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The Sacking of a Revolution

Fifteen months after millions of Egyptians -led by the revolutionary youth- were united in their demand to end a corrupt and suffocating dictatorship, they were now divided as they headed to the polls in the last two days in order to elect a new president. During this transitional period the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), which has ruled the country since Mubarak was deposed in February 2011, failed to uphold its promise of honoring the goals of the revolution by uprooting the corrupt elements of the former regime.

The unofficial results of the presidential elections show that the Muslim Brotherhood candidate Dr. Muhammad Mursi is headed to a runoff with Mubarak’s last Prime Minister and the anti-revolution candidate, Gen. Ahmad Shafiq. They received 24 and 23 percent of the votes, respectively. Meanwhile the two candidates supported by the revolutionary groups, Dr. Abdelmoneim Abol Fotouh and Hamdein Sabahi received 17 and 20 percent respectively, while former foreign minister Amr Moussa was a distant fifth with less than 11 percent.

So what happened and how can one understand these results?

In addition, since December the security and economic situation worsened deliberately by the SCAF-appointed government making ordinary Egyptians feel that the lack of security and continuing economic hardships were the direct consequences of the revolution. Even when they had voted for a new parliament, their conditions became worse not better. This allowed Shafiq to argue that once elected, he could bring security within 24 hours and that his law and order nature would bring economic prosperity.

Moreover, the elections commission, which re-instated Shafiq after he was banned from running by parliament, did not enforce its own laws regarding campaign financing. The elections commission set a ceiling of 10 million pounds from each presidential campaign. But it was clear that Shafiq’s campaign was spending hundreds of millions without any accountability. For instance, it was revealed that the cost of his billboards alone was 22 million pounds. He ran dozens of TV ads at the cost of 200,000 pounds each. The use of enormous amounts of money in politics in Egypt is not new. But this time its was taken to new heights without any accountability.

So what’s next?

It is not clear how the eliminated revolutionary leaders will react to the election results. Although there is no evidence of direct frauds or vote rigging, clearly the role of the state’s authoritarian structures in influencing the outcome, as well as to the use of money to corrupt the political will of Egyptians cannot be denied. But no matter how they respond to the allegations, the elections commission will push ahead with next month’s runoff between Mursi and Shafiq. With the exception of the MB supporters, most people who support the revolution dread the day where they will be faced with the choice between the MB candidate and the fulool candidate.

But no matter what, Shafiq should never be allowed to win. In return for the support of Abol Fotouh and Sabahi supporters, the MB should offer a genuine gesture to the candidates and call for the unity of all the supporters of the revolution. But such offers must be more than empty rhetoric and need to contain meaningful acts of inclusiveness and magnanimity including offering them senior positions such as vice president or prime minister. If the MB thinks that it can win the presidency without the support of the revolutionary groups, it would be totally mistaken. Not only will the majority of Moussa’s supporters end up going to Shafiq, but now that the fulool have succeeded beyond their wildest expectations, they will double their efforts and employ more of their old tricks to guarantee a win, with the full backing of the military and state bureaucracy.

Only through regaining the determination of purpose and unity of action of those early days of the unfinished revolution can it remain alive. The MB cannot afford to botch this opportunity yet again. The alternative would likely be another revolution to replace the one that was sadly aborted.

Esam Al-Amin can be contacted at alamin1919@gmail.com