Winner of Egyptian Election Will Face 'Turbulent Future'

Published on
by
Common Dreams

Winner of Egyptian Election Will Face 'Turbulent Future'

Egyptians vote in first free presidential election

by
Common Dreams staff

An Egyptian woman votes during the first day of the presidential election in a polling station in Alexandria, Egypt, Wednesday, May 23, 2012. Egyptians went to the polls on Wednesday morning to elect a new president after the fall of ex-President Hosni Mubarak last year. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)

Egyptians headed to the voting booths across the country today for the first round of presidential elections, the first since the fall of Hosni Mubarak, who was deposed by revolutionary protests in February of 2011.  A field of 13 candidates are on the ballot in the two-day election with the top two vote-getters set to compete in a final vote scheduled for June 16-17.

The election is viewed as a test for the fledgling democracy and though Egyptians seemed generally grateful for the opportunity to vote in 'free elections' there is also a pervasive sense among the 'revolutionary youth' that the Egypt they have fought and hoped for is still a long way off. 

Journalist Sharif Abdel Kouddous, who wrote a comprehensive overview of the candidates for the The Nation, reports that "many revolutionaries are boycotting the presidential election altogether, refusing to participate in a transition process they view as illegitimate in the hands of a military council that has cracked down severely on protests and strikes since taking the reins of power fifteen months ago."

The contenders represent a wide range of the Egyptian political and religious spectrum.  Some Mubarak regime hold-outs (derisively called 'feloul' by their detractors) will appear on the ballot, trumpeting their experience as 'statesmen' and vowing to bring 'security' back to the streets; Muslim Brotherhood supported candidates, who were made political outliers by the former regime and who vow to bring a 'liberal' but Islamic-based sensibility to the presidency; more conservative Islamist candidates vowing to enforce stricter sharia-guided law; and also the more progressive and revolutionary candidates who focus on building a more modern democracy and who voice the most pronounced challenge to the power of the military and the grip of entrenched corruption and unaccountable rule. 

There are approximately 52 million voters eligible in Egypt. International elections monitors are on the ground to help evaluate the quality of the turnout and legitimacy of the results.

*  *  *

Associated Press: Egyptians vote in first free presidential election

Nearly a year and a half after the ouster of autocratic leader Hosni Mubarak, millions of Egyptians lined up for hours outside polling stations Wednesday to freely choose a president for the first time in an election that pits old regime figures promising stability against ascending Islamists seeking to consolidate power.

The two-day vote will bring down the final curtain on decades of authoritarian rule, although concerns remained that the nation's military rulers who took over after Mubarak would try to retain influence.

Egyptians were hopeful as they waited patiently for their chance to cast a ballot in an unprecedentedly open race, with some 50 million eligible voters.

"I might die in a matter of months, so I came for my children, so they can live," a tearful Medhat Ibrahim, 58, who suffers from cancer, said as he waited to vote in a poor district south of Cairo. "We want to live better, like human beings."

For most of his 29-year rule, Mubarak like his predecessors ran unopposed in yes-or-no referendums. Rampant fraud guaranteed ruling party victories in parliamentary elections. Even when, in 2005, Mubarak let challengers oppose him in elections, he ended up not only trouncing his liberal rival but jailing him. [...]

The secular young democracy activists who launched the anti-Mubarak uprising have been at a loss, with no solid candidate reflecting their views.

In Cairo, 27-year-old Ali Ragab said he was voting for a leftist candidate, Hamdeen Sabahi — because the poor "should get a voice," but he admitted Sabahi didn't stand much of a chance.

He said his father and all his father's friends were backing [Ahmed Shafik, Mubarak’s last prime minister] "because they think he's a military man who will bring back security. I'm afraid Shafiq would mean another Mubarak for 30 more years."

For most of his rule, Mubarak — like his predecessors for the past 60 years — ran unopposed in yes-or-no referendums. Rampant fraud guaranteed ruling party victories in parliamentary elections. Even when Mubarak let challengers oppose him in 2005 elections, he ended up not only trouncing his liberal rival but jailing him.

The election comes less than two weeks before a court is due to issue its verdict on Mubarak, 84, who has been on trial on charges of complicity in the killing of some 900 protesters during the uprising. He also faces corruption charges, along with his two sons, one-time heir apparent Gamal and wealthy businessman Alaa.

A free and independent press is essential to the health of a functioning democracy

The feeling of being able to make a choice was overwhelming for some voters.

"I might die in a matter of months, so I came for my children, so they can live," a tearful Medhat Ibrahim, 58, who suffers from cancer, said as he waited to vote in a poor district south of Cairo. "We want to live better, like human beings."

*  *  *

Sharif Abdel Kouddous: Winner of Egyptian Election will Face 'Turbulent Future'

The most prominent leftist contender in the election is Hamdeen Sabahi, a socialist and Arab nationalist in the tradition of Gamal Abdel Nasser. Sabahi is also enjoying a last-minute surge in his candidacy, with an impressive roster of endorsements that includes leading intellectuals, artists and activists and a third-place finish in the Egyptian expat vote, capturing 15 percent, behind Morsi and Aboul Fotouh.

...many revolutionaries are boycotting the presidential election altogether, refusing to participate in a transition process they view as illegitimate in the hands of a military council that has cracked down severely on protests and strikes since taking the reins of power fifteen months ago.

Meanwhile, the presidential candidate considered closest to the revolutionary youth who first led the uprising against Mubarak and who have continued to struggle against the military council that replaced him is Khaled Ali, a 40-year-old labor lawyer who made a name for himself fighting private-sector corruption and defending independent unions and worker protests. Ali spent his last day of campaigning by joining more than 200 people on a twenty-four-hour hunger strike in solidarity with hundreds of detainees facing military trials after being arrested in the wake of clashes with the army near the ministry of defense earlier this month.

“Of all the candidates we can say support the revolution, like Sabahi and Aboul Fotouh, Khaled Ali is the only one that showed up,” said Mona Seif, 26, a prominent activist and founder of the No to Military Trials group, who is voting for Ali.

However, many revolutionaries are boycotting the presidential election altogether, refusing to participate in a transition process they view as illegitimate in the hands of a military council that has cracked down severely on protests and strikes since taking the reins of power fifteen months ago. Compounding the problem is the fact the president is being elected without a constitution in place and without a clear idea of what authority he will have vis-à-vis the military, the parliament and the other branches of state. Negotiations to form a constituent assembly to write the constitution remain deadlocked.

“What is happening is all theater,” said Mariam Kirollos, a young activist speaking at a a roundtable discussion she helped organize in downtown Cairo titled ‘Presidential Elections: Boycott or Participation?’ “The regime is still in power and this election is in their interest. Any president will just be a puppet to the military.”

The Muslim Brotherhood along with other groups—Islamist or otherwise—may have emerged as the new power brokers in the post-Mubarak political landscape, but it has been the power of the street that has forced far more concessions from the military council over the past year and a half, most significantly a scheduled handover of authority by June that necessitated this week’s presidential poll.

While the election is billed as the last stage in the country’s transition, the question remains, a transition to what? The military remains deeply entrenched in the economy and government institutions, while the main pillars of the state—the judiciary, the police, the security and intelligence agencies—have not been reformed.

Despite the uncertainty, millions of Egyptians will head to the polls on Wednesday to cast their ballots in what should prove to be a historic election. For the winner, a turbulent future awaits.

#  #  #

Share This Article

More in: