by Elizabeth Iskander
It is now clear that the two candidates who will go forward to a second round of voting in the Egyptian presidential elections are the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohammed Morsi and army man and former prime minister under Mubarak, Ahmed Shafik
For Egypt’s revolutionaries, this is certainly not the hoped-for result. The widespread expectation was that a run off would be between Amr Moussa and Abdul Mon’im Abul Fotouh; the only two candidates that had participated in a televised presidential debate. This has caused some to suggest that while these elections were relatively free and fair, corruption did have an impact. A number of violations were recorded and there are reports that supporters of both Morsi and Shafik distributed bribes to voters.
Morsi was considered the most conservative candidate in the race and a weak candidate. He was given the nickname “spare tyre” by Egyptians, referring to Morsi’s being the second choice after the Brotherhood’s original candidate Khairet al-Shater was excluded from the race.
Meanwhile for many Shafik represents Mubarak’s regime and had been excluded from the race, until that decision was suddenly reversed. This indicated that Shafik had support in high places, most likely among the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF). The anger that Shafik’s candidacy provoked was clear when he was attacked at a polling station, with bystanders attempting to strike him with their shoes.
With Shafik seen as the ultimate anti-revolution candidate, if he were to succeed in the second round this would surely lead to a broad outbreak of anger and violence. If the police and army then react aggressively this would be disastrous as it would confirm the fears that Shafik represents a continuation of the former regime.
A Morsi win would mean no less widespread concerns about what a Brotherhood government means for Egypt but Morsi is already using the revolution card in his favour. Some voices on social media are suggesting they could accept Morsi if Hamdeen Sabbahi was appointed as a vice president. This could make Morsi a slightly less bitter pill for secularists, liberals and revolutionaries to swallow, most of whom could not vote for Shafik, as they consider this a vote against the revolution. The key question in the event of a Morsi victory is how the SCAF will react.
Although the result is disappointing to many Egyptians and does not give the break from the past that some hoped for, it is still a step forward to developing Egyptian individual political agency. There has been broad praise of results in Alexandria as a pro-revolution result, especially since Alexandria is widely known to be a stronghold of Islamists and Salafists. Despite this conservative reputation, the winner by a wide margin was Hamdeen Sabbahi, followed by Abul Fotouh. Both these candidates had been seen as, if not exactly revolutionary candidates, at least as un-associated with the former regime, unlike the other main candidates.
The fact that Hamdeen Sabbahi came a close third, and even moved into second place for a while, sows a seed of hope for the future. A third way between the old regime and the long-established Islamist opposition will naturally take time to develop, mature and build a support base. But both Egypt’s uprising in 2011 and the Sabbahi campaign indicate that this process, though imperfect, has begun. The shock result will also force the revolutionary movements to regroup and rethink their strategy.