The shock everyone felt following the victory of the leave camp in the UK referendum and the regret many felt after their vote led to this rather unbelievable result somehow reminded me of the 2012 presidential elections in Egypt.
The final round in 2012 presidential elections was between Ahmed Shafik, the last prime minister under deposed President Hosni Mubarak, and Mohamed Morsi, a member in the Muslim Brotherhood. People didn’t want Shafik nor did they want Morsi, but because they did not want a face from Mubarak era, they didn’t have a choice but to vote for Morsi. Subsequently, when Morsi won the elections by a narrow margin 51.73%, and he became the first Islamist to head a state in the Arab world, there was this gloomy feeling that this was not supposed to happen, but many of us in Egypt had to accept what the polling stations brought to us. Lots of people regretted abstaining from voting altogether because that led to Morsi’s victory.
But in less than a year, millions of Egyptians decided that they made the wrong choice and that they wanted to change it. Why? Because in no time, Morsi’s actions confirmed every black thought and concern many Egyptians had when he won. Morsi started by breaking his promises, he promised to appoint a female vice president, and a Coptic Christian deputy but he didn’t. On November 2012, he issued a constitutional declaration that granted him unlimited powers and the power to legislate without judicial review. Under his presidency, Egypt suffered massive electricity outages and fuel shortages. His policies alienated media, police, the army and the liberals. Radical Islam was on the rise in the country and Morsi seemed to encourage. On June 16 2013, in a conference on the Syrian crisis, Morsi sat silently as radical Salafi clerics referred to Shiites as “infidels”. Days later, a mob targeted 4 Egyptian Shiite men and killed them. The list of the catastrophes that took place under his presidency was getting long and Egyptians felt that they have had enough. After enduring less than one year with Morsi, 22 million Egyptians signed a petition asking for Morsi’s resignation. Massive demonstrations by millions of Egyptians took to the streets on 30 June 2013 and a second revolution started in Egypt, till the miracle happened on the 3rd of July 2013 by ousting Morsi.
As an Egyptian, I feel for the British who want to change their vote to leave “dubbed now as Bregret”, who said that they only intended to use a “protest vote” in the belief that the UK was certain to remain in the European Union after they saw what their vote has done so far: their country will REALLY leave the EU, the Pound hit 31-year low, the resignation of David Cameron and the sense of betrayal they felt after Nigel Farage admitted that the pledge to spend £350 million of European Union cash on the NHS after Brexit was a “mistake”. People made a choice but then they wanted to change it after they saw the repercussions of their choice. In Egypt when we asked Morsi for early elections and changes in the cabinet, this all fell on deaf ears so protests ignited the streets and people ousted the very person they elected. Millions in the UK signed a petition calling for a second EU referendum. Maybe later on this will change the way democracy is currently working. Who knows? But what’s certain to me now is that this referendum should be considered as an important wake up call to all leaders. People might be selecting between 2 obvious choices while in fact they are choosing a third alternative their governments kept ignoring.
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