No use in a boycott

15-12-2011 09:26 AM

Angele Reda


In parallel to the protests in Tahrir Square, aptly termed by some analysts the “second wave of the revolution”, a number of Egyptian parties announced they would be boycotting the parliamentary elections, which are scheduled to start on Monday 28 November.

WATANI International
27 November 2011

In parallel to the protests in Tahrir Square, aptly termed by some analysts the “second wave of the revolution”, a number of Egyptian parties announced they would be boycotting the parliamentary elections, which are scheduled to start on Monday 28 November. The Egyptian Revolution Party—an amalgamation of 11 coalitions and political movements—has announced that it would boycott the elections in protest at the violence in Tahrir Square and elsewhere in Egypt. It has called all parties to give priority to the country’s rather than political interests. Other parties brought their campaigns to a halt pending a response by the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) to the protesters’ demands. Saïd Kamel of the Democratic Front Party, a candidate in Sharqiya, has put a hold on his campaign because of the aggression in Tahrir. But is it a mistake to threaten a boycott of the elections in the current circumstances? And if so, why?

A threat never applied
The writer and researcher Soliman Shafiq says that between the 1990 and 2005 elections parties and political powers threatened they would boycott or withdraw from the elections, but it only happened once. This was in 1990 with the liberal Wafd party, but the result was that the Wafd admitted it was a mistake the party would never do again. In the 2010 elections the Wafd boycotted the elections in the second round, not to make a political statement but because of the failure of a deal between the party and the now-defunct State Security Apparatus concerning the elections. Practically speaking, the decision can only be effective if all the political powers agree on it.

For the moment, Egyptians are confused by the different scenarios and agreements foreseen by the various political movements to bring the current transition phase to an end, Pakinam al-Sharqawi, professor of political science at Cairo University, says. The confusion can only be resolved by concluding the parliamentary and presidential elections as quickly as possible, by March 2012 at the latest. All political powers should agree on one demand: holding elections and turning authority over to an elected civil power, with the army returning to its role of protecting the country. “A boycott is not a solution,” Dr Sharqawi says.

Ineffective and invalid
“The threat to boycott the elections made by some political movements is not effective and non-valid, and moreover such movements do not represent a majority in the electoral process,” says Ibrahim al-Shuhabi, a researcher at the Research Youth Union. He says the economical and political results will be fatal if the elections fail or are postponed. That’s why we have a plan to transfer authority from the SCAF to a civil power, and we will start with the parliamentary elections.

 
Shuhabi believes that currently the problem is that the unrest in Tahrir will affect the electoral process. He says that any political power that cares about the interest of this country should insist on elections and make political participation a civic duty. If any irresponsible power threatens to boycott the elections it will result in one of two options: either to be ruled by the military council or to live in chaos.

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