Promises and Tension as Egyptians Head to Polls
by Daphne Chow on Friday, June 8th, 2012
In February of 2011, Egyptian rebellions ousted Hosni Mubarak, ending his thirty year dictatorship over Egypt. Over fifteen months later, from May 23rd to 28th, Egypt held the first round of the first free presidential election in the country’s history. On June 16th and 17th, the Egyptian people will come to a final decision as to whom they want to lead them for the next four years.
The two candidates moving on to the final round of the election are Mohammed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood and Ahmed Shafiq, a secular former prime minister under Mubarak. Neither candidate won the primary election by a majority, each only gaining 25% of the vote. Ultimately, the results of the final election will be determined by what form of society the people want: a republic guided by Islamic beliefs or one guided by the spirit of secular government.
Morsi pledges to veer away from Mubarak’s non-religious despotism while avoiding Islamic repression. According to the Associated Press, Morsi states that if he is elected, “the presidency will not be reduced to one person,” and promises reform for every sector of the Egyptian population from women to Christians. For Egyptian women, Morsi has promised the right to freedom of dress as well as equal employment opportunities. Additionally, he pledges to provide Egypt’s Coptic minority with the ability to obtain high-level government positions.
Promises alone will not be enough to win Morsi the election. In order to truly earn support from these political minorities, Morsi must specify precisely how he plans to expand rights for women and Christians. As Egypt’s new constitution will be entirely under the control of the future president, Morsi must make his plans for the constitution clear to the Egyptian people, and be held accountable for the liberation of oppressed groups.
If Morsi stays true to his principles, he has a good chance of securing the presidency. In a recent parliamentary election, the Islamists gained control of more than 70% of the seats. This strong majority demonstrates that Egyptians are inclined to vote for an Islamic leader like Morsi.
However, his refusal to charge the military for treason may lose him many potential voters. During Mubarak’s rule, Egyptian soldiers terrorized and killed many protesters, shooting at random on the streets at the first sign of disorder. Former rebels might interpret Morsi’s support of the military as the sanctioning of oppression. The military has played the role of governmental overseer in the months since Mubarak’s fall, and many Egyptians remain suspicious of their intentions.
Shafiq, in sharp contrast to Morsi, has extensive experience working in the government. Though he played a role in Mubarak’s dictatorship, his knowledge of Egypt and its parliament could provide Egypt with the stability that it needs. The economy is feeble, and many services remain disrupted. In order to recover, Egypt requires a leader who will step up and secure the future of the country through effective legislation. In addition, Shafiq’s secular principles appeal to younger and less orthodox citizens. Youth and non-Muslims have expressed feelings of being neglected or disenfranchised by the government, and thus favor Shafiq.
Nevertheless, Shafiq’s former ties to Mubarak may harm his chances of election. The Voice of American News reports that hundreds of protesters recently broke into Shafiq’s campaign headquarters and looted it in act of anger. This protest is strikingly similar to the riots held last year against Mubarak. Shafiq lacks the support of many of the Egyptians who helped to depose Mubarak’s regime.
Whether Morsi or Shafiq wins the election, plenty of Egyptians will be angered. Either result will spur protests. This election may not bring peace as many hope; it may even result in further turmoil for Egypt. Only time will tell what the outcome will be, but with a free election underway, Egypt is gradually making its way towards reform.
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