Argument Behind Boycotting – to Poll or Not to Poll
A government crack down on Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, the country’s strongest Islamist opposition group, has provided more reason for government opponents to encourage a boycott of Sunday’s parliamentary vote.
According to analysts the violence and expected rigging during the vote will undoubtedly determine whether or not a boycott proves to be a politically wise strategy. The burning question: boycott and have no say in political life, or participate and risk legitimizing the ruling party.
In the past two weeks the government has arrested hundreds of supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood, simply because they opted to participate in the elections; a legitimate right stipulated in the constitution but breached by the Interior Ministry which appoints its security apparatus to assault, attack and arbitrarily arrest the group’s candidates, family supporters and campaigners.
Human Rights Watch slammed the government for its mass arbitrary arrests, restrictions on public campaigning, and widespread intimidation of opposition candidates which renders transparency in the elections very unlikely.
Recently emerging onto the political arena, former IAEA chief, Dr Mohamed El-Baradei, and founder of the National Association for Change, also support and call for a boycott believing the polls will be rigged so long as there are no guarantees and international supervision.
Abdurrahman al Yousef, the general co-coordinator of El-Baradei’s campaign for change argues, however, that the campaign has received widespread international media attention but is still unknown to many mainly because it is not participating in the poll.
He added: "Participation in these elections gives them validity and legality, and gives them a legal appearance in front of world opinion.”
According to Egypt expert and assistant professor of political science at Colgate University in the US, Bruce Rutherford, the political strength of the boycott strategy will ultimately be determined by how election day itself is perceived by the public,
He stressed that the MB gains from spreading its message and leveraging the legal immunity offered by parliament membership to organize itself, however, the political utility of that declines when the government increases repression.
MB member Sobhi Saleh, who is both an MP and a candidate, notes that despite calls for boycott and the repression practiced against the MB, the group remains committed to running in the election, stressing that the group is vying for 30% of the seats.
He argued that staying on the sidelines would allow the government to claim a popular mandate that it does not deserve, stressing that refraining from participating means that they would be surrendering to the status quo.