Sunday, November 20, 2005
The first round of the parliament elections showed that there are 2 forces that shape the political landscape of Egypt: Mammon and Allah (or religion). The failure of the secular opposition, which was the cornerstone of the political revival of this year, showed that without Allah or money, very few political entities can fare well in Egypt, and in most poor developing countries.
That’s a powerful incentive for voters. In the elections last week, the “price of a vote” exceeded 500 Egyptian pounds ($86) in some areas. An elections monitor told me that when he asked a large group of voters standing idly outside the polling station whether they voted or not, they informed him that they postponing their voting for a while until the “price” increases even more.
In addition to the government’s powerful apparatus, money is the main weapon in the NDP’s (Mubarak’s party) arsenal. Businessmen and entrepreneurs in Egypt have to forge good relations with the government in order to facilitate their business as well as gain power and influence. Several heavyweight businessmen make up the ranks of the NDP and they use their money, businesses, and government affiliation in order to win.
Mammon is not only a weapon for the NDP, other rich independents use it as well. That was the case of Shahenaz el Nagar. She is a female, doesn’t use Allah, yet she has a lot of cash. Even though females don’t get elected that easily here, El Nagar managed to buy her seat in the parliament.
Another powerful weapon, used mostly by the Muslim Brotherhood and believe it or not by some NDP candidates whenever they face a strong MB opponent. Allah cannot operate in a vacuum, the MB or their surrogates have to utilize external factors if Allah were to carry them to power. These factors include: the religious wave sweeping Egypt, the harsh economic situation that has brought the middle class to its knees, the failure of the Mubarak regime in meeting the magnificent needs of Egyptians. These 3 factors are the gas in the MB’s car. Allah is the car itself.