«An election that reflects the state of our society»
A conversation with Amr El Shobaki 20 December 2010

Professor El Shobaki, in view of the official results of the 2010 elections, which have effectively abolished all opposition parties, what do you thinks has changed in Egyptian politics in the last five years?

Frankly not much, if anything at all, regardless of the specific results. One key issue in Egyptian politics is whether or not the still officially banned Muslim Brotherhood is legitimate or not. The paradox is that the Brotherhood represents a large part of the people, an aspect one must take into account, and it has run in the last five elections held since 1984. And yet, we are still at the starting point with the regime that has not legitimized this movement. On the contrary it has posed even stricter obstacles for all religiously inspired movements. There has been no integration with the political system. They resorted to all kinds of expedients to avoid this minority even achieving results such as those of 2005. At the same time, the Brotherhood never accepted the rules of this country, continuing to use anti-democratic language and opposing a modern civilized state. They still use the slogan “Islam is the solution” year after year, without having a real political agenda. I believe, however, that they would have won perhaps about forty seats. As far as the secular opposition is concerned, the slightly renewed Al Wafd party (The Delegation) and other minor movements with no real leaders, all participated in a disorganised manner.

The debut of the former head of the United Nations International Atomic Energy Agency and 2005 Nobel Peace Prize winner Mohammed El Baradei did not revive the political climate as many had hoped. What are your thoughts?

No, he didn’t. El Baradei is fighting to change the rules, to renew a system that has not changed for decades, but this takes a long time, certainly not a few months. I don’t know whether he has burnt his bridges or whether he has a future; perhaps he is not suited to be the candidate for a movement but rather the person to put in motion a new mechanism, to set off a process without competing.

What about El Baradei’s Movement for Change’s decision to boycott the elections that was then also embraced by the Muslim Brotherhood in the second ballot?

It was neither effective nor a new idea. The Egyptian people had effectively already always boycotted elections since they believe they are not transparent and are of no value considering that one cannot really express one’s wishes. People have no faith in politics. Elections, however, are only the tip of an iceberg, everything below needs to be first renewed and in the end elections are just an event lasting one or two days.

Is there a link between this general election and the presidential election next year? Can one consider these recent elections as a preview of the presidential ones that could decree a transition from the Mubarak presidency to his appointed successor?

I don’t think there is a direct link. Elections are just a formal occasion. Egypt’s political issues are decided in other locations. It will therefore be the main institutions in this country that will reach an agreement on the future president over the next few month, if they have not already done so in the past far from the people.

Translated by Francesca Simmons