The Egyptian election results weren’t ideal, but revolutionary forces are still powerful enough to not allow a return to the days of Mubarak, writes Abdulla AlShamataan.
Immediately after the announcement that the Egyptian presidential elections would move to a run-off vote in the middle of June, social networking site Twitter exploded with angry tweets about the preliminary victories of ex-Mubarak PM Ahmed Shafiq and Freedom and Justice Party leader Mohammed Morsy. I cannot lie and state that I was not one of the angry tweeters that so vehemently expressed my anger at the results – it is true, I am very angry about them – but I feel that it is important that we who support the revolution are not disheartened. Revolutions take place over the course of years, not just within the simplistic electoral processes that succeed an ousting. Despite the supposedly conclusive statement issued by one of Shafiq’s spokespeople: “The revolution is over”, Egyptian people, especially the youth, have much to look forward to in the coming years; none of it is without sacrifice, though.
While it is true that the outcome of the election could have been much better, the current outcome, as it stands, does two things:
A) It is a lesson to any revolutionary movement, whether in Egypt or elsewhere in the world, that it is not enough to agree on what they are against, but they must construct a form of society that is fair for everyone, in spite of their respective ideologies.
B) It will ensure that scrutiny of the future president will remain incredibly high, as neither candidate was strongly supported by the Egyptian youth, who are the driving force behind the revolution.
In addition to doing those things, the situation that surrounded the whole electoral process, and that still exists at this stage, as well as the shortcomings of both candidates, means that Egypt is still ripe for a continuing revolution, whoever wins the vote.
Firstly, it is important to note that even with the boycott of the elections by the Egyptian revolutionaries, the candidates who stood on the platform of continuing the revolution won over 70% of the vote between them. This suggests that there is still a desire amongst the wider populace of Egyptian society to continue the movement that called for “bread, freedom, [and] social justice”. It does not just solely exist amongst certain classes and factions of society. While being a cause for optimism, this is what is meant in point A in that although the revolution is popular, the unity showed in ousting Mubarak did not evolve into a national dialogue about reshaping Egyptian society for the future of the Egyptian people, but into reshaping Egyptian society to conform to a highly flawed system of Western liberal democracy that would lead onto a more formal, but less representative, system of reform through theoretical pluralism. This clearly did not happen and it also echoed the lessons of past failed revolutions: revolutionary bodies must work hard to reach consensus, otherwise there is no positive way forward. Fortunately for the Egyptian people as a whole, who chose to vote for a number of different pro-revolution candidates for a number of different non-revolution reasons, there is still time to learn from this and ensure that the revolution does not fail.
Secondly, the discontent surrounding the results will mean that the scrutiny on whoever becomes the president of Egypt will be higher than the level of scrutiny any Egyptian president has ever faced; especially with this being the first free and fair election in Egypt’s history. Thus, unlike the situation in the United States, vigilance regarding the passage of repressive laws will be incredibly high amongst everybody. It is important to ensure that neither Morsy nor Shafiq get an easy ride of the presidency, as their current policies, in my view at least, will not be conducive to a self-determining, democratic, free, materialistically-stable and socially just Egypt. This is especially important at a time when the powers of the president are yet to be defined, since the new constitution of Egypt is yet to be written. With such high levels of scrutiny, the allocation of certain powers and portfolios to the Egyptian people will be much more carefully watched. The duty of the people of the Square – the dissemination of knowledge and the organization of the masses – will become ever more important under the rule of such an unpopular man and will thus grant the revolution greater legitimacy.
As previously stated, the current situation also keeps Egypt open to the option of a continuing revolution due to the shortcomings of each remaining candidate, individually.
Ahmed Shafiq, who won around 24% of the vote and came second behind Mohammed Morsy in the race for the presidency, ran as an independent, secular, candidate with the support of the military behind him. Out of the two remaining candidates, he is the mostly likely candidate to continue the policies that had been in place under Hosni Mubarak. It is important to note that it was not only hatred for Mubarak that had ousted him in February of 2011, but it was, more importantly, the material conditions produced by his policies that had led to the outburst of public anger towards him. This suggests that should Shafiq not make a move away from the Mubarak-era policies that had led to the revolution, he will not be able to remain in power through any legitimate means, and should he chose to remain in power through illegitimate means, the experience of 2011 would suggest that there could be a second Egyptian Spring in 2013, 2014, or even 2015. This could only happen, of course, through sacrifices, but the revolutionary seed has already been sown in Egypt, and it will spread so long as the Egyptian youth are ready to water it.
Mohammed Morsy, the frontrunner in the elections and head of the Freedom and Justice Party, has witnessed a clear decrease in popularity, despite him winning the most votes. The drop in popularity for the FJP from the parliamentary elections, which ended 4 months ago, and the on-going presidential elections suggests that the policies adopted by the Party so far have been unpopular. What brought the FJP to power initially was the good rapport that the Muslim Brotherhood had established through its philanthropy, which has slowed and dampened ever since their rise to power. Should the constitution set a limit on the time in which Morsy can initially stay in power, the direction in which the FJP is currently moving suggests that the next presidential elections will signal a fall from grace for the FJP and the rise of newer, younger and more revolutionary candidates.
To conclude, it is vital to remember that despite whatever happens now, the fact that the revolution was led by and upheld by the youth of Egypt means that the younger half of the Egyptian population will grow with the knowledge that they have the power to direct Egypt in the direction that Egypt’s pluralism demands and instil this into the next generation coming. So long as people are willing to fight to protect the basic formal and procedural aspects of Egyptian democracy, the more comprehensive, cultural and social areas of Egyptian democracy will continue to grow and lead to an Egypt in the future in which each man, woman and child will have their bread, freedom and social justice unconditionally, in addition to their power to rule their country pluralistically.
While there is reason to be angered by the election results, remember that as things still stand, Egypt’s future still lies in the hands of the population and there is hope for the revolution to run its course and liberate all.
Abdulla AlShamataan is currently a Palestinian first-year student of Politics and Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Exeter. He is also a well-known local amateur radio broadcaster and published political analyst. You can follow him on Twitter @AlShamataan.