Announcement of the Final Results in First Round of Egypt’s Presidential Election Provokes Call for a Return to Tahrir

by Elizabeth Iskander

Despite a public outpouring of frustration and the lodging of appeals citing electoral violations, on Monday Egypt’s Electoral Commission announced the final results of the presidential vote.  They announced that that the Muslim Brotherhood’s second choice candidate, Mohammed Morsi, and the former NDP member and last prime minister under Mubarak, Ahmed Shafik, would be the two to go through to a second round of voting in June.  The Commission rejected all appeals and confirmed the vote would go ahead, despite the admission by the Commission’s head, Farouk Sultan, that there were irregularities in the first round.  According to the commission, voter turnout was 46%, with Morsi obtaining 24.77% vote and Shafik 23.66%.

The third place candidate, Hamdeen Sabbahi, obtained 20.7% and was at the forefront of efforts to launch an appeal.  Ballot papers in his favour were found dumped in the Upper Egyptian province of Qena.  There are also suggestions that a large number of soldiers, who cannot vote in elections under Egyptian law, were given ID cards that enabled them to in fact participate.

The frustration felt by many at this result, which has been expected since Friday, led many to call on either Morsi or Shafik to withdraw to allow Sabbahi back in the race.  A Shafik-Morsi runoff represents a worst case scenario for many.  But it does highlight the reality that Egyptian politics remains polarized, whether due to entrenched corruption or real support,  in the pattern of the Mubarak years; Islamist opposition organised by the Brotherhood, against NDP candidates with close connections to the army and business elite.

While the traditional supporters of these two blocs remain apparently loyal, many more Egyptians will struggle to choose between a conservative Islamist, who is widely seen as simply a mouthpiece for the Brotherhood, and Shafik, a remnant of the old regime that the uprising sought to eject.

Many more will boycott the second round than the first, leaving the Muslim Brotherhood’s core support-base along with those who either fear an Islamist government or crave security, to decide who will be the next president.

The street could intervene though.  Shortly after the official announcement of the results and the signal that all hope for a political intervention was lost, calls went out across social media for a return to Tahrir Square.  Protests are reported in Alexandria as well, where Sabbahi won by a wide margin, followed by Abdul Mon’im Aboul Fotouh; a result that was broadly hailed as a vote for the revolution.

Both Shafik and Morsi claim to be the candidate who will ensure a victory for the revolution but today’s response indicates that the Egyptian people will continue to assert the right to decide for themselves what the revolution means and who represents it.

picture tweeted from Tahrir Square May 28 2012

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