Doha Debates participants push for delay in Egyptian elections

March 18, 2011

A Doha Debates motion “This House believes for the sake of democracy, Egypt should postpone elections”, was endorsed by an overwhelming majority of 84.4 per cent in a special edition of the debates held in Cairo.

The audience of the Qatar-based debates, mainly students and young professionals, said they will not be rushed into parliamentary and presidential elections in the coming months.

Discussions were heated at the American University of Cairo’s old campus in Tahrir Square, especially between young members of the audience and Essam Al Erian, a senior member of the Muslim Brotherhood who argued for quick elections, although he insisted the Brotherhood would not seek the presidency or contest for more than half of the parliament’s seats.

Dodging questions about anti-American and anti-Jewish comments attributed to the group’s leader, Al Erian insisted that in a reversal of previous policy, he had no objection to a non-Muslim or woman president of Egypt, Qatari daily Gulf Times reported on Wednesday.

Speaking against the motion, Sharif Taher, a leading member of the Al Wafd party, argued that the army should return to the barracks and elections should be held in the near future.

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

Sharif warned against delaying the process in an attempt to attain “perfect democracy”, but assured participants that Egypt would never again accept “ballot rigging”.

Supporting the motion, Marwa Sharafeldine, a women’s rights activist, and Shaheer George, a member of several pro-democracy groups, fiercely criticised Al Erian.

“This fast food democracy can only create indigestion. Why are they rushing us?” Marwa asked.

She argued that more time was needed to develop the democratic process, ensure the rule of law and an independent media, and guarantee the passage of the old regime and its associated weaknesses.

A failure to do so would result in a vote “rigged in spirit”, she said.

Shaheer berated the “cartoon parties” of the previous era, but said “democracy without parties is a farce”.

Both sides of the panel argued that army generals should be removed from politics, but refused to be drawn on whether the current military government is trustworthy.



About the author

Born August 3, 1960 in Monastir, Tunisia
Media career:
  • ABC News (Tunisia)
  • Bahrain Tribune
  • Gulf News
  • Bahrain Television News
Teaching career:
  • Monastir (Tunisia)
  • University of Bahrain
  • MA  Mass Communications, University of Leicester
  • BA  in English & US literature and studies, University of Tunis

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