Egyptians participated in a watershed moment last weekend going to the polls for the first time in the country's modern history to elect their next president in what is hoped to be a free and fair election. The question is, will any of their votes actually matter? A nation that has become all to accustomed to fraudulent elections once again faces the despairing possibility that their votes won't count, and with both parties claiming victory, confusion, unease and anger is likely.
After months of hype, angst, excitement and expectations about a new and more democratic Egypt, the people are suddenly faced with a demoralizing and familiar reality: the army has once again taken full control of the government. In a new constitutional declaration published in the state’s Official Gazette on Sunday, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) granted itself near absolute power including a de facto veto in drafting the new constitution and complete control and autonomy in all matters pertaining to the military.
Even before the court's decision to dissolve the parliament and the army's brazen power grab on the eve of the historic vote, liberals, secularists and moderate Islamists were already deeply frustrated by what many felt was an uncomfortable choice in the presidential runoff elections between Mohammed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood and Ahmed Shafik, Mubarak's last Prime Minister. Facebook, Twitter and other social media outlets were filled with campaigns urging Egyptians not to vote for leaders that many felt did not represent the goals and aspirations of the revolutionaries. But even with all the disappointment and unease surrounding the choice, the expectation was that the vote would have meaning. Now with the SCAF having assumed authority similar—if not more encompassing—to its powers under the Mubarak regime, many Egyptians don't feel they have a voice.
Activists and Islamists alike fear that should Mohammed Morsi be elected that the SCAF would move to minimize or even invalidate his office while a victory for Shafik would lead to the rise of another military dictatorship with Mubarak's former air force general serving in a puppet capacity.
As the votes are tallied, Egyptians not only await the news of the winner (both sides are currently claiming victory) but whether their new President will be able to wield the power accompanying the role or whether the military autocracy will be restored. As Egypt and the world awaits, the promises and ambitions of a new and democratic Egypt are quickly fading into the desert sands.