In Egypt, ecstatic cheers drown out voices of wisdom

The problem of politics in Egypt is that it’s no good at listening to people

Dr. Fahmy Howeidy
Dr. Fahmy Howeidy
Published: Updated:
Read Mode
100% Font Size
7 min read

There’s a golden fundamentalist rule that says you cannot attribute statements to he who remains silent and that his silence can still indicate a declaration. In other words, if someone keeps to himself and remains silent, no one can attribute any words to him. However, if this same person is asked a question but keeps silent or if he calls for something and keeps silent, then his silence indicates something. Although his silence in the first case doesn’t indicate a stance, his silence in the latter case sends a message and makes a declaration.

Let’s take this idea into consideration when viewing the electoral scene where inaction and a lack of enthusiasm appeared from the very beginning and which only became energetic after resorting to means of persuasion and intimidation. We may not be exaggerating if we say that the beginning - that is the first day of the elections - indicated a declaration which must not be ignored - a declaration which represents the spontaneous expression of the position of the society or its wide segments. However the declaration made during the last two days of the elections was different as it indicated the authority’s capability to influence social behavior and formulate political phenomena. So the declaration made during the first day expressed the society’s position while the declaration made during the other two days expressed the authority’s capability.

Some television programs asked the question of where the June 30 audience was during the elections. Some of them even insulted people because they failed to fulfill their duty to act and to voice gratitude towards Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi. But it’s the first question which concerns us now as it’s the proper question that may help us interpret my allegation that the mandate which Sisi was granted on July 26, 2013 was politically toppled by the popular stance which appeared at the beginning of the recent presidential elections.

The problem of politics in our country is that it’s no good at listening to people

Dr. Fahmy Howeidy

No one doubts that the people’s excitement has become different during the last week of May 2014. Excitement decreased as a result of the many events that occurred during this phase. The most prominent of these events were the massacres committed, the protests held and the former regime remains which resurfaced. This is in addition to ignoring the martyrs’ rights and issuing a law that bans protests. The latter law shocked and frustrated the revolution’s youth. These are mere examples in which I haven’t yet mentioned the increased cost of living, power outages and other issues that stirred equal amounts of frustration and worry.

On July 24, 2013, Sisi called for nationwide protests on July 26 to grant him mandate to fight terrorism and violence. The people’s mobilization was considered a mandate granted to Sisi. The feelings of those people differed at the end of May 2014. The aforementioned mandate was granted to the man who led change from his post as minister of defense and as armed forces commander. Since the wheel of terrorism kept turning and since thousands were jailed as a result and plenty of blood was shed because of it, there’s nothing that currently justifies this mandate.

No longer valid

I am not the only one who concluded that the mandate has collapsed and is no longer valid. Reuters and the famous American research center Pew suggested the same idea in a different form. They said people’s abstention from voting weakened the mandate granted to Sisi in July of last year.

This is not the only declaration the people made during the presidential elections. The society conveyed other messages such as it doesn’t believe there’s a real competitive battle. Some messages were linked to lack of satisfaction with the adopted security policies or were linked to the presence of remains of the previous regime or to the miserable situation of political parties and civil society organizations. There’s also a problem in the new regime’s relation with the youths who were a major force in the revolution and who sacrificed their blood for its success. These youths, as well as others, have begun to notice that many sectors are paving way for the return of the previous regime - sectors including the media and the business industry in particular.

One of the problems we’re confronting in this regard is that cheering and applauding has overshadowed voices of wisdom. The dominating media and political rhetoric is a result of the idea that there’s sweeping popularity and that there can’t be any better. This reminds us of the model of the regime which strived to close people’s eyes and ears and which buried its head in the sand so it doesn’t see what surrounds it.

I’ve hoped that we listen well to the people’s voices and that we don’t just settle with scenes of dancing in the streets or at the polling stations’ doors and that we don’t just settle with listening to songs that appeal to our sentiment. I’ve also hoped that the winning candidate would bravely and confidently tell us: “I’ve received (your) message and I’ve comprehended its content.”

The problem of politics in our country is that it’s no good at listening to people. Politicians prefer to look in mirrors to see their own reflections instead of looking at where they stand. The end result of such a path is well-known for those acquainted with history.

This article was first published in al-Shorouk News on June 3, 2014.


Dr. Fahmy Howeidy has worked in journalism since 1958 for Egypt's Al-Ahram Foundation. He is currently the Deputy Editor-in-Chief of the Al-Ahram newspaper. Previously, Howeidy served as the Managing Editor of Kuwait's Al-Arabi magazine and of Arabia magazine, which is published in London, UK in English. He is now fully dedicated to contributing to Al-Ahram and has a column each Tuesday published in six Arab countries in Asharq Al-Awsat, Al-Majalla, and Al-Wafd Newspaper. Howeidy has had seventeen books published, including: The Quran and the Sultan, Awareness Forgery, In Order Not to be A Sedition, Islam in China, Iran from the Inside, Taliban, Establishing Due Rights, and The Crisis of Religious Awareness. Howeidy is a specialist in Arab and Islamic affairs.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
Top Content Trending