Cracks in Egypt's Electoral Engineering

The 2000 Vote

by Vickie Langohr | published November 7, 2000

Damanhour by Hook and by Crook

by Joshua Stacher
published in MER238

On a November day in the sleepy Egyptian Delta town of Damanhour, around 1,000 townsfolk gathered in the central square to listen to Mustafa al-Fiqqi of the ruling National Democratic Party explain why they should vote for him as their parliamentary representative in two days’ time. Al-Fiqqi is a former ambassador to Austria and serves on the National Council for Human Rights. Prior to the 2005 elections, he was one of ten MPs appointed to their seats by President Husni Mubarak. But many locals were unimpressed with the national prominence of this native son, who had not come home very often since leaving for Cairo some 40 years before. Some in the square grumbled that he had only shown up to campaign two months prior to the polls.

Egypt Harasses Human Rights Activists

by Nicola Pratt | published August 17, 2000

Family and friends of Saad Eddin Ibrahim, chair of Egypt's Ibn Khaldoun Center for Developmental Studies, breathed a huge sigh of relief on August 10, when Ibrahim was finally released on bail by prosecution authorities. The arrest at gunpoint of this internationally renowned pro-democracy activist and academic in his home on June 30 deeply shocked all of Egypt's civil society activists. Yet, in the context of continued government harassment of non-governmental organizations, Ibrahim's release hardly represents an unqualified victory.

Egypt's Paradoxical Elections

by Mona El-Ghobashy
published in MER238

For undemocratic regimes in a democratic age, elections are an extremely valuable tool. They create opportunities for limited popular participation, disarm domestic and international critics, and enhance political monitoring and control by revealing the relative political strength of government and opposition candidates. Such elections are successful to the extent that they maximize tolerated competition and minimize the residual uncertainty that accompanies even the most managed poll. It is no mystery, then, why authoritarian elites convene elections. The paradox is why they constrain themselves in fixing them.

Policing the Illicit Peripheries of Egypt's Tourism Industry

by Laleh Behbehanian
published in MER216

Tourist destinations are never simply reducible to the sun, sand and sea they offer. The lucrative international trade associated with Third World tourism involves packaging and marketing areas of the world that are most devastated by contemporary economic conditions, essentially creating landscapes of paradise out of realities of poverty. The case of Dahab, a small coastal town in South Sinai, Egypt, offers an example of the processes and power dynamics involved in the production of tourist spaces. What are the political, economic, cultural and moral forces that shape Dahab? Who are the players involved in shaping this local site of tourism, and what are the interests at stake?

Egyptian Environmental Activists' Uphill Battle

by Jennifer Bell
published in MER216

In 1990, citizens of Alexandria organized to fight the loss 
of public access to a street in a main downtown square. 
The city had given the street to the World Health Organization for a planned expansion of their local offices. In a landmark case against then-governor Ismail al-Gawsaqi, the citizens’ group, Friends of the Environment and Development-Alexandria (FEDA), argued that city authorities had denied the public’s right to “locational memory” and open space in overcrowded Alexandria. Elderly residents testified in court about their memories of promenades on the street. In a piece of effective political theater, group members sitting in court attached flowers to their lapels and laid flowers on the street outside, to symbolize their mourning of the passing of urban space. The group’s tactics were mocked at first. But in the end, the judge ruled that the allocation of the street for the WHO expansion violated the constitutional principle that “public resources should be used in the public interest.” The WHO announced it would move to Cairo, though the offices are still in Alexandria at present.

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Mining for Fish

Privatization of the "Commons" Along Egypt's Northern Coastline

by Ray Bush , Amal Sabri
published in MER216

Around 10,000 of the estimated million people employed 
in Egypt’s fishing sector are based in ‘Izbat al-Burg, situated at the northernmost tip of the Nile’s Damietta Branch and bordered on the east by the vast Lake Manzala. As recently as nine years ago, Lake Manzala was a major fishing area and a collective asset for this community. Small-scale fishers used simple, cheap fishing boats and equipment, faring well alongside larger operators working in both lake and sea fishing. But at the turn of the century, the lake is no longer regarded as rizq (a source of livelihood). Increasingly, local fishers have been prevented from fishing in Manzala by state-licensed private enclosures that have virtually sealed off access to the lake’s northwestern shorelines.

Egypt's Wall

by Ursula Lindsey | published February 1, 2010

In late December 2009, Arab TV channels aired footage of throngs of demonstrators, surrounded by the usual rows of riot police, on the streets of downtown Cairo and in front of foreign embassies. Street protests in Egypt have been sharply curtailed in the last few years, but the scene was familiar to anyone who had been in the country in 2005, when protests against President Husni Mubarak’s regime and in favor of judicial independence were a semi-regular occurrence. Yet there was something unusual about these protesters: They were all foreigners.

The Sectarian Incident That Won't Go Away

by Mariz Tadros | published March 5, 2010

When violence breaks out between Egypt’s Muslim majority and Coptic Christian minority, the Egyptian government is normally quick to deny that the motive could be sectarian. Spokesmen point to “foreign fingers” that are supposedly stirring up sedition, in hopes that the file on the incident can be closed as quickly as possible and the state can resume displaying an image of Egypt as typified by “national unity.” This rhetorical device has been useful in the past for deflecting demands from Copts, who compose roughly 10 percent of the population, that their underlying grievances be redressed. But the government’s act has worn thin.