Democracy in Egypt not just about the ballot box
Our first lesson from it is what we've tried to explain to the Islamists for so long: democracy is not only about ballot boxes
The referendum's result was surprising to those who did not expect so many Egyptians to vote. Our first lesson from it is what we've tried to explain to the Islamists for so long: democracy is not only about ballot boxes but also about additional steps we must be aware of as we move towards implementing the map of the future.
The first of these steps is meeting the demands of the millions who voted and called for stability and salvation from the state, which has been in chaos for three years.
But the most important lesson is that legitimacy of ballot boxes is not exclusive to one particular political faction and that the Muslim Brotherhood no longer has the right to scream in defense of their so-called "legitimacy."
The Egyptians' voting on the constitutional amendments made the Brotherhood realize that the last fig leaf has fallen and that the group can no longer exploit the votes of the poor who rejected them after realizing the extent to which they were exploited.Abdel Latif el-Menawy
The millions who voted on the referendum have succeeded in imposing new legitimacy and cancelling what the Brotherhood used to consider legitimacy for itself and for its existence - considering that it only recognizes the ballot boxes as a sign of rightfulness.
The exploitation of the Muslim Brotherhood
The Islamists have exploited the ballot boxes for long time. They also exploited the poor people who voted for them by promising them heaven and in exchange of sugar and oil.
The Islamists thought they had monopolized the ballot boxes and that they had figured out how to mobilize the masses towards them. They also thought that when they boycotted the referendum, the polling stations would be empty as a result.
This is what its websites and TV channels tried to make everyone think. But footage from global media outlets exposed its lies or rather terrified them of the thousands who lined up to vote without being subject to political games, without getting the Brotherhood's sugar and oil and without being promised heaven - which God did not for anyone. Those who voted did so to defend their country and to push it forward.
The Brotherhood did not expect to be popularly rejected this much and it didn't expect so many people to vote. Perhaps this explains its state of delirium after announcing the preliminary results of the referendum. This probably explains their attempt to set fire to universities and mobilize as much as possible on Friday; attempts to spoil the Egyptians' happiness with their constitution and to distract attention from the fulfilled achievement.
The Egyptians' voting on the constitutional amendments made the Brotherhood realize that the last fig leaf has fallen and that the group can no longer exploit the votes of the poor who rejected them after realizing the extent to which they were exploited.
Perhaps what really surprised the Brotherhood is that governorates which mostly voted for them during the presidential elections are the same ones whose majority rejected them and voted "yes" in the referendum.
Just the beginning
The lesson we learn from all what happened is not to commit the Brotherhood's mistake and settle with the fact that millions lined up to vote. We must not just depend on the fact that the percentage of voting on this referendum exceeded all referendum percentages in Egypt's history. We must think of the second step.
The constitutional referendum is not the end of the path but it's actually the beginning. The state has so many measures to take in order to get rid of the past's wounds and restore its previous status.
It's our right to celebrate the result of the referendum and to celebrate our people who repeatedly amaze the world. But while doing so, we must think of the next step and we must take this step and not disappoint the hopes of millions.
This article was first published in al-Masry al-Youm on Jan. 18, 2014.
Abdel Latif el-Menawy is an author, columnist and multimedia journalist who has covered conflicts around the world. He is the author of “Tahrir: the last 18 days of Mubarak,” a book he wrote as an eyewitness to events during the 18 days before the stepping down of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. Menawy’s most recent public position was head of Egypt’s News Center. He is a member of the National Union of Journalists in the United Kingdom, and the Egyptian Journalists Syndicate. He can be found on Twitter @ALMenawy
Egypt urged to implement rights under charterMore than 98% of registered Egyptian voters backed the constitution, a result hailed as an endorsement of Mursi's overthrow Middle East
Egypt: over 98% voted for new constitutionThe referendum is a key step in the interim government‘s political roadmap Middle East
Official: Egypt’s new president must be civilianEgypt’s head of the constitution-drafting committee says al-Sisi must resign as army chief to run for presidency Middle East
Egyptians overwhelmingly back constitutionOfficial sources reveal early results, which showed more than 90 percent voted “yes” Middle East
Egypt’s referendum between a sweeping ‘yes’ and a feeble ‘no’Egypt's constitution garners wide support for the sake of stability Analysis
Egyptians vote for new constitution amid unrestStrong 'yes' vote is seen to bolster the military-designed political order Middle East
Egypt referendum enters second dayDeadly clashes marked the first day of vote on the amended constitution Middle East