The day the silent majority voted

The first stage of Egypt’s first post-Mubarak parliamentary elections saw the silent majority turning out in their millions to vote despite continuing unrest and political divisions – Published on Al-Ahram, Issue No. 1074, weekly online, by Gamal Essam El-Din, 1-7 December 2011.

… A large number of foreign and local civil society organisations took part in monitoring the polls for the first time, with observers coming from the US-based International Foundation for Electoral Systems, the Carter Center at Emory University, and the National Democratic Institute and International Republican Institute. The observers toured a number of polling stations in Cairo, and reported positive experiences.  

Leslie Campbell, Middle East regional director at the Washington DC-based National Democratic Institute and one of the observers, told the Weekly that the elections had been a “turning point” in Egypt’s history and added that “I have not come across any indications that intimidation or vote tampering are taking place.”

“There is a feeling of optimism and a feeling of participation,” Campbell said, after visiting a polling station in downtown Cairo. “Outside many polling stations, you get the feeling that this is a turning point, that people are getting to cast a ballot for the party of their choice.” Campbell also noted that the huge turnout had come despite the tension that enveloped the country after 10 days of street protests and unrest.

“Most Egyptians were very discouraged about the future, discouraged about where the revolution was going,” he said. However, “the election came to give Egyptians the first chance to choose their government since the fall of former president Hosni Mubarak and create a new climate of optimism about the future.”

Foreign observers noted that the elections had sidelined the protesters in Tahrir Square. On election day on Monday, only a few thousand demonstrators were continuing to occupy the square, a far cry from the hundreds of thousands who massed on 19 November to call for the immediate transfer of power to a civilian presidential council and the appointment of a national salvation government to oversee a transition to democracy.

Some Tahrir protesters boycotted Monday’s polls, while others stood in line only to write rebellious comments in the margins of their ballots. Most television channels that had focussed on Tahrir Square for more than a week opted to give priority to the ballot. For their part, the Tahrir protesters said the elections should have been postponed, especially after more than 40 people were killed during last week’s violence.

According to El-Sadat, the run-off stage scheduled for next Monday will be the most exciting “because it will give the first real indications of the forces that will dominate the upcoming parliament.”

“While it could be discouraging for some forces, it will be encouraging for others,” El-Sadat said. “However, everyone should accept the outcome irrespective of the results.”

The first stage of the elections was held in nine governorates, including Cairo, Alexandria, Damietta, Kafr Al-Sheikh, Fayoum, Assiut, Luxor and the Red Sea. 2,362 independents and 193 lists of party-based candidates stood in the elections to contest 168 seats, 56 of them reserved for independents and 112 to be decided by proportional representation. This forms almost one third of the total number of 498 seats in the new People’s Assembly, the lower house of Egypt’s parliament. The holders of an additional 10 seats will be appointed. (full long text).

My comment: what progressive people still not get is:

  • how functions the mind and how react emotionnally this big silent majority;
  • how big, how much numerous is this silent mass;
  • how the lowest 25% or more of our society live ancestral submissions since eternity, since ancient times, when generations of their ancestors were beaten in peasants’ wars and submitted, experiences which no more let them develop independency;
  • thus, fearing the unknown makes them stop from any adventure, even from changing a dictator;
  • and, last but not least, how a subtil promise, given by a better dictator than the old one, like an extremist religion, may relieve them from this nasty fear and distrust for any alien promise, alien because not the same clan, not the same social class, not the same origine (yes, we progressists are aliens to them).

I guess that we intellectuals and other soft dreamers for a better future will need again much time to understand this silent unkonwn mass we would so much like they could understand our goals for development … aahhh, if only they could. So, meanwhile why not make the effort to understand them … look, my mother was an authentic silent majority representative … she was my best real life lesson … ?

Comments are closed.