I remember arriving at the polling station in Katameya (a suburb on the outskirts of Cairo) during Egypt’s first democratic presidential election. After people had lined up for hours in the intense desert heat to vote, they emerged from the repurposed school with broad smiles and optimistic outlooks. Dyed fingers, the mark of having voted, dominated the news around the country and people waited impatiently for the results. Would it be Mohamed Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood’s spare tire candidate, or Ahmed Shafik, remnant of the Mubarak regime?
Morsi won and for awhile, democracy had too. Soon, his style of governance became a reflection of Egypt’s autocratic past. He gave himself unprecedented powers and was soon heralded as Egypt’s latest Pharaoh. One year after his election, he was deposed after a popular uprising gave way to a military coup. The deeply entrenched military, or deep state, with the help of the Ministry of Interior set about rounding up Morsi supporters. Hundreds were killed in the streets. Their leaders have been imprisoned, their news outlets shut down and their supporters labelled terrorists.
Today, Egyptians try to move forward once more with a vote on a newly reformed constitution. Army helicopters fly overhead blaring nationalist songs, encouraging everyone to vote Yes. The main reason for many to vote is stability, as almost 3 tumultuous years have passed since the first uprising. However, as Morsi supporters are pushed further underground, violence has escalated across the country.
Can a new constitution set Egypt on a path forward? Or is it just a matter of time before the Egyptian people rise up again, to dispose of the deep state once and for all.