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Revolution is the Only Way to Save Egypt

No matter who wins the election, without acts of sacrifice guided by conscience no real change happens

The first foreign leader to travel to Egypt after President Mubarak's downfall was David Cameron. He arrived on a five-hour stopover to be greeted by Ahmed Shafiq, Mubarak's last prime minister, and now favorite to win this weekend's presidential election runoff.

The two prime ministers shook hands for their photo-op. Cameron went on to sell arms in the Gulf, and within days the revolution he claimed to celebrate began a sit-in to oust Shafiq.

Egyptian elections: 'As millions go to vote, millions of others will not vote – boycotting or spoiling their ballots.' (Daniel Berehulak)Fifteen months on, Shafiq was given a constitutional thumbs-up from Egypt's judiciary to compete in the presidential elections. If there's one thing I can share as a British Egyptian it is that the shadier world of politics is alive in all its manifestations.

The man Cameron shook hands with while Egyptians fought to remove him, is almost certainly about to become president. Not because the majority of the country want him, but because he is the military establishment's front man. He will come to power in a country without a parliament and without a constitution, but with a military police that has just been given the power to arrest citizens in their homes.

The revolution's death knell has been sounded once again. The experts have cried military coup, and millions will still go to vote, not because they support Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohamed Morsi, or because they are nostalgic for Mubarak's stability, but because they believe there is a lesser of two evils, they believe we've hit a fork in the road and casting a ballot might just change the future.

The last time we were asked to vote, the army seemed on the verge of breaking point. In the streets, enormous battles raged with hundreds of thousands calling for the military junta to step down. More than 60 people died, while many lost their eyes, and an entire protest movement had its lungs abused by teargas made in the US and Britain.

Parliamentary elections came, the Carter Foundation congratulated Egypt, and the streets emptied. Five months later and on the day that Shafiq was given the green light, the parliament that millions voted for was declared unconstitutional and will shortly be dissolved.

This time as millions go to vote, millions of others will not vote – boycotting or spoiling their ballots. They will do so, not because they don't believe in democracy, but because they refuse to choose a lesser evil, and in turn be complicit in a political process that has been used to prevent change and not to bring it.

Far from disenfranchising themselves, they will be laying their bet on the only movement that has forced the army to bend and cornered the Muslim Brotherhood into decisions that have destroyed their popularity – the revolutionary movement.

Whatever sweet perfumed words Shafiq or Morsi use to cajole voters into missteps of conscience, for the vast majority that did not vote for them in the first round of elections, there is no hiding the rankness of either's alliances or political ideologies. Egypt's revolution can only believe there is no fork in the road, and that where it walks the future follows.

No one can pretend that the result of the presidential elections will not hurt. But listen carefully to the cries of doom that will be heartfelt and you will hear the strongest resolve to refuse the status quo. It will hit the streets soon enough and more likely than not more people will be die. While killing its citizens, the regime will claim that it is protecting democracy and upholding the rule of law.

Only when you hear that the Egyptian people have stopped believing that what they do has the power to change their country will you know the revolution has been lost and the deep state has won. Until then, anything can happen.

The question for Egyptian revolutionaries will be how they turn the military junta's acts of hubris into a spur for further action. Since this revolution began, we have learned that the process of change entails storms followed by periods of calm. Without acts of sacrifice guided by conscience no real change happens. But we have also learned that the political process has trip-wired protesters and scattered energies.

There is no doubt that we must get better at playing politics because it is not enough to believe that either of Egypt's lesser evils will dig their own graves. Whether or not the Muslim Brotherhood wins Egypt's presidency in a surprise turn of events, their political ideology will remain a force that must continue to be fought.

The process of organization among revolutionary forces is happening with energy and speed, but it is becoming ever more essential as the next step in Egypt's power struggle for change. Neither Shafiq nor Morsi has the economic or political will to address the problems that are the root of this unrest, which is to say the pendulum will swing back again.

The question for David Cameron, Barack Obama, Angela Merkel, Hillary Clinton, François Hollande, and any of the other superstars of western democracy, is which of them will be first to shake the next president's hand. The question for everyone else will be which of us will do something about it.