The situation in Egypt is not only challenging as a political process but is surely taking its toll on the psyche and nerves of most Egyptians.
What might have started as a mass embrace of the unknown in exchange for a highly criticized and even abhorred political regime has developed into a confrontation with one’s self, values and sense of confidence and is forcing many to rethink and re-question. In short, it has rocked millions of lives.
This is no reference to only the minority who opposed the change or those who had happily benefited from the status quo but were insular to the majority suffering around them. Rich and poor, educated or illiterate, activist or observer, the tremors of the last 15 months have been touching Egyptians across the board.
The level of anxiety has been swaying like a pendulum. For a highly emotional people the severity and intensity of the events are playing havoc with people’s nerves. In the midst, they are asked to make what is imaged as the choice of their lives; choose a president. Exaggeration of all emotions is an easy task in a culture that prefers connection to disruption, predictable to unpredictable, and a population that had firmly believed it was hopeless and helpless.
Putting aside the pains, frustrations and anxieties so far endured, Egyptians are excited about their upcoming first-time-ever presidential elections, albeit cautiously. This will be their third free voting exercise in the span of 12 months. Most have come a long way as all have been intensely exposed and engaged in the winding political developments of the nation. There is no doubt that the level of awareness acquired since the revolution has changed many irreversibly. Six candidates seem to be gaining ground out of the thirteen, according to the newly developed presidential polls. A third of the voting population appears to be still undecided with the rest divided evenly between the many candidates for political Islam and their opposite secular candidates. The voting choices are elusive as candidates compete to win over voters.
Paying tribute to the revolution, its martyrs and wounded, a well received addition to the first time events, a televised presidential debate attracted millions of viewers Thursday night. The event, a cooperative effort of independent Egyptian media hosted what the polls of the weeks before had revealed to be the two runners-up for the top post in the nation. Egypt’s one-time foreign minister in the ‘90s, Amr Moussa, attempted to debate issues with Dr. Aboulfotouh, a long time Muslim Brotherhood leader who resigned from the movement early last year to run for the post. For a few hours, the volatile and challenging transition was put aside for a spark of hope and first-time practice of respect for the voting population.
The debate left much to be desired. Not nearly as informative as some other programs that have extensively questioned individual candidates and their programs, this one certainly took the scoop of being the first to model Western presidential debates. The immediate result was a media plus but a shaky and shallow exchange among the candidates that might lead to more scores for those outside the debate.
For a change, hope and energy begin to gain over frustration and desperation a mere few weeks away from a free presidential election that had been unimaginable a little over a year ago.