Why Postpone Parliamentary Elections? [3]

March 15, 2011

This is the third and final thread of a series of articles. The first post was meant to explain why 2 months are not enough for new political parties to create and effectively participate in the elections. The second one focused on what is likely to happen if the parliamentary elections do end up taking place in 2 months’ time.

This one counters the five most popular reasons offered by those against postponing the elections.

Why risk having a biased parliament run the extremely volatile transitional period? Why  have the new constitution that reflects the biases of that parliament? Why risk building the new foundation of our country on shaky grounds?

The main reasons given by people who are against postponing parliamentary elections are:

1.     We want security. (No more thugs, more police)

2.     We want stability. (No more strikes)

3.     We don’t want the military to stay longer.

4.     We want to prevent the agents of the anti-revolution from succeeding.

5.     We don’t know of any clear alternative.


1.     Lack of security and increase in thuggery is associated with the police returning to the streets. This is a process that is independent of the parliament and dependent on the Cabinet. The Cabinet is working either way regardless of the existence of the parliament.

2.     Lack of stability is associated with workers’ strikes and the many cases filed against businessmen which is halting the production wheel.  Again, this is independent of the absence or non-absence of a parliament. This is again something that predominantly falls under the Cabinet’s job description. If strikes continue until June, they won’t stop as soon as a parliament is elected. If they don’t, then all the better proof that it is unrelated to the parliament.

3.     Beginning with the parliamentary elections does not mean that the military will stay less. If the parliamentary elections take place in June, the military will still be in charge until the presidential elections (tentatively scheduled to be in September).

Moreover, under the proposed constitutional amendments, the army will inevitably and necessarily stay longer that it intended: People’s Assembly elections take minimum 2 months and a month a half for te3oon. The same goes with Shura elections. That’s 7 months. Presidential elections take 2 months minimum. So a total of 9 months of back to back elections that even if the process started on the 20 of March, it won’t be done until the 20th of December.

And that’s assuming that there is absolutely no space between one election and the other and assuming that there is absolutely no time wasted…

Even if we assume that the military was indeed going to stay less time when parliamentary elections come first, it is important to take into consideration the risks as compared to the benefit. No one wants the army to stay longer, but is this a conviction that is worth gambling with our future? Are we willing to prioritize that conviction over all else and at the expense of all else?

4.     Beginning with the parliamentary elections will not prevent the anti-revolution from succeeded, it risks helping it succeed. Now the people who are trying to trigger violence and split our unified ranks cannot do so through any official insitution (no parliament, no more State Security, people approved Cabinet, respectable Judiciary). Which is why the are taking recourse in underhanded, below the belt ways such Atfee7. If parliamentary elections are held first, they get a golden opportunity to get back in the institution and cause disruption in less obvious, but even more serious ways.

5.     That is a valid problem for even though there are several alternative scenarios, there is no consensus on the best alternative and the details concerning the alternative are not readily available. But we need to acknowledge two things:

(a) The multitude of options and lack of consensus is not a bad thing. We need to learn how to deal with difference of opinions and having options. The reason why there is more than one alternative is an acknowledgement that there is no one right answer or no one right opinion. It is all subjective and open to discussion. Having the parliamentary elections first eliminates all other options and suggests an absolute optimality, it suggests that it is the unrivaled best option, when it isn’t. It prematurely ends open discussion about the best way to tackle the future and rather than attempting to convince people or waiting until a decision is made, it is semi-forcing a unilaterally decided reality upon them.

(b) The fact that details are not readily available is related to the lack of institutionalized forums for discussion and delegation. In other words, this process is at least 10 times harder because there is no entity (a political party for example) that we could delegate some of our decision-making rights to and hold it accountable for explaining to me its program and providing me with details. For example, if there is an institution that I willingly decided to invest my trust in, then I could, on the one hand, ask them to explain details to me and, on the other, I could let them decide for me on technical matters or matters that I feel I’m unqualified to decide on.

Plurality of opinions and Equal right to information are both rights the democracy guarantees. But democracy is not just feelings and hopes and wishes and intentions, it is also, it is mainly, institutions. Since we do not yet have all the institutions necessary, let’s not rush in accusing those favoring a postponement of the parliamentary elections with being fragmented and unorganized and  too ‘revolutionary’ or too ‘disagreeable’.  If anything, this should perhaps serve as further proof that newly established political parties will not be able to effectively promote their ideas and programs in a mere couple of months. If the popular activists, that are to soon be party leaders and members, are struggling to effectively and rapidly communicate their arguments now, how will they be able to communicate a full fledged agenda to enough people to win a majority?

For those who say ‘perfect is the enemy is good’ or you can’t win ’em all…etc, I would say that asking for 6 months to a year is far from perfect and settling for 2 months is far from good. Six months is probably still not enough time, but it is definitely better than 2.

Starting from 6, we could reasonably start talking about compromise. At 2, it’s no compromise, it’s a sellout.


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