This week saw the latest manifestation of the Middle East’s attempts at democracy, the parliamentary elections in Egypt. As per the norm, it appears that those in charge of these elections have not quite understood the concept in question. If anything, these latest Egyptian ‘elections’ have seen more than a couple of steps backwards on the march to democracy.
The previous parliamentary elections saw the main opposition group, the Muslim Brotherhood, return 88 MPs, despite being officially banned. This modest return has now apparently disappeared, and initial results show the ruling NDP winning 97% of the seats.
There has, of course, been gross manipulation in every stage of this farce. In previous elections judges determined the fairness of the elections, however an electoral commission, supposedly independent, and yet appointed by the government, has now replaced this. No prizes for guessing how many of the glaring irregularities in this election have been reported by the commission.
And there have been many irregularities.
From already marked ballot papers, to police intimidation at polling stations, the list is unfortunately a catalogue of the depths that Mubarak has sunk to in order to keep power for himself and his NDP.
This is all despite the many encouraging signs that are appearing from Egypt. The different shades of the opposition have been grouping together, finding common ground in their calls for reform and the will of the people. Mohamed el-Baradei, the former head of the UN nuclear watchdog, returned to his home country, and has emerged as a strong challenger for the presidency. Civil society is also taking off, being fuelled by the Internet and the blossoming social networks. Protests have been taking place, and not the type that the government approves of.
However, it is interesting to note that the blatant falsehood of the Egyptian election has been severely underreported in Western media outlets. Compared to the coverage given to the Iranian presidential elections of 2009, it is miniscule. There has been no push to place it at the top of the news agenda. This is despite there being arguably more wrongdoing in this latest Egyptian incarnation of Middle Eastern democracy.
Well, President Hosni Mubarak is a vital ally to the USA, and the simple fact of the matter is that a fair and free election in Egypt would not result in a government supportive of the USA and its interests in the Arab world. A commonly held belief in Egypt is that Mubarak’s successor will have to be approved by Israel. In a free and fair election, no such Israel-friendly candidate would emerge victorious, that is the reality of the Egyptian street.
So it appears that Mubarak and his cronies will be able to continue their rule, at least in the near future. The West has supposedly fought wars to bring democracy to the Middle East, and yet this democracy seems to only be pressed for when it suits Western needs. What is often forgotten is that this misguided policy, the hypocritical manoeuvrings of Western policy makers in the Middle East, will only cause more animosity to the West. It is a seemingly endless cycle that will mean that if there ever were to be real elections in Egypt, anti-American groups would emerge as victors.
And that, of course, means no real democracy for Egypt.
Views expressed in articles are the author’s and do not represent Comment Middle East
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