Hi everyone,

Busy times here in Cairo.  Elections tomorrow and, as I work for the NGO responsible for coordinating/organizing national election monitoring efforts, I will be taking part as a foreign monitor.  That is assuming that the Egyptian government allows monitors to perform their duties tomorrow, much less get certified (which is the current dilemma).  So things are pretty frantic right now with most of the staff here running around like a chicken with its head cut off trying to get all of our monitors and members of the press certified in time.

On a personal note, I am getting really nervous.  I am excited to be able to take part in this momentous occasion; it is a huge privilege to be a witness to what could be the flagship of the Arab Spring.  However, as the last week’s violence has shown, Egypt could just as easily become an example of an incomplete or stagnant revolution.  So, these elections and the coming months/years are crucial not just for Egypt, but for the Arab World and indeed the world as a whole.  The elections are important, in my mind, not so much because of who gets elected, but as a demonstration of what, if anything, has changed about electoral culture in Egypt.  After thirty years of rigged elections and deeply ingrained culture of corruption, can post-Mubarak/NDP Egypt have free, fair, and transparent elections?

Aside from concerns for Egypt, I am concerned for myself and other monitors.  To those of you reading this at home I don’t want you to worry (but know you will anyways), but tomorrow is completely unpredictable.  Perhaps I am freaking myself out a bit too much, but I know in the past monitors have been seen as ‘soft targets’ for harassment by state security.  I am sure nothing serious will happen to me, American passports are good for that kind of thing, but there is a really unfortunate precedent of detention and intimidation of monitors.  So please, for our sake and the sake of Egypt, tomorrow and in coming elections, the monitors are going to need to have the world monitoring them.

And now, for something completely different.  The weather here is legitimately cold.  It is raining ever so slightly, which of course has people freaking out.  Have not seen a cloudy/gloomy day like this since I left WI, which I cant help but feel is kind of foreboding given elections tomorrow.  At the very least it has me in a foul mood. Will post again with election experiences and confirmation that I am still alive and not in prison.  At least if I get arrested it will be for a good cause rather than the idiot AUC kids who got arrested after making molotovs in Tahrir last week…

Best,

-Mike

UPDATE: Sunday November 27th, 9:15pm.

Based on restrictions it would appear that my role is going to be limited to monitoring conditions on the outside of the polling stations.  I am currently working on organizing a group from the American University in Cairo so that they will get to share in this experience.  It has been chaotic, at best, trying to get all of the appropriate approvals.  Regardless, I am exceptionally excited to be able to be a part of this in any way.  I would like to repeat my earlier request to everyone reading this to please keep an eye on the situation in Egypt.  Live updates will be posted via the Ibn Khaldun Center’s twitter account (@eicds) in Arabic, French and English as well as through our Facebook page dedicated to monitoring which is titled Egyptian Election 2011 Monitoring.  I hope you will take the time to check in on what is going on and keep abreast of developments.

There has been a lot of scepticism about these elections, and for good reason.  I believe that while these elections are likely to face many of the same problems as those of the previous 30 years, the simple fact that they are being held and that there will be thousands of trained Egyptians present to monitor them is a good first step.  Even if they are as corrupt as those of the past, there is still enough of a monitoring framework in place that those problems will be thoroughly documented.  This will allow Egyptian Civil Society to really see what progress (if any) has been made and what areas we can target our efforts towards to try and improve the process.  As with any revolution, change will take years but every bit of knowledge we gain is building towards a solution and, inshallah, a free, peaceful, democratic Egypt.

So to Egypt: I still vehemently urge participation.  It is highly unlikely that these elections will be illegitimate for more reasons than the fact that SCAF’s complete control over the civilian government undermines any government, even one that is elected by the people legitimately.  However, if Egyptians show up in large numbers to vote it will send a message to SCAF that the people want democracy and they want a civilian government.  To the rest of the world: keep watching.  People are risking their lives not just by voting, but by monitoring the elections too.  The least the rest of the world can do is pay attention.  You risk nothing by keeping informed and if the world is aware, evil men will no longer have the impunity they have enjoyed for too long.

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