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TThe government of Egyptian President Mohammed Mursi has announced that parliamentary elections will be held in April. The announcement should have been welcomed, and seen as a solid step towards installing democracy in the country after the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak. But unfortunately, what is happening is exactly not the same. The country is going down a slope and nothing seems to be helping to arrest this slide. Even ideas are in short supply.
The office of Mursi announced that the four-stage elections would start on April 22, five days earlier than scheduled. The change was made to appease the Coptic Christian community, which makes up ten percent of the population, who had said the previous schedule would clash with their Easter celebrations. But even this conciliatory gesture will not help matters to be run smoothly. The liberal opposition figure Mohammed ElBaradei has called for a boycott of elections. He said through his Twitter account that “boycotting this election is the fastest way to expose fake democracy and confirm our credibility.” Other opposition leaders too are expected to announce their decision in the coming days. But boycott seems to be their most preferred word. At the same time, the ruling Brotherhood is unconcerned. It has won every election held after the overthrow of Mubarak and hopes to win the coming one too, and has dismissed accusations that the elections will not be free and fair.
In the current scenario, what Egypt needs is not election, but stability, peace and consensus. An election that divides people will not produce the results expected of it. The country is more divided than ever between Islamist and less religious and liberal parties, and there are no signs of a thaw in their strained relations. In fact, the relations are set to worsen if both sides, especially the government of Mursi, refuse to make concessions for the sake of peace.
The economy too has suffered seriously and will soon have to be in the intensive care. The currency has lost eight percent of its value against the dollar in the last two months. Youth unemployment is rampant, which is fuelling protests on the streets, and everything is in decay. Tourism, foreign investment and reserves are down sharply and are expected to fall further.
Even more disturbing, there has been a sharp increase in cases of police brutality and rape directed at opposition protesters, which has stoked public anger and invited comparisons with the Mubarak regime.
President Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood will be blowing their first chance at power if they don’t make serious efforts to solve the current crisis. The ruling party must make concessions to placate the opposition. Time is precious.•