Egypt's Opposition Splits On Elections Boycott


Mohamed ElBaradei's hopes of drawing attention to the sham of Egyptian democracy via a mass elections boycott were dealt a major blow last week, when the Muslim Brotherhood opted to take part in the polls. That's because the Brotherhood is by far the largest opposition group in Egypt, and the only one with a genuine grass-roots organizational base. Despite being restricted to running in just 30% of the 518 seats in parliament — and the expectation that direct repression and vote-rigging will deny it victory even in most of those — the Brotherhood's leaders believe they'll accomplish more by contesting the November elections than by staying out.

Accomplishment for Egypt's political opposition is, of course, a relative term — neither boycotting nor participating in elections notorious for intimidation and abuse of opposition parties, low voter turnout and vote-rigging is going to end the National Democratic Party's iron grip on power. For the Muslim Brotherhood, which is a banned organization that fields its candidates as independents, the elections are about a lot more than winning seats. "It's an opportunity to check in with their constituents, as well as potentially recruit [members]," explains Joshua Stacher, a political scientist at Kent State University in Ohio.

"The Brothers actually run people who live in their districts, which seems very intuitive and makes a lot of sense, but the [ruling] National Democratic Party doesn't do this," he adds. "They roll in with the big 'We're going to make 7 million jobs' and 'We're going to expand civil-political rights' and all this stuff. They're hoping that somebody's going to latch onto something they say, but it's not directly speaking to a constituency."

So for the Brotherhood, contesting elections is part of a long-term strategy against a regime that has no intention of relinquishing power by allowing a free and fair ballot.,8599,2025491,00.html