image via Golden Pharaoh company in Egypt
Don't panic and carry a Bashkeer
Egyptian authorities released the preliminary final results of the 1st real presidential election in the history of Egypt on May 25th (compiled and detailed here by Iyad Elbaghdadi). Ironically May 25th is also the worldwide "Towel Day", a day coined and celebrated by fans of Douglas Adam's classic series "The hitchhiker's guide to the galaxy". The concept of towel day comes from the caption on the guide in the books that reads "Don't panic, and carry a towel". While I can't really vouch for the benefits of carrying a towel, I can tell you why you shouldn't panic.
I admit, I personally expected the run off to be between Former Prime minister and military man Ahmed Shafiq, and the Muslim brotherhood candidate Mohammed Morsy (It was very naive to assume that the regime, that has been trying to frame the situation internally and internationally as "It's us or the Islamists" for as long as can be remembered would allow two other candidates to reach the run offs, at least not without a real fight), but what I did not expect, and what came as a surprise, was the poor performance of Amr Moussa, and the amazing performance of Hamdeen Sabbahi. This is important for a reason, so take note.
While I have previously stated bluntly that the referendum in March 2011 and the parliamentary elections were fraudulent (And I’ve been repeatedly attacked for saying this, apparently facts be damned), it is unlikely due to the large amount of votes for so few candidates, that the presidential elections will be as fraudulent. Election violations? Sure. Propaganda? Definitely. Outright fraud? Doubtful. This again, is an important point.
Fraud aside, the fact that everyone seems keen to overlook is that one of the main reasons for the success of Islamists in parliamentary elections (Fraud and campaign violations aside), is not primarily due to a love of Islamists; rather, the rise occurred because people wanted to vote Mubarak's political party, the NDP out, and found the Salafis and Muslim brotherhood to be their best most organized chance to do so.
Another aspect everyone seems to overlook; who turned a blind eye to illegal religious campaigning? Who turned a blind eye to vote buying through charity networks or otherwise? Who sat down and conducted agreements with the Islamists from day one? It is entirely naive to assume that the regime did not want an Islamist candidate, after all, who would you rather fight; someone you can defeat easily, or someone that is a real challenge? Again, I'm not saying the results are Fraudulent (Yet), I'm saying this was engineered. Big difference.
By all means, this was an election of opposites; it was Moussa VS Fetouh (For "Liberals"). Shafiq VS Morsy (For conservatives), with Sabbahi being in the middle. The trend apparently was you vote for one because you oppose or fear the other, not exactly because you're convinced of one or the other. Luckily ElShater and Soliman took each other out early on. I am convinced a majority of those that voted for Shafiq, did not do so out of love for the man, rather they did so out of a belief that he is the only man capable of standing against the Muslim brotherhood, and bringing back stability. Shafiq would not have that amount of voter support if Morsy did not exist. Rudimentary polling of Shafiq voters backs my hypothesis on this matter.
What is most impressive about Sabbahi's strong standing is that according to election monitoring groups, Sabbahi's campaign conducted the least election violations of all the candidates (With Morsy and Shafiq's campaigns conducting the most); this is yet another crucial point.
All that aside, let's look at some facts:
1- Those who were monitoring the public vibe, expected the run off to be between Morsy and Shafiq. That was a given considering the MB charity machine, and the use of state media to polish up Shafiq.
2- A candidate's campaign that conducted the least amount of campaign violations (Sabbahi) came in 3rd with a relatively small gap between him and the 2nd (Shafiq) whose campaign is one of the highest violators.
3- A Candidate (Sabbahi) that does not have the power of a charity (Bribery) network, or state media (Propaganda Machine) behind him, came in 3rd. Candidates with more or less the same criteria came in 4th and 5th. Do not underestimate the intelligence of the population.
4- Even with all the propaganda, fear mongering & failures of the liberal movements and revolutionaries, Over 50% of the population combined did not vote for an MB candidate (Morsy) nor the Regime candidate (Shafiq), yes I realize the election turnout was relatively low, and that this isn't the entire population, but it's like you're conducting a poll with a sample size of over 18 million. So yes, I can safely assume over 50% of the population. In other words, over 50% of the population is on the side of freedom and dignity, not the side of bribes or fear. Compare that to percentage of the population that took part in the 18 days, and you'll see that matters are not as bleak as they seem, in fact this in particular makes me the most optimistic. And yes, like it or not, Moussa counts. If anything Moussa is the chosen of non-Islamist reformists.
5- Egyptian politics are not clear cut; the reason for the vast difference in trends between the referendum, parliamentary elections, and presidential elections are due to the complex network of ideologies, loyalties, and thought processes that overlap and diverge on different points.
6- If each candidate represents their ideology, then the MB has a 26.38% approval rating, The Military and former regime have a 23.00% approval rating (four times lower than what various polls have been stating for over a year, then again, almost every poll conducted in Egypt so far has been completely wrong, so why wouldn't this one be?), and the ideals of the revolution have a combined approval rating of 50.62%.
With all that said, I cannot understand how with so many positive indications, some people are so pessimistic. Did those people really believe the idea that the "majority of the population is against the revolution" was true? Did they not see that the majority of the population is not against the ideals of the revolution, rather that they had grown tired, weary, and had reached their limit with the lack of security and the deterioration of the economy? Did those same people naively think we would achieve the goals of a revolution (against 60 years of rule) in less than 18 months?
What is even more mind boggling and frustrating, is how many people are now falling for the regime line of "It's us or the Islamists". I'm sure our memory spans are not so short that we've forgotten that they've been using the same line for the last 60 years, while suppressing any real secular opposition. Yes the Islamists are a threat, but so is the regime. Have you already forgotten the Mubarak doctrine? These people are now arguing with one another and their families on who is worse, Shafiq or Morsy, stating the pros and cons of each, but in this situation, there are no pros and cons, they're both horrid. Those people have resigned themselves to the idea that our rape is inevitable and instead of finding solutions (i.e. a way to prevent the rape), or at the very least noticing the positive indicators, they're arguing which of our potential rapists has a smaller penis.
So no, the situation is not bleak, in fact, it's quite the opposite, if anything, we've reached our strongest point yet; there are so many (non-protest) ways we can make sure neither Shafiq nor Morsy rape us. In fact, I believe that even if the so called "Elite" fail to stop their panic, the populace by large, will NOT sit around and allow whoever the president is to rape us. Rather, they may rape the president if he tries any funny business.
After all, Politics is a game of shifting agreements, incentives and loyalties; If Shafiq wins, the MB will be forced to side with the majority if Shafiq acts up or they risk isolating and killing themselves. If Morsy wins, the Army will be forced to side with the majority if Morsy acts up or they risk losing their alleged popularity among the people. Yes. The opposition may end up in control. That is of course, if the regime and the MB don't unite together that is. Like they did in the referendum. Like they may do now.
So yes, call me a dreamer if you want, but I’m still betting on the Egyptian people, the same way I did during the 18 days, and after the results of the presidential election, I’ve been pleasantly surprised. All this, and it's still possible some unexpected surprise could happen, like if this alleged voter donation loop hole turns out to be true, or if the non-MB, non-regime candidates decide to form some kind of super band opposition movement, mobilizing all their followers. Or so many other admittedly farfetched scenarios, then again, January 25th was pretty farfetched, wasn't it?
So don’t panic, Enjoy the ride, and if you want... Carry a bashkeer.