Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Parsing the Egyptian Presidential Election Results

Women stand in line to cast their vote in Alexandria. Photo Credit Al Jazeera.

An Egyptian woman looks at her ballot. Photo Credit, Al Jazeera.
Should Egyptians accept the election results?

This is a tough question. It is puzzling that Shafiq outpolled Morsy. There is no question that the Muslim Brotherhood has the best ground game in town. However, for Shafiq to have beaten the Brotherhood, that means that the entire NDP apparatus, i.e. Mubarak's old party, is alive and well. It makes one wonder if there were not behind the scenes election violations that could not be viewed by observers? Allegations of vote buying have been made.  Okay, shaking off my paranoia, here is an interesting analysis of why Shafiq did so well.

Apparently, the secularists and leftists and revolutionaries split their votes between Shabaahi and Fotouh. Of course, vote splitting was to be expected. That said, the top four candidates all polled close to 25%. Given how close the election was, it would have been reasonable to hold a four way runoff. The PEC is not winning any friends in this election. First, they allowed Shafiq to run, even though the parliament banned members of the Mubarak regime from running. There is no question that the PEC's main client was the SCAF.  Second, the decisions of the PEC cannot be appealed.

Many Egyptians are not happy about the outcome. Tahrir was packed today. Issandr El Imrani asks why Egyptians should accept these elections.  Former President Jimmy Carter says his monitors could not observe the whole election, because his mission only got access a week before the race. Overall, however, Carter stated that the results of the election were acceptable.

More worrying than who won, in my view, is the fact that no constitution is in place, and as former President Jimmy Carter pointed out, the Egyptians are electing a president whose powers have not yet been defined. Strange days indeed.

After major protests on Monday, Tahrir Square is calm again.

Runoffs for the presidential elections are slated for the 16th and 17th of June.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Feloul or Islamist? Your choice

Dear readers

The first free and fair elections for President in Egypt's history are underway. Mohammed Morsy, the Muslim Brotherhood candidate is in a runoff with Ahmed Shafiq, a Mubarak appointed prime minister.

This leaves Egyptians with a stark choice. Morsy is arguably a revolutionary, but his strong, conservative religious views may make women, Christians, and secular people nervous. By contrast, Shafiq is definitely secular, and very experienced, but he is the preferred candidate of the Supreme Council of Armed Forces, and he is a Mubarak man. I believe that we are trapped between Scylla and Charybdis as was Homer, in the Odyssey.

Here is the take of the Voice of America.

The Egyptian Independent reports on the runoff.

El Ahram analyzes why Amr Moussa polled fifth place.

It is going to be a rough road ahead for Egyptians, and the region. At least this election is exciting!


Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Night Before Egypt's Presidential Election

Egyptian voters are anxiously awaiting the election of their first civilian president. Many voters are likely to vote strategically for Amr Moussa, former head of the Arab League and a high ranking official in the Mubarak Government, to avoid the victory of an Islamist candidate, writes the Egyptian Independent. Some of the strongest figures in the race include  former Muslim Brotherhood leader Abdel Moneim Abouel Fotouh (Interview with Presidential Candidate Abdel Fotouh) and Hamdeen Sabbahi, a Nasserist. One potential leftist candidate in the race is Khaled Ali, a pro-revolutionary human rights lawyer. Ali bills himself as coming from the "heart of Tahrir Square."

Heba Afify writes that many onlookers regret the withdrawal of Mohamed ElBaradei from the race. El Baradei withdrew in protest of the military's handling of the transition, leaving revolutionaries with no unifying figure. My former colleague at AUC, Rabab El Mahdy notes that the presidential election is the start of the transitional period, not the end.

Abdel-Rahman Hussein reports that the new President's powers and duties have not been clearly outlined. It is not clear whether the new President will be able to dissolve Parliament or appoint a cabinet. In the absence of clearly stated powers, I argue, the civilian President risks becoming a puppet of the military junta known as the Supreme Council of Armed Forces. That being said, before the most recent constitutional amendments which took place in Egypt last spring, the President had sweeping powers.

Jadaliyya has a really nice overview of who is running in this race. Egypt's Presidential Election: Meet the Contenders. In case you are confused, here is the short version.

  • Fotouh is a medical doctor. He is a long time Islamist. He was a main founder of the Muslim Brotherhood. He has since left the organization. I have heard him speak, and think he is a reasonable person, with respect for the secular, but is still a conservative Islamist.
  • Khaled Ali is only 40, Egypt's youngest Presidential Candidate. He has been heavily involved in street protests as a leader and a participant throughout the revolution. He is known as the "candidate of the poor." He is the Executive Director of the Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights.  He is a dark horse, but two thumbs up!
  • Selim Al-Awa is supposedly a moderate Islamist, but charged Christians with storing weapons in their churches. (?!!!?) He is a 69 year old lawyer, with ties to the Muslim Brotherhood that have not been clearly verified. He is looking for support from radical Islamist groups. Not my cup of tea.
  • Hesham al Bastawisi is another lawyer with a blemish free record of fighting for an independent judiciary against the Mubarak regime. He is running on the ticket of the leftist Tagammu party. I like him, but he probably does not have a chance. 
  • Abu Ezz-Al Hariry is running on the Socialist Popular Alliance ticket. He is a reform candidate, who is an experienced politician and a man of the people.
  • Mohamed Morsy is the Muslim Brotherhood's last minute presidential nominee. He has a good shot, because he is MB. Nuff said. 
  • Amr Moussa is of the old regime, but the front runner in this race. He is a 76 year old veteran politician who served as the permanent representative of Egypt to the United Nations. He was Minister of Foreign Affairs under Mubarak, and also Secretary General of the Arab League. He is secular, but a Mubarak crony. He has a very good chance. 
  • Hamdeen Sabahi is a Nasserite, which invokes secularism and a moderate leftism, combined with pan-Arab nationalism. Nasser is a favorite memory of Egyptians right now, so this may work for Sabahi. He has a strong political history, and a platform of social justice. 
  • Ahmed Shafiq served as Prime Minister in the days after the Mubarak Regime collapsed. He is a military man who has distanced himself from the Revolution. He is probably the SCAF's preferred candidate.
Well the excitement never stops! 

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Clashes in Abbaseya

The streets of Cairo are calmer today then they were yesterday. Clashes in Abbaseya occurred on Friday as anti-military protesters were violently dispersed from the area near the defense ministry. Troops at the Defense Ministry clashed with civilians. One soldier was killed and hundreds of people were wounded in the clashes which took place three weeks before the presidential election.

Traffic Flows Normally in Abbaseya 

Here is a really good play by play description of the event by my colleague  Mr. Hussein who writes a blog at Sibilant Egypt.

Escape from Abbaseya 

The military prosecution has detained 179 protesters for 15 days on a variety of charges after the protests in Abbaseya. The protests were against the countries military rulers, otherwise known as the SCAF. The UN Secretary general has condemned the clashes, saying citizens have a right to assemble peacefully.  At least 18 journalists have been detained after the clashes.

Mass Arrest of Protesters and Journalists reported at Defense Ministry

Journalists Syndicate Demands Release of Journalists Detained in Abbaseya