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According to a report released recently by the Middle East Report Information Project (MERIP), Egyptian elections should not be confused with barometers of national opinion. Nor is there any question the government will retain control of parliament in the November balloting.
“No one thinks parliamentary elections in Egypt are democratic or even semi-democratic. They are not free and fair. And citizens know that elections are rigged, with polling places often blocked off by baton-wielding police, so few of them vote,” says the report. “No wonder the reform advocate Mohamed ElBaradei and others are trying to build political and moral momentum for a boycott of the contests coming up in November.”
But the report does not restrict its criticism to the ruling National Democratic Party and other government forces.
“And yet, both the government and opposition take parliamentary elections very seriously,” the report continues. “Despite the renewed impetus for a boycott in 2010, all of the major opposition forces have announced their participation in the November poll.”
Opposition groups do not enter elections to win a majority and certainly not to govern, but rather to accumulate political capital, says the report, which adds that most Egyptians avoid elections altogether because they pose physically danger or because they find no incentive in casting a ballot.
The report argues that opposition victories in the 2005 elections prompted an even stronger crackdown on dissent. As soon as the elections concluded, the regime began a systematic restructuring of the political arena, changing the constitution and electoral laws. The legislation weakened the Muslim Brotherhood and strengthened the NDP’s party organization.
Given its rigorous preparations over the past five years, all forecasts are that the regime will emerge triumphant, according to the report. The laws intend to corral the Muslim Brothers into a measly number of seats and aim to put an end, once and for all, to the Islamist organization’s brief prominence on the national and international stage, the report concludes.
Translated from the Arabic Edition.