Why Democracy?

This is the title and theme carried on BBC TV for the month of October. The past Sunday, I decided to stay late in bed in the morning. I woke up late and watched immediately a film on the hard work and determination of three Egyptian ladies. And I was moved.This film, Egypt: We are watching you, prolonged my getting off my bed, after all it was Sunday. To see the back drop of Egypt in the film aroused also in me the sweet memories of my trip to his lovely country 10 years ago.

I enjoyed most of all, the determination of these ladies to fight of the pest of corruption of the system in place in Egypt. Their might, persistence and conviction to achieve their goals got them to their resources and intelligences unthought of. They coupled their resolution, persuasion skills with the internet technology available to attain their target: fight off corruption for democracy. “There is nothing concealed that will not be revealed, nor secret that will not be known.Therefore whatever you have said in the darkness will be heard in the light, and what you have whispered behind closed doors will be proclaimed on the housetops.” We are watching you. Indeed! Truth and transparency are real tools to democracy. I wish that such transparency in the ruling of public affairs could apply to Mauritius. Hats off to the return of people power! I encourage you to watch the film.

Directors Biography
Sherief Elkatsha was born in the USA, but raised in Cairo, Egypt. A graduate of Boston University, with a BA in Film Production, he has worked on numerous television productions, from music videos with Wyclef Jean and the The Roots, to Discovery Channel’s Eco-Challenge. His documentary Butts Out, which follows smokers and their difficult and comical struggles to quit, won the Best Documentary Award at the 2006 New England Film and Video Festival. In 2006 he was selected for the Berlinale Talent Campus.

Leila Menjou was born in Cairo and obtained a degree in directing from the Cairo Film School. She has worked on numerous movies, including the acclaimed Mothers of the Desert, which opened at IDFA and won first prize at the Timbuktu Film Festival.

Film Context
In 2005, Mubarak announced that Egypt would hold multi-party presidential elections in Egypt. The elections were given strong support by the U.S. government. The vote was marked by violence and fraud; it was boycotted by large parts of the opposition because they believed it was run unfairly. The voter turnout was remarkably low – according to the Carnegie Endowment it was a mere 23 percent. Regardless, the U.S. Government described it as a “victory”. Mubarak won a fifth term in office and very little was done to address the unfair aspects of the elections. In response to indifference about government and democracy three Egyptian women formed Shayfeen to educate the people about democracy.

Political History
Egypt was under monarchic rule until 1952 when Gamal Abdel Nasser came to power. Nasser was president from 1954 until he died of a heart attack in 1970. Nasser was a proponent of Pan-Arab nationalism, socialism and the non-alliance movement. He is famous for leading Egypt into the Six Day War with Israel in 1967, which Egypt lost.
In 1970 Anwar Sadat came to power. Sadat is most famous for signing the first peace agreement between Israel and an Arab country. The peace agreement was signed in 1979 and is believed to have been the reason for his assassination in 1981. Since then Mubarak has been in power.

Mubarak has been liberalising Egypt’s economy with the help of his current economically liberal cabinet, who have made big plans for far-reaching reforms. However, despite these efforts, unemployment and low standards of living are still prevalent.

Mubarak maintains friendly relations with the West, especially America. Egypt is the third largest recipient of aid from the United States, following Iraq and Israel. Meanwhile, Mubarak has resumed relations with the rest of the Middle East after a long isolation due to the signing of the peace treaty with Israel, which was perceived by many as a betrayal of the Arab people. Egypt currently plays a large role in the Middle East both as a regional media powerhouse and as an influential mediator in the Israel-Palestine conflict.

The Political Scene
Egypt has a semi-presidential system where the president is both the head of state and the head of government. Mubarak is the leader of the National Democratic Party, which has been the dominant party in power since its formation in 1978. In recent years the Muslim Brothers have gained significant power in Egypt. The Muslim Brothers are the largest and most powerful Sunni-Muslim organization in the world and are present in several Arab countries. The group promotes the idea of an Islamic state ruled in accordance with the Quran and Sharia law. However, since the 2005 elections, Mubarak has made it more difficult for political opponents to gain influence.

World Relevance
In 2005 civil liberties in Egypt were extended to the public but since then partially revoked. For years civil society has come under pressure from the largely undemocratic state, the rise of religious groups and the vast influence of foreign patrons that have different interests in the political direction of Egypt. Egypt: We See You shows the struggling voice of civil society as it is in Egypt and many other societies across the world.

Looking Ahead
In recent years Egypt has seen a rise in protests, mainly organized by students, intellectuals and political activists. However, with Mubarak only about halfway through his fifth term, some worry that there is relatively little chance of democratic change in Egypt. Islamic groups are gaining popularity and the Egyptian population is becoming more sceptical of the extensive aid they are receiving primarily from the United States. So how will Egypt’s political climate change in the coming years? Only time will tell.


There are no comments yet...Kick things off by filling out the form below.

Leave a Comment