Talks about the upcoming elections dominate the major part of local news. As in sports, a ‘warming up’ process is in session, in anticipation of the real game. Next month should see the mid-term elections of the Shura (Consultative) Council, the upper house of Egypt’s Parliament; next October the elections for the People’s Assembly, the lower house of Parliament; and autumn 2011 should witness Egypt’s presidential elections, meaning the door will be open for presidential nominations before 2010 comes to an end. Small wonder then that the political climate does resembles a warm-up, with everyone holding their breath till the winner is announced.
It is an opportunity to be seized by all Egyptians who hold their homeland’s welfare at heart. They should be there not as mere spectators who eagerly follow the details of the electoral battle, but as active participators in the nomination, monitoring or balloting. I am fully aware that most Egyptians have build up a lack of confidence in the election process, nurtured out of long years of State corruption and the inability to bring to office the persons they choose to represent them. But I am also aware that refraining from participation leaves the arena open to easy corruption, and is by far the best gift apathetic Egyptians can offer those who wish to monopolise representation and authority.
Long talks about the electoral process flaws bring us no closer to an answer to the problem, and merely serve to further confine us within its boundaries. Active participation is the only way we can come any nearer a solution. I call upon all those who, out of a sense of futility have hitherto refrained from participating, to reconsider.
To all who cannot imagine or believe the extent of the apathy of Egyptians towards elections, I present the results of a study printed in the National Geographic magazine on voter turnout in various countries in the world. I first saw the study some two years ago, and laid it aside till when I would need it. Now the time has come for me to present it to Watani readers. The study which, as published by the National Geographic magazine, is fair and impartial, categorises elections into ‘free’ and ‘compromised’ elections. Egyptian elections are among the compromised, and the country is on the bottom end of the list on voter turnout.
At 95 per cent voter turnout, Australia tops the list of countries which enjoy free elections. The United States comes in second at 89 per cent; Denmark at 88 per cent, the Philippines, Turkey and France at 85 per cent each; Sweden at 84 per cent; Italy at 82 per cent; Germany at 79 per cent; South Africa at 78 per cent; Indonesia at 75 per cent; Greece at 74 per cent; Israel at 66 per cent; South Korea at 65 per cent; Japan at 58 per cent; Romania at 45 per cent; Poland at 40 per cent; and Switzerland at 38 per cent. Mozambique comes at the bottom of the list with a 27 per cent voter turnout.
Among countries which suffer from compromised elections, Turkmenistan tops this list at 99 per cent voter turnout. Russia follows at 96 per cent; Tunisia at 91 per cent; Cambodia 82 per cent; Iraq 80 per cent; Congo 75 per cent; Kenya 70 per cent; Yemen 68 per cent; Iran 60 per cent; Algeria 57 per cent; Zimbabwe 52 per cent; Lebanon 47 per cent; Pakistan 46 per cent; Morocco 34 per cent. Finally Egypt appears on the list with 23 per cent voter turnout.
I am not publishing this study for entertainment before the upcoming elections, and by shedding light on it I do not mean to disillusion readers as we warm up. Rather, I hope it could motivate us to face ourselves and revise the apathy we are used to adopt. The path to political reform awaits our first step. And those of us who have already savoured the sweetness of economic reform already underway in Egypt know that no reform can come without a candid, brave initiative.