25 May, 2012

A small step

So far, so good.  Egyptians are voting, and it still takes place in the shadow of the military and the Mubarak constitution, yet it seems that irregularities are at a minimum. Nightwatch puts it in perspective:
The bottom line is that for the first time in 7,000 years, Egyptians voted for their head of state and will not know who it is until the votes are counted. This was a genuine choice and the first time that the identity of the country's leader will have been determined by a popular vote, hopefully, and not by not heredity, accidental death,military coup d'etat or military manipulation.
It ain't a liberal democracy.  It may even be an end to the overinflated hopes of the "revolution".   But for Egypt it's a step to something new.
Update (29 May):  It looks like it's less rosy than it first appeared.  The runoff will be between the former prime minister and the official candidate of the Muslim Brotherhood.  I suspect Prime Minist Shafiq is there, in part, due to voter fraud, coupled with fratricide among the other candidates.  Seven protests have been filed, but four have been rejected for technical reasons and the others are from the fringe candidates.  More important, perhaps, more than half of the potential voters in Egypt don't seem to have voted at all.  Compare that to the first real election after the fall of Saddam, where people stood in line for hours and 62 percent of registered voters participated in selecting the Council of Representatives.  When a "revolution for democracy" is followed by a first presidential election in which half the voters don't bother to show up, that's an indication that the revolution has a pretty narrow base of support.

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Anonymous said...

Is democracy always superior to authoritarian systems?

Daniel McIntosh said...

"Always" is too strong a word. There can be illiberal democracies and liberal monarchs, and authoritarian democracies. But if democracy and authoritarianism are the only two choices I'd rather bet on a mass of people than a single dictator.

My first preference is some version of sortition, coupled with a liberal constitution. Democracy-by-election is more subject to corruption, rewards self-centered power-hungry figures, and encourages citizen apathy. Knowing there's a chance _you_ might end up in the legislature encourages consideration of the issues, and knowing that _someone else_ might end up in the legislature encourages general public discussion.

It ain't perfect, but to paraphrase Churchill I suspect in the long run it's superior to the alternatives.