Egyptian Presidential Elections: Freedom of Opinion?

I should be studying for my final exams next week.  However, like any other expert procrastinator, I’ve finally taken the decision to start this blog, something I’ve funnily enough been putting off for the past six months.

So, if I’ve written an “About Me” section by now, it may do well to read it to understand my background.  But basically, I’m an Egyptian American (or American Egyptian) who’s recently returned to Egypt.

Obviously, the revolution was a huge deal, and it was well-recognized both within the Arab world and outside (in the U.S.).  In fact, I think it got the most publicity out of all the revolutions, something than can both be a blessing and an affliction.  Blessing  because people are tuning in, and hopefully that’ll discourage any other governmental corruption from happening (at least for the time being).  Affliction, because all the other countries that went through a revolution are unfortunately having a harder time picking up the pieces.

That said, the presidential elections are coming up in a couple of days (Wednesday May 23rd and Thursday May 24th), and things are chaotic to say the least.  First of all, I don’t know whether it’s the sense of finally having democratic elections, but people just seem really passionate.  And I’ve seen passion when it comes to electing political leaders before in the U.S.  And I do know it well.  But, things here really do take things up to a whole new level.

If two people are not on the same page for who they’re voting for, they’re automatically enemies.  Which is really weird for me to see.  And it’s also why I’ve avoided getting into any political talk.  I saw a lady get on the bus with a flyer for one of the nominees and started questioning the man next to her about his voting preferences.  When she found out that he wasn’t on the same page as her, her voice escalated, defense mechanism piped up, and she seemed to be spewing out attacks various miles a minute.  Even after the man left (politely after unsuccessfully trying to calm her down), she kept trying to impose her views on other passengers.  Frankly, disagreeing and having different opinions is one thing, but getting insulted, ridiculed, and yelled at for those opinions is another.  And it’s something I’ve been seeing a lot lately.  It’s probably a lot of built up tension and hope, but I really do think some people need to calm down a bit.  Usually, I can get along just fine with someone who has different political views than me because I can agree to disagree.  That type of ideology here though…kind of hard to see.

As for elections themselves, I see five major players.  Out of 13 possible nominees, I’m only seeing hype about the following:

1. Aboul Fotouh: Independent Party (endorsed by the Salafis)

2. Mohamed Morsi: Freedom and Justice Party (Muslim Brotherhood)

3. Hamdeen Sabahi: Dignity Party

4. Amr Moussa: Indepedent Party (ex-secertary general of United Arab League and former foreign prime minister)

5. Ahmed Shafik: Independent Party (Air Marshall and prime minister under Mubarak Regime).

From the results of the elections for Egyptians voting from outside of Egypt, Aboul Fotouh and Hamdeen were leading.  That said, Hamdeen doesn’t seem to be as popular in Egypt itself.  Sure, people like him.  But they’re not going to vote for him.  If only for the sole basis that no one thinks he’ll win.  So, I don’t think he has a shot at winning.

As for the rest, it’s kind of hard to say.  Mohamed Morsi, I’ve seen two arguments for.  One is that the congress is mainly made up of Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), so he’ll win on that basis (see figure below for breakdown of the congress based on party affiliation).  I, however, see that as a disadvantage for him.  After the congress elections, support for FJP has decreased tremendously.  People were (and still are) expecting change to occur seemingly overnight, and they’ve become impatient with how the congress seemed to have done nothing so far.  That not only decreases Morsi’s chance of winning, but it places immense pressure on whoever is going to be elected.  People will be upset no matter what because they don’t realize how slowly the change will be.  Thirty years of corruption under the Mubarak regime can hardly be picked up, solved, and and neatly tied together within a couple of months, or even years for that matter.

As for the last three, those who like having someone from the Mubarak regime will obviously vote for Shafik or Moussa.  Moussa, for me, seems like a likelier candidate to win because he had a lot of support when he was part of the Mubarak regime.  Many theorize that the only reason he “left” the government back then was that he posed a threat to Mubarak.  Given that he had a lot of support, it was easy to just appoint him to the United Arab League (which does nothing useful by the way) as a method of getting rid of him quietly.

If elections are rigged, which is definitely a possibility, then Shafik will win for sure.  He is hugely supported by the military.  Having took over after Mubarak was overthrown, it’s within their power to rig the elections.  And if they do, he’ll win.  That’s not to say that he can’t win otherwise though.  I do see a lot of citizens who favor him, so yes, that’s always a possibility.

Which leaves us with Aboul Fotouh.  Frankly, most of those who are endorsing him seem to have done so by process of elimination.  Kind of the best of the worst from the bunch.  This a tricky place for him to be.  Because while he’s popular, he’s not favored due to his merits.  As such, I’ve seen a lot of people (now that we’re closer to elections) change their minds about him.  So, it may be hard for him to garner real supporters if people are just looking at him as a last resort.  Additionally, that creates a schism between people supporting an Islamically-based government. Morsi vs. Aboul Fotouh.

I just hope whoever is elected is up for the job.  Because the whole country (and some parts of the world) is judging and waiting for a chance to rebel again.

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