Letters: Egypt’s jubilant crowds should beware of what they wish for

Emboldened by fiery army statements and helicopters displaying Egyptian flags flying overhead, jubilant crowds on Tahrir Square can’t be blamed for feeling that the balance of power has tipped in their favour (Report, 2 July). While President Morsi has unquestionably squandered the fragile support he enjoyed after a contested and divisive election a year ago, the dividends of ousting the first democratically elected leader through undemocratic means might prove to be a bitter disappointment for the Egyptian people.

Opposition leaders, many directly responsible for Morsi’s ascent – because their individual presidential ambitions precluded the formation of a broad secular-liberal alliance able to challenge the well-organised bloc of the Muslim Brotherhood – have not demonstrated the fortitude or the vision necessary to move Egypt away from the brink. A new round of military rule is in no one’s interest. To avoid this, opposition leaders must shelve their political ambitions and agree on the formation of a technocratic government mandated to fix the economy and place the country back on a transitional path towards genuine democracy. Protesters must express future discontent through democratic channels and realise that further “Tahririsation” of Egyptian politics is unsustainable.
Sander van Niekerk
The Hague, Netherlands

• What Ahdaf Soueif calls the “Egyptian revolution” (In Egypt, we thought democracy was enough. It was not, 2 July) was in fact a counter-revolution against authoritarian capitalism. In 2009, Egypt grew by 5% and its projected growth for 2011 was 6%. Its GDP per head, at purchasing power parity, was almost double that of India and 50% higher than Indonesia’s. Despite the current euphoria over freedom and democracy, Egypt is unlikely to grow faster under liberal democratic capitalism. Authoritarian capitalism works because inefficiencies and favouritism in this system is often offset by higher levels of social discipline. Its political dynamics may not please the west’s armchair democrats and human rights activists, but it does provide a faster and an alternative route to economic development.
Randhir Singh Bains
Gants Hill, Essex

• In many countries, both majority vote referendums and single-preference electoral systems are little more than sectarian headcounts. The latest victim is Egypt (Egypt’s fate is in the hands of soldiers, 2 July). The majority vote, however Orwellian in its simplicity – this good, that bad – is the most inaccurate measure of collective opinion ever invented. Elections based on first past the post (as in Kenya), the two-round system (Egypt), or simple PR list systems (as now used in the Balkans) are also often inappropriate.

Majority rule is fine, in so far as it goes. But majority rule by majority vote – majoritarianism – is inadequate. Accordingly, in today’s high-tech world, majority opinions should be identified on the basis of the voters’ (and/or their elected representatives’) preferences. Nations need not divide into two. Where such a danger exists, power should be shared; so presidencies should be plural, ministerial posts should be all-party, and any new constitution should be based on a preferential choice of about four or five options.
Peter Emerson
Director, De Borda Institute, Belfast

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