Democracy is a quirky thing. The lofty ideals of peace, justice and freedom are the pinnacle of the democratic theory. Without such strong pillars of hope and humanity, western societies would surely have already descended into chaos. Without the approval of the majority, there can be few legitimate governments.
Democracy in Egypt is failing.
And here is why; when a popular uprising earlier this year resulted in the removal from power of Hosni Mubarak, a man that ruled for 30 years, the country seemed elated. Finally, the people were united and they would change the way Egypt was run. Egypt was to become the beacon of the Middle East, now that a revolution has made way for democracy.
And almost 10 months after the revolution had begun, people were at it again.
This time the corrupt evil that had infected their reality was the Supreme Council of Armed Forces and their leader Mohamed Hussein Tantawi. Surely the army, saviors of the revolution and protectors of the peace, could not possibly be the new enemy. They want what is best for the country … right?
Disregard that last statement as an objective opinion and see it for what it is, an opinion. It is an opinion held by many Egyptians who want nothing more than stability and survival. With such a large part of the country living in poverty, relying on tourism and government subsidies, the last thing many of them want is a wrench in the works.
So who are the people in Tahrir? Are they a majority? Is what they are asking at all reasonable?
For starters, the Egyptians present in Tahrir represent many different Egyptian groups, such as Liberals, Muslims and Christians. While they have managed to gather en masse in Tahrir (and around the country) the actual numbers on the ground remains a minority, albeit very vocal. While it may be so that they enjoy a majority support, they remain the minority.
The previous regime led by Mubarak was very effective in keeping his people uneducated and poor. Not surprisingly he is also accused of siphoning billions upon billions of dollars from the country. What this means for the current political situation is that people are woefully uninformed, as state television is their only means of information gathering outside word of mouth.
Enter the second wave of the revolution, which began with the heavy crackdown of the sit in on November 19. As the clashes got worse, and the number of protesters swelled, it seemed that a new chapter into the Egyptian revolutionary struggle was commencing.
Twitter went insane; there were cries for international awareness, pictures and videos were uploaded to the internet in droves showing the violent and cold-hearted crimes against humanity the police had carried out. The reports of injured and killed in the first four days projected a grim reality: if this continued it would be worse than before.
Public opinion has shifted dramatically since those first days. At the beginning, residents of Giza’s Haram area had told Bikyamasr.com how discontent they had been with the protesters in the square, saying they should have simply had more faith and waited for the elections. As the days dragged on and numerous videos and stories emerged, the same residents would say they were now uncertain of the army’s legitimacy in their actions.
But Tantawi has promised change, he has promised to step down from power if it is the wish of the Egyptian people. A referendum would be held to determine his fate alongside the SCAF. That sounds fairly reasonable, doesn’t it?
And yet it isn’t entirely for the greater good. A referendum would take months to plan. The constitution is also a long way away from being formed and the SCAF has already overstayed their initial 6 month promise of power transfer.
Perhaps the SCAF was a tad overenthusiastic with their predictions, or maybe they protesters have been too impatient and naïve to think those 6 months was enough for a country of this size and complexity to form a democratic, uncorrupt system. Regardless of that, a democracy should represent the majority view whilst also protecting the rights of minorities.
Allowing for a referendum to proceed such as Tantawi had suggested would mean that his fate would be in the hands of a majority vote. Ideally this would mean that the protesting presence in places like Alexandria and Cairo as a majority opinion in Egypt would democratically remove yet another corrupt figurehead.
Judging by the opinions of several Egyptians, Tantawi would never leave power if his removal was left up to a vote. Too many Egyptians rely on the SCAF to maintain order, believing that without Tantawi, Egypt would be thrown into further chaos. State television is also another major issue, because they are left with no other source of information to measure up against.
By refusing to accept Tantawi’s proposal, many Egyptians who were on the fence on the issue now back the SCAF by saying they should be given a chance. Even if the protesters ‘see’ through the illusion permeated by the corrupt and oppressive SCAF dictatorship, the majority does not. In such a case, is it undemocratic for the minority to demand by ways of force and presence the removal of Tantawi and Cabinet?
As it stands, yes.
Bikyamasr: How democracy is failing Egyptians