Rigged Election Haunts Egypt’s Stability
According to an article in the Los Angeles Times, Egypt is facing many economic, social and institutional challenges undermining its future. This, and the political uncertainty that increased with the recent parliamentary elections, concoct a recipe for dark days ahead.
The spread of poverty to large segments of the Egyptian population, unclear economic prospects and the widely felt marginalization after the election may lead to greater social upheaval; therefore, addressing these challenges is imperative.
The most immediate threats to Egypt may be attributed to numerous aspects that include the undermining of the purchasing power of most of the population, where inflation impedes investment, damaging confidence in the stability of the Egyptian economy. This is in addition to Egypt’s fiscal regime which is hampered by high tax evasion, corruption and inefficient management.
Egypt’s young and increasing population is also pressuring the labor market to meet employment demands. Statistics reveal that 50% of males and 90% of females remain jobless two years after leaving school. Furthermore, the number of jobs created decreased by more than 10% in 2009, where most of the available jobs involve poorly paid informal work, rendering the job market highly vulnerable to economic pressures.
According to the results of the National Income and Expenditure Survey conducted in 2008/2009, the poverty rate, which increased from 2000 to 2005 and declined from 2005 to 2008, is once again on the rise. The survey highlights that over one fifth of Egyptians currently live below the national poverty line, and close to half of the population earns less than $2 a day.
A further setback is the widespread corruption in Egypt where it recently ranked 98th out of 178 in the Transparency International’s 2010 Corruption Perception Index where most corruption was attributed to bribes. Moreover, an MA survey by the International Finance Corp revealed that 60% of Egyptian entrepreneurs considered corruption a major constraint on their businesses.
To overcome these obstacles policy-makers must design an impressive development strategy to build a healthy and competitive economy, based on domestic economic and human resources.
Corruption must also be nipped in the bud where Egypt needs to reform its public finance system with clampdowns on tax evasion, in addition to sorting out universal fuel subsidies and improving delivery of public services. These reforms will only be effective by reallocating public resources and ending privileges for the business elite and corrupt officials.
For this to be implemented and to guarantee political reform, there must be a fairly elected parliament; one that people can trust; however, the recent farcical elections revealed otherwise. The elections were marred with riggings and this has prompted the political opposition to form a parallel parliament made up of former MPs including those from the Muslim Brotherhood, the Kefaya Movement, the NAC and others.