Summary: It appears the run-off to be Egypt’s president will be between the Muslim Brotherhood’s candidate, Mursi, and a prominent figure in the Mubarak regime, Shafiq. If Mursi wins runoff, Egypt will be radical, anti-American, belligerent toward Israel. War will be possible. If Shafiq wins the runoff the Brotherhood-dominated parliament could still give him only minimal power, pick a Brotherhood prime minister to run the country, and the previous paragraph would still be true. But what if the army backed Shafiq in a confrontation with the Brotherhood and Salafists, or the Islamists launched violence to protest a “stolen revolution?” In other words, while there are alternative futures all of them look pretty nasty. And of course the media and experts who predicted a victory for a “moderate Islamist” once more got it wrong.
According to the Brotherhood, the almost complete vote counting for president looks like this.
Mohamed Mursi (Brotherhood) 28.4 percent
Ahmed Shafiq (Mubarak-era general and last prime minister) 24.6
Abdul Moneim Abul Fotouh (so-called “moderate Islamist” but supported by radical Islamist Salafists) 18.1
Hamdeen Sabahi (radical anti-American “left” Nasserist) 17.1%
Amr Moussa (radical nationalist pragmatist) 11.6%.
The Brotherhood claims that this means it will win the second round. I’m not 100 percent sure that’s true. It seems possible but not inevitable. If a second round would be a straight contest between a secularist and an Islamist, whom would voters choose?
After all, according to this the total Islamist vote is around 46 percent, not enough to win. One key question would be where would the Sabahi voters go? Are these people anti-Islamists who like a left-wing (virtually Communist-style) candidate or are they people who want a further-going revolution and might back the Brotherhood candidate?
Here are the three key points, assuming these numbers are correct:
- Once again we have been misled by “experts” and media who slanted coverage toward the alleged popularity of Abul Fotouh. They should have backed secularists and not “moderate Islamists.” There should be some apologies and rethinking, but of course that won’t happen.
- Egyptian/Arab nationalism has revived, receiving about 52 percent of the vote! And that means Shafiq could win in the run-off round. And here’s another point of importance: If Egyptians want an alternative to Islamism it will be radical populist nationalism, not moderate cosmopolitan liberalism.
- This shows that things since the revolution have become so bad that a lot of Egyptians are nostalgic for the Mubarak era. Perhaps it wasn’t such a great idea to overthrow the regime.
Again: Caution, this is based on figures that might not be accurate.
IF MURSI BECOMES PRESIDENT (winning second round run-off):
Remember that he and the Brotherhood are now not even trying to hide their extremism, openly demanding an immediate Sharia state and a Caliphate. In fact, I’d suggest they could have done much better in the first round if they had continued to pretend more moderation. Also Mursi was not an attractive candidate personally. Remember he was not the Brotherhood’s first choice but stepped in at the last moment when someone else was disqualified.
This would set off a crisis that will dominate the region for a decade or two. This would be a catastrophe equal to and perhaps greater than the Iranian revolution. No exaggeration. If there isn’t a war with Israel within three years (Hamas backed by Egypt or even involving Egypt) it would be a miracle.
Note that what’s most important is not the presidency in isolation but:
- Brotherhood control over parliament and president and writing constitution.
- Brotherhood triumphalism, which we have seen repeatedly, belief in victory leading to arrogance and more extremism.
There will be panic. Christians and liberals will start packing their bags.
IF SHAFIQ BECOMES PRESIDENT (winning second round run-off):
The Islamists have two options:
- View his victory as a return to the old regime and the overturning of the revolution. There could be real internal disorder and a lot of violence.
- The Brotherhood and Salafists would still control parliament and constitution-writing. They would set up the system as having a strong prime minister (Muslim Brotherhood selected by parliament) and a weak, ceremonial president.
For his part, Shafiq would try to limit the radicalism, maintain good relations with the United States, and avoid war with Israel.
If the military backed him — and that makes sense — he would be stronger and might succeed.
In this case, though, watch for three things:
- The Brotherhood and Salafists will make life hard for Shafiq. There will be street violence and terrorism against Christians, “modern” women, liberals, tourists, and foreign installations. Will Shafiq call out soldiers to put down each disorder through repression? Would Obama and Europe back him or condemn the military as repressive and undermining democracy?
- The Islamists would help Hamas and very possibly try to stir up a Hamas-Israel conflict in which hysteria would sweep Egypt to fight Israel, painting Shafiq as a traitor for holding back.
- As the economic situation deteriorates, they would blame Shafiq and stir up disorder against him.
Again, remember that a constitution could well be written providing for a strong parliament and prime minister alongside a weak president. That would subvert the election results.