Fear and anticipation in Canada over the Egyptian elections
For two local Egyptian Canadians the recent elections in Egypt have brought feelings of elevated hope combined with deep sadness. The uprising and subsequent elections in Egypt initially had Mamdouh K. and Sherif El-Attar believe that change for Egypt was around the corner. Long term residents of Canada, their thoughts are now tinged with frustration when looking at the direction their home country may be taking.
“So much potential for Egypt if the government could be good,” Mamdouh said with hesitation. Spending the first half of his life in Egypt, Mamdouh witnessed the rampant corruption and government oppression from the previous President Mubarak regime.
The Egyptian elections held in a series of staggered votes are part of the plan for the military to hand power to civilians before July. Islamists swept their way into power, with the Freedom and Justice Party taking 47 percent of seats in the lower house of parliament, and the ultraconservative Salafist Nour Party winning 25 percent of the elected seats. The Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist religious, political, and social movement, has been building their infrastructure steadily but made little progress as the Mubarak Government continued to ban them from practising politics. The Brotherhood has strong ties to the Freedom and Justice Party. In April 2011, the party had an opportunity to run in the current elections.
This election was the first time in history Egyptians living outside their home country were able to cast their votes at local embassies. The last minute voting process created a challenge for Egyptians in British Columbia and western Canada. Ballots were posted to the embassy in Ottawa and with tight timelines some voters simply could not have their ballots mailed in time.
“Some people in Ontario drove 900 kilometres to be able to mark their vote,” he continues, “People in Vancouver may not have had the opportunity to vote due to time constraints, but next time will be better.”
While Mamdouh and Sherif feel the voting process in Egypt has been fair and the observers legitimate, there is some apprehension as to why the voting has taken months to complete, when in previous elections it took only several days. The results of each phase of the elections are announced regularly, leaving some to feel that the vote has already been decided, thereby reducing voter turnout, or affecting the parties being voted for.