Home inContext Bad Options in Egypt’s Elections

Bad Options in Egypt’s Elections

Kalen Taylor

Last week, Ahmed Shafiq, Egyptian presidential candidate and symbol of the old guard as Mubarak’s former prime minister, appeared on an Egyptian talk show accusing the Muslim Brotherhood of killing anti-regime protesters in February 2011. The alleged killings took place in Cairo’s Tahrir Square during the height of Egypt’s revolution. Witnesses of the so-called “Battle of the Camel” say a group of men rained down gunfire and Molotov cocktails into the streets below, but no one could identify which organization they were affiliated with. Shafiq’s charges against the Brotherhood are still causing a stir in Egypt, which will decide between Shafiq and Muslim Brotherhood candidate, Mohammed Morsi, starting this weekend.

Meanwhile, the very legitimacy of Shafiq’s candidacy is in jeopardy as well. On Thursday, the Supreme Constitutional Court will rule on a law that bars any high-ranking member formerly tied to the Mubarak regime from ascending to the Egyptian presidency. If upheld, Shafiq will be disqualified from the race, leaving Morsi unopposed in the upcoming presidential run-off. This latest spat of political brinksmanship has left many Egyptians feeling uncertain and divided on their country’s future. Many note that the Brotherhood itself has broken multiple promises it made while campaigning for the parliamentary elections last year, including its pledge not to field a candidate for the presidency.

Egyptians protest against candidates Mohammed Morsi and Ahmed Shafiq at Tahrir Square. (Photo: Reuters)

Tourism and foreign investment in Egypt also continue to lag behind as the country becomes increasingly destabilized. Running on a nine month deficit due to dramatic shortfalls in revenue, Shafiq’s promise of stability has become increasingly more appealing to Egyptians even though his popularity still lags far behind that of his rival. Losing over 78% of the expatriate vote to Morsi, Shafiq’s odds of winning the election are slim. Furthermore, despite questions regarding parliament’s legality and the Court’s upcoming decision on the matter, the Brotherhood and its allies are moving forward in their selection of a panel to draft Egypt’s new constitution.

To that end, the Brotherhood issued a series of rules and a separate budget for the Constituent Assembly. Egypt’s secular liberals–a major force in the revolution–were noticeably absent after they walked out of the meeting selecting the new panel. The secularists argued that the Brotherhood and the Salafi Nour Party stacked the available seats with their supporters, leaving the liberals with a paltry number of seats, especially as they fought over the remaining spots with Egypt’s smaller Islamic Parties. Many, including Sheikh Rached Ghannouchi of the Tunisian Islamist Party, are calling for the Islamic Brotherhood to form a coalition with the liberals in the hopes of forging a unified government.

As a result of Egypt’s deepening political divide, many voters are threatening to boycott the presidential elections. Unhappy with their options, many Egyptians are stuck deciding between a conservative Islamist or the former prime minister–with neither choice necessarily offering a path to a better future.