Egypt’s future remains uncertain in light of the recent round of presidential elections
The results of the first round of the presidential election had already left many Egyptians uncertain over the future of their country. The combination of: the Supreme Constitutional Court ruling to dissolve parliament; the SCAF claiming sweeping political and military powers, giving it complete control over its own affairs and the right to oversee the writing of Egypt’s new constitution; as well as the delay in announcing the results of last weekend’s presidential elections, have left many wondering whether the hopes and aspirations of the crowds that occupied Tahrir Square will ever be realised.
Many political activists I spoke to in the past week fear that a Shafiq victory would represent a counter-revolutionary move, and provides evidence that the ‘deep state’ will remain firmly in control despite the promises of SCAF to hand over power within a couple of weeks. It would signal a return to the old order where the country would continue to be dominated by a secularist military elite.
On the other hand, a Morsi victory, despite his electoral promises of political reform, economic growth and empowerment of women, will represent for many liberal secularists the risk of a more fundamentalist religious lifestyle being imposed on the nation. These fears are rooted partly in decades of demonisation of the Muslim Brotherhood by the ruling elite, and partly due to their
willingness to identify with a more conservative Salafist platform in the run up to the elections.
The political price of wanting to appear sympathetic to the more fundamentalist trends within Islam led some to question the Brotherhood’s efforts over the past year to project a more moderate, unifying image. And yet despite these fears, I detected in the conversations I had in Cairo over the past week a significant shift in attitudes towards Morsi’s candidacy. A few weeks ago, one
of the young leaders of the 6 April Movement who was highly critical of the Brotherhood proudly announced to me that he was now actively involved in the Morsi campaign.
The fact that Mohamed Morsi topped the primary poll is also a testament to the depth of the Brotherhood’s grassroots network and ability to reach beyond its own ranks to gain popular endorsement for their policies.
Whatever the concerns regarding the outcome of the presidential vote, these elections mark the beginning of a new political era for Egypt. Whoever eventually takes political control, the fact is that there has been a fundamental shift in the mindset of the population as a whole. Mubarak was ousted because people were no longer prepared to tolerate a regime that showed total disregard for their
individual dignity and a natural desire to determine the way in which they were governed. The political leadership will have to realise that this is the era of accountability. No party or individual can presume to rule Egypt without the consent of the people. From my own in-depth conversations with members of the Muslim Brotherhood over the past years, I know that they are acutely aware that, if they fail to deliver on their promises they will be ousted by the same people who elected them to power. It remains to be seen if Ahmed Shafiq and his supporters share the same awareness.
The social and economic challenges facing Egypt are enormous. The fact that there is still no agreed constitution and as from last Thursday no officially recognised parliament in place adds to the complexities that Egypt now faces. The ‘deep state’ that until now successfully protected the interests of the elite can no longer depend upon fear to ensure business as usual.
If the expectations of a long-suffering population are to be met, social stability and economic growth have to be given top priority. In order to achieve this, the new president will need to work with parliament to put an end to the present polarisation and fragmentation of Egyptian society. Egyptian Copts, Salafists, Secularists, Brotherhood members, and non-aligned Muslims must feel they belong, and have a recognised status, within their society. To achieve this, priority must be given to the dismantling of those state-sanctioned groups that were responsible for social and political oppression and to the establishment of institutions that guarantee the equality of all citizens before the law.
Egypt is too large and too important to fail. It is in the interests of not just their immediate neighbors but also the wider international community to ensure a genuine and peaceful transfer of power sooner rather than later.
Image from: http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/egyptians-head-to-polls-in-historic-vote/2012/05/23/gJQALaW0kU_gallery.html
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