Newspapers reported on Monday that most of the seats in Cairo University’s student union election were won without contest as the number of candidates did not exceed the number of seats to be filled. The fact that student union membership is being increasingly determined in this fashion merits some contemplation.
The phenomenon can only be explained by one of two things: Either university students don’t care to vote, even though the union should encourage their participation in elections, or certain bodies are interfering to stop students–especially those who belong to opposition political parties or groups–from running in elections.
If the former is true then student apathy is a serious problem which should be analyzed and properly addressed. But if it’s the latter then such flagrant interventions can have harmful implications that extend beyond campus to affect political conditions in Egypt more broadly.
In my experience as a university professor I believe that the security apparatus’ routine meddling in the election process has dissuaded students–who now believe their votes are worthless– from participation. Students and professors alike are well-aware that security interventions take several forms, including crackdowns on politically active students and pressure on university officials to follow them closely. Security forces have sometimes even assaulted students on campus and barred them from attending their classes– as the events at Ain Shams University a few days ago demonstrate–or removed their names from candidate lists.
It’s true that some students continue to participate in elections despite this pattern of repression, but the silent and frustrated majority prefers to stay away and considers election day just another holiday.
What an embarrassment for the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) to claim it has three million activists across Egypt and then fail so miserably to organize free student union elections. If the NDP is so incompetent as to eradicate all its competitors on campus through direct security interventions that undermine the very concept of democracy, how can it possibly convince us that the upcoming parliamentary and presidential elections will be free and fair?
Who is the NDP trying to fool, itself or the people?
Translated from the Arabic Edition.