By: Mona Abdel-Fadil, PhD Fellow at IKOS, University of Oslo.
The final and official Egyptian presidential election results have not yet been announced but from reports thus far, it seems inevitable that Morsi (Muslim Brotherhood/ Freedom and Justice Party) and Ahmed Shafiq (former Prime Minister) will be competing for Egypt’s presidency in the next round. Leftist candidate Sabahy came in third, followed by moderate Islamist Abul-Fotouh (ex-Brotherhood) and Amr Moussa (career diplomat). Voter turnout was lower than at the parliamentary elections, at around 50%. The question is why. Some Egyptians believe that a lot of those who voted in the parliamentary elections, did so not out of political commitment but in order to avoid the fine for not voting. But, no such fine loomed over voters during the presidential elections. Others highlight that you could only vote at the address where you are officially registered, and there may be great costs of travel involved, if you work in a city far off. And, of course there are those who chose to boycott the elections. Regardless, the election results thus far, beg for analysis and have been at the forefront of TV-programming in Egypt, for the last few days.
Here in Cairo feelings are mixed. While supporters of Shafiq and Mursi are no doubt celebrating their victory, their opponents are mourning the fate of Egypt under either one of the two possible presidents. That Morsi would receive many votes came as no surprise, what with his backing from the best organized political group in the nation. Yet his opponents, wish to curtail the Muslim Brotherhood’s influence in Egyptian politics and fear that the Muslim Brotherhood will become ‘a new NDP’ – ‘but with a beard’ as one voter jokingly told me while she stood in line to vote.
The biggest and perhaps best surprise is how much support Sabahy was able to gather for his candidacy despite not having the backing of a political party or substantial funds. Yet, Amr Moussa was expected to fare better, but it is rumoured that NDP encouraged their members to endorse Shafiq rather than Moussa, which may have tipped in his disfavour. In addition, the Coptic Church is to have encouraged its followers to vote for Shafiq. No doubt not all Copts voted for Shafiq, but some are likely to have been persuaded. Aboul-Fotouh was also expected to do better.
Now supporters of the revolution believe that Sabahy and Aboul-Fotouh and their supporters ought to have been united in the support of one of the two candidates to ‘save the revolution’. Furthermore, speculations about Shafiq’s election team having used ‘incentives’ (money and food) to ‘encourage’ people to vote for him are spreading like wild fire. According to one credible Egyptian news source Sabahy has announced that he will appeal the validity of the elections on these grounds. Some also claim that the Brotherhood distributed basis food goods to poorer neighbourhoods in order to rally support for Morsi. Still, it is doubtful whether there will be a new round of elections, as the influential winners Morsi and Shafiq have vested interests in the current results.
So, as it looks today, Egyptians are likely to face a presidential run off between Morsi and Shafiq. Of the two, voting for Shafiq is the most difficult to digest for many Egyptians. The fact that Mubarak appointed Shafiq as Prime Minister in his last days as president is by many considered a very clear indication that Shafiq is equivalent to the old regime. While supporters of Shafiq highlight that he will restore ‘law and order’ and ‘stability’ in the country’s ‘chaos’, sceptics fear that Egyptians’ civil rights will be severely suppressed under Shafiq, and that Egypt will revert to the way it was under Mubarak – or even worse. His opponents can simply not get their head around, fellow Egyptians voting for him. Still, those opposing Islamist stronghold in Egyptian politics find the alternative – Morsi as president – to be a poor consolation.
In consequence, many Egyptians say they will either boycott the next round of elections or put in a blank vote, because they want neither of the two presidential candidates. They argue that by doing this they will clearly signal to the president that he is not appointed by popular demand. Others argue that supporting Morsi over Shafiq is essential. They will do anything to get rid of Shafiq, they say. For, some believe of the two ‘evils’, Shafiq is by the worst of the two. As film director Khaled Yousef recently announced in a media comment, ‘The difference between us and the Brotherhood is one of politics, but the difference between us and Shafiq is (spilt) blood’.
Some influential public speakers are urging Morsi to back out of the presidential bid, so that the final vote will be between Shafiq and Sabahi – in an attempt to defeat Shafiq and ‘save the revolution’. The phrase ‘save the revolution’ is certainly proving to be a catchphrase that can be fed a variety of meanings. In any case, some legal experts are cautioning that if Morsi backs out of the race, Shafiq will automatically win, although there seems to be some dispute about this understanding. Regardless, it would come as a great surprise if Morsi walked away from this near victory. It is more likely that he promises to make Abul-Fotouh or Sabahy vice president and that sweetened political alliances will be pursued in order subdue discontent and ensure victory over Shafiq.
One of the curious things about this presidential election is that Shafiq was first excluded from the presidential race on the grounds that he was being investigated for corruption, yet he miraculously reappeared in the race. Had Shafiq been eliminated for good, Egyptians might have been choosing between Morsi and Sabahy which would have been a result a lot of Egyptians would have been far more content with. Against this backdrop, Shafiq’s astonishing come -back is disconcerting to his opponents and gives rise to speculations of SCAF’s involvement in paving the way for ‘their man’ to rise to power.
A perhaps more positive and optimistic reading of voting patterns in the presidential election is provided by sootalthawra.com (voice of the revolution) who on their Facebook page have posted a wall photo which features four candidates profile picture and accompanying text (https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=412163252140283&set=a.330893423600600.74205.200455146644429&type=3&theater). It reads as follows:
’25 % chose security’ next to Ahmed Shafiq’s picture, ‘25% chose food’ next Morsi’s picture, and ‘39% chose dignity’ next to a picture of both Sabahy and Abul-Fotouh, followed by the text ‘I’m proud of the Egyptian people’ …
Morsi and the Brotherhood are now trying to invoke support for his candidacy over Shafiq ‘to save the revolution’. Time will show whether this campaign will succeed. Still, many voters are satisfied with the voting patterns, and rejoice of over the success of either the Brotherhood or Shafiq. But, amongst those disappointed with election results, some take the preliminary results as final and a depressive blow, some are in denial, and others are hoping for some kind of miracle to put Sabahy in the final run-off against Shafiq…