Monday, October 04, 2010

Egypt Election Primer

Issandr recommends Mona El-Ghobashy's primer on Egypt's upcoming parliamentary elections:
"As in its day-to-day politics, Egypt’s elections bring together two wildly mismatched players, one holding all of the state’s resources and force and the other possessing nothing more than the sympathy the public may have for the underdog. There is no uncertainty about the overall winner, but winning is not what is at stake. Since the playing field is unlevel, anything but a government victory is ruled out, so the parties use elections as means of achieving extra-electoral ends. For the regime, elections are one among several implements of rule used periodically to reestablish its domination. Campaigns are seasons for the renewal of political alliances and redistribution of economic resources to the regime’s vast pyramid of partners, agents and minions, and their respective lower-level clients.

"Opposition groups enter elections not to win a majority, and certainly not to govern, but rather to build political standing. They cultivate new and old constituencies, lambaste the government and advertise their own integrity, and seek places in Parliament to counteract their exclusion from other national power structures. Given the default exclusion, to boycott Parliament would be tantamount to accepting political invisibility. Official status as MPs gives opposition members access to the state bureaucracy overseeing services to their districts and the standing to meet with foreign delegations. Most Egyptians avoid elections altogether because they can be physically dangerous or because there is nothing in it for them. But citizens’ stance toward elections is not fixed and depends on the nature of their ties to the political contestants in a given cycle: Some voters seek basic goods and services that they do not get otherwise, while others support particular candidates for ideological or kinship reasons."

Despite this beginning, El-Ghobashy doesn't have that much to say about the patronage, except perhaps under the theme of corruption. This, however, hardly matters, the the essay is a comprehensive yet digestible overview of Egypt's current politics, laying out the issues for which the government and its NDP party need to consolidate the influence the patronage ties give them.



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