Friday, March 18, 2011

Vote No

Going dry?
All sorts of people and outlets have formed arguments on how to vote in the upcoming referendum on amendments to the Egyptian Constitution. Unfortunately, much of the discourse has been too esoteric to give people any true sense of the meaning of the proposed changes – length and nature of the transitional powers of the military, powers of a future president, amending versus redrafting the Constitution, implications to the longevity to the January 25 movement, the constitutionality of the proposing changes to the Constitution, etc. None of this speaks to the actual impact on daily life.

So here is one very practical reason to vote no – protecting your right to drink a beer. There is little doubt that a democratic majority of Egyptians would happily vote in favor of banning the sale of beer in Egypt, or at least the sale of beer in Egypt to Egyptians (a dubious distinction that already exists in Egypt during Ramadan, when a holier-than-thou paternalism prevents heretical Egyptians, but not heretical foreigners, from booze). And while reflecting the will of the majority, it would be a step symbolic of all of the misguided notions of living in a democracy, allowing a totalitariat of the masses to run over individual rights. But that is precisely what this referendum would encourage in stipulating that the next parliament control the drafting process for the next set of amendments to the Constitution.

It is unsurprising, therefore, that the Muslim Brotherhood has emerged as the main – and probably only – credible voice of support in favor of the referendum, along with a military command anxious to paper over the messy limbo in Egypt. Irrespective of the number of seats they will win, the Brotherhood will be the most able and unified voice in parliament, tempered only by the same backroom deals with the authorities of the past that gives them space to dominate socially and culturally, but step back politically by, among other things, limiting the number of seats that they will contest. Such an outcome would, in-and-of-itself, be bad, but combined with control over the nature of the Constitution, would be very bad.

The fact that this vote is taken place at all under present conditions reflects many of the weaknesses of the January 25 movement, which has been subsumed so much in its revolutionary ideals that it has been unable to organize itself through credible leaders capable of engaging in a dialogue with the military leaders to forestall this outcome. The military too has shown short-sightedness in pushing through with this referendum, setting the stage for a Brotherhood versus everyone else battle that is not in the interests of governing a stable, modern and growing Egypt.

Vote no.

Heathenish traditions - and more - at risk

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