Eight o’clock, Cairo morning, polling stations opened their doors to the long queues of Egyptians in orderly formation outside, waiting to cast their ballot papers in the first multi-candidate unfettered presidential elections in Egypt since the January 25 revolution. Choosing the new leader is a tough challenge for many Egyptians.
Ideally, elections should be held soon after a regime topples, within six months, to fill the legitimacy gap that follows. In Egypt, the transitional period, once promised to be six months, was extended to almost seventeen, characterized by failed governance and public depression. Public appetite for democracy has plummeted. The initial post-revolution sense of drift is becoming eclipsed by growing every day insecurities and economic problems as well as violent clashes. So turn-out for the presidential elections were poor. Apart from the call of a few political parties and activists for a boycott of SCAF’s elections, which they allege are inevitably rigged under a military rule, public political apathy cannot be ignored.
Based on the results of the elections, evidence suggests that the opinion polls are misleading and deceptive. Despite reports of declining support of Egyptians to the Islamists due to their weak parliamentarian performance, the Freedom and Justice party and the Muslim Brotherhood presidential candidate, Dr. Muhamed Mursi, came out on top in the first round of the presidential elections. In addition, the unexpected surge of Ahmed Shafiq, last prime minister of the Mubarak regime, to second ranking is more surprising still – given all the reports of his lack of popularity among voters. Ironically, Moussa and AbulFoutouh, leading the Egyptian presidential race in the public surveys, will not be heading into the second round.
The run-off between Morsi & Shafiq points to one undeniable conclusion: a leaderless revolution could topple a dictator but, when it comes to the ballot boxes, should not remain leaderless. As the vote-counting is under way, the total votes gained by the two candidates perceived as pro-revolution, Sabahi and AbulFoutouh, were more than the one attracted by Shafiq or Mursi. However, they will not be present in the run-off. The fragmentation of votes between them would not have happened if the revolutionary forces had overcome their differences and unified their powers behind one candidate.
In any eventuality, Egyptians voting in the second round of the presidential elections are caught between a rock and a hard place. Whoever will be the winner; those elections will not be a landmark in the post-revolutionary transition to democracy. It is even doubtful that the presidential elections will restore stability to the country. The fluid Egyptian environment will spark struggle between the secularists and the Islamists, the haves and have-nots, the influential military and the recalcitrant youth, impatient for change, to define a new balance of power. It's not the end of the revolution; but it may just be the beginning.
This article is the weekly-featured-column for Arab Awakening's This week's window into the Middle East.