Why boycott?

arguments for the boycott by Popular Socialist Alliance Party Elham Eidarous in Egypt Independent

“Will our support for Morsy really save the revolution?
If Morsy ascends to power with the blessing of the various political forces, there is a risk that the Brotherhood will portray to the public that the revolution triumphed and achieved its objectives. They will say then that everyone should go back home (meaning the revolutionary forces) so that the Brotherhood can devote themselves to accomplishing the revolution’s tasks based on the legitimacy they acquired through both Tahrir Square and the ballot box. Furthermore, there is no guarantee at all that the Muslim Brotherhood will not use this support in their negotiations with the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces if they decide to be “wise” enough to go back to cooperating with the military council.

I disagree with the anarchists who say that Shafiq’s victory will bring the revolution back to Tahrir Square. In my opinion, the revolution will not continue in the square anyway. But this is another story. I believe that Morsy’s win would lead to a false sense of victory, while Shafiq’s win will allow us to expose all those who conspired against the revolution to revive the repressive state, including Morsy and his organization.

Therefore, I am now convinced that the answer lies in boycotting, not out of a desire to satisfy my conscience by not voting for two evil options, but out of conviction that there is no great difference between Shafiq or Morsy reaching power. Morsy will not save the revolution, and Shafiq cannot abort it as long as the political forces and in particular the revolutionary forces do not give their blessing to one of them.

If the third bloc (the civilian revolutionary bloc) supports either of the two candidates, it will lose its credibility and will lead it supporters to drawn-out frustration. Sabahi
received the greatest number of this bloc’s votes and therefore he represented them in the first round. This bloc needs a leader and now we might have one.

Of course, some civilian political forces aligned with the revolution will attempt to reach a solution or an open and transparent agreement with the Brotherhood. Although I think this is useless, it is not condemnable. However, those forces should not compromise any of the tenets of the revolution while doing so. They need to be defending the red lines and if the Brotherhood tries to outsmart the civilian forces, then any agreements must be rejected.”

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What next for the pro-revolution voters?

Many voters are so disappointed at the results that they even consider boycotting the second round.

Another hope, but less and less likely, is that Shafiq would be barred, because of the still pending proposed law barring officials of the former regime from running for president.

Another solution is to offer the two final candidates the support of the pro-revolution voters, in exchange of a sincere to realise the Revolution demands.
Here is an idea how, according to Koert Debeuf who represents the EU parliament’s Alde group.

“With some 40% of the votes, the revolutionary power and thus leverage is much bigger, than most might imagine. Here lies the opportunity. For once, the other candidates should stick together. As one block they should offer their support in exchange for non-negotiable conditions. The secular/revolutionaries must be guaranteed on paper 1) the vice-president, 2) the prime minister, 3) half of the government ministries, 4) half plus one of the Constitutional Committee 5) all decisions will be signed by both the president and the vice-president. This is politics. This is democracy.”

Apparently Aboul Fotouh is already trying to brief Morsi.

“The former regime isn’t a monster, it’s people”

“Farag’s priorities are shared by at least 5 million other voters. He wants food on the table, security and enough money to pay both rent to the boat’s owner and the fee demanded by fire services officials for their services.

He didn’t during our 15-minute conversation mention freedom or living in dignity or democracy or human rights or military rule. His only mention of the old regime was to say that some of its members used to build illegally on the shores of the lake before the revolution.

Now all these things might matter to Farag but they don’t seem to be his priority. Shafiq, who has continually bored us with his security rhetoric, addresses his priorities in a way that other candidates fail to do.

It’s not that Aboul-Fotouh and company told voters that they must put up with their homes being looted and their womenfolk raped in the streets while we turn Egypt into Switzerland, rather that the emphasis was different.

Another, crucial, factor is Shafiq’s connection to the old regime. There is a critical mass of Egyptian voters who regard this as an asset, rather than a fault. For them, Shafiq is the strongman who understands Egypt and Egyptians and knows how to keep them in check – unlike the refined diplomat Amr Moussa and the Tahrir Square and Muslim Brotherhood upstarts.”
Read the totality of this great article on Sarah Carr’s blog.

The first-round results, mixed feelings

The results are now confirmed : in the run-off, Egyptians will have to choose between the Muslim Brother candidate Morsi and the former Mubarak-regime Shafiq.

