Boycotting Elections: 1931-style

A new constitution was ratified in Egypt in 1930 that put most of the power in the hands of the King. It was Ismail Sidqi of the “People’s [al-Shaab] Party”, the palace ally, who most supported and benefited from this constitution.

His rival Wafd and Liberal Constitutionalist parties, who had done rather well out of the parliamentary politics of the 1920s, were incensed by the new dictatorial powers that the constitution had instituted. So, when the elections of May 1931 came up for a parliament which was, now, little more than a talking shop, they both decided to boycott.

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I found, in a neglected corner of a bookshop, this “Call to the People from the Egyptian Wafd and Liberal Constitutionalists”. It must be a contemporary leaflet (or perhaps poster) designed to circulate their message to the people and, perhaps, avoid press censorship.

The call is dated the 11th May 1931 and carries the names of the leaders of the Wafd (Mustafa Nahhas) and the Liberal Constitutionalists (Muhammad Mahmud)

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The statement ends with the simple final paragraph:

“Every Egyptian must do his duty: reclaim your consitution – Raise the light of freedom and independence high inside you – install the bases of truth and justice in Egypt – do no let tyranny continue any more.”

The issues they raise in 1931 often seem very contemporary. Take this paragraph:

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It calls upon Egyptians to stand up for their rights. The new constitution has taken away both individual freedoms and communal ones. The examples that they give are “Banning the Press, forbidding free association and moving [opposition] leaders around from place to place.”

The language of political protest and the issues that they wanted to protest about have many similarities with the contemporary world.

One cartoon from late 1930 was less outraged about the political situation.

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The baby, “1931”, represents the New Year. Ismail Sidqi Pasha sits on top of the parliament, controlling it totally, and two people fight in front of him. I cannot identify them but (maybe) they are meant to represent Adly Yakan Pasha (another leader of the Liberal Constitutionalists) and Mustafa Nahhas.

The “New Year” is watching the scene and saying: How many times now have I watched this same play? Only the actors change.

 

(Here is the full text of the leaflet, if you can make it out:

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