One Reason Egypt's Liberals Lose Elections

From MEI Editor's Blog Wed Dec 26 2012, 09:38:00

I plan to write at some length soon about the Egyptian Constitutional referendum, but this is an inital comment. As expected, it passed: most voters want stability and are not terribly concerned about turns of phrase in a constitution. Turnout was low, opposition high in Cairo and major cities, but Upper Egypt carried the day. Like other countries I could name (I live in one), the views of urban elites are often not very compatible with those of the less urban hinterland. In a democracy, though, winning candidates need to appeal to a broad spectrum of opinion. You do not say to the voters what you may say to your inside-the-Beltway drinking buddies. Not if you want to win.

Now, Mohamed ElBaradei is an extremely popular Egyptian liberal among Western journalists and some of the intelligentsia, though he has spent more of his time abroad than in Egypt for decades: he's a key figure in the liberal (not the revolutionary) secular side. Days before the second round of the referendum, thed former IAEA head tweeted:

The Arabic goes a bit beyond the English, indicating that poverty and illiteracy create fertile soil for trading in religion.

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