Suspicions of votes up for sale in Egypt
After much contention and tension, a total of 13 candidates are finally running for the presidency in Egypt. Next week Egyptians will for the first time in their history experience a highly competitive presidential campaign. The candidates, who are officially allowed to campaign as of April 30, are already issuing fiery statements to the media to set the scene.
Adverts announcing live television debates are attracting attention and are expected to provide most of the voting population a fresh new political experience to add to everyone’s clumsy first steps towards democratic rule.
The positive learning experience is only a part of the challenging realities that have shaken this giant country for more than 15 months now. The path from destabilizing the once easily predictable, severely controlled political status quo toward creating a more just, free and prosperous stable system has been traumatizing.
Expectations that the forthcoming presidential elections scheduled for May 24 and 25 will create enough stability for the infant political system to function might be frustrated as suspicions of fraud and unfair play overshadow the process. The speculated fears are plenty and not utterly unfounded. At the forefront is the legitimacy and integrity of both the candidates and the process. The contested eligibility of some and the disqualification of others was not the only source of caution.
In a country were poverty and lack of education are rampant, trading electoral votes is a serious concern. Buying people’s votes is a well entrenched practice from the past. Rumors that the price of a vote will reach 2,000 Egyptian pounds, the rough equivalent of more than $300, come as no surprise. The increase in price is telling of the value of the prize.
Nevertheless, the anticipated debates and the diversity of candidates will serve to provide Egyptians a sumptuous meal for thought. In the long run what is a definite, healthy sign of change might yet prove quite challenging in the more immediate term. There is not much to indicate the next few weeks will lack in surprises either.