Elections 'nightmare scenario' leaves Egypt revolutionaries in shock

Hatem Maher, Saturday 26 May 2012

Revolutionaries fear the worst after none of their favoured candidates made it through to the run-off in Egypt's historic presidential elections

Egypt revolution
Even after Mubarak's ouster, hundreds of thousands continued to hit the streets, demanding the completion of the revolution. (File photo)

It is all doom and gloom for the Egyptian pro-democracy activists who strove in last year's January Revolution to bring an end to Hosni Mubarak's 30-year authoritarian rule.

A sombre mood hung over many Friday evening after learning that neither liberal ex-Muslim Brotherhood figure, Abdel-Moneim Abul-Fotouh, nor leftist candidate, Hamdeen Sabbahi, made it to the final run-off round of this historic presidential election.

Rubbing salt into the wound, the Brotherhood's Mohamed Morsi and Ahmed Shafiq, who served as prime minister in Mubarak's final days in power, came first and second, respectively, following two days of voting which kept millions of Egyptians holding their breath.

As expected, the first round of the election had failed to provide a clear winner (who would have needed at least 50+1% of the vote) producing instead the two front runners who will runoff in elections for Egypt's first post-revolutionary president.

"I'm dejected, I want to leave the country," Amer El-Wakil, senior coordinator of the Egyptian Revolutionary Alliance, told Ahram's Arabic-language portal in a phone interview before bursting into tears.

"Why should I stay here? Who should I vote for? Who should I support? I can see now in front of me the image of the revolution martyrs who were killed on the 28th of January [one of the most bloody crackdowns against protesters in 2011]."

"I don't know what those people [who voted for Shafiq and Morsi] want. Do they want us to commit suicide? If we take to the streets they will accuse us of rebelling against democracy," he added.

Shafiq is a staunch opponent of the youth activists, who played a key role in driving him out from office through incessant street protests in March 2011. They believe he will follow in the footsteps of Mubarak if he is elected president.

On Morsi, revolutionaries cannot really tell whether he is friend or foe. The Brotherhood fought with Tahrir protesters side by side during the 18-day uprising but the honeymoon was soon over.

The revolutionaries accused the Brotherhood, long oppressed under Mubarak, of abandoning them and "betraying the revolution."

Many revolutionaries and intellectuals speculate that the Brotherhood had a quid pro quo deal with Egypt's ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), and therefore, the Brotherhood didn't participate alongside revolutionaries in any of the protests after the ouster of Mubarak on 11 February, 2011.

The revolutionaries fought on, determined to achieve the aims of the January 25 Revolution, fought under the banner of "bread, freedom and social justice." They were convinced SCAF was bent on subverting their revolution while restoring Mubarak's regime in some form or another. In most of the ongoing protests that often brought hundreds of thousands back on the streets, the Brotherhood was conspicuously absent, joining SCAF in condemning the protests, often using almost identical discourse to that of SCAF and the Mubarak regime.

Many within the revolutionary camp are also deeply worried the Brotherhood may attempt to implement sharia (Islamic) law, curb freedoms and monopolise power.


The revolutionaries found it hard to explain what went wrong, but blamed themselves for failing to stand by a sole candidate in a tough battle that eventually defied many expectations and predictions.

Initially, many seemed to prefer Abul-Fotouh, widely seen as a moderate Islamist who was excluded by the Brotherhood for failing to stick to the organisation's earlier pledge not to field a candidate in the presidential elections.

However, leftist Sabbahi, who's been a die-hard Mubarak critic during the past three decades, emerged as a genuine contender, almost out of the blue, in the last few weeks before the elections. 

Finishing third behind Morsi and Shafiq, Sabbahi outshone Abul-Fotouh to prove the dark horse of the elections.

"It is not the peoples' problem that candidates not associated with the old regime split their votes," said famed Egyptian activist, Wael Ghoneim, founder of a Facebook page that played a large role in helping trigger the January 2011 revolution that toppled Mubarak.

"We should blame Sabbahi and Abul-Fotouh because both of them failed to correctly assess and estimate the current political situation. Each one of them opted to continue the presidential race alone."

Nesma Youssef, a member in Abul-Fotouh's campaign, lashed out at both her favourite candidate and Sabbahi right after being let down by the vote's early indications, which showed that Morsi and Shafiq had the upper hand.

"I didn't sleep until 4am," she said. "How did Shafiq get all these votes? Really, how? I am extremely depressed. I will pray that Hamdeen Sabbahi and Abul-Fotouh will be cursed for leaving us to choose between Shafiq and Morsi in the runoffs.

"One of them should have stepped down for the other, just like Abdallah El-Ashaal helped Morsi in polling stations. We wouldn’t have lost. I am in shock."

Morsi support?

The pro-democracy activists will probably have to mull over the run off when they finish licking their wounds. A heated debate has already started over whether they should support Morsi against bitter foe Shafiq.

Morsi is expected to face stiff competition from Shafiq if he is to become the new president and hand the Brotherhood more power after they swept the parliamentary elections earlier this year.

According to analysts, Morsi will need to garner many of the votes that went towards Sabbahi and Abul-Fotouh to avoid being defeated at the hands of the former aviation minister (Shafiq), who is backed by the state and has a strong appeal to a section of the public yearning for a return to order and stability.

In an apparent attempt to win over youth activists, the Brotherhood hinted that they might take on Abul-Fotouh or Sabbahi as vice president if Morsi wins the runoff, scheduled to take place on 16 and 17 June.

"There are relentless efforts to restore the Mubarak regime, but the people and the revolutionaries will not allow them to do so," the Brotherhood said on its Twitter account.

"Our goal is to create a united national front representing all stakeholders to stop Shafiq."

Renowned writers Alaa El-Aswani and Belal Fadl, the first a prominent supporter of Sabbahi and the second of Abul-Fotouh, revealed they would vote for Morsi "to save the revolution."

Rights lawyer Gamal Eid, director of the Arab Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI), admitted that he does not trust the Brotherhood but would still vote for them in the runoff.

"The Brotherhood may either suppress us or be fair, but I'm sure Shafiq would cleanse the country of the revolution and take revenge against the youth," he said in alarm.

Many revolutionaries, however, remained either undecided or opted for boycotting the runoff election altogether. Nawara Negm, one of the country's most prominent revolutionary bloggers tweeted: "The Muslim Brotherhood are liars and the Military are treacherous, and thus we are boycotting, boycotting. Down with the rule of the Military and the Brotherhood."



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