Poor Turnout Undermines Mubarak’s Legitimacy: Experts
|Wednesday, June 20,2007 16:38|
|By Ahmed Fathy, IOL Staff|
The legitimacy of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak"s new six-year term is undermined by the fact that he secured only one-fifth of the 32 million eligible voters, which also attests to eroding public confidence in his rule, experts said Sunday, September 11.
"Legally speaking, we cannot question Mubarak’s win but the humble 23 percent turnout does undermine the regime’s legitimacy," Hassan Nafaa, a professor of Political Sciences in Cairo University, told IslamOnline.net.
"This can not be called a victory," agreed Mohammad Al-Sayed Saeed, the deputy director of Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies (ACPSS), a key Egyptian think-tank.
"After 24 years of absolute power, a hegemony over the country’s economy, media and politics and breathtaking electoral promises, Mubarak failed to secure support from the overwhelming majority of the people," he added.
Mubarak was declared Friday, September 9, the winner of the country"s first contested presidential race with a whooping 88.5 percent of the vote.
According to official figures, only 6.3 million people cast their ballot in Mubarak’s favor, representing only 23 percent of eligible voters and 8.6 percent of Egypt"s 70 million people.
Ghad party chief Ayman Nour, the runner-up, charged that estimates based on his party representatives" exit polls and assessments by judges in the polling stations gave him between 30 and 38 percent of the vote, disputing the official 7.6 percent.
"They had not bothered to cast the ballot believing the results were settled in advance even if it is the first multi-candidate polls in Egyptian history," he added.
"People pin high hopes on the coming parliamentary elections [in November] as they knew that the presidential election wouldn’t bring a real change," Nafaa noted.
He warned of "grave consequences" if the legislative polls were fiddled with and brought forth a symbolic parliament.
The ACPSS deputy director agreed, saying the turnout showed that the regime had lost touch with the people, the majority of whom belong to the middle class and the under-privileged.
"It’s really alarming that the middle class, the locomotive of Egyptian society, has shunned the election, which poses a major challenge to Mubarak in his new term," Saeed added.
He contended that those who voted for Mubarak were largely civil servants and farmers "who live under the control of the state apparatuses."
Forced voting, paid voters, unmanned polling stations, missing indelible ink and the use of public transport to ferry voters to polling stations were some of the irregularities documented by self-styled local election monitors.
Emad Gad, an expert with the respected ACPSS, said authorities were unable to tamper with the 23% turnout figure as the voting was held under judicial and NGO supervision.
"This turnout demonstrates how past elections and referendums were blatantly doctored by the NDP," he maintained.
"But judicial supervision on the election has really curbed fraud this time."
When Mubarak won his fourth six-year term by referendum in 1999, officials said 79 percent of registered voters took part.
Egyptian state-run newspapers turned a blind eye to the poor turnout on Saturday’s editions.
"It deprived qualified candidates of vying in the election, and left Nour and [Wafd party leader] Nomaan Gomaa as no competition to Mubarak," he added.
"In consequence, Egyptians in numbers steered clear of the polling stations as they saw no real challenger."
Under the constitutional amendments, ordered by Mubarak in February of this year, the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood -- Egypt"s best organized opposition force -- independent and society figures were barred from running in the election.
Critics and observers have said the amendment was emptied of substance by setting impossible conditions for fielding presidential candidates.
Independent candidates are required to secure the support of at least 65 members of the People"s Assembly, 25 of the 176 elected members of the upper Shura Council and 10 local councilors in 14 of 26 provinces, all controlled by Mubarak"s NDP.
The leaders of registered political parties enjoyed a one-time exemption from these conditions in Wednesday"s election.
Some 2,000 Egyptians took to the streets Saturday to protest Mubarak"s win, charging that low turnout gave him no legitimacy to govern the country.
They marched through downtown Cairo, chanting anti-Mubarak slogans and waving banners: "Mubarak is ruling Egypt with the approval of 19 percent of the electorate."
The demonstration was led by groups such as the Marxist Tagammu and the Kefaya (Enough) movement, which has been championing pro-change protests for many months.
The protestors released balloons inscribed with slogans such as "No to hereditary power," in reference to Mubarak"s youngest son, Gamal, who many predict is being groomed for succession.