Foreign Policy: An Egyptian Voter's Lament

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Voters line up outside a polling station in The City of The Dead on Nov. 28, 2011 in Cairo, Egypt. i i

hide captionVoters line up outside a polling station in The City of The Dead on Nov. 28, 2011 in Cairo, Egypt.

Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images
Voters line up outside a polling station in The City of The Dead on Nov. 28, 2011 in Cairo, Egypt.

Voters line up outside a polling station in The City of The Dead on Nov. 28, 2011 in Cairo, Egypt.

Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images

Mohamed El Dahshan is an economic consultant and blogger.

Egypt's elections weren't supposed to be this way.

Our first "post-revolution" (sigh...) elections were supposed to be free. The overwhelmingly young people who led the January and February uprising would lead the nation into a future of freedom and justice, a nation for all its citizens, equal before the law. People would work together to eradicate corruption, poverty, sexual harassment, discrimination, petty crime — traffic, even. The sky seemed to be the limit. Today is the Icarian crash landing.

I wasn't supposed to hear a candidate talk about "courting the Christian lobby's vote" or some acquaintances talk about voting for the Muslim Brotherhood because they want someone "who can stand up to the Christians who want to take over the country."

These elections weren't supposed to occur as we suffer under the military boot — one that even the most committed revolutionaries among us have no clear idea how to remove. One that has handpicked a 78-year old former Mubarak-era prime minister who, as I write, is reported to be mulling the re-appointment of a number of ministers who were in office when the January 25th revolution began.

They shouldn't be taking place as families bury children who died over the course of the past week, when clashes with the army-backed police forces killed over 40 and injured more than 1,000 protesters who have demanded the end of the military rule and an immediate transfer of power to a civilian government.

They shouldn't occur while bloggers like Alaa Abdel Fattah, Maikel Nabil, and scores of other civilian prisoners unjustly languish in military jails on trumped-up charges. On Sunday, the day before the elections, Alaa's case was referred to an ad hoc "emergency" court and his detention was extended by a further 15 days, while Maikel, on his 99th day of a hunger strike, saw his retrial further postponed to Dec. 4. He currently survives on milk and juice.

Debates among activists who led the revolutionary movement about whether the election would legitimize military rule and whether to boycott had been raging for days before polls opened Monday. (My take: it might, yes; and no, I am not boycotting, though I hesitated long and hard.)

I did not want to vote, but felt I had to. After a sleepless night, I went to vote Monday morning, and stood in line for three hours, during which I witnessed a series of violations.

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