x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Exclusion will harm Egypt in the long term

Sunday's election results might have played out to the satisfaction of the ruling party. But the question remains: how long can Egypt's angry voters be kept quiet?

In the end, hopes of a fair and free parliamentary election in Egypt were broken. Violence erupted amid accusations of vote rigging and police intimidation, with reports that at least three people were killed in the ensuing chaos.

As we reported yesterday, Egypt's largest opposition party, the Muslim Brotherhood, failed to win a single parliamentary seat in the first round of voting in the People's Assembly, according to the leaders of the banned group, reflecting what they called a "massive forging" of the vote. The second most powerful group, the secular New Wafd party, won only seven seats. The results, questioned by independent observers, sees control of parliament maintained by the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP).

With the second round of votes set for Sunday, it remains to be seen how the Brotherhood, which plans to run for 14 more seats, will react to the latest debacle. Last week, we wrote that bringing in the Muslim Brotherhood from the political wilderness would compel it to provide genuine, workable policies rather than - as is the case now - hypothetical solutions. The upshot is that the Brotherhood, already far removed from its earlier days of radicalism, would be a less-threatening presence to the NDP than the hurt, angry movement that it is today.

In the lead-up to next year's presidential elections, a Muslim Brotherhood that is integrated in the political process is a far more appealing option than a marginalised one with nothing to lose. "It is impossible that the Brotherhood, which has 135 candidates, many of whom are already parliamentarians, does not win a single seat," said Saad al Katatni, the head of the group's parliamentarian caucus. "This reveals that the ruling regime is giving the message that it doesn't respect the will of the people and needs a parliament completely different than the last one."

The Egyptian vote on Sunday was indeed a poor advertisement for democracy. And while the ideal should clearly not be abandoned in favour of the status quo, it is arguable whether a flawed election is, at this point in time, preferable to no vote at all.The implementation of a fully functional democracy requires far more than just an election, fair or otherwise. The country's political and social institutions should first be in order to deal with the process. But with an emergency law once again extended, it is clear that Hosni Mubarak's NDP is not ready yet to ease its hold on politics.

Sunday's election results might have played out to the satisfaction of the ruling party. But the question remains: how long can Egypt's angry voters be kept quiet?