Ahmed Khairat: Hi, my name is Ahmed Khairat. I’m twenty years old and I live in Cairo, Egypt. I think Egypt, right now, is at the most important crossroads in its modern history. We are on the brink of deciding whether Egypt becomes an established democracy and a developed country or crumbles back to an even worse state than it was with our former Egyptian president.
Jessica: Former President Hosni Mubarak was thrown out of office after young people sparked a revolution in January.
Now, we’ll go to where it all started, Tahrir Square.
Ahmed: In Tahrir, for the 25th of January revolution, about 2 million Egyptians came out to protest in Tahrir Square to demand that the former president step down. People were surprised that they could come up to Tahrir Square in such large numbers to protest without any police interference. Usually in the past police would use force in order to quell the protests.
Jessica: Experts say President Mubarak used brutality and rigged elections to keep a lockhold on power for thirty years. He squandered billions on palaces, a pampered military, and an inner circle of family and friends while ignoring the Egyptian people’s most basic needs.
Currently, there are 20% of Egyptians living at or below $2 a day. A third of Egypt’s 80 million people can’t read. Right before the revolution, the youth unemployment had reached up to 25%.
If you combine this lower standard of living for most of the population with the fact that there wasn’t as much political freedom or democracy as people wanted, those were primary triggers of the Egyptian revolution.
After eighteen days of protests, Mubarak was forced out on February 11th. The military took power and promised it would let civilians take control after elections. But since the military has all the power now, many people worry they won’t give it up. Over the past ten days protests have exploded again. More than a hundred thousand people returned to Tahrir Square. Many battled security forces in a war of rocks and tear gas. More than forty people were killed and two thousand injured.
The military has agreeed to give up power in July 2012 but protestors say that is not enough and want the military to hand over power now. The violence threatened this week’s elections but so far, voting is scheduled to start today.
Before the violence broke out we talked to Ahmed about the new policiticans in Egypt who hope to be given a chance to run the country in this week’s elections for parliament, a law making body similar to Congress.
Right now, we are in Falliki Square. Right behind me is one of the many campaign posters you can see in Egypt.
After thirty years of having one dominant political party, Egypt has almost twenty political parties competing for these elections.
In America, the main policitcal parties have been around for more than 150 years and have clearly defined views on the issues. That is not the case in Egypt.
Ahmed: The differences of the beliefs aren’t that clear between each political party. And what each one stands for is still being developed. We have to keep in mind that they’ve only been around for a few months, these political parties.
Jessica: There are more than 6,000 candidates for 498 seats.
Ahmed: For me, as a first time voter, I definitely am excited that this opportunity is free and fair. I really hope it goes smoothly so that the outcome reflects the people’s opinions.
Jessica: Whoever wins the elections will have their work cut out for them. Corruption was so bad under Mubarak, he fears it won’t die easily and that will make it harder to jump start the weak economy.
Ahmed: My primary concern with the new government is that they, instead of laying a new foundation for the country, they put a Band-aid on the old problems.
Jessica: To address his concerns, Ahmed and a friend have drawn up a plan for the country called People Four Egypt. He says it spells out what the government should do during the first six years in office.
Ahmed: So, the aim of people for Egypt is to pay back the money Egypt owes to other countries, solve the issue of unemployment, and grow the Egyptian economy. If the government doesn’t address the country’s problems or proposes poor solutions, I think the country will end up with another revolution, and these ongoing revolutions will cause the country to collapse.
Jessica: Ahmed hopes that by getting support for his plan, Egypt’s new parliament will be forced to listen. He spread the word about People Four Egypt at American University in Cairo, one of the best universities in the country.
Ahmed: We are getting signatures for this plan. And so far, in roughly three weeks, we’ve gotten three thousand signatures.
Jessica: Ahmed hopes that these elections bring in a new phase of Egyptian history, one that will allow democracy to thrive and help put more money in people’s pockets and the start of a better future.
Ahmed: The 80 million Egyptian people are ready to work. Egypt has the potential to become a manufacturing center. By doing so, we would be able to improve the living standards and close the difference between the incomes of the poor and the rich to have more a harmonious society.
Jessica: Jessica Kumari, Channel One News.