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Voting on conviction

Youssef Sidhom

17 May 2014 10:40 am

Problems on hold


As Egypt’s presidential elections loom, the competition between the two contenders Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and Hamdeen Sabahi is, predictably, waxing more intense

. When this issue of Watani sees light, Egyptians abroad would have cast their votes and those at home would be preparing to do so shortly. Not only Egypt, but the international community as well, are waiting to see who would be leading Egyptians during the coming four years. The new president will be closely watched as he fulfils promises of democracy, reform, and modernity; and rallies Egyptians to the arduous work that lies ahead.
I imagine Egyptians have already made up their minds who to vote for. I believe their decisions are not based on analyses or comparison between the contenders’ platforms, given that both candidates have cited the same priorities: security, political and economic reform, as well as education and health advancement and social justice. No surprise, since the objectives and challenges of the upcoming period are incontestable. The difference between Sisi and Sabahi is in their respective vision of how to address the challenge and bring about the required change. They have each presented platforms which play on the chords of Egyptian sentiment and promise bright, prosperous tomorrows. And they have both promised they would answer to the public and the political opposition.
I can safely say then that, as important as a candidate’s platform is, it will not be the deciding factor in securing a vote. Egypt is today in the throes of vicious, terrorist Muslim Brotherhood (MB) vengeance against the overthrow of the Islamist president Muhammad Mursi and his MB regime last July. The overriding demand is for the upcoming president to bring back the lost security and reassurance, and to exercise strength and courage, wisdom and firmness, and an ability to lead Egyptians, unite their ranks, and help them fuse into a one-citizenship body. The candidate who will persuade Egyptians of his capability to achieve this feat will readily garner their votes. 
Here are a few hypotheses:
There are those who appreciate the support of the Armed Forces led by Sisi for the Egyptian people’s rebellion last June against the rule of the MB. They realise that the downfall of the MB could not have been achieved through the will of the people alone without active support from the military. These Egyptians will go for Sisi. But there are also those who believe that the military takes no credit for the overthrow of the MB rule, and that the people alone achieved that; they argue that no one could have stood against the power of the people. These will opt for Sabahi.
Those whose aspirations for democracy and modernity are fulfilled through the Roadmap to Egypt’s Future will vote for Sisi. This Roadmap was jointly drawn by representatives of the military, the various civil sectors in Egypt, al-Azhar, and the Egyptian Church to chart the way once the MB were overthrown. It called for an interim president, a new constitution, and presidential and parliamentary elections. The first two requirements have already been fulfilled, the third is on the threshold of realisation, and the fourth is scheduled for after Egypt has its president. The implementation of the Roadmap was entrusted to a transitional civil authority that upholds the Constitution and the law without intrusion by or involvement of the military. Those Egyptians who hold the transitional phase in doubt, believing it has been led by a hidden maestro in uniform who manipulates matters to ensure the supremacy and immunity of the military and pave the way for assumption of power, will trust Sabahi.
If you believe that political rivalry should be based on respect, self-discipline, and acceptance of the other; and should refrain from political face-offs that aim at degrading competitors, you will prefer Sisi’s methodology, his calmness and humbleness. But if you think political rivals may exploit any and every tool to enhance their images and filter the facts to endow themselves with over-beautified images, you will be impressed with Sabahi’s techniques.
If you think that the three years since the eruption of the Arab Spring Revolution in Egypt in January 2011 have squeezed the country dry, you will realise that it requires the full efforts of every citizen, sector and institution in the country to spring back. If you think that this calls for the expertise, developmental and administrative skills of the Armed Forces to get the production wheel again rolling, you will see in Sisi a man capable of blending the skills of the military with those of the civil State to face the challenge. If you believe, however, that the sole role of the military is to defend Egypt against any outside threat and that the country should adhere to strict separation between the military and civil institutions, you will side with Sabahi’s assurances to this effect.
I cite the comparison between Sisi and Sabahi not to tilt the balance in favour of any of them, but to show that the final choice rests with the different convictions of the voters. No matter who the winner would be, I urge Egyptians to head to the polls peacefully, in a decent majority, as they did for the referendum on the Constitution last January. I also hope that the coming president will work on uniting Egyptians under his leadership, and that this round of presidential race will be the first in a series that would carry Egypt and her people to democratic maturity, national effort and peaceful rotation of power. Egypt has been in need of this since the middle of the last century.
Watani International
18 May 2014


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