by Elizabeth Iskander
In the counting of votes in Egypt’s presidential election that took place over the past two days the front runners, as of 10am Egyptian time May 25, are the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohammed Morsi and former NDP member and last prime minister under Mubarak, Ahmed Shafik. Such a run off would surely lead to a victory for Morsi, since given a choice between an Islamist and a figure from the former regime, many would have to choose the former. Meanwhile Copts would choose Shafik and the revolutionaries and those already uncomfortable with the election process and the limited range of candidates will most likely boycott the second round, if they didn’t already.
Copts have been enthusiastically voting for Shafik in accordance with apparently unofficial advice from Church leaders who have been promoting him as the candidate who will protect Copts from sectarianism. This seemed to be a last minute change, as early indications were that Copts would vote for Amr Moussa or Hamdeen Sabahi. Ironically it may have been Moussa’s use of ‘national unity’ imagery of a mosque and a church in his campaign materials that shifted Copts away from him. They apparently saw Shafik as the candidate who will protect them as Egyptian citizens rather than as the Coptic minority.
The stance of the Church also hints at an attempt to support the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), who would most like to see Shafik, a former member ofthe air force, return to government as president. During the Mubarak-Shenouda era, the Church openly supported a close relationship between Pope and President as part of a policy that protects Copts and Coptic Church leadership by ensuring Coptic votes for the former ruling party the NDP. Since the revolution the Church has appeared to shift its loyalty to the SCAF.
The SCAF will be the one to watch, even more than the election results. They are expected to draft a constitutional declaration that will define the powers of the new president. In doing this they will try to have the final word on the transition process but this has the potential to lead Egypt to renewed protest and violence.