• 16:03
  • Monday ,27 January 2014

Facts and fiction about a youth boycott

By-Hassan Abou Taleb



Monday ,27 January 2014

Facts and fiction about a youth boycott

I can understand how some youth forces who believe they have an exclusive right to the January 25 Revolution and that the revolution was hijacked from them decided to stay home and not vote in the referendum to protest or express their rejection and resentment of recent developments and measures.

What I can’t understand is that one of them said, based on partial monitoring of some ballot stations at certain hours, that all youth boycotted the referendum, which he described as a serious catastrophe. Meanwhile, another one said the government must address this issue and embrace the youth in order for this important sector not to be removed from the political reality imposed by the new constitution.
Based on scientific rationale — which is absent in Egypt — such statements are generalisations that are not based on fact or statistics published on the website of the Supreme Electoral Committee that oversaw the referendum.
I also don’t understand how a source in the judiciary was quoted in Al-Shurouq as saying that only 16 per cent of youth participated in the poll, based on statistics from Cairo and Giza alone, and then infers that the figure applies across the entire nation. Again, this is misplaced generalisation and unscientific. Even if the figure is true for Cairo and Giza, should it be taken as an overall boycott by youth in other governorates? Of course not.
The curse of backward countries is exactly this kind of foggy thinking, confused information and unsubstantiated conclusions. In short, it would be a catastrophe if this type of thinking, profiling and generalisation continues, especially since these statements are made by media people and politicians who are viewed by the majority of Egyptians as role models and influential.
The truth is, the statistics released by the Supreme Electoral Committee reveal the pattern of voting in all governorates across the board, noting that two governorates in the central Delta had the largest voter turnout, namely Al-Menoufiya and Al-Gharbiya. Both are very high rates — more than 50 per cent — and compensate for low voter turnout in Cairo and Alexandria — the two largest urban cities — where participation was 40 and 35 per cent, respectively. Other statistics show that voter turnout in other Delta cities was higher in comparison to urban governorates, while rates in Upper Egypt maintained the usual 27-30 per cent voter turnout.
Statistics also show that some 15.5 million Egyptians between the ages of 21 and 30 years old are registered voters, which is 30 per cent of eligible voters. They are followed by the next age category of 31-40 year olds who add up to 11.6 million, or 22 per cent of registered voters. If it were true that these two age categories boycotted the referendum on the new constitution, then how is it that 98 per cent of 21 million Egyptians voted yes, and a very small fraction said no? In other words, claiming that youth boycotted or mostly boycotted the referendum is entirely inaccurate.
If some forces associated with the January 25 Revolution were put out of commission in the public domain, especially after the emergence of Tamarrod, which is also a youth movement, they must ask themselves what are the reasons for this. They must address the problems of disconnecting from reality, condescension towards simple folk, and the lack of grassroots action. They should also look at issues from a broader perspective; Egyptians are more politically, culturally and economically mature now and thus they are no longer blindly influenced by specific forces through the media and ringing slogans alone.
While it is true that there were leaks about telephone conversations by some key figures of the January revolution, it is also true that these figures do not represent all of the youth who participated in the revolution. It is a grave mistake to condense the entire youth category aged 21 to 40 years in the person of a handful of figures. It is not just about being a leading figure, but also being a good leader and not becoming embroiled in suspicion so as to avoid political and moral problems for one’s self and one’s comrades.
Some may agree that the masses resent the return of Mubarak-era figures, even though they have returned to work hard, actively, steer events, lead reality, call for General El-Sissi to become president, and present themselves as the real force that led the masses on 30 June 2013. And thus, they should be the popular force supporting El-Sisi, and on whom he should rely in governing and building. This is the result of a vacuum in leadership and politics, and therefore they are not to blame for these manoeuvres; it is the fault of those who suffice with statements on television, mobilisation on Facebook, and abandon grassroots action on the ground.
Every action has an equal and opposite reaction, and thus the desire to exact a price for the revolution or for participating in it is not achieved by wishing, or by a honey-coated statement, or a tweet read by hundreds or thousands of followers. Instead, it is action, diving into the fray, commitment to political action and cultivating connections with the masses across the country.
Once some youth forces isolated themselves and forgot they are in a fierce struggle and rivalry with others from across the political and ideological spectrum, it is only natural that they lost so much and many rivals rose against them, even from among the people themselves.