I would argue that the failure of successive elections in Egypt since 2011 is not due to their technical mishandling, but due to what they failed to produce — namely, a social contract that could deliver the “social justice” in “bread, freedom and social justice.” Such an argument becomes even more compelling as we watch elected officials reinvent the exclusionary economic policies of the Mubarak era, while negotiating with the International Monetary Fund behind closed doors over the future of the Egyptian economy, without much consultation with domestic constituents and stakeholders.
Some may argue that free and fair elections, if properly conducted, are fully capable of producing a government that reflects the promise of the 25 January revolution and its partisans. Yet this line of reasoning conveniently overlooks the distortive role that electoral politics play in pushing out of the national political arena issues and agendas that concern socially marginalized classes.
The experience of the 2011/12 elections is a case in point. The failure of partisans of distributive justice, such as the Revolution Continues Alliance, to secure meaningful representation in Parliament speaks to a reality in which big money and parties of privilege — whether Islamist or secular — dominate the electoral arena, making it extremely difficult for political allies of the marginalized to really succeed in national politics.
In such a context, the liberal prescription of free and fair elections confronts an insurmountable paradox: How can elections create a national political arena capable of resolving pressing conflicts over economic and social rights if those who lack and demand these rights are constantly crowded out of this same arena by default? In this respect, the power that liberals attribute to free and fair elections to resolve the social conflicts that are tearing Egypt apart today is little more than an illusion.
The class compromises required for an “exit door” from the current predicament are too deep to be resolved through the electoral process, no matter how “free and fair.”
in next days, I will post here in my blog some links to the last issue of Egypt Independent, an English Language newspaper that has just been killed in the country of Nile River and Tahrir Square.
They offered a vision that too many times matched my own ideas, even when lately, it was clear that pressure over them was increasing, and with it, their editorial line suffered some lack of … independence.
Luckily this last issue went back to the usual clarividence I met once.
May these set of extracts be a respectful way to express my recognition for their task.