Saturday, March 19, 2011

Egypt's First Post-Dictatorship Vote

Today, Egyptians all over the country are voting for or against constitutional amendments introduced after the fall of the dictatorship. This is an immensely important day in a number of ways.

This is the first time in many years where citizens feel their vote will actually count. Many have waited for this day for long years. Others had resigned themselves. Today, all are able to enjoy the benefits brought to us through the sacrifices of those who died for democracy.

This is also an important test of the military transitional leadership's sincerity in moving towards democracy. There are already some reports of irregular events surfacing, like unstamped ballots or voting booths with no curtains. This might simply be disorganization. We will have to wait to see. If this turns out to be a rigged vote like all the ones under the dictatorship, this nation will be in big trouble, and that includes the army. We want democracy or nothing. If it is not going to be allowed, we might as well just burn the whole fucking country down.

It is also a test of Egyptian unity. Many are only discovering what it feels like to make a decision as a nation with all its different factions, classes, religions, and beliefs. This is very different from previous situations where a single voice was artificially maintained for the nation, with only very little room left for dissenting voices for the purpose of keeping some pathetic pretense of credibility. Egyptians are not necessarily used to navigating a very varied political landscape. This has caused some bad feelings among people but overall things appear to be proceeding in an orderly fashion.

The subject of the vote itself also constitutes an important test of our commitment to democracy. We are to vote on some amendments brought to the constitution after the fall of the dictatorship. This does not fully meet the revolution's demands. Many are inclined to accept what we are given so that we can get started on the path to change, however small. Others feel that to settle for less than we deserve is a dangerous move. It is very difficult to estimate the outcome. The Brotherhood and elements of the fallen regime are in favor of accepting these limited amendments and doing more later. The revolutionaries and the youth in general appear to want to reject this, and to start on a blank slate with a new constitution.

I deeply regret the fact that those of us abroad cannot vote, but everything will come in due time. Barring any abuse by authorities (we have yet to see), today will go down as a great day in Egyptian history. If everything goes well, today will be our first truly post-colonial day.

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