The lack of enthusiasm, low turnout, and military interference in Egypt’s run-off presidential election this weekend must be eerily familiar to the Egyptian people. On the eve of electing a new President, Egypt must ask itself if the dreams that emerged from the Arab Spring have vanished in a little more than a year.
Unlike the hopeful excitement that accompanied last year’s parliamentary elections and last month’s presidential election, a mixture of fear and resignation has marked this week’s run-off between Ahmed Shafik and Mohammed Morsi. Shafik, the preferred candidate of the military and business elite establishment, is increasingly acting like the inevitable future leader. Accompanied by a military guard to a private polling place and surrounded by supporters chanting his name, Shafik could easily be mistaken for any of Egypt’s former strongmen.
The contrast between Shafik and Morsi, who spent two hours waiting in line in the Egyptian heat to cast his ballot, highlights how Morsi has assumed the mantle of the “revolutionary” candidate. Yet the fact that the uncharismatic, long-time leading figure of the Muslim Brotherhood is the revolutionary choice demonstrates how weakened the revolution has become. Many of the young activists and secular liberals who formed the core of last year’s revolution are so disillusioned that they have called for boycotts of the election. Whether these boycotts will galvanize the nation to protest the recent developments or merely allow Mr. Shafik to more easily claim victory remains to be seen.
The recent decision by Egypt’s highest court to dissolve the country’s first democratically elected Parliament and allow the military to control the constitution-writing process is not a good omen for the future of Egyptian democracy. While choosing between Shafik and Morsi appears to be a lose-lose scenario to many Egyptians, a Morsi and Muslim Brotherhood victory will ironically indicate that the chance for a democratic political system may still exist. A Shafik victory, on the other hand, may mark the beginning of the end of the Egyptian revolution, and a return to the kind of “stability” that the Egyptian people know all too well.