Last month’s election results in Egypt caused widespread frustration. It has already been sixteen months since Mubarak stepped down, they have failed to establish a constitution, justice has not been sufficiently served and voters are now left to choose between a member of Mubarak’s regime and a member of the Muslim Brotherhood. Reporters are bombarding us with articles rife with frustration and questions about the success of the revolution.
But in an age of instant access, we seem to have forgotten just how long of a process democracy really is, and are even becoming impatient with the slow pace at which states that are trying to develop a democratic system are progressing. More importantly, we have forgotten just how long it took states that are now considered to be fully democratic to get to where they are today.
Take the French revolution for example. In 1798, the country was up in arms, storming the Bastille and marching on Versailles. It was not until 1792 that a republic was actually declared. The following year saw the Reign of Terror, during which rivaling political factions clashed and tens of thousands were killed. From there, France went from being a republic to an empire under the absolutist rule of Napoleon, followed by a constitutional monarchy that was revolutionized back into a republic, only to see the return of a Second Empire. The Fifth Republic was not declared until 1958. It took 160 years for the French to get it right, despite being armed with a guillotine.
Another reality of democracy we seem to have sidelined is that although elections reflect the public’s opinion, the public is naturally full of differing and opposing opinions. This was clearly evident in Egypt’s election results. The top two candidates only managed to secure 47.6% of the votes between them.
The results of May’s elections may have been disappointing, but don’t forget that only 46% of registered voters turned out during the first round, and whether we like it or not, supporters of Morsi and Shafiq do exist.
Even while he was being ousted, there remained strong supporters of Mubarak who still saw him as the hero and saviour he was considered to be during the earlier days of his presidency. It only makes sense that his loyalists would rally behind Shafiq. According to The Times of Israel, Shafiq also received unanimous support from voters residing within Israel.
At the same time, the Muslim Brotherhood is an extremely organised movement that has been around since 1928. The Brotherhood has established free schools, clean hospitals and infrastructure, creating a strong support base in the widely neglected rural parts of Egypt.
In a country with a population of over 80 million, and with such dominant forces such as the Brotherhood and the Supreme Council of Armed Forces present, it will take time for progressive revolutionary parties to secure large support bases, and for voters to establish opinions on those parties’ policies.
It may seem on the surface that little progress has been made, but the wheels of change have been set in motion. Sixteen months on, Egyptians are not giving up. They are still going back to Tahrir Square time after time to demand their rights. The Global Mail reports that activists are forming an academy to train young people in the field of politics free of charge. Revolutionary parties already recognised the need to come together in a united front earlier this year. This all points to one truth: Egypt may have a long road ahead of it, but democracy is inevitable.
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