US leaders are hoping for another ‘old guard’ ruler, here are three likely outcomesThe New Pharoahs Charles M Sennott
It is unwise to try to predict anything in Egypt these days, but there are several safe assumptions that can be made as Egyptians went to the polls Wednesday and Thursday to elect a civilian president in the first open and fair elections in Egypt’s 7,000 year history.
With so much at stake, it is almost impossible to predict where this still ‘unfinished revolution’ is headed right now. But at the risk of being wrong, here are three safe assumptions:
The first is that this election will not produce a winner. The contest is almost certainly headed for a run-off vote starting June 16. Some analysts would argue that current polling, if it is even remotely accurate, mathematically guarantees that no candidate can receive the required 50 per cent of the vote to win in this round of voting. If a candidate fails to take 50 per cent, as the election rules state, then the two top candidates are to face each other in a run-off. So don’t hold your breath. Just wait for June.
The second is that this will ultimately be a contest between the old guard and the Islamists. Although there are five leading candidates among the 13 names on the ballot, there are really only two choices available in this election. That is the “falool”, Arabic for “a remnant” of the old regime. Or there are the Islamists who have emerged from the vast power base of the Muslim Brotherhood.
The third assumption is that the struggle for the future of Egypt has always been about the powerful grip the military holds over the country and has held for the last 60 years. So even the most optimistic of souls presume the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, the group of generals who have been handed the direct rule of Egypt and its 80 million people during the period of transition from the uprising to this election, will not let go of its power — and its sprawling financial empire — any time soon.
Okay, so to get back to what is going to happen in this election. Counting all of the paper ballots by hand is expected to take closer to a month.
On the ballot, there are three leading “falool” candidates who represent the old guard. They include:
Amr Moussa, 75, a former foreign minister under Mubarak and a former secretary-general of the Arab League. He has pitched himself as an elder statesmen who has sufficient separation from Mubarak.
Ahmed Shafik, 70, a former Air Marshal in the military and the last Prime Minister to serve under Mubarak in the dying days of the regime. He proudly boasts that he is on good terms with the Supreme Council of the Allied Forces and has vowed a strict crackdown on protesters.
Hamdeen Sabahi, 57, leader of the Dignity Party, which harkens back to Gamal Abdel Nasser and his pan-Arab nationalism.
And there are two leading Islamist candidates:
Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh, 60, a doctor and former head of the Arab Medical Union, who is campaigning as a more liberal Islamist and who parted ways with the Muslim Brotherhood to run back when the Muslim Brotherhood was vowing not to seek the presidency.
Mohamed Mursi, 60, of the Muslim Brotherhood is the more conservative Islamist candidate who the Brotherhood put up after rethinking the idea of holding back to consolidate its power in parliament and trying to appear not to be coming on too strong.
Neither one of these two choices – not the old guard nor the Islamist – bodes particularly well for the Egyptian people who came to the streets demanding change and the end of a police state. The choices before the electorate also seem to run up against American diplomacy in the region which should be aligned with the pro-democracy yearnings of the protest movement.
I would emphasise the word “should” be aligned with the pro-democracy movement when speaking of American diplomatic interests. It is not clear that American foreign policy “is” aligned with these forces. The US has been fairly criticised for being late in recognising the sweeping call for change in the Arab world. But it remains to be seen whether the US will push the military to relinquish its grip on government as it has vowed to do when a new president is sworn in. It also remains to be seen whether the US will engage with the Muslim Brotherhood if they take the executive branch.
So right alongside the three presumptions, there is also one great but fading hope. That is, that the Egyptian people, who have seen the life sucked out of this revolution upon which they had hung so many hopes, will find a way to restore their faith in their country’s capacity for change, perhaps further down the road, by turning out in huge numbers at the polls.
The writer is the vice-president, executive editor and co-founder of GlobalPost
Hope Springs Eternal
The event that started waves rippling throughout the Arab world occurred in December 2010 when Mohamed Bouazizi, a young Tunisian who could find no other job than selling fruit set fire to himself in frustration after he was harassed by the authorities. His death the following month set off revolts throughout the small north African country, which were soon picked up in Egypt and elsewhere. On January 14, 2011, Tunisia’s longtime autocratic ruler Zine el Abidine Ben Ali fled to Saudi Arabia. Tunisia has since adopted a new democratic constitution and held elections.
The revolt in Libya, the only major oil producer to have been turned upside down by the Arab Spring so far, quickly turned into a civil war. When longtime ruler Muammar Gaddafi sent troops to crush a nascent revolt in the east of the vast territory, the main Western powers decided to use force to stop him. The intervention of mainly French, British and US air forces was decisive in overthrowing Gaddafi, who was captured and killed by rebels in October last year. The country is planning elections for a constituent assembly in June.
Like Libya, Syria has seen a descent into major civil violence since protests began against President Bashar al-Assad in March 2011. However unlike Libya, Syria has not seen military intervention by Western powers, and the popular revolt appears to be stalemated.
In Yemen, a major protest movement was launched in January 2011 to demand the ouster of longtime leader Ali Abdullah Saleh. In November, after months of violence, Saleh finally agreed to step down, and in April this year he was replaced by his former deputy, Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi.
In February-March 2011, the small kingdom was shaken by protests calling for political reforms, with members of the Shiite Muslim majority playing a major role in opposition to the Sunni-dominated regime. Bahrain continues to simmer, with allegations of human rights abuses.
- Uprisings and civil war have driven from their posts the authoritarian leaders of Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen.
- Major unrest has also taken place in Bahrain and in Syria, where the regime of Bashar al-Assad is embroiled in a nascent civil war.
- Two of the countries whose leaders have departed have since held successful elections: Tunisia and, today, Egypt. Others, notably Libya, are planning elections.
- lRevolts have spread from country to country, winning concessions in some places and sparking violent repression in others.
- Almost everywhere, crowds have rallied to the slogan “The people want the fall of the regime.”
- In many cases, the use of mobile phones and social media via the Internet has been credited with a role in the uprisings. The release of secret diplomatic files on some countries via the WikiLeaks website also played a part.