As opposed to previous times, the elections are not merely a national referendum on the presidency of Hosni Mubarak, who has been leading the country since 1981. This time around, Mubarak is facing off against several other candidates.
However, it appears the election results are known is advance and Mubarak’s victory is assured. Polls indicate more than 80 percent of eligible voters prefer to see Mubarak continue to lead the country.
‘We need an experienced leader’
A taxi driver asked about the elections said “only the president can solve housing and economic problems. The economic crisis is not new in Egypt, and a difficult economic situation prevails everywhere in the world today.”
Egypt’s presidential candidates (Photo: AP)
Another driver said he too will vote for Mubarak, “but not because of habit or pressure. It’s because I’m convinced the president will deliver on a large part of his promises.”
“In this sensitive period in the world, we need a leader with plenty of experience…particularly with what’s happening in Sinai and here in Cairo – all the attacks of the recent months.”
Meanwhile, newspaper al-Quds al-Arabi revealed that preparations for Mubarak’s victory celebrations have started under a veil of secrecy, with orders to that effect being given to several officials.
Western commentators and Egyptian opposition figures say the elections are in fact an illusion of democracy, and as was the case in the past, the Egyptian regime has ensured Mubarak’s reelection.
Opposition figures have warned recently of large-scale forgeries. They argued the voters lists are controlled by the ruling party and a third of the names that appear there are of Egyptians who are dead, abroad, or in prison, allowing the government to use the names for its own benefit.
All opposition parties demanded that the voters list, which includes 32 million names, be reexamined, but Mubarak’s ruling party delayed its response to the request.
Regardless of whether the elections mark a dramatic shift or a mere cosmetic change, one clear change has been the opening up of the local media. If in the pastmedia outlets refrained from embarrassing the regime, this time around they truly celebrated democracy.
In recent weeks, the press was replete with criticism of the regime, something unthinkable in the past. As part of an Egyptian government reform, local media and particularly local television underwent a “quiet revolution” in recent months.
If in the past it was an old-style, boring, government broadcasting authority, it is slowly approaching the more advanced standards common in Persian Gulf states, including political talk shows and discussions attended by opposition figures.
It appears Egypt is making “giant leaps, but at its own pace,” an Egyptian journalist wrote. “Yes, this is a huge, significant development, but it takes time here for people to realize those changes are highly significant.”
Roee Nahmias contributed to the story