Egyptians Can Vote Once Again

November 28, 2011

Political Theory


Voting has become synonymous with a country that is labeled as “free”, as well as a country that gives rights to its’ citizens. Dictatorships like North Korea and other countries do not allow their citizens to vote and deprive them of other rights as well. This hints to the idea that when a country deprives its’ citizens the right to vote, other rights and privileges are taken away as well. Which comes first, however, is a hard question to answer. Do the countries start out depriving its’ citizens the right to vote and then become more strict in other areas, or are they already harsh dictatorships and then decide to deprive the citizens to vote? Either way, it seems more people prefer countries that allow citizens to vote than those that do not.

Egypt is a country that once again, is allowing its citizens to vote. It has been a long time, almost 30 years, since any Egyptian’s have voted and a 55-year-old businessman was even quoted saying “This is the first time in 55 years that I (can) vote.” This radical shift towards allowing citizens to vote once again, came only after one of the worst and most historic revolts in the country’s history.  The article attached expresses how citizens of Egypt are ecstatic about being able to vote again. This brings a very interesting question to mind, that I pose to the readers of this blog. Should every country in the world allow its’ people to vote? Even though this is a very theoretical idea and almost impossible to put into reality, it is still an intriguing question. Some countries do not truly have an established government but would allowing people to vote help establish that government? Would this create more democracy and peace in our world as well? All of these questions have caused me to debate within myself and I encourage all to do the same.

Political theorists and their ideas would obviously be the most useful to analyze this potential and radical idea. Hobbes, who has been studied vigorously, is a good theorist to start with. Hobbes always encouraged the mixture of ideas and said that no one should be silenced because the more ideas spread, the more information available. In this sense then, he would support the possibility of allowing every country to hold voting for political positions. However, Hobbes’ definition of a political community is that all people are ruled over fear from a political power. In addition, Hobbes does not think people’s rational can be counted on and may be incapable of voting intelligently. This is almost a contrasting opinion relating more directly to political rule so would Hobbes reject ubiquitous voting?

Rousseau offers a different opinion and believed in the people of a country more than Hobbes might have. He had expressed that people who make up the society should have control over the government. “Each of us places his person and all his power in common under the supreme direction of the general will; and as one we receive each member as an indivisible part of the whole.” Accordingly, Rousseau believed that equality did not exist in society when he was writing but this idea might make equality more achievable for every society in the world. Therefore, would he be one to support voting across the globe? If so, what if it the people are incapable of controlling the government themselves; should other countries step in or would that defeat the purpose of having those citizens vote? All of these questions have no correct answer but it is interesting to try and consider how Rousseau and Hobbes would answer them.



About bsrobin

Studies at the University of Michigan

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4 Comments on “Egyptians Can Vote Once Again”

  1. brianfrankel Says:

    The recent movement in Egypt to initiate its democratic processes is extraordinarily important and relevant to many of the political questions we have around the globe. As a former dictatorship, Egypt represents a common transition from dictatorship, to some sort of revolt (peaceful or violent), and finally steps towards democracy. By common, I refer to the similar instances that occurred after the break up of the soviet union and colonist uprisings in Africa, India, and the America’s. Furthermore, I believe that the Egyptian revolt qualifies as a momentous movement for the region and true instance of individuals breaking their social contracts because of violations against them.

    However, I do not believe that every government on the Earth should give its people the right to vote. Certain issues perhaps deem votes in all countries, but the majority of governing decisions do not fall in that category. Some countries, like China, have even thrived while preventing their people from voting on issues and elections. China’s great success, while perhaps unique, provides evidence that not every country requires a vote.

  2. cobyj17 Says:

    The idea of voting itself is remarkable in that power can change hands without violence. In many of these countries without voting, there is no way to hold the government accountable without violent revolutions. The Arab Spring is a perfect example of this problem. While Egypt has not fixed its problems by allowing its citizens to vote, it has begun the framework to create a government that is held accountable by its citizens.With regard to the question raised by the author about what comes first, freedom or voting, I believe it is voting. This is not universally true, as there can be dictators that give their people freedom. However in most cases, voting is the first step.

    With reference to the above comment, I think it is difficult to try to define a “successful country.” China may be a country that is experiencing rapid economic growth, but I would argue that it fails on many issues of human rights. This is a result of their dictatorial government, which suggests that in fact their citizens may be better off with the right to vote.

  3. phillipschermer Says:

    I would actually disagree with cobyj above in reference to the author’s question whether voting or freedom comes first. There are plenty of instances across the globe (Zimbabwe and Iran to name a few) where voting is allowed but the citizens of these countries are, by and large, not free. Yes, citizens may go vote, but their life might also be threatened if they vote the “wrong” way. Yes, citizens may go line the streets to vote, but that does not mean that the final tallies coming from the mouths of the political elites will reflect the realities on the streets. What I am building toward is this: without freedom, freedom of choice, freedom from fear of government, etc., legitimate voting cannot take place. Thus, freedom must precede voting.

  4. Obada Ghabra Says:

    First of all, in response to the author of the post’s question about Hobbes, I think Hobbes would clearly be anti-democratic. He does not believe that people are capable of making their own decisions, and he believed in upholding an autocratic government in England.

    In response to whether all countries should have voting, I think that they should. Without voting, the people have no power over the government’s policy and the people will inevitably lose their rights. I think that it is problematic to think that only some countries should be democratic and others should not. The US tends to support democracy only when it is in its interests (the CIA overthrew the democratic government in Iran in 1953 and the US is the Saudi monarchy’s strongest ally).

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