The Non-Islamist Camp(s)
Note well that the three non-Islamist candidates had a majority. This means that if voters stay within these two camps, Shafiq will be elected president.
The main irony is that their leading candidate shows support for the kind of rule being delivered by the army junta now and even by the (supposedly) despised Mubarak regime. A lot of Egyptians want quiet and order. And Shafiq outpaced the alternative “establishment” candidate Amr Moussa because he is even more bland and moderate.
Again, though, note that Shafiq could be a president with few powers facing a parliament that is handcrafting a constitution intended to bring Islamism. Moreover he has no political organization.
Or does he? Perhaps he has one that can be called the Egyptian army. A key point: If the Brotherhood doesn’t make the army very happy (financially), there might be some serious confrontations. In the longer run, there could even be a coup and that would return Egypt back to where it was politically before the whole “Arab Spring” business began!
The biggest shock of the election was the massive vote for the communist-Nasserist Sabbahi of the al-Karamah party. Does this show that there is a floating “radical vote” that cares less about ideology than about massive change? His voters mainly came from big cities.
Sabbahi is as dangerous as any Salafist—as anti-American and as eager to go to war against Israel—though he lacks a strong organization. Is this support for him, though, merely a more militant expression of nostalgia for the old regime likely to benefit the anti-Brotherhood side or a yearning for upheaval that might make people almost equally willing to vote for a Nasserist or an Islamist? We will find out.
Is Islamism continuing to march forward? Yes. Remember this principle: The Key to “Coopting” Islamists is for them to lose and accept defeat. But what if they win victory, especially an overwhelming victory in practice, they become more aggressive.
The Brotherhood’s recent history (and also that of Hamas, Hizballah, and the Turkish regime) proves this point and that’s why Western policies of encouraging the Islamists as a way to moderate them are wrong.
At this point, the issue depends on how smart the Islamist leaders are going to be. In retrospect, they made a mistake in running a candidate for president. If they had thrown their backing behind a non-Islamist figurehead and then made him a ceremonial president, the Brotherhood would be more respected and better off today. Ultimately, it cannot control its naked lust for power. The presidential election will make it more eager to transform Egypt’s laws.
In addition, keep in mind the importance of violence. The Salafists are hopping mad, believing they’ve been cheated. It is likely they will attack secularists, women who evince “non-Muslim” behavior, and Christians. In some areas, they will raid police stations. The question is whether such violence will build a revolutionary base or drive frightened Egyptians into the arms of Shafiq and the army.
Finally, the liberals are cut out entirely, partly due to the conditions of Egypt, partly to their own ineptness. Ahmed Khairy, spokesman for the Free Egyptians Party, a secular grouping that’s closest to what Western democracy enthusiasts would like to see in Egypt, described the election as “the worst possible scenario.” He called Mursi an “Islamic fascist” and Shafiq a “military fascist.”
If that’s how a moderate sees the choices, though it’s not fair to Shafiq, it shows how bad things are in Egypt.