Egypt Votes `Yes'
Hammond, Andrew, The Middle East
The Egyptian electorate registered resounding approval for a fourth term of office for President Hosni Mubarak. Indeed, the lack of any opposition to the President was striking, as Andrew Hammond reports from Cairo.
The result was a foregone conclusion. Of an electoral register of some 24 million, the minister of interior announced -- less than 24 hours after the vote took place on 26 September -- that 17,554,856 Egyptians had turned out to say yes to a fourth term for President Hosni Mubarak.
Observers wondered at the logistical nightmare of traffic jams, even more overcrowded streets and sick days claimed that would have ensued had this number of people really felt moved to take themselves to the rather empty-looking polling stations. "He'S going to win anyway," as one taxi driver put it, pretty much summing up the popular attitude.
It was a 93.7 per cent `yes' and one of the last great Arab yes votes of the century. In fact, in contrast to the last vote for Mubarak in 1993, this time the lack of any opposition to the president was striking. Six years ago the regime was mired in a war with extremists of the Gamaa Islamiya and Jihad groups. Islamists within the system felt strong enough to openly challenge the president.
The opposition Labour Party, in an alliance with the Muslim Brotherhood, put out a booklet entitled 100 Reasons to say No to Mubarak. It was banned by the authorities, but that they had the audacity to even author it in the first place said something about the mood of the time.
This time round, the country was awash with huge banners in which every business, institute or lobby group imaginable, right down to the local corner shop, pledged their allegiance to another six years of Mubarak. All the major political parties, bar the Nasserists who said no and leftist Tagammu which abstained, have said they support another term for him. And a failed stabbing attack on the president on 6 September by a religiously conservative sociopath only added to the general perception that Mubarak is Egypt's destiny.
Even mosque preachers -- most of whom are now vetted by the government's Ministry for Religious Affairs -- were calling on the masses to give Mubarak their vote.
This time, the presidential re-election has reflected the confidence of the regime. The government has not only emerged victorious from its tussle with extremist Islam, but came forth bearing a `big idea' to carry the country into the next century.
Although the economic liberalisation programme technically began in 1991 under World Bank supervision, it wasn't until 1996 -- when the current Prime Minister Kamal Al-Ganzouri was appointed with a specific mandate to pursue privatisation and create an investor-friendly country -- that the new Egypt of mobile phones, market reform and unembarrassed `more Mubarak' saw the light of day.
The state's massive media apparatus, overseen by the Ministry of Information, has been pumping out the message night and day ever since in the president has seen that in light of the experience of Russia and southeast Asian countries, gradualism is the model for change in Egypt, proceeding cautiously on market liberalisation and even more slowly on political reform. The man who for the first decade of his rule appeared modest and even shunned the limelight has allowed something of a personality cult to be created around him.
Speculation has been rife in Egypt that Mubarak will now choose to inject a new lease of life into reform efforts in the economic and political fields.
Sensing its moment, civil society has launched a campaign to push for reform. A Preparatory Committee for Political and Constitutional Reform was formed in August by a collection of opposition, civil and human rights groups, including the Egyptian Organisation of Human Rights (EOHR), the Wald Party, the Nasserist Party, the leftist Tagammu, the …
Questia, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning. www.questia.com
Publication information: Article title: Egypt Votes `Yes'. Contributors: Hammond, Andrew - Author. Magazine title: The Middle East. Publication date: November 1999. Page number: 11. © 2009 IC Publications Ltd. COPYRIGHT 1999 Gale Group.
This material is protected by copyright and, with the exception of fair use, may not be further copied, distributed or transmitted in any form or by any means.