Negative Citizens and a Positive Climate
The last day of the current month is the legal deadline for Egyptian citizens to register in voters’ lists, and the Interior Ministry will announce the numbers of those who have made sure to register their names, knowing that the country is headed towards three months of midterm elections to renew the Shura Council, followed about six months later by competition over the seats of the People’s Council. Personally, I do not think that large numbers were added to the lists of voters, despite the political momentum that became prominent in the press and in satellite television programs, on the background of the Muslim Brotherhood having selected a new leader for itself from among the members of the Guidance Office, elected through the group’s Shura Council, and in light of the debate in the media over who will run in the presidential elections scheduled next year opposite President Hosni Mubarak, if he runs again, his son Gamal Mubarak, according to the predictions of some, or any other candidate put forward by the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP).
The truth is that Egyptian citizens have become preoccupied with other things they consider to be more important than parliamentary and presidential elections. Moreover, many Egyptians believe that going through the trouble of going to police stations and presenting the documents required to obtain an electoral card is a luxury they are not so keen on obtaining. Others are not willing to bear the trouble of something of no avail, not just because they are convinced that the electoral system does not guarantee that their vote will have an impact on the elections, any elections, but also because the gap between politicians, whatever their ideas, principles and opinions, and common citizens has significantly widened.
According to the law, unregistered citizens can register their names in electoral lists during the last three months of every year, and despite the fact that the population of Egypt is of over 80 million people, those registered on such lists are no more than 33 million. And it seems that most of the latter have taken such a step not out of concern for the exercise of their political rights, but rather perhaps as a matter of status. Indeed, the number of those who headed to poll centers in any previous elections has never exceeded that of 23 percent of them. In other words, roughly a mere 17 million is the largest number of voters, out of 80 million citizens. Political science experts are researching the reasons behind the negativity of citizens and their avoidance of dealing with politics or politicians, despite the fact that the matter requires no research. Indeed, citizens, who get attracted to a football game, raise their country’s flag and cheer for it, do not consider elections to be of any use to them, and do not think that there are significant differences between the state and the opposition. Furthermore, the majority of them are deeply convinced that they are only being used to achieve the interests of the ruling elite or the opposition.
The question remains: does the Egyptian government enforce the law and call on its citizens to register their names in voters’ lists while truly wishing that they would respond? Or is it simply a matter of enforcing a law set down years ago? It is noteworthy that Egyptian television periodically broadcasts ad campaigns urging citizens to exercise their political rights and inviting them to register their names. Members of opposition forces generally do not need advertisements and seek to obtain electoral cards to vote in any elections according to their political views. As for the ruling National Party, there were no perceptible campaigns or real activities it has adopted that urge citizens to register, a matter that increases the conviction of common citizens that the next Shura Council elections will be bland and devoid of competition between political forces, especially that opposition parties and forces usually limit their participation in them, and that the real competition will be during the People’s Council elections between the NDP on one side and the candidates of the Muslim Brotherhood alongside some of the prominent figures of opposition parties on the other, i.e. a repetition of the previous elections. And as long as there is nothing new on the political scene, there will be nothing new in the numbers of those registered in voters’ lists, and the negativity of citizens will remain as it is, as long as the political climate that surrounds them is not positive.