In an interview with
Voice of America News, Shadi Hamid discusses the recent announcement of Egypt’s al-Ghad Party to boycott upcoming parliamentary elections.
Cecily Hilleary (VOA News): Egyptian Opposition figure Mohamed ElBaradei has been calling for a boycott of elections similar to that which was undertaken by opposition parties back in 1990. Take us back twenty years-what happened and what was the outcome?
Shadi Hamid: The 80s had been a period of greater political openness. There had been some hopes for democratization, so for much of the decade, things were looking up. Then, toward the end of 1988, things started to go downhill.
The regime started to reinforce its grip on power and it instituted a new electoral law that the opposition found to be unfair. They weren’t consulted about it and they saw this as a major regression on the part of the regime.
So based on that and also based on a generally more repressive posture from the government at that time, the opposition got together-and this includes primarily the liberal Left party, the leftist Tegemmo Party, as well as the Muslim Brotherhood, and in what was actually a fairly rare instance, they were able to actually agree on a common position. So they boycotted.
Hilleary: But it didn’t work out well for them in the end, did it?
Hamid: No, it didn’t. The first thing the Left Party definitely didn’t consider it to be a success because-and throughout the 80s-they had had a significant representation in Parliament and obviously with a boycott, they were out of the scene for a few years, and when they ran again in 1995, they had become much weaker and weren’t able to win many seats.
And that’s the problem with boycotts in general. It removes you from the political scene to some extent. You have less of a voice; you have less of a platform. Because in the end, even though the Egyptian Parliament isn’t very strong, it still gives opposition groups a venue to articulate their concerns, to get media coverage, and so on. So that’s one of the major costs that opposition groups have to consider when they are making this decision
Listen to the full interview at voanews.com »