Thinking Aloud: A Tale of Two Elections

May 28, 2014 by Darius 

This week, people of two Middle Eastern countries are going to the polls.  The two elections, one in Egypt, the other in Syria, have much in common: both are neither free nor fair and both will serve to put a democratic veneer on the tenure of a strongman who is responsible for the deaths of thousands of his people.

In both elections as well, voting has been extended beyond the traditional means.  In Syria, polling places were opened at Syrian embassies in other countries, including Lebanon and Jordan, where millions of Syrian refugees have fled.  Most of the voters outside the embassies abroad predictably supported President Assad, but some opposition supporters showed up, too.

In Egypt, voting in the presidential election was extended to a third day.  The extension was due to low turnout, which, according to officials, was ostensibly due to a heat wave.  In reality, soon-to-be-president Sisi is discovering that not as many Egyptians love him as he seemed to think.  Some estimates for turnout have been as low as 10% of eligible voters.  Not much to build a “mandate” on.

Two elections, two dictators, two fakes.  What’s different?  The US reaction.  The US has not commented on Egypt’s decision to extend voting to boost turnout, while the US has repeatedly and vociferously condemned the Syrian vote as illegitimate.  To be sure, the Syrian vote is illegitimate.  But so is Egypt’s.  The difference is that Assad is not “our” dictator, while the US government has decided it can work with Sisi.  As usual, democratic principles are firmly in the back seat.

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