Last Updated: Tue Jan 17, 2012 16:15 pm (KSA) 13:15 pm (GMT)

Nawal al-Saadawi: Elections alone do not make a democracy

Nawal al-Saadawi says that many Egyptians voted only because they feared paying a fine if they did not. (File photo)
Nawal al-Saadawi says that many Egyptians voted only because they feared paying a fine if they did not. (File photo)

With the third round of Egypt’s first parliamentary Egyptian confirming the sweeping victory of Islamists and the ongoing debate about how much of democracy has really been achieved in post-revolution Egypt, the writer Nawal al-Saadawi argued that elections are not the only pillar of democracy and that forging elections is done through many ways other than the actual manipulation of results.

“Even with elections, it is not possible to establish a democracy in a society governed by patriarchal and imperialistic norms,” Saadawi, and Egyptian feminist, said on Al Arabiya’s Point of Order show.

According to Saadawi, rigging elections is not done through changing the results, but also through putting a lot of pressure on people or emotionally manipulating them to opt for one candidate over another.

“Using religion to terrorize people and paying bribes to secure the biggest number of votes robs elections of their legitimacy,” she said.

That is why, she added, the Egyptian people have the right to demand the toppling of the parliament as they did with the Mubarak regime.

“It is a parliament that does not reflect the real will of the people and therefore cannot represent them,” she said.

Saadawi said that in addition to using religion to buy votes, many Egyptians went to polling stations for fear they would have to pay a find of 500 Egyptian pounds of they did not vote.

“This again means that they did not vote because they wanted to, but just because they were intimidated by the remnants of Mubarak’s regime.”

Democracy, Saadawi stated, is also not possible if foreign powers are not allowing Egypt the independence it needs to become a democratic state. Saadawi pointed out that the United States is interfering in Egypt’s internal affairs, mainly through playing on sectarian tension.

“The United States is using religion to divide Egypt and I could see that clearly back at the time when I lived there,” she said. Saadawi now lives in the U.S.
Democracy, Saadawi argued, should have begin with revolutionary legitimacy.

“When I was in Tahrir Square, I proposed the establishment of a revolutionary council through which a prime minister and an entire government could be elected.”

(Translated from Arabic by Sonia Farid)

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