Voting for Egypt's new president begins on Wednesday, but what should be celebrated as a historical moment is sadly becoming a farce. The four major front runners, Ahmed Shafiq, Amr Moussa, Mohamed Morsy, and Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh are all just pawns in the game.
Perhaps I am just cynical (I prefer realist), but the reality is that the popular vote does not matter; whoever is announced as winner will be determined by the ruling Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF) in closed door sessions. The winner will be he who pledges to uphold the status quo and not diminish SCAF's historical role in Egyptian politics.
Both Shafiq and Moussa can be considered felool, the term used to describe Mubarak-era politicians. While there had been talk of a law banning those who had a role in Mubarak's government, this law did not go into effect until after the official list of candidates was announced. Even if it did go into effect with enough time to influence this election, the post of minister was not barred, allowing Moussa's candidacy to remain unthreatened.
Furthermore, to truly ban felool candidates runs the risk of SCAF being left without an ally as Egypt moves forward, which would leave SCAF even more vulnerable than it is currently.
In the meantime, the Muslim Brotherhood's (MB) credibility has been severely tarnished as they have been unable to keep their word about their political intentions. In the run up to the parliamentary elections, the MB, and more specifically the MB's political wing the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), claimed they would not seek more than 30 percent of the seats. This number slowly rose to claims that they would not seek more than 40 percent of the seats, before eventually settling on humble goals of not exceeding 50 percent of the seats. When they won a healthy 47 percent of the vote, they declared they would not field a candidate for president. In an effort to ensure this resolve, the FJP threatened expulsion for any member that ran for president.
True to its word, the FJP expelled longtime member Aboul Fotouh when he announced his candidacy. This however was more internal politics than anything else. Aboul Fotouh is a more vocal critic of internal FJP and MB politics, so it is not surprising they removed him from their ranks. What surprised many (though I'm more surprised that others were caught off guard) is that the FJP then decided to field their own candidate from within their trusted leadership. With this came the candidacy of Khairat El Shater. Shortly thereafter, El Shater's eligibility came into question and fearing that they would no longer have FJP representation in the election, the MB put forth Mohamed Morsy as their backup candidate.
El Shater was subsequently disqualified for having been in jail too recently to the elections to be eligible for the office of President. (After all, any sort of illegal, unethical, or suspect behavior isn't tolerated amongst the government's highest echelons).
While it seems obvious that it is in SCAF's best interest to have a supportive candidate win the election, to what extent they are willing to go to ensure this is anyone's guess. There were reports over the weekend that the name of slain protester Mina Danial was discovered in the registered voters list. Meanwhile, earlier today, state run television channels violated a ban on electoral campaigning which was to begin on Sunday by running an ad for Shafiq.
While these elections confirm a changing tide in Egypt, they are only as valid as the system that currently exists. As long as the country remains governed by SCAF there is little hope that the elections will be free or fair. This only further highlights the debate that has raged for months: to complete a constitution before or after the president is chosen? While there have been some national referendums on changes to the Constitution, it has not yet been finalized. How people will vote for a position that has no definition is a question that will be answered, at least officially even if not legitimately, on June 21st when the results of the final round of voting are announced.