The elections have brought many things to Egypt. Peace of mind is not one of them. Regardless of the final ballot count, the winner has not received a clear mandate. The margin of victory was not large. And as is so often the case in elections, votes were not cast for candidates as much as they were used as strikes against another.
The weeks leading up to the presidential vote were not at all calm. Now that the election has taken place, the situation is not any more relaxed. Tension is extremely high. Statements such as “The revolution is dead!” are coming from all directions. Nobody is happy.
But the revolution is far from dead. The movement that began in January 2011 is actually in full bloom. Revolutionary events do have beginnings and endings but the necessary transformation of mindsets is ongoing. The majority of the citizens in this country have been experiencing the politics of choice for the first time. In less than one year they have gone from passive acceptance of authoritarian governing to an active restructuring of the entire system.
Chaos is to be expected. Emotions are going to run high. Family and friends will argue about candidates. People full of opinions will take to the streets to convince others. Decisions will be made and changed. This is all part of the process.
It is tempting to cookie-cutter the current situation and label the revolution in decline, but this current chaos is part-and-parcel of a major transformation. Dramatic change cannot be accomplished quickly or easily. Adding public choice to the process of government is a messy, emotionally charged, time-consuming procedure. Important democratic concepts such as respectful debate and fair play are hard to come by even in societies much more experienced with the process.
In my 12 years living in Egypt I’ve witnessed change here in all forms and at all paces. The building of highways, the opening of schools, the availability of products, access to technology, shifts in fashion and music, train schedules, employment opportunities, the price of bread, and so much more: evolution has never been a smooth process. I’ve occasionally described it as being similar to driving a car with highly sensitive break and acceleration peddles: you’re pretty sure you’re going to end up getting t
o your destination, but the staggered ride is full of lurches and stalls.
Egypt’s revolution is not just about who sits in parliament or where tanks are stationed. It’s about thinking and considering and choosing and vocalizing and choosing again. It’s about experiencing the power of voice. It’s about learning how to live with the thinking and considering and choosing and vocalizing of neighbors and friends. It’s about sorting out the balance between responsibilities and rights.
Egypt’s revolution is alive and well. It is lurching forward as its citizens sort out destination, itinerary and drivers. The recent elections are necessary stops on the map, but they will not be the only aspect of the journey that defines the revolution’s success.