KrM: Field Marshal Sisi, if I could begin with you…
Assad: Why not begin with me? Do it alphabetically.
KrM: Er, do you mind Mr Sisi?
Sisi: No, begin with me, Egypt is bigger.
KrM: This is embarrassing. Should we flip a coin?
Assad: Yes great idea, here have one of my coins.
KrM: Thanks. But this has your head on both sides?
Assad: Ah, I wonder how that happened.
KrM: It's a mystery. How about I start with Sisi and you can have the last word?
Assad: Ok sure.
KrM: So back to you field marshal. Tell us how you are dealing with voter apathy in Egypt today.
Sisi: One of the first things we did was to include another candidate, because we knew that it would give people the perception of choice and make it more interesting. This has helped a great deal.
Assad: We did a similar thing, but we decided for two candidates. Of course we didn’t want to confuse the people with too many candidates, but the two other candidates have improved the process significantly according to the results coming from the focus groups.
KrM: Can you tell us more about the two candidates? Who are they?
Assad: Er, one is called, Khaled, no that’s not it. I want to say, Ramez, look I am not going to give them free publicity here, I don’t want to name names but they are good people and they fully support my policies. What was more important is making the candidates look believable and three-dimensional, otherwise people would have switched off.
Sisi: In our case, we didn’t have a problem. My opponent has an established political record so that made things easier. Three is too many in my opinion though, keep it simple. My opponent has been excellent in that respect.
KrM: What measures did you take to make it easier for people to vote?
Sisi: We gave people days off, extended the voting period as necessary, anything to get people to vote. We still haven’t hit our targets, but this is a long process. I know someone who was waiting for people to come and fix his washing machine in Alexandria but they didn’t show up so he couldn’t vote. So we extended the voting for him. A woman in Cairo had guests from abroad over, the timing wasn’t great, we have to accommodate them in the process obviously.
Assad: We have a real problem with terrorism so we found it easier to send many Syrians abroad to vote safely in other countries. The intelligence services, I mean customer service, have done a great job in monitoring and preparing the process abroad.
KrM: And what about the voting process itself?
Assad: Our team came up with many interesting ideas. Pre-ticked ballots are really helpful, if you’re confused about which candidate to vote for we can make it simpler for you. Also my picture on the ballot is bigger than the other candidates’’, subtle things like that do make a difference and avoid unexpected embarrassing results.
Sisi: We have done similar things and tried to use the power of positive thinking with messages like “if you love Egypt, vote for Sisi” and “work is a key to success, vote Sisi”. Thankfully the elections commission allowed us to print these on the ballots. The European Union observers here to learn about our democratic processes are very impressed with what we have done.
KrM: That’s an important point, democracy isn’t the same everywhere, what is specific about Arab democracy in your opinion?
Assad: For me personally it’s eliminating the element of surprise. I mean look at the Europeans and the Americans, they might accidentally end up with unsavoury people in parliament or an idiot for president. Here if that happens, it’s intentional. There’s no point leaving anything to chance. The West will see that our way of doing democracy is better in the long run.
Sisi: I agree with that broadly. What happened in Egypt two years ago made us appreciate this. Leaving the people to choose without emotional support can lead to the wrong results. This time around we are not taking any chances. Thankfully we in the army were there to correct this mistake; everyone has learned a valuable lesson now. Look at Egyptian media, they are now fully on board in performing their patriotic duty.
Assad: That’s a very important point. The role of the media is crucial, I read Chomsky’s work on the role that the media plays in the West in distorting democracy, it’s unbelievable. It’s important to have a patriotic and disciplined media in any democratic country. The poor people in the West are brainwashed and they don’t know it, they can’t resist. We believe in media freedom, freedom from incorrect opinions.
KrM: Fascinating. Thank you both for an enlightening discussion and for showing us a different type of democracy. Congratulations in advance to both of you.
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