Will Egypt have it’s first-ever “Free and Fair” election tomorrow? This is the claim in the hype(r)media… but I doubt what happens tomorrow in Egypt will come close to being either “free” or “fair”. Transitions are always difficult times, and while some opportunists have good intentions, most do not.
I expect a substantial amount of corruption, controversy, and violence will come along with the ballot boxes, which is not the same as saying I expect it to depart with them. Rather, I expect that with the election, Egypt is entering upon a new chapter in its struggle for freedom, and that this chapter will actually be more “messy” than those it has already passed through. Elections are the last stage of a successful ‘hearts and minds’ campaign, not the first.
The election is only part of the issue for Egypt – a nation which has NEVER known freedom, or capitalism. Egypt’s history for the past 5,000 years has been one of operation under a string of dictatorships; and where economics has, from time immemorial, always hinged upon privilege and patronage. There is no history, no language, no culture in Egypt which properly embodies the concepts of liberty and capitalism; and these take generations to develop and imprint upon a society. I expect that, in the coming years, the mid-east will actually grow to resemble the Balkans far more than Europe, as entrenched factions struggle for financial and ideological control of rich and centrally located ‘resources’ such as Egypt, upon which to base their operations.
While it would be nice to drink the Kool-Aid and hope that Egypt and other “Arab Spring” nations will suddenly behave as mature and democratic states, it simply isn’t going to happen. For at least the next several generations we should expect Egypt, and the other nations of the region, to experience growing pains of the substantive and palpable sort, as they learn what it means to govern themselves. There are no guarantees as to the outcomes, either.