Elections in Egypt

Published: May 26, 2012

Egyptian election officials count ballots at a polling station in Cairo on May 24, 2012 after polls closed in the country's landmark presidential election. PHOTO: AFP

In Egypt, the transition from revolution to governance has been particularly painful. The fall of Hosni Mubarak did nothing to improve the economy and the military remained as influential as ever. But Egypt just received its first opportunity towards becoming a stable democracy. By voting in a presidential election which was historic not just because it was the first post-Mubarak election but also because the outcome was in doubt — a rare occurrence in the Arab world. Mohammed Morsi, the candidate of the Muslim Brotherhood, got the most votes in the first round of the election and he will now face former general Ahmed Shafik who, through his opposition to both the Islamists and the protesters, is seen as a representative of the old guard. As seems likely, if Morsi prevails in the second round of voting, his election is likely to be denounced by the West as a symbol of the Islamisation of the Arab world.

Among the gaggle of candidates, whose support turned to be less strong than anticipated, is the experienced diplomat Amr Mussa, who is both a former foreign minister and ex-head of the Arab League. The consensus candidate of the protestors who sparked this democratic experiment was Abdel Moneim Abul Fotouh. Both candidates would likely have been acceptable to the West and would have ensured that the aid spigots kept flowing. The Egyptian people, however, seem to have decided on the oldest and most organised political party in the country in the form of the Muslim Brotherhood. Whatever reservations one may have about its ideology and leanings, it is incumbent on the rest of the world to respect the results of the polls.

Ultimately, though, it could be argued that the identity of the victor is hardly the most important outcome of the election. Instead of nitpicking over the merits and demerits of the various candidates we should be celebrating the fact that Egypt has a real choice to make which was not predetermined. For all the sheen that has worn off the Arab Spring, we should celebrate these elections as one of its greatest achievements.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 26th, 2012.

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