On Wednesday August 17, a US-style campaign began for the upcoming elections in Egypt. 32 million Egyptians are eligible to vote on September 7, but how many will vote is a big question.
During her visit to Egypt last June, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice made an interesting admission. “For 60 years, my country, the United States, pursued stability at the expense of democracy in this region, here in the Middle East, and we achieved neither”. Now all of a sudden, we are supposed to believe that the United States, the same country that occupies Iraq against the will of the Iraqi people, that criminally neglected the poor in New Orleans for days and then sent in the army to shoot and kill the starving population, that these United States will bring democracy and stability to Egypt. One would have to read a lot of the same stuff that President Bush reads to believe such a fairy tale.
On August 19, the US Assistant Secretary of State for Near East Affairs, David Welch, declared that the US administration was confident that the Egyptians could hold free, democratic, and transparent presidential elections. (Arab News, 8/19/2005)
However, anyone who has followed the election campaign can only agree with Rice’s original point: US imperialism cannot bring stability or democracy to Egypt and the entire region.
The results of the election are already known. 77-year-old
Hosni Mubarak, the head of the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) who has
been in power for 24 years, will win the rigged elections and his fifth
consecutive term in office. The entire state apparatus and the mass media are
taking care of this. The powerful Muslim Brotherhood, the largest opposition
group that is officially banned but tolerated, has told its supporters to vote
but did not specify for whom. However, it is clear that most of their
supporters will vote for the conservative Wafd party.
The parties of the left, Tagammu and the Nasserist party, have called for a boycott of the election because of the restrictions imposed on candidates challenging Mubarak.
There are 9 other candidates running against Mubarak, but the only two with a well-known name and a high profile are Ayman Nour, a 40-year-old civil rights lawyer who is the leader of the Ghad (Tomorrow) Party, which has a liberal, reformist programme. He is calling for changes to the constitution so that parliamentary democracy can be established in Egypt. He has also promised that if elected he will guarantee free and fair elections within two years and lift the 24-year-old state of emergency. Several candidates have complained of harassment from NDP supporters. Nour has claimed that one of his supporters was shot and wounded by police last month because he had put up party posters in a Cairo suburb.
The only other candidate with a profile is 70-year-old Noaman Gomaa of the Wafd party, the party that used to support King Faruq.
The judicial assembly, a very conservative body, declared in
May that judges would boycott the election unless the laws were changed to
ensure transparency and the independence of the judges to monitor all stages of
the election. This only made it clearer that the election was going to be a
farce. Under pressure, Mubarak consented to the judges’ demands. However, some 2000
judges deemed “critical”, even if they are only mildly critical, will not
be allowed to participate in the supervision of the process.
Human rights organizations have complained that
media is openly helping Mubark by attacking his opponents. Despite
pressure from Washington, Mubarak has refused to allow the presence
of international monitors and only local observers, many of them
NGOs or trained by them, will be allowed to observe elections inside
polling stations. In past elections there
were observed cases of vote rigging and intimidation at the polls.
And as far as stability is concerned, anti-Mubarak street demonstrations have faced police attacks and arrests. The large portraits of the great, beloved, and wise leader that used to be seen on road signs and buildings are now removed daily by hidden hands. The Egyptians, as we can see, have a very peculiar way of showing affection for their great leader.
In addition, many fear that the government will re-impose the 24-year-old state of emergency, with the excuse of “preventing terrorist attacks”, such as the attacks seen in Sharm el-Sheik in July of this year.
Mubarak’s central promises are focused on the economy. While the GDP is predicted to grow by 5% this year, only the rich will feel it. The great leader has promised the creation of 4 million jobs, salary increases of 74-100 percent, cheap housing for half a million families, 3,500 new schools, 500 new bridges and 12,000 km of new roads.
Any one who believes in Cinderella is welcome to believe
that after 24 years of negligence things are going to suddenly change.
According to government figures, unemployment stands at 9.3
percent. In reality it is over 20 percent. According to government sources, one
quarter of the population lives on 2 dollars or less per day. In reality, those
that live off state support are getting 26 dollars per month – less than one
dollar per day. In many countries you do not have to pay Members of Parliament
to find a job. In “democratic” Egypt
one must bribe an MP to find a job. For example, jobs at the electricity
company cost 400 dollars.
Not only is the election in Egypt a farce, but also there is no party that the workers and poor can vote for. The instability in the Middle East will only grow - not only because of the imperialist occupation of Iraq, but also because of the hated Israeli occupation. The Egyptian government is assisting Sharon and his majesty, the President of the Occupied Territories against the Palestinian people and their democratic rights. Many changes are taking place in the Middle East, but the most important one is the change of consciousness among the masses. It is only a question of time before this change manifests itself in massive struggles.