Count on it

The Daily News

June 10 2011

By Philip Whitfield

Free and fair elections aren’t assured by access to the ballot box. They’re secured by counting the ballots openly with invigilators on hand to verify that each voter’s intention is honestly tallied up. The Constitutional Referendum vote was a step in the right direction. Now let’s go the whole hog.

Here’s the plan.

  1. As on March 19th open the doors of polling stations early (i.e. before lunch) and close them late (i.e. before dawn). Then bid the party hacks farewell and allow the international observers to clamp the boxes and load them into sealed vans for the journey to Cairo.
  2. Next day, at the Stad El-Qahira El-Dawly, arrange the boxes on trestle tables in full view and bring in the NGOs to unlock the boxes and supervise the counters scrutinizing the expected 14 million ballot papers,
  3. Post each result on the Stadium’s electric scoreboards for the bug-eyed snoops, the TV maidens, Uncle Tom Cobley and all to ooh and aah, parse, pontificate, truckle and fawn.
  4. Next day, declare the winners one by one. By law, the losers must stand alongside and clap. (I tell ya, that’ll draw a TV audience bigger than Gamal’s first outing as Zamalek’s manager versus Ahly, then owned by his bro. Or do they own them already by proxy? Careful now, we mustn’t prologue the Book of Evidence.)

Flies in the ointment? Cost, time delays, disruption, little if any opportunity for graft (I’m joking of course). Truth replacing myth, an excess of jubilation, humbling the mighty, elevating the poor and humble…add to the list as you will.

Rebuttal arguments.

1. If the permanent Establishment (Are there any left in Egypt, by the way?) won’t cooperate, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton will gladly loan Airforce One, Two and the backup drones to fly around Egypt collecting the boxes to get them to the Stadium on time.

2. Joy is the natural state of Egyptians, not to be confused with grumpiness, the archetypical Cairenee mode de combat at the back of the bread queue. Drag Zahi Hawass away from his website (drhawass.com) or the haberdashery and he’ll tell you the Ancient Egyptians were fun lovers, which is why they sent their leaders to join Horus, god of the skies, laden with wine, haute cuisine, honey, scent and finerery.

3. Humility was absent from the NDP night school curriculum. Street fighting, mugging and making mayhem left little time for atonement.

If you think I’m peddling dogma think twice. The folks who wrote the New Testament pinched it all from Psalm 41 (i), Proverbs 14 (xxi) and Proverbs 29 (xii). I’m sure my inbox is already full of similar references in the Koran etc. and from my personal library comprising, on the top shelf, the Tipitaka, the Kitáb-i-Íqán, the Shurangama Sutra; a couple of my favorites the Rasa’il al- hikma and the Druze Book of Wisdom and Jainism’s Svetambara, which advocates killing no living thing, including beet and carrot roots; Manichaism’s essential the Treasure of Life and last but by no means least a space left by the New Age Religion’s Oahspe, lent out and oddly not returned and which I haven’t found Diwan’s copy round at their Shehab Street bookery.

The point I’m laboring is this. Just as you can’t get half pregnant, you can’t have bits of democracy hither and yon. It’s an all-or-nothing winner takes all kind of thing. If the mobsters did, as with JFK’s bootlegger pappy, who put the fix in for his son stuffing the ballot boxes overnight in Chicago with Mayor Bill Daley, remember what little good that did Jack Kennedy in the long term.

And the bad guys got Robert Kennedy for good measure with a bullet in the back of his head walking through the kitchen of the LA Ambassador Hotel when he was pipped to win the California primary and ipso facto the White House his brother tragically enjoyed for a mere two years and two days.

The baddies (as well as the poor) will be with us for all time. So just because one family of mobsters was felled in Egypt, its odds on another will be plotting to take their place. No one in his right mind would turn down a guaranteed pension of LE 2,000 and, what was it an annual salary of LE 5 grand.

What do we do about that? Rig the polls. Yes rig the polls, in such a mathematically complex way that no one really wins at all, everyone is dissatisfied, all the eventual winners have to get into bed with people they hate to grab a bit of power (which for them is better than no power at all). And even then, they can’t resist raiding the cookie jar. We Brits invented the system. We call it divide and conquer. Set the locals at each other’s throats and carry on sergeant major, BP, Barclays, HSBC, HP Sauce, Earl Gray… Think Palestine, Cyprus, Ireland, Iraq/Iran, the whole freakin’ Commonwealth. Oh my goodness didn’t we do well?

In recent times we’ve discovered another ruse to remain ruling. It’s called proportional representation or AV (don’t ask what that’s all about.) In countries where they have been hornswoggled they’re in a constant apoplexy over who’ll be their next President/PM/ dogcatcher or chief justice, so much so that politics becomes irrelevant (think Italy and Berlusconi) and the ordinary Joe gets on just fine grafting.

An unfortunate choice of word maybe, but it’s the one chance ordinary Egyptians have for a snout in the trough. And, here’s the ever-popular coup de theater, the suits shuffle off through the wings and go bully family friends and hangers on who, though they don’t say it out loud, see their taskmasters are Mugwumps. To save you looking them up the sanctimonious or holier-than-thou-ers aloof from the rest of us.

Careful you don’t name local Mugs in your tweets, but I’ll start with Sarah Palin and George W. Bush…where are they now?

Philip Whitfield is a Cairo-based writer. He can be reached at pjwcairo@yahoo.com or twittered @mohendessin.

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