This House believes for the sake of democracy Egypt should postpone elections

Monday March 14 2011
AUC Tahrir Square Campus, Cairo, Egypt

MOTION PASSED by 84% to 16%


This House believes for the sake of democracy Egypt should postpone elections

Egyptians have told their military rulers they won’t be rushed into parliamentary and presidential elections later this year, following last month’s overthrow of the Mubarak regime.

In a special post-revolution discussion, staged by The Doha Debates, an audience of mainly students and young professionals voted 84.4% for the motion: "This House believes for the sake of democracy Egypt should postpone elections".

The debate, held at the American University of Cairo's old campus in Tahrir Square, provoked heated arguments between young participants and a senior member of the Muslim Brotherhood, widely believed to the most organized political force in the country.

Dr Esam El-Erian, the movement’s official spokesman, said he wanted to see quick elections but insisted that the Brotherhood wouldn’t seek the presidency or contest more than half the seats in parliament.

He declined to answer questions about anti-American and anti-Jewish comments attributed to the group’s leader, but insisted he had no objection to a non-Muslim or female President of Egypt – a reversal of the Brotherhood’s previous policy.

Dr Erian came under fierce criticism from those who spoke for the motion: Marwa Sharafeldin, a women's rights' activist, and Shaheer George, a member of several pro-democracy groups including the National Association of Change and "Kifaya".

"This fast-food democracy can only create indigestion," Sharafeldin said. "Why are they rushing us?"

She said Egypt needed more time before elections to set up new political parties, to ensure the rule of law and independent media and to weaken the power of the old regime and its security apparatus. Otherwise, she declared, old parties and politicians would return and the new vote would be "rigged in spirit".

Shaheer George lashed out at what he called the “cartoon parties” of the old Mubarak era and said Egypt needed political pluralism and civil society. “Democracy without parties,” he added, “is a farce.”

The debate frequently touched on the role of the army, with both sides saying they wanted the generals out of politics, but evading the question of whether the current military government could be trusted.

Sherif Taher, a leading member of the liberal Al Wafd party, speaking against the motion, said it was time for the army to return to barracks.

"We need to move to a transition mode. It is time to get an interim government and to have a fair election and a representative parliament," he said. "We are now focusing on building the new Egypt. It is time for us to be a democratic model for the region".

He warned against delaying elections to try to attain a “perfect democracy” but added Egyptians would never again accept "ballot-rigging".

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