music that reflects his musical and personal journey from French-speaking Canada to his current home in Austin,Texas. The eclectic artist’s fan base extends from Texas to various parts of North America and Europe. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin.
Video

Video Millions Labor in Pakistan's Informal Economy

The World Bank says that in Pakistan, roughly 70 percent work in the so-called informal sector, a part of the economy that is unregulated and untaxed. VOA's Sharon Behn reports from Islamabad on how the informal sector impact's the Pakistani economy.
Video

Video Passover Celebrates Liberation from Bondage

Jewish people around the world are celebrating Passover, a commemoration of their liberation from slavery in Egypt more than 3,300 years ago. According to scripture, God helped the Jews, led by Moses, escape bondage in Egypt and cross the Red Sea into the desert. Zlatica Hoke reports that the story of the Jewish Exodus resonates with other people trying to escape slave-like conditions.
Video

Video Police Pursue Hate Crime Charges Against Kansas Shooting Suspect

Prosecutors are sifting through the evidence in the wake of Sunday’s shootings in a suburb of Kansas City, Missouri that left three people dead. A suspect in the shootings taken into custody is a white supremacist. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, he was well-known to law enforcement agencies and human rights groups alike.
Video

Video In Eastern Ukraine, Pro-unity Activists Emerge from Shadows

Amid the pro-Russian uprisings in eastern Ukraine, there is a large body of activists who support Ukrainian unity and reject Russian intervention. Their activities have remained largely underground, but they are preparing to take on their pro-Moscow opponents, as Henry Ridgwell reports from the eastern city of Donetsk.
Video

Video Basket Maker’s Skills Have World Reach

A prestigious craft show in the U.S. capital offers one-of-a-kind creations by more than 120 artists working in a variety of media. As VOA’s Julie Taboh reports from Washington, one artist lucky enough to be selected says sharing her skills with women overseas is just as significant.
Video

Video UN Report Urges Speedier Action to Avoid Climate Disaster

A new United Nations report says the world must switch from fossil fuels to cleaner energy sources to control the effects of climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released the report (Sunday) following a meeting of scientists and government representatives in Berlin. The comprehensive review follows two recent IPCC reports that detail the certainty of climate change, its impacts and in this most recent report what to do about it. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble has the details.
AppleAndroid