The future of Egypt

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Local Egyptian-born med student reflects on Egypt’s first election

Taouba Khelifa
Contributor

The Arab Spring has made history as Egyptians took to the streets in early June of this year to vote in the first ever democratic presidential elections. This comes after past president and dictator Hosni Mubarak had ruled the country for 30 years. Mubarak now faces a life sentence in prison, and the country is now eager to move on and rebuild.

After a fierce and close battle between the two top candidates in the election – Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohammad Morsi and the former regime’s Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq – the people have spoken and Morsi claimed victory on June 18th, 2012 as Egypt’s first democratically elected president.

Born in 1951 in the Al Sharqia Governorate, located in northern Egypt, Morsi studied engineering, earning a PhD from the University of Southern California. After his return to Egypt in 1985 Morsi become involved in politics and joined the Muslim Brotherhood’s guidance bureau. Morsi served as a Member of Parliament from 2000 to 2005, but was forced to run as an independent because the Muslim Brotherhood was forbidden from running candidates under the office of President Mubarak. As the Arab Spring erupted in Egypt, he was appointed head of the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party. The June elections saw Morsi winning more than 50 per cent of the people’s votes. 

Egypt’s June elections may have passed, but the road ahead is a long and grueling one for Egypt and for Morsi. Egypt’s economy has been in chaos since the revolution, with nearly half of Egyptians living under the poverty line of $2 a day. Fears of currency devaluation as the country’s foreign currency reserves fall from $36 billion to $11 billion coupled with youth unemployment sitting at 25 per cent compounds the problem of rebuilding what was once one of the most economically stable countries in the Middle East.

On top of the economic crisis, Egypt has also seen an increase in street crimes since the revolution. Reports of murders, rapes, robberies, carjackings, and looting in some neighbourhoods have decreased the overall sense of security and justice in the area.
With these two major battles ahead, Morsi’s job will not be one of comfort or ease – but many Egyptians still have hope that change will come.

Mariam Rassem is a Regina native currently studying medicine in Saskatoon. Originally from Egypt, Rassem and her family were one of thousands of Canadians who voted in the June elections. The Carillon spoke to Rassem about her reactions to the election, the results, and the future of Egypt.  

The Carillon: Describe your feelings as you were waiting for the election results.

Mariam Rassem: It was a mixture of emotions for me. I went from feeling surprised, to worried, to no longer caring, to feeling relieved. Surprised by what the first round of elections had revealed, which was that the two worst candidates had somehow (with the assumption the elections had run without corruption) risen to the top. It was something I could not understand. I was worried by what was to come. With all the growing arguments over “Shafiq vs. Morsi” I then started to feel as though I could care less about who would win the elections. In either case, I believed Egypt would get what it asked for and quite possibly what it deserved – whether it was a change for the better or for the worse.

Finally, I was relieved to know that we could say we had our very first, very own President elected for the people by the people at last. That, at least, seemed to be a step in the right direction.

How was your family’s rhetoric around the elections?

My family and I [voted] in the elections and were quite adamant to do so. Many Egyptians sacrificed their lives for the sake of this opportunity, to have the freedom to have a voice and a choice in the affairs of their country. Such a sacrifice should be honoured and the least we can do is make an informed decision and go out and vote.


"Egypt is now like an infant. It’s fragile and needs the time to be cared for, to be nourished, and to be supported until it can hopefully grow and flourish one of these days." – Mariam Rassem


What was your opinion of the two front-runner candidates – Morsi and Shafiq?

I was shocked to discover that quite possibly the two worst candidates would somehow be in the lead in this race. Simply put, Shafiq was one of Mubarak’s leading men and would always symbolize the old, tainted regime the Egyptians so desperately wanted to be rid of. He was not going to bring the dire change Egypt needed and would just kill the revolution. I was displeased with Shafiq in every way possible, but I was also displeased with Morsi. It was kind of a choice between the lesser of the two evils I thought. I only wanted Morsi to win because I didn’t want Shafiq to win, not because I was in support of Morsi. I wanted Morsi to win because he would hopefully bring a wave of change to Egypt, something we haven’t seen in the past 3 decades. Whether that change would be for the better or for the worse, only time will tell.

What hopes do you have for the new president of Egypt? Do you think he will follow through?

I hope that he brings Egypt some much needed change. It is, after all, a country that lies on the brink of either greatness or an unfortunate downfall. I cannot speak to whether he will follow through with his promises or with our expectations of him, but at least he’s on the road to laying down some changes, which is a sign that the revolution will not have been for nothing.

With the elections over and the results announced, can we say that this is the beginning of the end, or the end of the beginning of the uprising in Egypt?

Hopefully it’s not the beginning of the end! I don’t think the revolution has come to an ending. In fact, I think it’s far from that. No one who truly partook in the “revolution” is in a position of power now and so as they say, the show must go on. This revolution has served as a power surge in the Middle East and has acted as a spark to fuel the Arab nations to rise against those who oppress, who murder, and who spew corruption. The “conservative” path can no longer be tread upon, after all the revolution didn’t rise by following along the footsteps of someone else. It’s all just a process in the end – beautiful and yet heart breaking. It will be one that takes time.

Where is Egypt headed now?

Egypt is now like an infant. It’s fragile and needs the time to be cared for, to be nourished, and to be supported until it can hopefully grow and flourish one of these days.

 

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