Egyptians headed to the polls again this week, even as the brutal crackdown by the ruling military regime continues. Just last week, authorities raided the offices of 17 NGOs, disrupting the work of human rights groups and foreign election monitors.
While the polling seems to have taken place without violent incidents, Egyptians are still reeling from last week’s raids and the deadly security force attacks on peaceful protesters. The continued abuses by the military regime point to a tumultuous transition in the months ahead regardless of the election outcomes.
Particularly troubling are statements by Egyptian military leaders that have insisted that they do not intend to cede much power to the newly elected civilian leaders, retaining for instance the power to fire an elected Prime Minister at any time.
January’s elections will complete the selection of candidates for Egypt’s 498 member lower house of Parliament. Early returns indicate that the Freedom and Justice Party, the political party of the previously banned Muslim Brotherhood (Ikhwan), may emerge with a majority.
The inordinate focus of the international media on the possibility of an Islamist government led by the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt distracts from the military’s continued oppression nearly a year after protests began in Tahrir Square.
As the international community witnesses these final stages of elections in Egypt it is crucial that focus remains on the central issue which brought hundreds of thousands of Egyptians into the streets this past year: the fact that no polity can be properly governed without a government fairly chosen by its citizens. This central fact, underscores the struggle of hundreds of young Egyptian, like Maikel Nabil Sanad, who continues to be detained solely for expressing their opposition to the hardline tactics of Egypt’s military regime.
In the next month, as further rounds of elections are held for the Upper House of Parliament, pressure must be maintained by the international community on Egyptian military authorities to insure that the democratic future of Egypt is visible and transparent but that it guarantees justice and human rights for all Egyptians.
Co-written by Geoffrey Mock, Chair Middle East Country Group for Amnesty International USA