Presidential Results a 'Revolutionary Reversal' in Egypt

Egyptian demonstrators gather to denounce the electoral success of Ahmed Shafiq, a presidential candidate, in Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt. Friday, May 25, 2012. (AFP/Marco Longari)

Presidential Results a 'Revolutionary Reversal' in Egypt

Egypt vote puts Muslim Brotherhood candidate and former Mubarak prime minister in run-off contest for president

Official results for the first round of Egyptian presidential elections will not be announced until Tuesday, but preliminary results Friday were devastating to those who marched in Tahrir Square last year and declared 'victory' when their Arab Spring movement led to the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak after his 30-year reign.

The preliminary results show that Ahmed Shafiq, a former Air Force general who served as prime minister under Mubarak, apparently claimed one of two top spots in the first round of voting. The other was won by Muslim Brotherhood candidate, Mohamed Morsi, who received the most votes in the 13-person field.

Hamdin Sabbahi, a fiery opponent of the Mubarak regime who became the choice of many of those supporting the revolution, appears to be in third place.

Friday afternoon Morsi was in the lead with 26 percent, Shafiq with 23 percent and the leftist Sabbahi with 20 percent.

The top two vote getters will faceoff in a run-off election on June 16th and 17th -- just two weeks before the interim military rulers have promised to hand over power.

Shafiq's successful showing was a surprise to many and a disappointing development for champions of the promise of revolution.

"The people don't want Mursi or Shafiq. This is a catastrophe for all of us. They are driving people back to Tahrir Sqaure."
-Tareq Farouq, Cairo taxi driver

"I am in shock. How could this happen? The people don't want Mursi or Shafiq. This is a catastrophe for all of us," Tareq Farouq, 34, a Cairo driver, told Reuters. "They are driving people back to Tahrir Square."

Several protest groups have threatened to stage a "second revolution" if Shafiq, the 70-year-old ex-army general, wins Egypt's top post.

From Al Jazeera:

[...] The rise of Shafiq - the former civil aviation minister who served as Mubarak's prime minister in the final days of the disintegrating regime - boosted by a sympathetic and powerful state media machine, was not widely predicted.

And though he appears to have attracted many voters who yearn for a return to security and normalcy in Egypt, he is perhaps the race's most divisive candidate, loathed by the revolution's passionate supporters.

In what may be a sign of things to come should Shafiq reach the run-off, a mob chased him from his polling place and pelted him with shoes on Wednesday.

Other surprises on election night included what appeared to be a less-than-impressive showing from presumed front-runner Amr Moussa, who ranked highest in many opinion polls before the election, and a surge by Hamdeen Sabahi, a left-wing activist from the rural Nile Delta who served two terms in parliament and had been imprisoned 17 times under previous presidents.

Omar Ashour from Exeter University told Al Jazeera that the "revolutionary vote was divided".

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Revolutionaries See Reversal in Egypt Vote

Egypt's revolutionaries did not take to the streets to replace Hosni Mubarak with another military strongman or to put an Islamist ideologue in charge, but that is the choice they woke up to after a first-round vote for the presidency.

The youths who put national pride before religion when they protested against Mubarak's autocratic rule last year have increasingly despaired, saying the revolution they initiated has been hijacked by generals and the Muslim Brotherhood.

"What happened to our revolution? A Shafiq victory means a reproduction of the old regime and a Mursi victory will be a disaster."
-Mohamed Hanafi, factory worker
Their worst fears were confirmed on Friday, when initial results from Egypt's first free presidential election sent the Brotherhood's Mohamed Mursi and ex-air force chief Ahmed Shafiq, Mubarak's last prime minister, into a June 16 and 17 run-off.

"I am in shock. How could this happen? The people don't want Mursi or Shafiq. This is a catastrophe for all of us," said Tareq Farouq, 34, a Cairo driver. "They are driving people back to Tahrir Square."

With moderate candidates now out of the 12-man race, the run-off pits the two most polarizing figures against each other, reviving the decades-old power struggle between Egypt's secular-led military elite and its powerful Islamist opposition.

The protesters of Tahrir Square are shocked that the run-off has boiled down to a member of the "feloul", the derisory Arabic term for "remnants" of Mubarak's old guard, and an "Ikhwani", or a Brother, from the conservative Islamist group that has battled the authorities for most of its 84-year-old history.

"Ahmed Shafiq will mean the old regime - the revolution is liquidated - and with the Muslim Brotherhood it means we are too near to some kind of religious state," said Hassan Nafaa, a political scientist who sided with the street against Mubarak.

For revolutionaries, Shafiq is a carbon copy of Mubarak. Both were air force commanders and a Shafiq win would simply extend the 60-year tradition of having military men at the helm.

But the Brotherhood, which has the biggest parliamentary bloc, is just as unattractive for many of them, with its pledge to apply Islamic sharia law that they fear will curb social freedoms, stifle liberal debate and squeeze out other voices.

"What happened to our revolution? A Shafiq victory means a reproduction of the old regime and a Mursi victory will be a disaster. The Brotherhood will be in control of the presidency and parliament and will have a monopoly over everything," said Mohamed Hanafi, 30, a factory worker.

"We don't know where it will all end," he said.

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Democracy Now! video:
Egypt Election: Muslim Brotherhood Candidate Could Face Mubarak's Ex-Prime Minister in Runoff

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