Like many non-Egyptians, other than the frontline news that reaches my desk, I know very little of the political, social and economic intricacies of the historical nation of Egypt.
Aside from having transited through Cairo’s International Airport several years ago, working with some very talented Egyptians and admiring the Pharaohs (the national football squad) during the African Cup of Nations, for the most part, the land to me is a mystery.
It is this conundrum that prompted me to skip lunch and sit before a panel of professional Egyptian socio-political observers, journalists and correspondents; Dr Mamoun Fandy, Shaimaa Khalil and Ahmed Maher, respectively, the Director of London Global Strategy, reporter and presenter of the BBC World Service radio series Egypt’s Challenge and the BBC Arabic bilingual reporter.
As I took my seat Dr Mamoun was monologuing, addressing among other things the issue of the “hoax of the ballot box” in Egypt and the BBC’s perceived not-so-best-practice reporting formulae. I learnt straight away that this is a man not to be trifled with. One who gets his point across.
Egypt, I was told, should not be seen just a historical state of ancient Pyramids, monuments and deserts, but essentially as a young state in terms of infrastructure and, of course, democracy. My colleague, Shaimaa, and I noted that some of the most professional pollsters in Egypt are within the ranks of the Muslim Brotherhood.
The discourse on President Morsi focused on whether or not he and his government had learnt from the North African country’s political past, and questions were raised about the his language choice during his last speech, in which he promised to get the “thugs”.
With the Egyptian electorate’s recent awareness of the power they wield, that speech sounded rather careless, as if no lesson had been learnt. And I sat up to learn why.
Morsi’s instructions and statements, perhaps the most brazen of which promised to give Egypt a facelift within 100 days, were largely perceived as bordering authoritarianism and incompetence.
A marginalised Ahmed Maher explained that 16 million people had signed a petition against Morsi’s government, millions who felt their rights had been violated.
Democracy is based on the premise of choice, and Egypt’s lack of a defined opposition – other than those who are just not happy with the status-quo – gave rise to the possibility of a revolution.
Maybe Morsi had failed to realise that the people’s revolutionary consciousness that saw the removal of Mubarak’s regime and calling for the institution of a democratic process by any means necessary was still very much alive.
The general sentiment among the Egyptian people, I discovered, was that the Army – at the best of times – are seen their pseudo saviours and protectors; the same Army that today receives 1.3 billion US dollars of Military Aid, and which could likely be made redundant by virtue of an American computer mouse click.
The general consensus on the panel was that historical Egypt experienced something unprecedented in 2012; a vote. Men and women who believed that Mubarak would reign forever and thereafter his sons in his stead, for the first time in their lives, were given the power to vote. A choice.
But here marks the crossroad, the problem of choice. What exactly were the newly mandated electorate choosing? Did they really know? Were they well versed and rehearsed and clear about the social and economic consequences of their eventual choice?
Admitting that he had made some mistakes during his long television address, Morsi hard-headedly affirmed his elected legitimacy vowing that he will never leave office “but by blood”.