One of the fundamental pillars of democracy is to establish public confidence in the election mechanism. Insisting on instating a fictional election mechanism in Egypt will drive many to distance themselves from the political sphere and incite others to consider engaging in unpleasant alternatives. Most Egyptian political observers are almost certain that President Al Sisi will be re-elected in the upcoming presidential election, yet the Egyptian State does not truly want to run a full-fledged free and fair election.
Moreover, according to the Egyptian Constitution a President may not serve more than two terms, totaling eight years in office, and I doubt that this provision can be easily changed any time in the near future. Egypt’s true challenge does not lie in the re-election of President Al Sisi per se, but in our ability to establish a presidential election system that is acceptable to all political forces and can last for many years.
The manner in which the election is currently being managed works on strengthening the position of citizens who have lost hope in any genuine political reform. This segment of the population, which has been expanding, is choosing different routes; its members are either completely distancing themselves from politics, or adopting extreme views that aim at using violence to change the ruling regime. Meanwhile, the efforts expended by the very few citizens who are still trying to push for reform through peaceful means are clearly heading towards a resounding defeat.
Egyptians who argue that a ‘make believe’ election is a temporary solution that serves our needs during the current period are running out of good arguments; they have been using the same reasoning, in every election, for decades. Furthermore, President Al Sisi does not need this kind of artificial support, particularly in light of his supporters’ assertions concerning his widespread popularity.
To persist (as we are currently doing) in planning a tailor-made presidential election will not only raise questions about how Egypt is truly ruled; it also deters international investors from expanding their businesses into Egypt. This kind of election process does not create sufficient confidence in our governing system, which obviously affects international investors’ decisions. We are not even applying Mubarak’s old policy of empowering a few cronies (by offering them the political needed protection) to encourage international investors to expand their businesses into Egypt.
The current method of managing the presidential election, with its resistance to the application of any realistic political process, is encouraging Egyptian citizens to express their frustration on social media, where they incite their acquaintances against the government. The arguments these citizens present to their followers at home, and to the international political community, usually have more merit than the viewpoint espoused by the State, which lacks all aspects of elementary wisdom about ruling a country competently.
The Egyptian State believes that it can easily rule Egypt in a manner that suits its policy, driving the country toward the destination it desires, while imposing its tactics on our population of 100 million inhabitants. This approach overlooks the fact that a tiny determined percentage of this large population, working on foiling the State’s strategy, could easily constitute a solid blockade in the face of its plans. This segment will not emerge if the State would run an objective election – which is not the present case.
Prior to blaming citizens and accusing them of working against the State, we should ask whether we have provided them with a genuine political path to pursue. Enabling only one or two candidates to compete for the presidency in a show election with a predetermined outcome makes it very difficult to convince Egyptians, and the entire world, that Egypt is running a free and fair election. Running a full-fledged democratic presidential election will probably bring the same result – but it will have a substantially more beneficial and long-lasting outcome for our country.