Egypt’s choice between ‘fire’ and ‘grill’
With Parliament dissolved, Egyptians now face a Presidential election between two extreme candidates, without any assurances about the authority the eventual winner will assume. As the situation stands, the next President will have supreme power of government – with no balance of Parliament and a constitution that is still written for a dictator.
The Presidential candidates in this weekend’s second round of elections, represent opposing ends of the political spectrum. Ahmed Shafik is an ex-general from the regime, whose campaign included promoting Mubarak as his role model. Mohamed Morsi is the Muslim Brotherhood candidate, who leads an Islamist, ie sharia, agenda.
The Constitutional Court had been asked to rule on the suitability of Ahmed Shafik, and whether Parliamentarians had fulfilled legal requirements before the rushed elections in 2011. The court found in Shafik’s favour, but dissolved parliament and called for a re-run of elections. Armed vehicles and the military are now out in force to assure the population there will be peaceful elections, and, not unintentionally, to show support for one of their own.
In the first round of elections, both Shafik and Morsi won around 25 per cent of the votes, meaning 75 per cent of the population is against each extreme, and 50 per cent want a moderate, secular leader. Unfortunately, the moderates split votes among three other leading candidates.
The Election Committee had the option of allowing a third candidate. However, since the country is still under the Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF), who now see one of their own primed to become president, the option was rejected. Now, as many in the majority middle say, the choice is between fire and a grill, in an uncertain political climate.
On top of the dissolution of parliament, the vote is happening in the wake of the highly controversial judgement on Hosni Mubarak and other defendants. The former President was tried for the violence of the state during the revolution and for corruption. Along with Mubarak were his two sons and a number of high ranking officials, mostly part of the security apparatus.
Few people expected a harsh judgement, mainly because the judges were appointed by the regime, and all those being tried are closely linked to many in the Supreme Council of Armed Forces and the ruling elites. The theatre of the session was dramatic – even applauding the revolution for challenging a heartless government. It was a big surprise to hear the life sentence decree for Mubarak – but the session soon deteriorated into legalese and loopholes, exonerating nearly all other defendants.
As expected, Tahrir square filled again. I spoke to a colleague who went there and he was inspired – “the revolution is still there.” The moderate candidates showed up to show solidarity and the square was filled with spirited youth. And still, Tahrir Square is filling at night – when people can gather after work to show solidarity with the revolution, just as they did during the 18 days of protest in January.
Revolutionary thinking is still burning. I mean this in the sense that before January 25 Egyptians simply would not have publically voiced diverse opinions about the President and about current political developments, as they are doing now. The focus is now on what happens next – choosing between the two candidates under current conditions or demonstrating for an alternative solution.Tagged in: egypt, Hosni Mubarak, Tahrir Square
Latest from Independent journalists on Twitter