Sunday, December 17,  2017

Life

Vote or Not; It’s None of Your Business

By Soraya Morayef

 

The hot topic of presidential candidates seems to have divided my community into two groups: the first is ‘This is who I’m voting for and let me tell you why because you should too’ and the second, worryingly so, is ‘Tell me who to vote for because I don’t know,’ a collective of easily impressionable and easily swayed people who include educated, free-thinking individuals who have the access to information necessary to make their own choice.

 

These days, the first thing a taxi driver asks me after I get in is not ‘Where to?’ but ‘Who are you voting for?’, followed by a lengthy soliloquy about his candidate of choice, his views on 'feloolism', the revolution and men with beards, and the usual ending of ‘I don’t like him but he’s the best of the worst candidates now.’

 

I understand and appreciate the political banter on Facebook and Twitter, where people naively assume (once again) that advocating their candidates of choice will actually have an influence on the voting turnout on the street; not the minute percentage of social media users in Egypt. Clearly, we haven’t learned from the March 2011 referendum or the parliamentary elections in November

I can’t blame the taxi drivers. Or the shopkeepers. Or the shisha man. Or the ladies in the gym. Or my friends, relatives, colleagues and random strangers on the street. This is a historic time for Egypt, our first attempt at a democratic election (woohoo!) and the excitement is palpable. In some cases, it’s borderline constrictive; like the heavy heat wave smothering Cairo recently. 

 

I understand and appreciate the political banter on Facebook and Twitter, where people naively assume (once again) that advocating their candidates of choice will actually have an influence on the voting turnout on the street; not the minute percentage of social media users in Egypt. Clearly, we haven’t learned from the March 2011 referendum or the parliamentary elections in November. Whatever your choice may be, I applaud you. I just wish you’d keep it to yourself and mind your own business when it comes to mine. 

 

The hot topic of presidential candidates seems to have divided my community into two groups: the first is ‘This is who I’m voting for and let me tell you why because you should too’ and the second, worryingly so, is ‘Tell me who to vote for because I don’t know,’ a collective of easily impressionable and easily swayed people who include educated, free-thinking individuals who have the access to information necessary to make their own choice. They can’t be bothered to make up their own minds, because they’d rather trust you with the decision and vote for whoever everyone else wants. Even more worryingly, they change their minds after a new video appears showing a candidate in a positive or negative light, swaying all the way from Leftist to Felool to Islamist and back again. 

 

I’ll go out on a limb and speculate that the martyrs did not die for a SCAF-controlled election where the most powerful candidates are either Islamists or remnants of the very regime that ordered these innocent people to be killed

I am wedged somewhere between those two opposing poles, in a space I like to call ‘I won’t tell you who I’m voting for, or if I’m voting in the first place, because it’s none of your business.’  This theory repeatedly falls on deaf ears in Egypt today. Voting should be a personal choice, not a duty. I understand that this opinion will receive severe a backlash; already I am the subject of heavy reprimand and downright bullying from my boycotting/voting friends. 

 

I am told that it’s my duty to vote/boycott because the 1000 or so martyrs of the past year did not die for me to boycott/vote. As I don’t know any of the martyrs personally I can’t speak on their behalf, but neither should you. I’ll go out on a limb and speculate that the martyrs did not die for a SCAF-controlled election where the most powerful candidates are either Islamists or remnants of the very regime that ordered these innocent people to be killed. But that’s just my opinion.

 

I am told that if I don’t vote, I will let the Islamists win, and the country’s demise and downfall will be my own fault; one solitary voter out of 40 million eligible Egyptians. Every vote counts, you say. Well I did vote in both the referendum and in the parliamentary elections, and not once did my choice have any influence on the turnout. None of my candidates of choice made it through to parliament, and the regular show of complete travesty and ridicule that is the parliamentary sessions left me – along with many other Egyptians, I’m sure – disgusted at the pettiness of the members of parliament and their complete failure in maintaining our confidence in the political system.

 

I am repeatedly told who I must vote against so as to save my country. Frankly, my naive belief is that you should be voting for someone, not against him; your choice of a president must represent you and your goals for the country’s economy, society and foreign policy. This brings me to another point: many of us are voting for a candidate based on his personality; not his program. Only a handful of people I have spoken to on the street are aware of Abul Fotouh’s economic plan, but everyone seems to be aware of his affiliation with the Muslim Brotherhood. Few have read up on Sabbahi’s views on minimum wage but many talk of his Nasserist stance and his likable character.

 

My point is this: if you choose to vote, please base your educated choice on the candidate’s program and plans for the future, not the personality you think you know through his media appearances, family portraits and the YouTube videos circulating on the internet

 Even worse, I constantly hear the words ‘[name of candidate] has/doesn’t have charisma; we need a president with charisma.’ Seeing as our former president had the charismatic appeal of a wet toad, I understand the desire for a likable character. President Obama has oodles of charm; how has he fared as a president so far? Has he delivered on any of his magnificent promises that had him elected?

 

My point is this: if you choose to vote, please base your educated choice on the candidate’s program and plans for the future, not the personality you think you know through his media appearances, family portraits and the YouTube videos circulating on the internet. Whoever becomes Egypt’s first democratically (ha!) elected president will have the unenviable task of trying to rectify thirty years of corruption, unemployment and poverty as well as a crumbling economy and a suffering tourism industry in just four years. It’s not about charisma, or solidarity with or against the revolution; it’s about who can pull us out of this terrible mess or at least keep our heads above water.

 

Once you’ve made your choice, please keep it to yourself and don’t advocate for or against a candidate: as horrifying as it may be that your mother/best friend/ bawab is voting for the polar opposite of your choice; this is –supposedly- a democracy; something many of us are still grappling to come to terms with. 

 

If you choose to boycott the elections; that’s your personal decision. Instead of ridiculing and attacking those who have decided to vote, I would ask you to feel compassion and understanding for those who are excited about voting. The intent to vote is not letting down the revolution or the martyrs; it’s a basic civil desire to be a proactive part of the country’s development. Your decision is your own and should not be imposed on others. 

 

As for me, I choose to observe, read, and analyze during the upcoming weeks to this exciting development in Egypt’s history, feeling - once again - on the sidelines as a woman and a liberal that has been ostracized by the political process. That’s my personal sentiment, and my choice of a candidate remains exactly that; a choice. Not a duty. Not an obligation to save Egypt from its downfall; because the reality of the situation is that we are entering an election process governed and controlled by the very council that managed our country for the past fifteen months. A review of those past fifteen months keeps me apprehensive and worried about the future after our new president.