Egypt on the Brink: The Danger of a Left-Liberal Boycott of Elections

My column is out at Truthdig, entitled “Egypt on the Brink”.


“the opposition says it is withdrawing from parliamentary elections scheduled for April…

The Brotherhood government under Morsi has not placated Egypt’s powerful working class, which has seen its wages decline. The demonstrations that have roiled Port Said, a Suez Canal city of 600,000, for the past month are rooted in part in discontent among longshoremen and other workers. These disgruntled laborers are organized, agitated and disillusioned with the Brotherhood, which tends to favor private business. The workers are therefore a voting constituency in search of a party. If the labor-left politicians stay home, so will the workers, and the Brotherhood will win. The same can be said for other vital constituencies, including students and youth, women and the Coptic Christians (the latter are some 10 percent of the population).

The opposition has shown that it is very good, on occasion, at holding large rallies. The crowds have forced Morsi to back off some of his controversial decrees, but only some of them. Ultimately, demonstrating is not a policymaking tool, certainly not in an environment in which regular elections are being held. The same energy and skills necessary to mobilize people to camp out in tents in city squares must now be turned to getting out the vote for parties and candidates that will take the side of the people, of students, workers, women, minorities and liberal Muslims, in the country’s evolving politics. Throwing in the towel now will simply hand Egypt to the Brotherhood and the Salafis, guaranteeing a continued turn to the right in legislation and ongoing political polarization and instability.”

Read the whole thing.

3 Responses

  1. Thank you again, Juan, for a clear and sharp analysis of the situation at hand. It is hard to think of any national situation in the last 150 years in which the tactic of boycotting an election, no matter how odious the regime holding that election, has worked towards a better outcome, sooner, for the vast majority of the population. If you are sure the election is rigged against you, campaign on that and adjust your expectations; keep your own count, too! Refusing to participate takes away even the long-shot odds you might prevail, and can easily be twisted against you in scores of ways in the regime’s propaganda. Plus it makes you look like whiners.

  2. Worst political strategy ever.

    Dictators and oppressors spend millions of dollars and shed barrels of blood to stop their opponents from voting, and these people are proposing to volunteer to do so for them?

    Why is Honsi New-Barak supposed to care if left-labor voters don’t show up to the polls?

  3. The question comes up: will Morsi allow elected leftists any real power, or will he simply force through more changes?

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