For many, this is a really depressing choice. Mubarak against the Muslim Brothers, that’s what politics before the Revolution looked like.
Have Egyptian so soon lost faith in the Revolution and in a possible real democratic life?
Let’s not state the obvious and say that anyway this was not a regime change but just the toppling of a leader. Who won? A man from the establishment and a man from the most organised Mubarak-era opposition group, the Muslim Brotherhood. Either someone who will not change anything or someone who will bring more social conservatism to Egypt, and very possibly also a one-party politics. Why were they chosen? Likely because, as they represent systems that are already known, they are seen as more likely to provide stability than more refreshing candidates. And in such a period, with the economy worsening, with the police still being mainly absent, as it resents the attacks it suffered as a symbol of teh Mubarak regime, many people crave the stability that the one from the former regime or the one from the organisation who provides charity social care promise. Also, many say that the Copts (an estimated 10 per cent of the population) might have voted for Shafiq so as to avoid an Islamist candidate – but they seem to have voted for Sabahi as well. And on the other hand, the craving for corruption-free politics probably led many people in Egypt, as in other countries, to think the Muslim Brothers and their faith-based morals are a worthy option. And, actually, the Brotherhood would never have been able to secure so many votes had there been no revolution.
The low turn-out also hints at a possible despair at any possibility of quick political change: there was only little more than a 46.42 per cent turnout.

However, it has to be noticed that actually most of the voters did not vote for these two candidates. None of the presidential candidates in Egypt got more than 11 percent of registered voters or a quarter of those who voted in first round. Morsi got 25 per cent of the votes, Shafiq 24 per cent. So 51 per cent of the voters voted for someone else than these two people.
Moreover, the third candidate, the leftist Nasserist Sabahi, is actually very close to the first two ones. He got 21 per cent of the votes. Between him and Shafiq, 700 000 votes only. And he won in the two biggest cities, Cairo and Alexandria.
It is not a sweeping victory for either of the first two candidates. The establishment is receding, and so is the new establishment, the Muslim Brotherhood: their performance is nowhere as good as it was only a few months ago at the parliamentary elections (where the turn-out was also a lot better) : optimistic Hani Shukrallah, editor in chief of Ahram online, says on twitter : “It’s not a new dawn of the MB we are witnessing, nor a revival of the police state a la Mubarak, but the twilight of both.”

Indeed, the “liberal” Islamist who left the Brotherhood and who also appealed to many pro-revolution voters whom a Muslim discourse did not scare off, Aboul Fotouh, got almost 18 per cent. The fifth one is a former Mubarak Foreign Affairs Minister, but also the former Arab League head, and he is a liberal who claimed not to be that connected to Mubarak: he got a little more than 11 per cent of the votes.
Finally, an Islamist, Mohammed Selim El-Awwa, got approximately one per cent of the votes. The human rights activist and lawyer Khaled Ali comes seventh and got less than one per cent of the votes.
Hisham Al-Bastawisi got less than 0.15 per cent.

Some people hoped that Morsi would withdraw in favour of a pro-Revolution candidate. It was very unlikely, given that the FJP (Freedom and Justice Party, the political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood) also presents itself as a guard of the revolution.

The Electoral Committee said that 500 000 votes had been nullified and that there had been voting irregularities, but that the irregularities as a whole did not affect the results of the election. Some people argue that if the invalid votes are more than what any of the candidates received, the validity of the elections should be reconsidered.
Appeals were not considered because they were made after the first results and not during the elections themselves.

The Muslim Brotherhood, as strong as ever or already weaker?

Many people say :” It’s a phase the Arab worl has to go through. Elect islamists because they believe they will actually be deidicated to the country because of their good morals. See it doesn’t work. Come back to normal politics. The only question is, how long it will take.”

First, obviously, the polls, and the people who thought that what cabbies said, that is, they had voted for the Muslim Brotherhood candidates in the first post-Mubarak parliamentary elections, but that they had been disappointed and would vote for somebody else, have been proven wrong.
The Muslim Brotherhood still manages to make people vote for them, even if it is for a spare tyre candidate… Morsi did very well in Upper Egypt.

But the 25 percent won by Mursi are really less spectacular than the near half the seats they had won in parliamentary elections earlier this year, hinting at a decline of the Muslim Brotherhood popularity in the past six months.
“In the two largest cities of Egypt, Cairo and Alexandria, they did not fare that well.
Even in “the Islamist stronghold of Alexandria, the two Islamist candidates, Abdel Moneim Abul Fotouh and Mohamed Morsi, managed only 37% between them. In areas of the delta long considered to be the Brotherhood’s electoral fortresses, their official candidate trailed second, third or even fourth. And in the sprawling, informal Cairo neighbourhood of Imbaba – known as the “Islamic emirate of Imbaba” in the early 1990s, when Egypt’s government sent in the army to clear out what they believed had become a state-within-a-state for Islamic militants at the heart of the Egyptian capital – secular nationalist Hamdeen Sabahi romped home to victory,” reports Jack Schenker.

