Democracy is a learning process
By Ayman Abdel-Wahab
Elections were supposed to usher in a new phase in this country, one of political participation and civic pride, but now that the elections are coming to a close, some are already starting to doubt their innate value. Some say that the electorate were not educated enough, were gullible, impressionable, and at times clueless. Others, including myself, prefer to look on the bright side.The turnout was high in the past two rounds. This is quite an accomplishment, regardless of who got the votes in the end. I know that there is a sense of disappointment among the elite, and that the revolutionary youths feel a bit betrayed. But is it true that the election results bode ill for the future of the country?
We must not focus solely on the results of the first free elections we've had in years. We must instead focus on what it did to average citizens, to their understanding of their part in society, and to their sense of civil pride.
Why do people show up at the polls? Some say because they are afraid, or they were herded by political parties. But this is not the whole picture. People who vote, even those who voted on a religious basis, are going through a learning process. They are exercising their rights as citizens and they are being integrated into a process of political participation that they are bound to understand more fully as time goes by.
It may be premature to examine the voting patterns of various groups in the country, but we must not be disheartened by the influence of religion and clan politics on the course of elections. Instead of lamenting the loss of some parties, begrudging the win of others, and questioning the political abilities of the public as a whole, we must focus on the question of citizenry. We must keep on spreading political awareness and encouraging people to speak up and be part of the decision making process.
Elections are just a start. Voting is a powerful impetus, for it allows people the chance to get involved in their future. The process can be long and hard, but we must not lose faith. We must uphold civil principles, for these are the building blocks of the democratic state.
This week's Soapbox speaker is director of the Civil Society Unit at Al-Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies.