Al-Ahram Weekly Online   25 - 31 August 2005
Issue No. 757
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875

Naguib Mahfouz

Democratic credentials

By Naguib Mahfouz

Egypt has a long legacy of democracy. Parliamentary life in this country began in the mid-19th century with the first parliament inaugurated in 1866, under Khedive Ismail. This same parliament later played a part in deposing Ismail and then supported Ahmed Orabi in his short-lived revolt. It was British occupation that brought this democratic phase to an end.

The country's second democratic revival started in 1924 and was just as energetic. I still remember when, in the 1930s, a Copt trounced a Muslim Brotherhood candidate in Abbasiya, a predominantly Muslim neighbourhood. The Muslim Brotherhood candidate in question did not even win enough votes to salvage his deposit.

There really can be no questioning the levels of political awareness among the Egyptian public, and it is just plain wrong to assert that the electorate has had no experience of democracy. We may not be the most technologically advanced of nations but when it comes to democracy our credentials are beyond reproach. Those who claim otherwise are simply trying to take away our most basic rights.

Based on an interview by Mohamed Salmawy.

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