Koert Debeuf Column

From Twitter Revolution To Twitter Democracy. (Column)

FLI Twitter democracyLast week I saw on Twitter and Facebook what must have been a repetition of the Egyptian revolution last year. On Twitter there was a massive flow of practical information. Almost every minute one could follow where exactly which march would be in a couple of minutes. @Tareqramadan: “Mostafa Mahmoud march now heading towards Dokki Square”. So if you want to join the march heading for Tahrir, you know exactly where to go to. Or @Askarkazeboon: “Kazeboon 20 January Helwan, facebook.com/events/…” signalling a film event showing that the military leaders are liars (kazeboon). For more information the tweet refers to a calendar with all details on Facebook.

That was exactly the way it worked during the eighteen days of revolution in Egypt in 2011. Facebook was used for general appeals and overviews of information, while the minute to minute organisation happened via Twitter. It was on Facebook that Wael Ghonim called for a demonstration on the 25th of January and that Asmaa Mahfouz posted a video saying that only cowards would not go to Tahrir on that day. It was on Twitter, however, that the field hospitals and its supplies were organised and were people were warned about snipers on certain buildings or attacks of thugs in certain parts of the square. One year after Hosni Mubarak was toppled, we see again a million people on Tahrir. Not only to celebrate this huge accomplishment of the Egyptian people, but also to demand for more. The Egyptian revolutionaries are convinced that the revolution has not ended. The vast turn-out day after day proves social media still works as tools to continue the revolution.

Since a few months, however, Egyptians are writing a new chapter of the Twitter-history. Twitter is now not only used to organise a revolution, but also to control the result of that revolution: democracy. During the elections for the People’s Assembly Twitter was used all over the country to report violations and fraud. As real electoral observation was refused by the government, these tweets counted as the most reliable information. After the elections there started a perhaps even more fascinating story. Since 23 January, tens of thousands Egyptians are watching the sessions of the newly elected parliament. Whenever a Member of Parliament says something good or bad, it is all around on Twitter. Or as @Mostafa wrote: “The public has the right to know what each MP says about each and every bit”. Is one MP sleeping for a minute? The next minute a picture of his little moment of weakness is all over the internet.

In a parliamentary democracy the people are asked once every four years to give their opinion. In a Twitter-democracy citizens applaud and criticize whenever they decide to do so. And as almost all Egyptian politicians are on Twitter themselves, they feel the pressure of the citizens every single moment. They realize that walking of the path to a real Egyptian democracy, would immediately lead to a new revolution on Tahrir. The Athenian politician Pericles could never have expected that his famous phrase “the citizens are well capable of judging public affairs” would become reality through Twitter in Egypt.

by Koert Debeuf

FLI Koert Debeuf PortretKoert Debeuf lives in Cairo, Egypt, where he represented the EU parliament’s Alde group for many years. Currently he is Project Coordinator “World Leaders on Transitions towards Democracy” at International IDEA. He is a former advisor of a Belgian prime minister. Reporting from post-revolutionary Egypt, his columns are a window on events in the Arab world. Koert Debeuf is also author of ‘Inside the Arab Revolution’.

For more columns of Koert Debeuf, click here.

You can follow @koertdebeuf on Twitter

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