Egyptian police 311.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The violent clashes in Cairo beginning this past weekend beg the questions: Will
the current elections create the best type of democracy possible? What is the
best type of democracy for Egypt? Since the rules of the game shape the end
result of the game, the constitution and electoral rules need to be written in
order to create and protect the rule of law.
Democracy – a system of
voting that promotes majority rule – alone is not sufficient. Egypt needs some
form of liberal democracy – free and fair elections and protections for minority
rights, and safeguards for certain fundamental freedoms. But how can this be
achieved in Egypt? In theory, it should be very easy.
violence leading up to the election shows that problems arise when political
constraints are taken into consideration.
In the choice between
parliamentary democracy and presidential democracy, a parliamentary system looks
as if it would most accommodate both liberalism and efficiency within an
Egyptian context. Psychologically, a parliamentary system might appear more
trustworthy to the Egyptian people due to the fact that they were under the rule
of an authoritarian president for 30 years.
This system would also be
more likely to ensure efficient and fair democratic results for the specific
demography of Egypt. A presidential system often entails slow democracy, whereas
a parliamentary system would be more likely to allow Egypt to make the necessary
changes to advance the country both politically and economically.
ensure these results, the electoral system should be one of moderate
proportional representation. This would create a few catch-all parties capable
of working together to form coalitions by having the population vote for half
the members of parliament from a party list and the other half from a pool of
That way, neither the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces
(SCAF) nor the Islamist parties could hold all of the power without sharing
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To accommodate diversity, a bicameral legislature would allow for
regional representation. The people of Egypt have a wide spectrum of concerns
(individuals living in Cairo and the Sinai might not have the same priorities).
This would also assist minority groups, such as Coptic Christians who make up 10
percent of the population. A federal and decentralized government should be
created that would include a medium- to-high election threshold, around 5%, that
would not exclude the Coptic population but that would exclude radical
In order to ensure greater efficiency, the bicameral legislature
should also have power shared between the executive and the legislative
branches. This way, Egypt would have created a liberal democracy where there are
enough checks and balances to ensure one group does not have the monopoly of
power but also allows enough fluidity in the government to institute quick and
However, government does not exist within a vacuum.
The leaders in Egypt know that the rules of the constitution and the electoral
process will dictate who will retain power and therefore there is much incentive
to manipulate the outline of a constitution.
This is why the SCAF wants
the constitution to be written now, the Islamists want the constitution to be
written after they are (probably) voted into power and the youth movements wants
the process to be stalled until they can better organize. This is why the
protests began on Friday: The Islamists saw that an electoral system run by SCAF
will result in SCAF leadership.
As of right now, the electoral rules are
conducive for the ruling party to retain power. Two-thirds of the seats are
supposed to be decided by lists; one-third will be given to individual winners
and some seats will be appointed. The biggest problem is that voting will not be
held on one day – the multi-tiered electoral process means that groups counting
the votes can round them up or down to whatever percent they want.
perfect constitution cannot create a perfect liberal democracy, and it will take
leadership and personal determination for democracy to hold. The miracle of the
American constitution was not the system of government written down but rather
the fact that George Washington stepped down from power after two terms. We can
only hope that whatever system of government Egypt decides on is actually
implemented.The writer is a research intern at the Institute for
National Security Studies.
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