The elections of 2010 were arguably the most corrupt since the era of 99.99%.
The NDP gained most of the seats; most of these gains were disputed in court; most of the disputers won their cases; most of those court-supported winners were duly ignored because المجلس سيد قراره (for non-Arabic speakers, there is no proper translation, but loosely - "the Parliament doesn't need to follow court rulings if it doesn't want to" - yeah ridiculous I know).
It is equally ridiculously easy to argue that at the very bottom of every problem we have suffered through in Egypt there is one common root cause, namely corruption.
Think about it.
Seriously, please think about it.
Think of just about any problem we have had in the last decades from political profiteering to poor health care; from a lousy education system to the under-price selling of our gas and from poverty to a collapsing economy and I guarantee that if you look deeply enough, you will find a corrupt person or practice right at the core of the issue.
So, corruption is the disease behind practically all our troubles.
Among stage-setters and catalysts for corruption, it is again fairly easy to argue that one of the most critical (perhaps the single most important of all) is a parliament not performing its duties. Duties NOT of building schools and mosques, these are the government's responsibility. Rather the duty of monitoring, evaluating, reporting on and responding to government performance.
A government which fears repercussion cannot act with impunity. A Prime Minister who is accountable to a parliament cannot act as if he is above reproach. Ministers (and President I add in hushed tones) who fear their employers (i.e. you and me) cannot rob (I'll skip rape) and pillage at will.
In a country with a strong and active parliament, ministers would be resigning/getting the sack DAILY for the kind of performance our government has been delivering.
All this seems basic and obvious. And it is!
From there it is one simple step to:
YOU AND I ARE FULLY RESPONSIBLE FOR ALL THE EVIL EGYPT HAS ENDURED!
Because it is you and I who vote parliament in. And so, to my mind, if you and I don't vote at all, or if we don't exert sufficient effort to find out about candidates' and parties' programs, or if we stand silently by while elections are rigged we are active participants in destroying our country.
We are AS GUILTY as the police officer who pulled the trigger and shot dead Moataz Anwar, AS GUILTY as the those who sold us carcinogenic food, or the minister who owns 48 villas in 12 different gated compounds. AS GUILTY as the officer who (allegedly) placed a hose in Esam Atta's mouth and rectum and opened the tap full force until the poor man died.
We are even AS GUILTY as the man who ruled over us fraudulently and despotically for the last three decades - and just for good measure wanted to bring in his son to carry the torch for the next three!
Not supportively guilty, not guilty by association, not almost as guilty: EQUALLY GUILTY.
So what do we do about it?
First things first: WAKE UP AND SMELL THE BALLOT BOX!
You are the key to this country's future. You have an unprecedented chance to help shape its future. You can stop the killing, the torture, the unemployment, the arrests without warrants, the poverty, the diseases, the illiteracy, the filth, the pollution etc..etc...etc...
YOU CAN AND YOU SHOULD KNOW YOU CAN.
Next: Activate this knowledge by first ensuring you CAN vote i.e. go to http://www.elections2011.eg/ plug in your national ID number and confirm this. If you can't vote, stop reading!
Next find out about your district, is it List (قايمه) or Individual (فردي). If you are not sure what these mean check this great little video explaining the difference: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kxSaFIisc8U
Then find out who is running in your district. That should be easy, there are a tonne of places clarifying who is running in which district, some sites even tell you a little about each and post news about them. This facebook group should have a full listing soon: http://www.facebook.com/Elections.eg
So far, pretty easy right?
Well the next bit is a tad more demanding, but the FUTURE OF OUR COUNTRY is worth a little effort right? Of course it's right!
So the next bit is, find out about the candidates and/or parties. Investigate their programs, read beneath the titles. What is the actual plan? How do they plan to achieve it? Do they have a history of success? What have they done before? Remember, previous performance is usually the best indicator of future performance. If some guy was raising his hand every time Soroor said "Mowafekoon" he's probably not your guy!
Next is the really taxing part: Make up your mind who you want to vote for.
I STRONGLY recommend the following formula:
- Remove all biases from your head. Religious, gender, appearances, wealth, accents etc should all be thrown out the window at this stage
- Meet up with some people from your district and discuss the various candidates and their programs. Do NOT have arguments, DISCUSS. For a truly lively discussion I recommend you meet up with NON-like-minded people.
- Make a list in descending order or importance of what you believe this country really needs
- Compare list from point 2 with programs and multiply by likelihood of fulfillment (just kidding but only half-kidding)
- He who scores highest gets your vote
From there, it's smooth sailing, go to your district voting location at the right time on the right day, avoid baltageya and plain clothes policemen, resist the temptation to pocket the LE 50 offered by candidate X, stand in line for about four hours and, cast your vote. Leave in dignity and congratulate yourself!
You have now made a positive contribution to Egypt's (hopefully very bright) future!
Oh! You want to do more than just vote?
Well, if just casting your vote isn't enough, you may want to read on.
A bunch of guys and I have formed a group called صوتي لبلدي مش للبيع (I vote for my country, my vote is not for sale). We started off on facebook, then met RT (that's Real Time, not Re-Tweet). Then we decided that the single most important thing we could do for Egypt during this time was to combat vote selling, a practice so rampant, it is considered a seasonal gift from rich Parliamentary wannabes to poor voters.
We defined it as anything from the direct sale of votes, to forced voting (moving voters like cattle in buses to polling stations to vote for pre-specified candidates) to what is known as tribal or nepotistic voting (in other words, giving your vote to a relative or friend regardless of their ideology, program, seriousness or ability).
We designed a campaign based on TV ads (self-financed, no foreign funding here thank you very much) and fliers and awareness creation campaigns and started implementation. Through contacts we got airtime for our ads (which should be appearing shortly) on various TV Channels. We've been on TV once http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9NJgV0Y8AU4 and go on again soon (Thursday at or around 9.30 pm on OTV with Reem Maged) Through cooperation with various bodies we got the fliers printed and will have them distributed as far and wide across Egypt as possible.
You can see some of the work already produced here:
If you want to join and help, just ask to be added. Short of convicted criminals and repeat mass murderers we accept most applications.