For love of the country, don't vote

For love of the country, don't vote
The moral case is clear, but boycotting the presidential vote in Egypt also has practical applications.
4 min read
07 Jul, 2014
Sisi supporters in Cairo [Getty]
Putting aside the moral case for boycotting the Egyptian presidential elections, there are also sound political and practical reasons to refuse to vote.
The moral case is clear: these elections are being held at a cost of the blood of many innocent citizens and many others’ freedom. A vote will legitimize a military coup and a counter-revolution and political process that is devoid of meaning or substance.

Practically, there are seven benefits of a boycott.

First: Boycotting elections is a politically effective tool in resisting authoritarian regimes. It may reach the level of a revolutionary act, if the aim is to resist a regime that has a fascist streak and that seeks, by any means, to remain in power and destroy any opposition. As a consequence, boycotting these elections is a patriotic duty.

Second: Boycotting elections is an important tool to delegitimise authoritarian regimes, both domestically and abroad. Participation gives an impression of seriousness, both of process and outcome. Although Egypt's July 3rd regime has allowed for a measure of competition, this comes in the context of what may be termed electoral authoritarianism. In other words, the regime is using the elections to retain power domestically and at the same time to gain international recognition as a legitimate authority. Thus, boycotting these elections is a patriotic duty.
     Boycotting elections is an important tool to delegitimise authoritarian regimes.

Third: A boycott is a means to undermine the integrity and credibility of the electoral process. In the absence of real and serious election monitoring by domestic and foreign organisations there is no sense in providing cover for the process by voting. By integrity is here not just meant the freedom to vote, as some may imagine, but the integrity of the entire political process and of the context in which the elections are held, especially as it pertains to the legal framework and the media. In Egypt, the regime is trying to make people vote by any means necessary, including through song and dance. The authorities understand that their legitimacy hinges on voter participation. As such, boycotting these elections is a patriotic duty.
Fourth: A boycott is a clear and frank rejection of a political process that since July 3rd has been firmly on course to reestablishing an authoritarian regime, albeit with new faces and mechanisms. It is evident that the arrests, pursuits and killings of those in opposition will increase after the victory of Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the head of the new/old regime. Therefore, boycotting these elections is a patriotic duty.

Fifth: A boycott is a tool that may, in the medium or long term, help bring down authoritarian regimes. This has happened across Latin America, Eastern Europe and Africa over the past three decades. According to a University of California study, between 1990 and 2002 there were some 44 instances of electoral boycotts (parliamentary and presidential) out of 69 studied and in the majority, the boycotts led to the weakening, and in some cases the downfall, of autocratic regimes. Boycotting these elections is a patriotic duty.

Sixth: A boycott is a political position. It is not, as some would have it, a negative or ineffective act. It is a message sent by voters that they reject the candidates they are presented with along with their electoral platforms. This is even clearer in the Egyptian presidential elections, where there is only one choice. To many people, the Nasserite candidate, Hamdin Sabahi, does not represent an acceptable choice not only because he is an integral part of the July 3rd regime, but also for political, intellectual and ideological reasons. Boycotting these elections is a patriotic duty.
Seventh: A boycott is necessary to stop the resurrection of the Hosni Mubarak era. Many of the despotic and corrupt institutions that flourished under Mubarak now await a Sisi presidency in order to renew their allegiance and loyalty to this new/old regime. In the absence of serious oversight, it is foolish for those who vote to think they can hold Sisi accountable in the future if he makes a mistake. As a consequence, boycotting these elections is a patriotic duty.
A final word. A boycott will not bear real fruit unless it is broad and substantial. It should send a powerful message to candidates and their supporters that the Egyptian vote is much more valuable than merely something to be exploited to rebuild an authoritarian regime.

Therefore, calling for and boycotting these elections are a patriotic duty.

This is an edited translation from our Arabic edition.

Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the original author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Al Araby Al Jadeed, its editorial board or staff.