By Salama A Salama
The closer the day of the run-off elections, the more confused Egyptians become. Some are rooting for Ahmed Shafik and others for Mohamed Mursi, yet many are having trouble supporting either. How many times have people asked you for your opinion so far, and how many times have they disapproved of what you told them, regardless of your reaction?
People are dissatisfied with what they read in the papers, with what they see on television, and few are happy with their own views.
Their concern is pertinent, for up till now we have no real knowledge of the kind of commitment either candidate has for economic and political reform. We are unsure about their qualifications, cannot tell if they have the right experience, and have no idea how they will perform once in office.
So don't be fooled by the million-man marches in Tahrir Square. Protests, however big, don't tell you a thing about the candidates now running for office or whether they are true believers in democracy. No wonder many are reluctant to show up for the vote or intend to invalidate their voting cards.
You can call them irresponsible if you wish. You can denounce them for letting down democracy. And you can argue that this is a throwback to the Mubarak era, when ballot boxes were fixed without the voters having to show up.
In the Tahrir demonstrations, we learned nothing about the differences of opinion between the two candidates. Nor did we get enlightened by the endless stream of inane television interviews conducted by ill-trained announcers.
The current divisions haven't just divided the nation. In every family, there are differences about what to do.
Take, for example, Hoda Abdel-Nasser who supports Shafik because, as she said, it's impossible to vote for a group that tried to kill her father. Her brother, Abdel-Hakim, who had supported Hamdeen Sabahi, cannot stomach Shafik and sees him as a corrupt member of the Mubarak regime.
The same phenomenon surfaced in the family of Osama Al-Ghazali Harb. Osama supports Shafik on the grounds that having connections with the old regime is not damning evidence of corruption. But Osama's nephew, Shadi, maintains that his uncle is betraying the revolution and the memory of its martyrs.
I am reminded of a similar situation that developed when Osama Al-Ghazali Harb quit the National Democratic Party (NDP) Policies Committee to start a new party of his own. The kind of abuse this man received for speaking his mind was astounding. But what is even more astounding is that some of those who condemned him for turning his back on the NDP are now denouncing him for supporting Shafik. What happened, I wonder, to freedom of expression?
Politicians are entitled to change their position and affiliation. So long as they are doing so out of conviction and not because they toeing the line of others, this is perfectly fine. We need free minds in this country. We need people who can think for themselves.
I wish to remind you that many of whose who made a point of attacking the Muslim Brotherhood and its Freedom and Justice Party in the past have now turned into merciless critics of Shafik and supporters of the Brotherhood. They claim that the Brotherhood is the "lesser evil," that it has come out on behalf of the revolution, while Shafik is still incapable of distancing himself from the Battle of the Camel.
My position is that we should vote for the candidate who has the most respect for democracy. This is the most important criterion left in our hand. So let's not lose track of what really matters: democracy.