The small lounge was as smoky as it was loud, and the music was blaring. My girlfriend and I sat at a table against the wall with a two of my Egyptian co-workers and a few friends of theirs. It didn’t take very long for the revolution to come up. We leaned toward the middle of the table to hear one another.
“Mubarak is shit.” Ibrahim answers my question regarding the ousted dictator. I wasn’t surprised. His opinion is not unique among young educated Egyptians. They were the first Egyptians to grow up with extensive exposure to Western media, and in turn, Western values and way of life. They were the first to see what freedom looks like from a young age, and the first to dream of something better.
Egypt under Hosni Mubarak, however, was not a place for aspirations. Education, intellect, and ambitions were generally inconsequential. You did what your father did. If he shoveled garbage, you would shovel garbage. That is, unless you knew a Mubarak, knew someone who knew a Mubarak, or knew someone who knew someone who knew a Mubarak. A connection to the man in charge was the Egyptian equivalent of a Harvard education and stellar work experience. You’re chances at a job were slim without it. The problem was that those Mubarak-connected employees are inexperienced, unqualified, and in general worse options than the 50 less fortunate applicants ahead of them. Not an ideal situation for employers, companies, or this new generation of educated youth that know what opportunity looks like.
Corruption was rampant. Independent news sources quote Mubarak’s family to be worth somewhere between $40 billion and $70 billion, while 20% of Egyptians live below the poverty line and 40% live on less than $2 a day. Since 1975 the US has provided Egypt with at least $28.6 billion in aid, and some estimate that at least 70% of those funds have made their way into the pockets of Mubarak and company. There’s no telling who went hungry for the remaining $11.4 billion. The story is the same on a declining scale as you move through the ranks of major government officials. Mubarak and his supporters had quite a lucrative business, and they weren’t going to let that pesky democratic voting process get in the way.
“Voter turnout in recent years has fallen to around 25% due to clearly falsified elections”
It’s virtually an accepted fact that the elections were rigged for the last 30 years. There’s been coercion of voters, manipulation of results, and a host of other illegal activities. They eventually gave up on actual elections and Mubarak ran unopposed from 1987 to 2005. His 2005 competitor you may ask? Sent to hard labor camp for contesting the election results after his defeat. Voter turnout in recent years has fallen to around 25% due to clearly falsified elections. On top of this blatant manipulation of democracy, Mubarak and the parliament have been making way for his son, Gamal Mubarak, to be the next president. The June 2000 death of the president of Syria and the immediate appointment of his son sparked controversy in Egypt over the rising power of Gamal Mubarak. Ironically, Mubarak publicly condemned this transfer of power and adamantly denied claims of similar succession plans in Egypt. Gamal even appeared on CNN to address the issue. Despite their public stance, the government has spent the last 20 years amending the constitution to ensure that Gamal would run uncontested when his father decides to retire from the political arena.
Video Showing Voter Fraud in 2007 Elections
As the past year in Egypt and the Middle East has shown, this kind of government is not sustainable for developed countries in the modern world. Hosni Mubarak and company thought that they were untouchable, but it turns out there’s a third option when it’s either Mubarak’s way or Mubarak’s way.
Do you think Egypt is better off without Mubarak? What do you think about the future of Egypt? Share your thoughts below!