Dear Dr. ElBaradei:
I have the greatest respect and admiration for you. We can never forget that it was your courage and foresight that called for change and a transition to democracy during the final years of the Mubarak regime. Unquestionably, you are the spark that lit the fire of revolution and inspired young Egyptians to dream that change was possible. Two years after the January 25th, 2011 revolution we are at yet another major crossroad; namely, the call for Parliamentary elections starting in April 2013.
You have repeatedly called for a boycott so as “not to be part of an act of deception.” And indeed we all agree that the whole “democratic” process to date has been a huge sham and a blatant unilateral effort by the Muslim Brotherhood to gain control of all the country’s institutions. They have repeatedly established facts on the ground forcing everyone else to go along on their own terms, and labeling those who don’t as “enemies of the revolution”, enemies of progress and stability. So in a way, the opposition is always in the position of “damned if we do, and damned if we don’t.”
I agree that the moral high ground indeed dictates the need for a boycott of the elections. But unfortunately, the world of politics is much more pragmatic, and in the end, it is about gaining power in order to guide the country forward to the destiny that Egypt well deserves. If the opposition, the National Salvation Front, the liberals (call them what you will) boycott the elections they will be handing the Parliament to the MBs on a silver platter. Not only that, but the MBs will milk this boycott to the maximum to convince the simple people all over the country that the opposition is afraid to run because it knows it will lose; that the opposition wishes the state of chaos and disarray to continue for the benefit of “external parties”, etc. etc.
My feeling is that we (the opposition/the liberals) have two choices:
1.Boycott the elections and work very hard to get the maximum number of people across the country to boycott the elections AND at the same time call for a revolution to remove the current regime altogether. The parliamentary elections are “an act of deception”, the constitution and its drafting process were another very serious “act of deception”, the current government is not in any way responding to the needs of the people, and as has been repeatedly said, although President Morsy was elected through the ballot boxes, he has lost all legitimacy by his repeated failures and his autocratic edicts. So by all means call for a boycott of the elections, but that alone is only a half measure. The people must boycott the elections and mobilize to overthrow the regime, however long it takes.
2.The second choice is to beat the MBs at their own game by fielding outstanding candidates in all the precincts (el dawair), getting as many voters out as possible because the larger turnout will favor the opposition, address the economic issues and find ways to talk to the people to convince them that our candidates will respond to their needs of employment, food and health care, take whatever measures are needed to ensure the transparency and honesty of the election process. Make use of NGOs, volunteers, and the media, invite international organizations to observe and report, intervene at every step of the process to ensure its legality. If the opposition can get 50 + 1% of the votes that will be a huge victory. To realize this victory requires a totally united opposition. This is where your leadership and experience is badly needed Dr. ElBaradei. You must galvanize the opposition to pull together and to set aside egos. If all the newly founded parties would unite, perhaps under the umbrella of a venerable party with a long history such as El Wafd, then their candidates will benefit from consolidated support (votes as well as funding).
Moreover, a higher percentage of the population is currently disenchanted with the MBs’ abysmal performance over the past six months and their hypocritical maneuverings have been exposed. As the economy spirals out of control, they are being held responsible. The opposition parties must capitalize on this and push hard for a change in government, starting with their representatives in parliament.
The second choice is the more difficult one but I believe it is the more pro-active choice and the one that will engage young and old, men and women, urban and rural dwellers in the actual practice of democracy.
Nagwa Shoeb is a communications professional, actively involved in social development, cultural heritage, women's rights and peace issues.