A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Why Boycotting These (or Any) Egyptian Elections is a Blunder

Those of us Westerners who love Egypt, and believe the Muslim Brotherhood ought not be the sole determinant of the country's future, have in our favor the fact that Morsi and the Brotherhood are making such a massive botch of governance and letting the economy go to hell in a handbasket. Our problem is that the secular opposition, so far, is neither offering a credible alternative or even a loyal opposition: they just complain from the sidelines and denounce everything. If Morsi and company look like the Marx Brothers' approach to governance in Duck Soup, the liberal opposition look like as somewhat bitchy Greek chorus unwilling to soil their gloves by engaging their rivals. Latest evidence: the main Egyptian secular liberal opposition, or at least its most visible symbolic avatar in the West, the National Salvation Front, says it will boycott the Parliamentary elections.

Okay. Your choice. So, what, the Muslim Brotherhood. the Salafi Nour Party,. some other Islamists and various Communists and such will run?

I am increasingly dismayed that the Egyptian secular opposition is dreaming itself into some kind of glorious symbolic realm of utter purity in which it totally alienates even its rather large and significant support base. I believe a united, secular/moderate Islamic opposition could either win or become a serious third force. But not these guys. I think Hamdeen Sabahi and some others with a real following and demonstrated electoral performance deserve more attention than ElBaradei and other darlings of the West, but the secular liberals are really throwing it away.

You fought for a competitive vote. You've got one. You may not trust the count, but all parties are legal and the problems haven't been blatant. Stop complaining about past woes and start organizing to win. Otherwise you're going to lose.  Fair and square.

Oh. and now the National Association for Change, another liberal group, is denouncing "the outright intervention of the United States in Egypt's internal affairs." Because the US has urged the liberals not to boycott the elections. So I guess they won't like this post very much, either.

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