Monday, 18 June 2012

Electing to disagree- Egypt and the debates ahead

The official results were still days away when people started shouting about victory in Egypt's presidential runoff vote. The Muslim Brotherhood's supporters were out in Tahrir square celebrating what they called a victory for their candidate, Mohammed Mursi. He has tried to identify with Egypt's revolution against the Mubarak regime and against the currently ruling military. This has had mixed results.

One activist and human rights campaigner, Dalia Ziada, says it's too early to say who has won and that Mursi supporters declaring victory is a cheap ploy. "They want to make it look like they've won first so that if Ahmed Shafik (the other candidate) wins they can say he is just trying to commit electoral fraud."

Ahmed Shafik, Mubarak's last Prime Minister and a former airforce officer, is widely seen as being connected to the military and the old regime. However Dalia says she would rather him than Mohammed Mursi. "I don't support either of them, " she says, "but it's better to have Shafik who we can at least argue with. If we have Mursi and we have any complaints, the Muslim brotherhood will just accuse us of going against the Koran. We can't win against that kind of intolerance."

Meanwhile the army has astonished and angered people by re-writing a constitutional declaration, giving itself much more power in constructing the country's first post-Mubarak constitution. SCAF (the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces) has also given itself sweeping legal powers. Many fear that either by the hand of the army and the old regime or by the Muslim Brotherhood, their revolution for a democratic new Egypt has been hijacked.

Turnout in this election is reportedly lower than in previous votes since the revolution. People are tired. the country's economy is teetering Have they given up? "No," insists Mariam Kifollos, another activist in Cairo. She thought, like many pro-democracy campaigners, that the entire presidential election was illegitimate from the start because the SCAF had not been dissolved first. But when I asked if the revolution was dead she replied, "we have to keep trying. Other people might feel tired but I don't. We've not given up hope for our demands having success."

In fact, many people talk about the fear that Egypt's revolution has run out of steam, but in the next breath remain defiant they will not stop going out to demand a better future for their country. There are major arguments ahead over the very pillars of a future Egyptian state, its President, Parliament, Constitution and the role of the Army. But while there is still argument, there is still a chance the revolution's demands could become reality.

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