Shafiq And The Spectre Of Mubarak: Like The Syrian Revolutionaries Accepting Maher al-Assad As The Next

30 May 2012

By Abdul Rahman Al-Rashed 

Why are the Egyptian people, or at least some of them, shocked by General Ahmed Shafiq's first-round success in the presidential elections, and the fact that he may be chosen as the next president of Egypt in two weeks?

They are shocked because this is like Hosni Mubarak returning to the presidency, or one of Gaddafi's children taking power in Libya, or the Syrian revolutionaries accepting Maher al-Assad the brother of current president Bashar al-Assad as the next president. Shafiq's victory in the first-round of the elections, practically speaking, represents a defeat for the revolutionaries, but this is not necessarily a defeat for the revolution. Is his victory a frank message from a broad section of the Egyptian people to the effect that they reject the new faces on the political scene? Or is this evidence that the powers of old have utilized their charisma, bringing together their ranks, in order to win the election battle? In Eastern Europe, including even Russia, some corrective revolutions have occurred to return old forces back to power. Although Communism collapsed, some communists survived, and what is Putin other than a member of the new generation of the old Soviet system, particularly as he was a member of the KGB? He was preceded by Boris Yeltsin, the first president of the Russian Federation, who had been a 30-year member of the Communist Party.

Shafiq's victory does not mean the return of the Mubarak regime at all, nor will Shafiq be a weak president, fearing the protests of the youth. Whereas if the Muslim Brotherhood win, this means that the Brotherhood will rule Egypt completely, from the presidency to the parliament.

The most dangerous thing that the youth are facing is not the old regime conspiring against them, nor the hegemony of the Muslim Brotherhood; rather the youth's greatest enemy is their own ignorance of the ABCs of the political process, and this is the sole reason why they lost the majority of the popular support they garnered following their quick and astonishing ousting of the Mubarak regime.

In reality, there is nothing surprising about what we are seeing today; there were five heavy-weight candidates, two of whom emerged victorious, whilst despite the media mobilization in the country half of all eligible Egyptian voters failed to go to the polls, as was the case with the parliamentary elections.

Had the elections taking place quickly after the revolution say in September, at the latest perhaps the results would have been in the youth's favor. The irony is that this is what Mubarak himself had proposed as plans for his withdrawal from power. The idea of early elections was a realistic proposition for those who understand the political mechanism in a large state like Egypt. The youth insisted on a range of demands, but elections and the presidency were not one of these. At a time when the post of president is the most important, leaving this vacant was the result of the conflict that has raged on the Egyptian political scene following the revolution. The presidential vacuum justified the military's administration of the country. The presidential vacuum justified the presence of the al-Ganzouri government to conduct business on an interim basis. The presidential vacuum brought about confrontations that were mostly, in essence, divisions over how to deal with crises, ranging from the Israeli embassy crisis to the Port Said disaster to the Abbasiya [prison] crisis.

Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei, who won the confidence of the youth for a period of time, took part in the political battle from the beginning with the objective of putting an end to the presidency, and he failed because nobody understood the logic he was utilizing. He did not call for immediately presidential elections, but called for the establishment of a presidential council, which would include the major political forces, including the youth, to rule the country for a period of two years. The Muslim Brotherhood were insistent upon early parliamentary elections because they thanks to their political experience were aware that they would have the best chance at these elections, as they had tens of thousands of political offices and activists already in place throughout the country. As for the youth, they enjoyed huge popularity but did not possess any headquarters, branches, funds, or political stars. In addition to this, the new constitution, which should have been drafted before anything else, as this document is the basis upon which the entire political process must be based, was postponed. This is something that was also in the interests of the Muslim Brotherhood, who emerged victorious during the legislative and parliamentary elections, particularly as everybody should be involved in the drafting of the new constitution, not just the election winners.

This is precisely what Egyptian political thinker Dr. Abdel Monem Said asserted as he listened to the complaints and threats of one Egyptian youth during a political debate. He said "they are incapable of learning from their mistakes." These Egyptian youth are angry following the outcome of the presidential elections because their political opponents were victorious and are now threatening to impose a state of instability on the country. Firstly, rejecting the election results is contrary to the concept of democracy which the youth took to the streets for the sake of, revolting against the Mubarak regime. Secondly, months of chaos and instability have shown that the general public are weary, and it is likely that many people voted for Shafiq precisely for this reason, namely in search of security and stability. There can be no doubt that the majority of Egyptian people were happy with the revolution and the promise of correcting the political process, uprooting corrupt individuals and institutions, and improving the living conditions of the Egyptian people. However fifteen months later, living conditions are worse than ever, whilst conflict between different political groups is on-going and the streets of Cairo have become the scene of confrontation and violence.


Al Rashed is the general manager of Al -Arabiya television. He is also the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al- Awsat, and the leading Arabic weekly magazine, Al Majalla. He is also a senior Columnist in the daily newspapers of Al Madina and Al Bilad. He is a US post-graduate degree in mass communications. He has been a guest on many TV current affairs programs. He is currently based in Dubai.



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