Egypt’s Elections

Joshua Hammer & Christine Spolar in The New Republic:

…yet, for all its problems, the election may have created momentum for democratic reform that the Mubaraks will have trouble stopping. Cafés have been alive with talk of politics, and the strategies adopted by the pro-democracy forces–such as challenging the regime’s election commission for the right to place independent monitors in polling stations–were closely watched. Monitors ended up having to negotiate their way into the polls, but they were surprisingly successful in many instances. And they gained valuable tools for the next go-round. Ayman Nour–the charismatic 40-year-old former parliamentarian whose arrest earlier this year prompted protests from the Bush administration–came in second with 7 percent of the vote, thus emerging as the leader of the nascent opposition. Nour’s campaign was low-budget and wildly disorganized. But his message–he attacked ruling party corruption and called for a repeal of the repressive Emergency Laws, enacted after the 1981 assassination of Anwar Sadat–grew bolder as the weeks progressed. Equally important, the campaign changed public perceptions of Mubarak. “Before, Mubarak was seen as a God–detached, unreachable,” says Negad El Borai, a human rights attorney and member of a pro-democracy group that sought to monitor the presidential elections. “Now the God is being forced to travel to the provinces, asking people to give him their vote. It’s a sea change in Egyptian politics.”

More here.