Will Egypt’s faith in politics last?

MAHMUD HAMS AFP/GETTY IMAGES A girl with her face painted in the colours of the Egyptian flag and the number … Continued



A girl with her face painted in the colours of the Egyptian flag and the number “25” joins the tens of thousands as they gather for a mass rally in Cairo’s Tahrir Square on January 25, 2012, marking the first anniversary of the uprising that toppled president Hosni Mubarak as a debate raged over whether the rally was a celebration or a second push for change.

I was in Cairo when the Egyptian uprising began. On Jan. 24, 2011, I thought the Tunisian revolution was a fluke, and that if anything happened in Egypt, it would be crushed mercilessly. As the first anniversary of the uprising’s arrives, it is clear that while Egyptians are skeptical about the completion of the revolution, they refused to be crushed. They continue to believe in their own ability to create change.

Recent Gallup surveys reveal that in the past year, many Egyptians went from being politically unsure, to expressing political support for the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafi political parties in the weeks and months prior to the parliamentary elections in December and January. The Freedom and Justice Party, the official political party of the Muslim Brotherhood, found support among 50 percent of Egyptians in December. Thirty-one percent expressed support for the Nour Party, the Salafi political party. The new levels of public political support, which rose suddenly after consistent low support, do not necessarily suggest an increase in support for either party’s ideology.

The same Gallup surveys in which Egyptians shifted toward these parties find Egyptians’ opinions largely unchanged in terms of their views on key issues. Egyptians most often mentioned inflation/lack or shortage of money, lack of jobs/unemployment, and safety issues as the most important problem facing their families in multiple surveys through 2011, including in December. Few – 1 percent or less – mentioned ‘moral decay.’ Further, despite the increase in support for the Salafi party, 95 percent of Egyptians in the December survey said they have confidence in the Azhar University, an institution that is openly and historically hostile to the Salafi movement. When asked what are the most important challenges or issues that the next government should address when it takes office, respondents in December referred primarily to employment/employing youth, the economy/cost of living increase, and security/stability – essentially the same top issues they said were facing their families.

The December/January parliamentary election results in Egypt provide many lessons for Egyptian political forces. Large numbers of previously undecided Egyptians decided to vote for Islamist political parties, even though the most important problems that Egyptians cited did not involve the implementation of Islamic law or other political demands of the Muslim Brotherhood or Salafi groups. Rather, they cited more day-to-day issues, such as inflation and employment. That pragmatism indicates that the country’s next elections could equally be surprising – if Egyptians believe that other political forces can address their problems more effectively, it is likely many of them will not refrain from switching their votes from one party to another. That practical approach also suggests that political forces in Egypt in general need to consider the grassroots relevance of their campaigns. At this early stage in Egyptian democracy, the public is looking for parties that will deliver on promises to address the key concerns of the Egyptian people, and not necessarily ideology. Political parties of nearly any ideology – Islamist, liberal, secular, leftist or other – have a chance to succeed, if they convince Egyptians they can actually address the major concerns of the public.

A year ago, when the uprising broke out in Cairo, Egyptian civil society spontaneously and organically showed the world what was possible for human beings who believed in themselves. They provided volunteer medical care for injured protesters; they formed neighborhood committees to protect their neighborhoods; their instincts led them to fill many of the voids that the state evacuated overnight. This January 25, Egyptians still believe in themselves — if anything, they believe in themselves more than they did during the Mubarak era, and just as much as they did at the onset of the revolution. This belief may bring hope and optimism to those who think Egypt has yet to succeed in its revolution. The country has not yet succeeded in reaching all of the revolution’s stated goals. But among its population Egypt has the tools to accomplish a great deal and teach the world something yet again.

Dr H.A. Hellyer is Senior Practice Consultant and Senior Analyst at the Abu Dhabi Gallup Center. For more information on the data and analysis mentioned in this article, please visit gallup.com.

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  • alibaba2

    The egyptian revolutionis manipulated by muslim brotherhood. muslim brotherhood exploit the pain and suffering from ecnomic crisis . the fact the country is poor and the country can not afford to feed 85 million people . the muslim brotherhood convince the fanatic and illitrate that Mubark put all the country in his pocket and let people suffer.this is a liar because the resourecs of country is not good. It is not falut of Mubark . then muslim brotherhood areticles steps to seize the power. the country economic condition will get worst . muslim brotherhood will not create jobs from unempolyment espcially those who graduate from college. due to the global soaring of food prices. the food crisis will get worst

  • ccnl1

    From Ayaan Hirsi Ali:

    From her autobiography, “Infidel”.

    “Thus begins the extraordinary story of a woman born into a family of desert nomads, circu-mcised as a child, educated by radical imams in Kenya and Saudi Arabia, taught to believe that if she uncovered her hair, terrible tragedies would ens-ue. It’s a story that, with a few different twists, really could have led to a wretched life and a lonely death, as her grandmother warned. But instead, Hirsi Ali escaped – and transformed herself into an internationally renowned spokeswoman for the rights of Muslim women.”
    ref: Washington Post book review.

    paperback issue:

    Four excerpts:

    “Some of the Saudi women in our neighborhood were regularly beaten by their husbands. You could hear them at night. Their screams resounded across the courtyards. No! Please! By Allah!

    The Pakistanis were Muslims but they too had castes. The Untouchable girls, both Indian and Pakistani were darker skin. The others would not play with them because they were untouchable. We thought that was funny because of course they were touchable: we touched them see? but also ho-rrifying to think of yourself as untouchable, despicable to the human race.

    Between October 2004 and May 2005, eleven Muslim girls were kil-led by their families in just two regions (there are 20 regions in Holland). After that, people stopped telling me I was exaggerating.

    The kind on thinking I saw in Saudi Arabia and among the Brotherhood of Kenya and So-malia, is incompatible with human rights and liberal values. It preserves the feu-dal mind-set based on tribal concepts of honor and shame. It rests on self-deception, hyprocricy, and double standards. It relies on the technologial advances of the West while pretending to ignore their origin in Western thinking.

    This mind-set makes the transition to modernity very painful for all who practice Islam.

  • alice-belle

    It’s sad to see people fight and die for democracy and then watch them use their hard-won right to vote to choose to be enslaved by religion.