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May 20, 2014

Egypt in Canada: Democracy in Motion

Prof. Dr. Mohamed Elmasry

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Last Saturday (May 17, 2014) we drove 6 hours from Canada's University of Waterloo to Ottawa, the nation's capital, to cast our votes in Egypt's presidential election. We were seven in total, aged ranging from 70 (me) to the low 30s.

We did not feel tired one bit.

We used the time to discuss the future of Egypt, the two candidates and their track records and programs and how Egyptians got back their country on June 30 last year from the fascist regime of the Muslim Brotherhood.

We discussed also the great challenges facing our birth-country; terrorism, economical development and social justice.

We compared Egypt’s situation today to that of the US in the 1800s following its civil war trying to build their country, to Europe in the 1950s after two devastating wars and getting rid of two fascists regimes in Italy and Germany, and to Turkey in the 1920s after ending a regime which dragged the country backward hiding its corruption and regression behind Islam.

We were full of hope and optimism.

We discussed how other developing countries achieved economical development, social justice and democracy all at once. We agreed that the size of population was not a factor, India at one end of the spectrum and Malaysia at the other. Both countries also have achieved a great deal of social harmony between different ethnic and religious groups.

I was in Cairo and participated in the January 25th revelation (2011).  I wrote my book A New Egypt as an eyewitness. I interviewed many people; men and women, Muslims and Christians, young and old, farmers and PhDs, political leaders and common people. I returned several times since then and wrote extensively on Egyptian affairs, and my op-eds were published in Egypt and the world over.

If my optimism for a new Egypt can be measured in 2011 as 100, it dropped to zero during the one year of the Muslim Brotherhood’s rule and now it is up again to 70.

When we reached Ottawa we met by the Ambassador and the embassy staff and 1000s of Egyptian Canadians, who were waiving the Egyptian flag, singing, smiling and greeting each other: Mubrook lee Misr Almahrousa – Congratulations to our beloved Egypt for a democracy in motion.

The Embassy was open for five days, 9 to 9 for Egyptian Canadians to cast their votes. The dedicated staff were in a happy mood greeting everyone, seniors and youth. There were also refreshments.

Some of us came by bus from distant cities as Canada had only two voting stations, one in Ottawa and the other in Montreal. I hope in the next election more stations can be made available, say in Toronto, Vancouver, Calgary and Halifax.

Each and every citizen living abroad, temporarily or permanently had the right to cast his vote in the nearest Egyptian embassy or consulate. Foreign ministry spokesman Badr Abdel-Atti said that the ministry was following regulations issued by the Elections Committee.

“The committee aims to give equal rights to Egyptians living inside and outside the country,” he said. In Egypt, people have to cast their vote in person and are only allowed to use the national ID card.

The controversy over the right of Egyptian expatriates to vote dates back to April 2011, when the then cabinet announced that Egyptians living overseas should be allowed to vote in the presidential elections and referendums at embassies and consulates abroad as part of the amendments to the law on political participation.

The expatriate vote is being held earlier than the home vote to allow more time, including the weekend, for expatriates to vote and for the results to be sent to the Elections Committee. The elections took place in 141 polling stations in 124 countries. The presidential elections will be held in Egypt on 26 and 27 of May.

The expected trouble in front of Egypt’s embassy in Ottawa by members of the Muslim Brotherhood living in Canada did not materialize.

Children participated and came along with their parents to celebrate a wonderful Egypt-in-Canada day. And at 70 I was not the oldest.

“Although I live far from Ottawa I came by bus. There were seven buses from our locality alone,” a young mother told me, “I cannot miss the chance to take part in the election of the first post-30 June president. My baby and my husband came along.”

Dr. Mohamed Elmasry is professor of Computer Engineering at the University of Waterloo. He can be reached at

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