By Philip Whitfield
Politics and sport are much the same: knockabout, with one trying to dominate the other. Egypt’s non-playing cricketers might cock an ear to the Ashes being played in England this summer. Says an Aussie: Whereas the Australians hate the Poms, the Poms despise the Australians.
The Muslim Brothers are Egypt’s Poms, originally POHMs (Prisoner Of His Majesty) stamped on the shirts of British felons transported to Australia. They pout because the oligarchs won’t let them into their oligarchy. Egypt has never had a democracy, or approached a meritocracy.
History repeats itself. A must read is Marx’s Lesson for the Muslim Brothers in this week’s New York Times Sunday Review. Professor Sheri Berman says Egypt’s mess is no surprise to historians such as her. In the early stages of a country’s political development, she says, liberals and democrats often don’t agree on anything other than the desirability of getting rid of the ancien régime.
Karl Marx forecast Europe’s demise pointing out why the first French Revolution failed. The liberal–radical alliance fell apart after they’d toppled the regime as soon as the liberals tasted the extremists’ demands.
Berman says that scenario is playing out in Egypt today. Liberals and authoritarians are playing themselves and Islamists are playing the role of 19th Century French socialists. Once again, Berman says, frightened liberals “have come crawling back to the old regime for protection and as in 1848 authoritarians have been happy to take back the reins of power.”
She’s right, isn’t she? The people demand dignity and respect. They want corrupt clerks and cops off their back. But there’s no culture of compromise, no instinct to prevent one side playing fascists and the other communists, both armed to the teeth as Marx saw it.
Instead of raking over the coals, politicians should spend their time making the electoral process ready for another shot at democracy. As it stands townies have fewer votes than rustics. Absent reform, the next elections will be a sham.
Urban centres were deprived of 58 seats by SCAF when they bulldozed through a mixed system of party and individual lists. The Muslim Brotherhood became invincible. Presumably SCAF thought the Brotherhood was less of a threat than the devil they don’t know: democracy.
They fudged the electoral map. Mohamed Morsi’s Sharqeya elected 20 MPs from a population of 5 million and gave Cairo’s 13 million only 36. Proportionally Sharqeya should have 11 and Cairo 60.
An independent commission should redraw the electoral map. Using the current electoral rolls Greater Cairo has 41 fewer seats than it should have. Matruh, which demographically should have two seats, has six, Fayoum has 18 seats instead of 14, Bani Suef 18 instead of 15. Gerrymandering is everywhere.
Cleanse the voter registers. Mubarak and Brotherhood supporters put in millions of graveyard votes and duplicates. Jiggery-pokery governs the count. The ballots should be transported to a central point where TV cameras can monitor the final aggregation.
SCAF botched merging districts into super-districts, which proved too expensive for individuals to contest. Proper proportional representation is a laudable concept. Party partisan preferences and obstacles for women shouldn’t adulterate it.
Fair play outwits underhand googlies.
Philip Whitfield is a Cairo commentator.