Thursday, May 12, 2005

Referendum or rubber stamp

On May 25, Egyptians will go to the polls to approve or disapprove of the constitutional amendment allowing multi-candidate presidential elections in Egypt. While on the face of it, this would appear to be an astounding development in the forever land of the pharaoh, careful analysis has led some critics to conclude that these changes will result in little challenge to that legacy. Reaction by both religious and secular government opposition is a call to Egyptians to vote against the amendment, leaving the man on the street somewhat confused. On the one hand, the regime that has ruled Egypt since the revolution of 1952, is calling the refendum which is supposed to open the door for a potential overturn of that stronghold "... a day of national pride" and "... the making of a new dawn". On the other hand, the fledgling opposition which has long called for more openness in the political process in Egypt, is opposed to the amendment which is supposed to allow for just that. Ironic? Contradictory? That is the simplistic conclusion of a simplistic analysis. Egyptians are anything but simplistic, yet they are still caught in the middle. If there is a mass vote against this constitutional amendment, when will they have the chance to see some change, any change, again? Will their vote of protest be heard and lead to greater reforms or will it result in a forceful closing of the door? That is the dilemma that the man on the street faces. Is this arguably cosmetic change a relief valve for the evident pressure building up, or is it a real change that may show results perhaps not in this election but the next, or the one after that? Are Egyptians willing to wait.... and wait... and wait?

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