By Abdelrahman Rashdan
Consider this a very opinionated piece and let me talk in the ‘I’ figure of speech because the presidential elections proved that not all Egyptians believe in what I believe in. ‘I’ because I am against Mubarak’s tyranny and authoritarianism; ‘I’ because I supported and still support the revolution; ‘I’ because I do not accept, by any means, my freedom to be stolen away from me again; and ‘I’ because I am a proud Egyptian who believes in the glory of the Egyptian revolution and who believes that Egypt can present the best model for a free, democratic and virtuous state to the whole world. A state that does not allow running blindly after its interests to supersede its values, a state that pushes its best people to rule and not its most sneaky sweet talking politicians to take control.
I spent the two days of the elections going around polling stations in two different Egyptian governorates; the message I got is: Egyptians might again give up their freedom and revolution for the sake of order and bread crumbs.
I cannot blame much the poor Egyptian man whose main source of income to feed his five children is driving a train that gets its railway cut every couple of days because of seemingly endless protests. With his meager salary of around $130 per month or less, he has the full right to a good life and might have supported the revolution only because it promised a better life. However, since January 25, 2011, he found nothing but more insecurity and less stability in his only source of income.
What I do blame actually is the absence of "we Egyptians"; that very "we" faded after the 18 days of the revolution and got replaced by "we Muslim Brotherhood," "we Copts," "we workers," "we students," "we Sufis," "we Salafis," "we …"
Prophet Mohamed (peace be upon him) said: "The wolf can only eat the straying sheep." The sheep in this case was the revolution. Each party ran after its own respective interests and fought for it, neglecting the cause of the revolution, rendering it prone to being jeopardized . One of the glaring examples of this miscalculation is having the so-called pro-revolution presidential candidates preferring to run against each other rather than uniting, while knowing that in the race there are other candidates who are affiliated with the old regime.
Is Old Regime Popular?
It should be clear by now that not only is Mubarak’s regime still intact, but that Mubarak himself just only stepped aside, leaving the space for the remnants of his regime, with still very powerful and functioning system. Only the big names that were already enjoying media exposure before the revolution are the ones that got pursued, while a whole hierarchy and political apparatus built in decades are still in charge of the country.
Understanding this fact makes it easier to understand the perplexing results of the first round of the Egyptian presidential elections. The regime was successfully able to utilize several tools to direct the Egyptian voters towards choosing Ahmed Shafiq, knowing that the margin for forging this elections using the same Mubarak techniques is very slim because of the vibe of the revolution and the monitoring that the elections received.
Moving around 13 different polling stations in two Egyptian governorates during the first round of the presidential elections, I got the chance to talk with people and understand the reasons for Shafiq’s unexpected voting record which pushed him into the runoff. The main argument for Shafiq — Mubarak’s last premier — is that people needed security and jobs, they want a president that has experience, a strong man that can control the country; the MB did nothing since they got elected as the parliament’s majority; and that if Shafiq did not perform well, people will oust him in the same way they removed his predecessor.
Regardless of how weak or strong this argument is, Shafiq’s supporters were able to push it into the minds of a big proportion of voters. Also backing Shafiq are the Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF), intelligence, network of businessmen and others indifferent government offices. Tools used to put Shafiq ahead in the elections include media and security.
Media was utilized through the control over the official media and the strong connections with popular private media outlets owned by businessmen that are strongly connected to the old regime. Media was pushed to discredit the Islamic movements through focusing on their pitfalls in the parliament in addition to their mistakes for being inexperienced political players. At the same time, Shafiq was able to send the right messages to voters in the right times. After months of insecurity and a stumbling economic performance, Shafiq came in to promise the quick retrieval of security and economic welfare, something that media did not let pass without propaganda and support.
After all, political scientists attest to the fact that threats coming from the state are less than the threat in its absence; in other words, threats that the state practice against its citizens’ freedom is always less than the threats to those same individuals if there was no state to govern them. Egyptians were made to experience the partial absence of the state so that they would yearn for a savior that would restore order and bring back the state, no matter the price they would pay for their freedom.
There are increasing claims of systematic fraud done through the illegal inclusion of the names of soldiers, policemen and non-existing people in the voting records who were directed to vote for Shafiq, one evidence of which is mentioned in page six of The Carter Center’s report on the elections. But until those claims are proven true, with this kind of support that Shafiq was able to secure, his spokesman can bluntly say that "the revolution has ended" (NYTimes).
Is It Over for Revolution?
The only way the old regime can be defeated and the revolution can succeed is through the return of "we Egyptians." The runoff has to witness unity among the supporters of all candidates against the candidate of the old-regime. The Muslim Brotherhood (MB) has to change its discourse and learn that its belief that it is the most popular political movement is starting to fade away. The environment of secrecy and isolationism in decision-making that the MB has been practicing for the last few decades has to come to an end. Less people trust the MB now than before the parliamentary elections, based on the outcome of the presidential elections, which dictates that the MB needs to get past its rhetoric that it is working with everyone towards some real actions that all Egyptians can feel and see.
I’ll leave you with the introduction of my last article before the presidential elections. "… The bitterest joke Egyptians might soon tell is, ‘Only in Egypt, a revolution spares the blood of its people to remove a regime only to re-elect it again!’"
– Abdelrahman Rashdan is an Egypt-based Middle East political analyst. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com. (This article was first published in OnIslam – www.onislam.net – on May 26)