Free to choose

By Elizabeth Station

Photo courtesy Jonathan-Rashad, CC BY 2.0

After voting in Egypt's March 19 referendum, Mahmoud Khairy, a student at Cairo University who spent a quarter at Chicago, sent this update:

I just came now from voting on the constitutional amendments. I really don't know how to describe it. For the first time in my country I feel I'm a human being. My voice makes a difference. For the past two weeks there have been debates about the amendments in the media and on the internet and from all kind of political analysts and public figures. We had dozens of seminars in our college and in cultural centers. But now the mood is like a festival. Lines stretch as far as you can see with men and women laughing and joking; it's as if we are going out for a picnic. Cars on the streets honking their their horns and holding the Egyptian flag. I live by the pyramids and I saw tourist groups stop their cars to take pictures and videos of us; it was the first time I've seen tourists shoot something other than the pyramids! The new civilization is already beginning.

After the results were in, he wrote:

I voted "aye" and the result gladly came in my favor with 77.2 percent. I believe both choices will have the same result but with different techniques. One will bring the reform through a framework of institutions and laws, while the other will depend solely on the vision of individuals for reform. I trust institutions more.
After I came from voting, I saw TV news coverage of the voting places that showed a mute man casting his vote. Democracy for the first time in his life gave him a voice, something he wasn't even born with. That was the most powerful manifestation I have ever seen for democracy.

March 21, 2011