Some More Thoughts on March 19 Referendum

Mar 17

I posted some thoughts on the March 19th Referendum earlier this week the sum and substance of which were that there were good arguments on both sides, but that ultimately, the result did not matter because the military was still in control, and it has proven that it will not make any changes unless the people force it to change.  Since that post, however, I have had occasion to revisit this agnosticism and now wish to clarify something important that was missing from my initial analysis.  While I continue to be agnostic regarding the substantive decision to approve or reject, I do think the following points are important:

1. Turnout needs to be high.  A weak turnout will be taken as a signal to the military the population is more or less satisfied with what has happened, i.e., the removal of Mubarak, and that this was about nothing more than succession.  The problem has been taken care of, and we need not worry about torture, democracy, etc.

2. Results must be transparent and voter fraud should be minimal and where instances of vote-rigging or vote-buying are documented, they should be aggressively publicized and punished.  There needs to be a strategy in place to monitor voting sites throughout the Republic.

3. Ideally, whatever the results are, it should be close.  A close outcome will signal a deeply engaged public that is going to keep the military on the hot seat with respect to the transition.

I don’t believe the current Egyptian military has the stomach for a long fight over democracy with the Egyptian people, but they also are not keen in having Egypt become a democracy either.  They will come along, but only crying, kicking and screaming, like a spoiled-child.  The parents, in this case, the Egyptian people, have to be patient enough to put up with their spoiled behavior, which is a reflection of the 50-plus years of privileges they have enjoyed.

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