Friday, May 25, 2012

Egyptian Runoff Election Will Pit Ancien Regime Against Islamists

For most Egyptians, this will be a contest between the old guard versus the Islamists and they will have to choose the lesser of two evils. Hosni Mubarak's former prime minister versus a candidate for a party banned by Mubarak for decades.
It was clear as early as Thursday night that a plurality of votes went to Mohamed Morsi, the American-educated engineer nominated by the Brotherhood, the secretive 84-year-old revival group that became the wellspring of political Islam around the world and already dominates the Parliament.

But only Friday morning did it appear that second place would go to Ahmed Shafik, a former Air Force general who briefly served as Mr. Mubarak’s last prime minister. A late entry into the race, Mr. Shafik was a dark horse campaigning on promises to use a firm hand against the protests and lawlessness that have prevailed since Mr. Mubarak’s ouster. He presented himself as a strong check on the rise of the Islamists. Of all the candidates in the race, Mr. Shafik came closest to promising a restoration of the old order and aroused vocal support and threats of a “second revolution” if he should win.

Mr. Shafik’s law-and-order message resonated with voters, helping him to overtake the two candidates previously considered, along with Mr. Morsi, to be the front-runners. One was Amr Moussa, a former foreign minister under Mr. Mubarak and former head of the Arab League, who had offered a softer but similar message. In the final weeks of the race, Mr. Moussa’s support appears to have all but collapsed in favor of Mr. Shafik.

Ahmad Sarhan, a spokesman for Mr. Shafik, said voters had rallied to the candidate because he promised to “save Egypt from the dark forces,” referring to the Brotherhood and more militant Islamists.
The leading candidate with a plurality of the votes was Mohamed Morsi, who was one of the Muslim Brotherhood's candidates. He will face off against Ahmed Shafik.

Do Egyptians want a clean break with the old Mubarak regime and all that baggage or do they want to give power to the Muslim Brotherhood, who had been banned and persecuted by Mubarak for more than 30 years. The Islamists have said that they would not impose strict Islam on the country, but there are many inside the country who have their doubts. These same people have no love for the old regime and its former officials.

So, what will Egyptians do? Hold out hope that Morsi delivers on economic improvements and keeps the promise that the Muslim Brotherhood wont impose Islamist doctrine on Egyptian society, or will they vote for Shafik so as to deny the Muslim Brotherhood that possibility all while giving the old regime a new breath of life by turning over power to the former Prime Minister.

For most Egyptians, this is a no-win scenario considering that they have to choose between the possibility of an Islamist regime or the old regime, which was incapable of dealing with the economic crisis and that attempted to brutally suppress the protests against Mubarak.

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