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Egypt's opposition still hopeful, despite many defeats

Egypt's opposition has been notoriously disorganized and unable to rally its supporters. However, it may have finally been beaten badly enough to overcome its troubles. 

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Mr. Ramzy’s assertion was echoed by voters in some of the districts in the Nile Delta last week. Most Egyptians voting "yes" cited a desire for stability as their main reason, while most "no" voters had very specific reasons to be against the constitution. Among them were the absence of a minimum wage in Egypt –wages are instead linked to productivity – or the fact that free health care is subject to a "certificate of poverty," which many see as humiliating.

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Not a single voter cited the role of sharia, or Islamic law, as a reason to vote either for or against the document, despite the fact that both sides had campaigned mainly on this issue.

“The religious factor is decreasing with every election,” says Ramzy. “People realize that political games are being played with religion, and they are starting to refuse being put before the choice of voting for or against Islam.”

Disillusioned by democracy's slow pace

There is also a growing belief that Egypt’s chaotic path since the overthrow of Mubarak in February 2011 was perhaps an inevitable one.

For all the criticism of the opposition, “it is unreasonable to expect Egypt to have a healthy political landscape just two years after the fall of a dictatorship,” political activist Alfred Raouf says.

“We need at least five years to get to that point, especially with a Muslim Brotherhood that is not really intent on having a diverse political landscape, but rather wants to take the place of the NDP,” he says, referring to Mubarak's former National Democratic Party.

Writing in the Egypt Independent this week, Mr. Raouf said that even if the revolutionaries had been the ones to assume power, they would have "quickly oppressed the people." What happened instead – military rule followed by a landslide for the Muslim Brotherhood – “seems to most people like a catastrophic outcome to a very hopeful revolution," but is actually "the best course for the revolution,” Raouf wrote. 

Nevertheless, Raouf, a founding member of ElBaradei’s Dostour (Constitution) party, sees an opportunity for the opposition to make inroads in the next parliamentary elections, even if the current opposition coalition dissolves before then. 

Mostafa El Guindi believes the opposition has a chance to win a majority in parliament. But Raouf is more conservative. “I think we have a good chance of getting 45 percent of the seats in parliament, up from around 30 percent, provided there is no rigging,” he says.

What worries him most is voter turnout, which is lower with every election or referendum.

“It suggests that people no longer believe in democracy because they don’t see it helping them in their daily lives.”


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