Elections versus Democracy

Insignificant changes to the constitution (still in force!), proposed by a committee made up exclusively of Islamists chosen by the Supreme Council of Armed Forces and hastily adopted in April by referendum (a 23% “no” vote, a majority “yes” vote, however, imposed through fraud and heavy blackmail by the mosques),* obviously left Article 2 [whish stipulates that “sharia is the source of law”] in place.  Presidential and Legislative elections under that constitution are scheduled for September/October 2011.  The democratic movement contends for a longer “democratic transition,” which would allow its discourse to actually reach the confused Muslim masses.  But as soon as the uprising began Obama made his choice: a short, orderly (that is to say without any threat to the apparatuses of the regime) transition, and elections (that would result in victory for the Islamists).  As is well known, “elections” in Egypt, as elsewhere in the world, are not the best way to establish democracy but often are the best way to set a limit to democratic progress.


*  Editor’s Note: Most importantly, the turnout for the April referendum vote was only 41%: “More than 14.1 million voters, or 77.2 percent, approved the constitutional amendments; 4 million, or 22.8 percent, voted against them.  The turnout of 41 percent among the 45 million eligible voters broke all records for recent elections, according to the Egyptian government” (Neil MacFarquhar, “Egyptian Voters Approve Constitutional Changes,” New York Times, 20 March 2011).

Samir Amin is director of the Third World Forum in Dakar, Senegal and author of The Liberal Virus (Monthly Review Press, 2004), The World We Wish to See (Monthly Review Press, 2008), and most recently The Law of Worldwide Value (Monthly Review Press, 2010).  The text above is an excerpt from Samir Amin, “2011: An Arab Springtime?” (Monthly Review, 2 June 2011). 
En français.  Cf. Mohannad Sabry, “New Egypt? 7,000 Civilians Jailed since Mubarak Fell” (McClatchy Newspapers, 13 June 2011); Mariam Fam and Alaa Shahine, “Egypt Debt Burden Spurs Muslim Brotherhood Call for Austerity: Arab Credit” (Bloomberg News, 5 July 2011); Mohamed Hafez, “The Islamist Movements after 25 January” (Al Ahram Weekly 1056, 14-20 July 2011); Hossam el-Hamalawy, “Egypt: Islamists, Which Side Are You On?” (MRZine, 15 July 2011); David D. Kirkpatrick, “Egypt Military Aims to Cement Muscular Role in Government” (New York Times, 16 July 2011).

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