"Morsi Meter" tries to keep Egypt's leader on toes

Reuters News
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Posted: Aug 02, 2012 10:51 AM
"Morsi Meter" tries to keep Egypt's leader on toes

By Dina Zayed

CAIRO (Reuters) - When Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi came to power, he promised voters that he would achieve 64 goals by the end of his first 100 days in power. But a little over 30 days into his term, a new website says he has achieved just one of those goals.

The website - the "Morsi Meter" - is inspired by PolitiFact.com's "Obameter" for U.S. President Barack Obama and is breaking new ground in a country that for decades had no tangible means and little appetite to hold Hosni Mubarak and his autocratic predecessors to account.

"We have the power. Therefore, we need to track what he is doing. At the end of the day, he is an employee serving the state, one whom we can hold to account," Amr Sobhy, one of the website's founders, told Reuters in an interview.

"This idea helps change the concept in people's minds of what the presidency is. We need to start treating the president as someone that we chose," the trendy 24-year-old pharmacy graduate, who has been working in the digital industry, added.

Mursi, the Muslim Brotherhood's candidate, assumed office on June 30 after an election widely regarded as Egypt's first freely-contested vote.

He won it by a narrow margin in a runoff against Mubarak's last prime minister in a contest that divided Egypt, something that placed him under more pressure to try and quickly win over those displeased with his victory.

Mursi, whose surname can be transliterated from Arabic differently, faces serious challenges - over a year of unrest has left the economy on the rocks, the law and order system is showing severe signs of stress, and he has inherited a utility system already struggling to deliver basic services such as electricity and water.

Mursi's 100-day plan focuses on such issues as improving distribution networks for subsidized bread, boosting security on the streets, and decongesting the country's clogged roads.

So far, the "Morsi Meter" says he has completed just one goal of the 64 he set himself - raising media awareness about public cleanliness.

FOCUS ON INFORMATION

When Mursi was declared president, Sobhy and his creative partner, 28-year old Abbas Adel, stayed up all night to design the site. Swept up in the heat of the moment, Sobhy even missed a train he was expected to catch the next day.

The duo had previously collaborated on a project called "Zabatak" or "I caught you", right after the uprising that ousted Mubarak. It was an attempt to provide a one-stop-shop for people to report crime and acts of corruption they witnessed.

"It is important to provide information. This is what we think is needed and the area where we can use our skills to contribute," Sobhy said, adding that people need data to make informed judgments with so much going on in a bumpy transition.

Not everyone has access to the internet in Egypt with penetration by March at around 40 percent, though social media sites have often been a springboard for public debates. Online activists played a key role in kickstarting the uprising against Mubarak and in keeping it going.

Newspapers are following the "Morsi Meter" closely with some getting in on the fun by asking their readers to send in their own proposals on how best the president's 100-day plan can be achieved.

Sobhy is encouraged by this, and believes the meter will influence future election campaigns. In the next election, he predicts candidates will be more careful about how they word their promises since they will know that they will face an unforgiving meter of the same kind.

"This is a stage of democratic development in any society. First, you only care about casting your vote and then those you elected don't always care about you beyond the election. When societies develop democratically, the voter begins to matter."

"Elections don't end at the ballot box," Sobhy said.

The site can be found in English at: http://www.morsimeter.com/en

It can also be found in Arabic at: http://www.morsimeter.com/

(Editing by Andrew Osborn)