Today is not just any Saturday in Egypt. Today is the beginning of the voting for the run-offs in Egypt’s first democratic presidential election- something that will be taught in history books in years to come, and here I am, a small-town American girl in Cairo, witnessing democracy at work first-hand. The polls are open and Egyptians are casting their vote for either Ahmed Shafik, the former prime minister to Mubarak, or Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood.
What Egypt is facing is two extremes; a polarized election that it seems democracy often initiates. With our own election coming up in the States, it’s interesting to see the comparison. Like many Americans, some Egyptians are frustrated with the run-off candidates. They wonder “Where is the middle ground?” Putting whether or not democracy is or is not at work aside, the question remains: has the election become a game of power where the Egyptian people are simply the pawns?
My time in Egypt has been one of the most incredible and humbling experiences of a lifetime for many reasons. Unsurprisingly, one of them includes watching Egyptians take ownership of their country. The sense of dedication and commitment and the relatively peaceful nature of the protests have been what has impressed me the most, showing the world that violence is not required to make your voice heard. Egypt has also set yet another precedent for the world that the youth can make the ground shake too. Furthermore, that those younger generations are rising up to take their place with altruistic conviction.
While I’ve been staying in Cairo, I’ve had the opportunity to speak with many Egyptians about the election. It’s a topic many conversations revolve around because, understandably, it’s something that is constantly on people’s minds. Whether they were pro-Morsi or pro-Shafik, there was one thing they all had in common: the desire for a bigger and brighter future for Egypt. I also had the chance to speak with an incredible woman who communicated to me that she is finding her voice in democracy in a different way, by boycotting the election. She told me she felt trapped and that neither candidate was the right match for Egypt. Perhaps, abstaining from voting is a third and alternative choice for Egyptians. “Do you think a low voter turnout will affect the election?” I asked her. She replied, “We have thought about that a lot, but we know that this isn’t what we want for our country.”
As I am sitting in our apartment, I find myself pondering the outcome of the election happening right outside our door. Is Egypt ready for a change and will they continue on the path to democracy? Did the revolution spark an inextinguishable fire? Will there be a fair and peaceful transition to power? It’s been quite moving to watch the foundation of democracy in action and I consider myself quite lucky to be in Cairo in the midst of history in the making. The rest of the world is watching Egypt through a screen and I’m one of the few witnessing the transition live. More than anything, though, I’ve valued the opportunity to see this momentous time through the Egyptian’s eyes. I’m inspired by their fight to determine their own future and their efforts in reshaping the face of Egypt. I’m reminded that democracy isn’t easy, nor is it always ideal. There are struggles that come along with it that requires an engagement that I believe the Egyptians have yet to shy away from. It requires a fight, and it’s a fight worth fighting for.
Photo Source: http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-dk5JxTLOcTI/T8C0q5hw0lI/AAAAAAAAwwg/uHPf4geQK5c/s1600/Egypt_Mohammed-Morsy-and-Ahmed–006.jpg