Many said they have been rapidly disappointed by the Muslim Brotherhood deputies in the Parliament. The turnout for this ballot appears to have dropped sharply, so these disappointed voters might have stayed home rather than chosen another candidate.

Other former Muslim Brotherhood supporters have started considering other options, either the more radical salafists, or the left-wing candidates.
Muslim Brotherhood’s economic policy is oriented towards a neoliberal economic programme, even if on grass-roots level, they provide a lot of social care, but this remains a patronising structure stemming from the wealth of the organisation and of its leading businessmen.
Maybe another hint at this tide, Nasserist candidate Hamdeen Sabbahi seems to be the third, and he is not that far behind the first two candidates.

Political activist Wael Ghonim says that the first round of the presidential elections has given positive indicators. One such indicator was that Hamdeen Sabbahi and Abdel Moneim Abouel Fotouh together garnered more than 38 percent of the total vote despite their small capabilities.

A polarised run-off between Morsi and Shafiq?

Mohammed Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood candidate, and Ahmed Shafiq, a former Mubarak Prime Minister, lead the polls. This seems the worse-case scenario, where Egyptians can only choose between an uncharismatic leader of the Muslim Brotherhood and a hangover from the old regime.

“It feels as if the revolution never took place,” said George Ishaq, a long-term opponent to Mubarak and founder of the leftwing Kifaya Party.

Many think that these two candidates have been pushed to the front thanks to the main organised forces in the Egyptian society, the Brotherhood and the army.

But that the Brotherhood is in such a position that they can actually pretend to rule the country, even if this does not answer the hopes of the revolution, show that the revolution happened and that the democratic game is free.

Shafiq is really a hangover of the former regime, he does not hide it. He defended comments he made in 2010 praising Mubarak as a role model and father figure. But he has a reputation as an efficient technocrat and he is popular with businessmen.
On may wonder if Mubarak’s former party members are still that strong. “Does Shafiq’s apparently strong showing in Sharqiya and other rural provinces mean a revival of the old NDP patronage net?” asks Issandr El Amrani, an Egyptian politics analyst.
Shafiq is also trusted by some of the members of the Coptic Christian minority, who like his Mubarak-inspired tough line on Islamists. However, Shafiq told Egyptian television on Friday he is prepared to appoint an Islamist vice-president.
He had to resign after being Prime Minister for just a month, during and shortly after the uprising in 2011, after an argument on a TV show. The novelist Ala’a al-Aswany attacked him as a Mubarak loyalist. The writer decided to pursue his campaign against Shafiq, as he wrote on Twitter on Saturday “I call on Shafiq for an open debate to confront him with charges of corruption.” But so far claims of personal corruption have never been substantiated.

“Renaissance: the will of the people”

Maybe the pro-revolution voters, and those who voted for Fotouh and Sabahi, will vote, though reluctantly, for Morsi, or maybe they will not vote.
Morsi’s campaign said in a wonderfully seemingly pro-revolution press statement :”The masses of our people and the enlightened revolutionary forces will not give these the opportunity; and just as they were able to topple Mubarak, they are now quite capable of removing the remnants of his regime together with its crumbling symbols.”
Or maybe they will vote for Shafiq if what they fear most is a one-part system, which a Brotherhood-led Egypt would almost be.

Once again, the polls have failed

Mohammed Morsi, an uncharismatic leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, and Ahmed Shafiq, a hangover from the old regime, lead the polls.
This comes as a surprise, at least in regard to previous opinion polls, where they were not the frontrunners. But obviously, commentators were waiting for the Egyptian Arab Spring to elect an Islamist as well.

Neither of the supposed frontrunners will apparently make it to the second round of the presidential elections. Abdel Moneim Abul Fotouh, a former Muslim Brother but who appealed to the liberals as well, or Amr Moussa, a former Arab League chief, were the only two candidates to get to debate each other on television. But they will not be in the run-off. And no poll in the three-week campaign gave Morsi a chance of over 8%.

Many think that Shafiq did better than Moussa because he insisted on security whereas Moussa talked about economic development. For many Egyptian people, the first concern is law and order, whereas it comes from the fact that the police still don’t do much, or from the dozens-year long media discourse, even after Mubarak, about security.