Wednesday, September 07, 2005
Today marks yet another victory for George W. Bush in his crusade to spread democracy in the Middle East. After elections in Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestine, and Lebanon (all thanks to the U.S. and leading to peaceful, stable, prosperous, and harmonious democratically governed states, of course), Bush can now add Egypt to the list. As Egyptians vote today, al-Jazeera reports of low voter turnout:
In the first half-hour of voting, only four young women showed up to vote [at one Cairo polling station] - but there were no locks on the ballot boxes, so polling officials refused to allow any votes to be cast....There were also some allegations against the government regarding poor voting practices:
Some organisations tracking the elections issued initial reports stating that no voters or judges had shown up in at least two electoral committees in the new Egypt neighbourhood, the correspondent reported.
Aljazeera has learned that the national party hired buses to transfer citizens to polling centres to support Mubarak....Meanwhile, Ha'aretz reports that pro-government thugs forcibly broke up a protest organized by the opposition.
Aljazeera's office in Cairo has also received reports that al-Ghad and al-Wafd parties in Port Said and Giza have submitted complaints that electoral officers did not apply indelible ink on the fingers of voters....
The two parties have also complained that the ink used could be easily removed from voters' fingers in some areas...
The men chased and beat up some of the several hundred demonstrators and ripped apart banners calling for a boycott of Wednesday's election, Victoria Hazou, a photographer who witnessed the scene, said.Update [5:52 pm]: Within Juan Cole's article on Salon refuting Christopher Hitchens's 10 reasons to be proud of the Iraq war (personally, I don't know that Hitchens deserves this much of Cole's attention or this much space devoted to attacking him on Salon, but that's a different matter), Cole is clear about how much "democracy" in Egypt the Bush administration can take credit for:
"They [the men] were chasing after [the demonstrators]. When they got people alone they beat them up," she told Reuters.
The protest was organized by the Kefaya movement, which has this year held a series of demonstrations calling for an end to the rule of longtime leader Mubarak, who is widely expected to win the election.
Hitchens has not shown that the Iraq war has encouraged democratic and civil society movements in Egypt. Bush's war did encourage 100,000 Muslim Brothers to come out to protest it, and it therefore reinvigorated the fortunes of political Islam in Egypt. The Mubarak government, however, refuses to recognize the Brotherhood as a legitimate political party, despite its popularity. Democratic and civil society movements in Egypt are of old standing, and they did not need an American imperial boot print in Iraq to jump-start them. Hosni Mubarak has agreed to allow a small number of officially recognized parties to field candidates against him in the presidential elections, but this change is window-dressing. Does Hitchens seriously believe Mubarak will lose?Of course not.