On the ethics of presidential elections

05-04-2014 11:32 AM

Youssef Sidhom

Last week saw Egypt’s presidential contest set off as the Supreme Elections Commission opened the door for nominations.

 The country thus embarked on the second phase of its Roadmap to the Future which was drawn jointly by the various sectors of the Egyptian society once the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) regime was overthrown by massive public protest in July 2013. The first phase of the Roadmap was completed with the establishment of the Constitution last January, a reassuring move for Egyptians who now look forward to the election of a new president who would work to regain the modern Egyptian State.
We hope to see more than one candidate contest the presidency, since pluralism and diversity work best for the democratic process. Even though the presidential elections law allows for elections in which only one candidate runs—whether he runs alone or in case his rivals quit the race before the door for candidacy is closed—multiple candidates work in favour of a healthy democratic scene.
All candidates are entitled to equal rights and opportunities in their race for the presidency. Each candidate may gather as many official endorsements as stipulated by the elections law, and should not be criticised or pushed back by the supporters of a rival candidate. Equal coverage on State media should be granted to all candidates to present their perspectives and platforms to Egyptians. This does not merely secure equality and fairness to all; it is due to Egyptians to acquaint them well with each candidate before they head to the ballot box.
I know that Field Marshal Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi currently takes the lead in the presidential contest, since a large portion of Egyptians affectionately appreciate his heroic role in siding with the 30 June people’s revolution and ridding Egypt of the MB rule. But I also know that any candidate who works his way up to the presidential contest warrants acceptance and respect; we owe it to him to listen to what he has to say. Egypt projected an honourable image in drafting and passing its Constitution, and ought to follow in the same footsteps throughout the presidential campaigning, balloting, vote count, and announcement of the results. This should also extend to the point when the new president is sworn in and takes office. 
In establishing its new Constitution, Egypt succeeded in wiping out the bitter experience relating to its previous [Islamist] constitution. Likewise, the upcoming presidential elections should completely wipe out the grievous violations and slander that engulfed the previous presidential elections which brought in the MB Muhammad Mursi in 2012. We can begin by embedding the basic ethical principles honoured by all civilised peoples: honesty, candour and transparency.
The last presidential elections were a disgrace that involved unashamed cheating and fraud by the MB, in accordance with ‘the end justifies the means’, as though this were an acceptable and acknowledged political principle. We can never forget the multitudes of MBs who used violence and terrorism to support their candidate and slander the others. Neither can we forget the MB bullying during the balloting and vote count, nor their appalling terrorist vow to “set Egypt on fire and to turn it into a bloodbath” if their candidate did not win. The results of these elections are still contested in court.
I intentionally evoke these despicable incidents to put every one of us before his/her national conscience and responsibility towards the new Egypt we are set to build together. We must all meet the challenge of the presidential elections as we met that of the Constitution. There must be no disrespect of any candidate; all are entitled to present their platforms honourably and candidly. Transparency should govern the balloting, vote count, and announcement of the result. Now is the time to honour the national spirit which unites us over the clan [Islamist] loyalties that previously separated us. No matter who the coming president is, he must know that he will be a president for all Egyptians. He should not favour any group or clan over others. He should honour equally those who gave him their vote and those who did not. And the people must welcome the winner with no bitterness or desire to settle old accounts or to hinder the national effort. At the end of the day, the election process is just an important step on a long, hard, arduous road to save Egypt from the ravages of the last three years—by far among the most perilous in the country’s modern history—that began in January 2011 with the Arab Spring revolution. 
Watani International
6 April 2014
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