Internet won’t bring real democracy in Egypt (pass it on)

No kidding (and such news should be given to Western journalists who love talking about a “Facebook/Twitter revolution” in the Arab world):

Egyptians who turned to Facebook and Twitter to galvanize their revolt against Hosni Mubarak are starting to wonder whether faith in social media as the key to Egypt’s democratic future might be a little overdone.

As candidates jostle in the run-up to elections to replace military rule with a civilian democracy, politicians have latched onto the Web to show they are in tune with the youngsters who began the uprising against the veteran leader.

Many, including former United Nations nuclear watchdog Mohamed ElBaradei, have made it their campaign medium of choice for rallying local support and gathering funds, using Facebook’s interactivity to spread an image of democratic accountability.

But with illiteracy widespread and only a minority of Egypt’s 80 million population using the internet, relying on Facebook to drum up support could be a risky strategy.

Some candidates are sticking to old-fashioned tactics – pounding the streets, shaking hands and holding rallies before an election date has even been set.

Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh, once a senior figure in Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, is holding conferences in the sprawling suburbs of Cairo and other cities.

His speeches are big on patriotic rhetoric and thin on policy, but they allow ordinary voters to identify one man among a potentially confusing array of candidates.

“I will be Egypt’s servant, not the president of Egypt. I’ll be working for you all,” he told residents packed into a large tent in Al-Matariya, a poor district north of Cairo, last month.

“I was born and raised in the old neighborhoods of Egypt,” Aboul Fotouh told the crowd. “I know that what the citizen needs is to secure his needs and those of his family, in dignity.”

He then mingled with the residents to debate their problems.