Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Hamzawy/Herzallah paper on local elections

The Carnegie endowment has a new policy outlook paper out on the recent local elections in Egypt, written by AmrHamzawy and Mohammed Herzallah. It´s called Egypt’s Local Elections Farce: Causes and Consequences. I want to provide you with the link now, and hopefully comment on it later. The paper can be found here(10 pages pdf).

There is much to say about the elections, not the result in itself, but the way the election process was obstructed prior to election day. The significance of this election compared to previous elections of the 52600 seats on local councils that was up for grabs last Tuesday was in the neccesity after the constitutional amendments in March 2007 for any independent presidential candidate to be able to compete in the future presidential elections( the next one in 2011) to have the endorsement from , both the upper(majlis ash Shura) and lower(majlis ash Shaáb) houses of parliament as well as support from at least 10 members of local councils in 14 of 26 different Governates.

This backdoor to the Precidency is today the only chance for an organization like the Muslim Brotherhood to be able to field a candidate in the presidential elections for the forseeable future. For that reason it was in my view the wrong decision by the Ikhwan to boycott the elections. Yes it´s true that they wouldn´t have a chance to achieve that goal with the 20 candidates they would have been allowed to field in the end, compared to the 7000-10000 that they were planning to participate with in the first place, or the 500 or so that actually managed to register their names, but was overruled by the authourities anyway. but to boycott and to openly ask people to boycott the elections , in a election with somewhere in between 5-10 percent voter turnout does not constitute an effective approach to the problem. Furthermore they are letting their constituency of voters who proved so loyal to them in 2005, down. People who climbed ladders and qued for hours , despite the prescence of security forces whom tried it´s best to obstruct likely ikhwan woters from casting their wote, images very vividly remembered in our collective memory, but for some reason that is beyond my comprehension overlooked or not comnsidered important enough to reconnect with by the Muslim Brotherhood itself.

The weapon of electoral boycott should only be used as a last resort , and could only be useful as a concerted effort by the opposition in it´s entirety in my view. It´s something that the opposition has used much too often in the past, to the point of it being counterproductive. In this case it´s even impossible to meassure the effect of the boycott. You don´t stand a chance of using the moral card of democracy if you are giving up on whatever limited avenues to participate that is open to you.

The approach should have been to compete in thoce electoral precincts that was opened to Ikhwan candidates, and hope for MB mobilization to work it´s magic, while after the election fight the legal battle as to whether the election was free and fare or as Hamzawy/Herzallah argues on the contrary a farce.

These are the key points in the paper:

Key points:

• Current social and political unrest in Egypt is not the consequence of reform driven activism like that of 2004 and 2005, but a reaction to worsening economic conditions by independent and discordant activists. The regime’s repressive response—using security forces and various coercive methods to preempt or smother strikes—has failed to stabilize the street. The decentralized nature of these protests makes it more difficult for the regime to contain them, but also prevents the formation of a cohesive opposition movement with clear objectives.
• The regime has consistently failed to resolve the problems of relentless inflation, high unemployment, and crippled welfare system in the country. Minor steps taken by the government continue to fall short of the comprehensive social and economic reform needed.
• The Egyptian regime’s return to authoritarian methods impairs organized political opposition in the country, which in turn erodes the prospects of sustainable national and political recovery. But opposition forces are also partly responsible for their present condition. Their lack of credibility and discipline has undermined their ability to establish a reliable opposition front.
• The Brotherhood’s last-minute boycott of the local elections revealed the movement’s lack of consistency in its strategic thinking. The Brotherhood’s decision to boycott these elections conspicuously contradicts its previous commitment to advancing reform through political participation at all costs.

Reflecting on the Brotherhood’s boycott, the authors strike a cautionary note on the consequences.

“To the degree that the movement intended to retaliate for the regime’s flagrant actions, its decision may not pay off. After all, keeping the Muslim Brotherhood out of the local councils was the intention of the ruling establishment in the first place. What’s more, the movement is setting a dangerous precedent that the regime will certainly keep in mind: through sufficient political persecution and repression, the authorities can count on the Brotherhood to take itself voluntarily out the political equation,” they conclude

Khairat al Shater military trial verdict tomorrow?

On another related matter, another chapter in the hikestep nightmare will be written today. The military trial of Khairat al Shater and his 39 co-defandats will supposedly recieve their verdict today. Lets hope for the best. In a couple of hours we will hopefully know. For the time being one could perhaps find a small , but very limited joy in the fact that Abdul-Jaleel al-Sharnoubi, the editor in Chief of the Arabic language Ikwhanonline website was freed on bail four days ago.

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