Measuring the present by the past: we’ve come a long way
The growth of opposition movements, the specter of multi-candidate presidential elections and the constitutional amendments proposed by the president have brought Egypt’s political processes to the fore.
If we want to speak about Egypt s interior affairs, we should first examine our past. Egypt has gone through a transition era, said Osama Saraya, editor in chief of Al-Ahram daily newspaper, in a lecture at the American University in Cairo (AUC) last Tuesday.
President Mubarak is more democratic than President Jacques Chirac, because he was born of an era of dictatorial regimes, while Chirac was not, he said.
Saraya highlighted the difference between the freedoms Egyptians currently enjoy and the fear during late President Gamal Abdel Nasser’s rule from 1953 to 1970.
During Nasser’s era, we were too frightened to speak to each other even privately and were always told that walls have ears, said Saraya.
Freedom of the press was also severely repressed during Nasser’s era, Saraya said.
“If a journalist decided to write as he wanted, he knew in advance that he would pay for what he wrote, Saraya said.
The Al-Ahram editor also said he believed Mubarak’s win in last year’s election was the pinnacle of democratic enterprise.
But Ribab El-Mahdy, assistant professor of political science at the AUC, dismissed such rhetoric.
She believes talk of democracy in the country is merely cosmetic, orchestrated to ensure “the continuation of the authoritarian regime we are currently in.
She told The Daily Star Egypt that free and fair elections are the basic ingredients needed for a democracy to be viable and healthy. In order to achieve the minimal level of democracy decision makers and power holders should be chosen by free elections, she urged.
She also pointed out that democratic values must resonate on the socioeconomic level as well.
Democracy is not a banner . democracy has specific features that are not present in the Egyptian regime. We do not find free or fair elections anywhere starting from student union elections in universities, labor elections to presidential elections, El-Mahdy said.