Egyptians caught between a rock and a hard placeBy DALLIA MONIEM in Cairo | Monday, May 28 2012 at 16:58
The dust has settled, the votes counted and Egyptians now face what one liberal political party called "the worse case scenario": the next president of Egypt will either be an Islamist or a former Mubarak regime member.
Official poll results gave the Muslim Brotherhood's candidate Mohamed Mursi 5,764,952 votes out of the 23,265,516 valid ballots cast while Ahmed Shafiq--Mubarak's last-ditch prime minister during the final days of his rule-- garnered 5,505,327.
The ensuing scenario has caused major consternation amongst the millions who voted for neither but opted for the middle-of-the-ground option in the shape of Hamdeen Sabahi, who won 4, 820, 273 votes.
The leftist with his pro-socialist nationalistic ideology that harked back to the era of former president Gamal AbdelNasser went against all odds and ended up as the third popular choice ahead of the Islamist Abdelmoniem AbolFotouh (4, 065, 239 votes) and liberal Amr Moussa (2, 588, 850 votes) who many had predicted would be the runaway winners but ended up empty handed.
Polarised the public
The question on most people's lips: who to vote for come June 16, when the run off is held. The two leading choices have polarised public opinion since campaigning started, with many not wanting an Islamist President nor wishing a return to the rule under a core member of the old regime.
A report by analysis group Eurasia states “From a political stability perspective, it is the worst possible outcome...Mursi and Shafik were the two most polarising candidates competing in the first round."
It added that Mursi "represents the Muslim Brotherhood’s attempt to monopolise power, while Shafik represents the autocratic, pro-military, security-based state that protesters revolted against in 2011".
Though both the military and the Brotherhood may reach a "new accord that would cool tensions, that remains unlikely, and Egypt will likely enter a period of rising tension and uncertainty," the report surmised.
The liberal Free Egyptians Party was unequivocal in its reaction to the results with its spokesperson quoted as describing both Mursi and Shafiq as an "Islamic fascist" and “Military fascist” respectively.
"It will be very hard to endorse either of the candidates that made it to the runoff. The Free Egyptians Party, therefore, will either boycott the vote or leave the decision up to individual members, as had been the case in the first round of voting," it said.
Shoo-in for presidency
Many now believe that Mursi is a shoe-in for the country's presidency, the same nominee who critics derided as the "substitute candidate" and the 'spare tyre' as he was the Muslim Brotherhood's second choice.
As such steps have been taken by Mursi to initiate talks with the parties and candidates that lost in the first round in regards to forming a coalition government and to discuss the post of vice-president.
Already its been hinted by the Brotherhood that the post of vice president could be filled by either AbolFotouh or Sabahi if Mursi is to win the second round of elections; a move many see as the group's way of garnering the votes that went in the way of the two candidates.
The vice president of the Freedom and Justice party, the political arm of the Brotherhood, said in a press conference on Friday, "We're not seeking power; we just want to build this country... We aim to provide genuine stability, not artificial stability of the kind we saw under Mubarak."
The reality is the votes for the liberal candidates were scattered as there were too many running on similar platforms whereas the Islamists had only one candidate.
Many are now bemoaning the fact that AbolFotouh and Sabahi did not join forces with either one stepping down on behalf of the other, that in fact the liberal candidates were selfish and only sought their personal gain and glory rather then what would be best for the future of the country.
It's no wonder the call to boycott the second round of elections is getting louder though many fear by opting not to exercise their right to vote that will clear the way for Mursi to sweep into the ascendency.
The Muslim Brotherhood continues to enjoy widespread popularity, are extremely organised and able to galvanise their supporters to go and vote for their candidate which means the only way to counter the possibility of having an Islamist president is to vote for Shafiq, the Mubarak crony and the one who has the support of the ruling brass.
Undoubtedly the next few weeks will prove to be a difficult one for many Egyptians in regards to whom they will choose as their new president.
And to many, that choice is a very hard one to swallow and make.
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Beyond the ballot