Revolutions are not decided by elections

Published on Pambazuka News, by Horace Campbell, May 31, 2012.

It is important for the Egyptian revolutionaries to build new structures outside of parliament and outside of the rigged game that is called elections.


  • I have been monitoring the flames and demonstrations that erupted in Egypt while I have been on the road in East Africa for the past two weeks.
  • I have been in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, attending a special symposium on Tajudeen Abdul Raheem organized by the United Nations Economic Commissions for Africa (UNECA). The colloquium theme was: Democracy, Governance and the Pan-African Idea: Whither Africa? This was an inspiring and challenging occasion that brought together a number of Pan-Africanists and friends of Tajudeen. The most impressive aspect of the event was the number of young persons who were keen to understand the contributions of Tajudeen and the current relevance of the Pan-African idea.These questions of the relevance of Pan-Africanism at Africa Hall in Addis Ababa was one more testament of how much the current political leadership has been removed from the spirit of freedom and emancipation. From those who walked the corridors of the current African Union one hears of the intrigue and linguistic divisions that serve to distract from the real issues of unemployment, exploitation, militarism and ruthless governments. Away from microphones, the younger functionaries will admit that the NATO war against the people of Libya is still having repercussions for the African Union.
  • I will have cause to delve into this matter in more detail as I complete the monograph on the failure of NATO and the efforts to strengthen relations with client states of the Africa Command in Eastern and Central Africa. One could not escape the presence of the war in Somalia and its spillover effects for countries such as Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda who are now proxies for the US Africa Command.
  • In Addis Ababa it is not possible to escape the sense of heightened security with security checks to enter premises, even restaurants. On African Liberation Day we heard from those who were in contact with the Africa Diaspora meeting held in South Africa. The Global Pan-African constituency will be awaiting a full report of that meeting.
  • From Addis Ababa I went to Kampala Uganda for another commemorative event on Tajudeen. This was less high profile than the Addis affair but no less wrenching emotionally. One question that kept coming up from young people was: Why did Tajudeen have to go at this time? Was there foul play? How can the continued work of connecting progressive Pan-Africanists be carried forward? It was in a place such as Kampala where one could see the important work that Pambazuka is doing for progressives and peace lovers all over the world. It will be a pity if Pambazuka faces the same fate as Tajudeen.



  • When the results were made known that Ahmed Shafiq would be one of the two candidates in the run off presidential elections on 16 and 17 June 2012, there were fires and demonstrations in Cairo. This spontaneous combustion had come because the people understood that Ahmed Shafiq was being imposed on them. Ahmed Shafiq had campaigned in the presidential elections as the law and order candidate who would restore stability in Egypt. Subsequent to the uprisings in February 2011, the organized effort to weaken the revolutionary momentum had taken the form of parliamentary elections mentioned above. These elections were held with the state infrastructure of the Mubarak regime, especially the instruments of the old election machine of Mubarak. In his commentary, Esam Al Amin has correctly drawn attention to the role of the electoral commission and how the number of registered voters for the presidential elections escalated beyond the numbers for the parliamentary elections.
  • The internal and external forces of ‘stability’ and ‘order’ had reorganized and dictated the direction of the election run off. On Monday May 27, it was announced that the run off in June would be between Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood representing the Freedom and Justice party against Ahmed Shafiq, the last prime minister of Hosni Mubarak.
  • During the 50-year period of the military and Egyptian capitalists, the Muslim Brotherhood had used the mosque for political organizing. During the Cold War, this religious organization had been embraced by the Western powers and the anti-communist forces in North Africa and West Asia. It was from the ranks of this religious-political formation that Western intelligence agencies had recruited thousands to fight the Soviet Union in Afghanistan.
  • Despite the fact that the parliament was dominated by the Freedom and Justice Party, it had passed a law barring top Mubarak officials like Mr. Shafik from the presidency. In the midst of an election campaign with more than 11 strong and viable candidates, the election commission ruled that Shafiq was eligible to contest the election. Despite this ruling the other candidates had proceeded with the ritual with the confidence that the remnants of the Mubarak regime were so discredited that there was no possibility Shafiq would emerge as one of the run off candidates.
  • The media had focused attention on the following candidates: Abul Fotouh, formerly of the Freedom and Justice Party, Amr Moussa, former foreign minister of Mubarak, and Hamdeen Sabbahi, an independent politician who had campaigned on the basis of the ideas of independence and freedom that had been championed by Gamel Nasser. From the press reports of the campaign the information coming out was that Abu Fotouh and Hamdeen Sabbahi were the two strongest candidates. Yet, on Friday evening May 25 local Egyptian media and international media began to announce that the run off would be between Mohamed Morsi of the Freedom and Justice Party and Ahmed Shafiq. When this announcement was made, the people who were cautious waited for the official results because it was clear that there was no way the vote could have been counted that quickly. When the runoff was confirmed on Monday May 27, the fires erupted.
  • The figures confirmed the results as follows: Morsi received 5.7m votes (24.3%), followed by Shafiq with 5.5m (23.3%). Hamdeen Sabbahi, the independent Nasserist, got 4.8m (20.4%), Abdel Moneim Abul Fotouh, an independent Islamist, 4m (17.2%) and the former Arab League chief Amr Moussa 2.5m (10.9%).
  • We now know more of the machinations of the state but we also understand the need for long term planning for fundamental changes beyond elections.

(full text).


The first round of the presidential elections in Egypt, on Pambazuka News, by Samir Amin, May 31, 2012;

Egyptian election: Odds stacked against democracy, on Pambazuka News, by Sokari Ekine, May 31, 2012: Whilst the Egyptian people continue artistically expressing themselves, the Egyptian government is busy painting over the walls of history in and around Tahrir square that document the uprising …

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