Egyptians Protest Choice Between Right and Right

  • by Mel Frykberg (cairo)
  • Inter Press Service

The headquarters of Ahmed Shafik, the last serving prime minister in the hated regime of former president Hosni Mubarak was set on fire and vandalised by an angry mob Monday night. Vocal marchers headed downtown to Talat Harb square while fights broke out in Tahrir Square where crowds gathered to protest the election results.

Results from the first round of voting saw Muhammad Mursi from the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) secure first place, closely followed by Shafik, who ran as an independent. The two will contest a run-off election on Jun. 16 and 17.

Secular leftist and Nasserite, Hamdeen Sabahi, came in third, while former MB member and moderate Islamist Abdel-Moneim Abolfotoh came in fourth.

While many revolutionaries are secular and against the Muslim Brotherhood (MB), special contempt is reserved for Shafik who has shown no remorse for the behaviour of the Mubarak regime, and is allegedly supported by the interim military government.

Shafik has also promised to resort to extreme force against protestors in order to 'reestablish security and order' should he be re-elected.

The delayed anger of the protestors was due to disbelief that the political freedom they had fought so hard for during the revolution last year had left them to choose between a bad and a worse candidate.

'We are stuck between two right-wing conservative powers — the military and the Brotherhood,' said Hosni Abdel Rahim, a student movement leader and a member of Egypt’s small Democratic Front (DF) party, a socialist-oriented movement comprising intellectuals.

'Young people are now very angry as they feel they have nothing to lose. The economy is on the verge of collapse, employment opportunities are limited and now the one issue they put their hope into, their political freedom, hangs in the balance. This is a very incendiary situation,' Abdel Rahim told IPS.

The belittling of the revolution and its supporters by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), supported by a sycophantic media, have added to the revolutionaries’ woes.

The MB for its part mobilised its well organised supporters and civil society bases to win votes while the supporters of Shafik relied on well-funded resources. Supporters of the revolution had access to neither of these essential elements.

The palpable anger and confusion of Egyptian activists is being compounded by their inability to unite. Activists are torn between voting for Islamist Mursi despite their misgivings about the MB and the remnants of the old regime.

This was evident as IPS attended a meeting called by founders of the DF to formulate a strategy for the course of action over the next few weeks.

Moehsien Rashad said that supporting the MB is an interim strategy. 'At least at this point we can pressure Mursi and the MB who control parliament to formulate a new constitution to show they differ from the previous regime. This pressure can’t be applied to Shafik under whom the system will remain unchanged,' Rashad told IPS.

However, Rashad’s friend and DF colleage Ibrahim Nawar believes the MB is the most dangerous threat to the Egyptian state and poses a far higher risk than voting for Shafik.

'Once they are in power they will transform the country into a theocratic Islamic state which is part of their platform. This happened during the Iranian revolution when Iran’s theocracy supporters made promises to civil society to implement civil law but when they swept to power reneged and forced a theocracy on all Iranians,' Nawar told IPS.

'The Brotherhood has betrayed the country over the last 15 months. They only joined the revolution at a later stage in the hope of milking it for political mileage. They also sided with the military in clamping down on the rights of protestors and mulled constitutional changes without consulting other political parties,' added Nawar.

Other activists, meanwhile, are showing their disdain for the elections by urging a boycott of the run-off in June. This attitude was evident during the first round with over 50 percent of Egyptians not voting.

DF secretary-general Wael Hossam is ambivalent about who to support. 'I think there was a lot of political engineering involved in the recent results including voting irregularities. The Presidential Electoral Commission (PEC) has refused most electoral appeals stating they were not legally based or were lodged too late,' Hossam told IPS.

Several international monitors said they felt more like observers than monitors because PEC restrictions surrounding their monitoring were extremely strict and electoral changes were prohibited.

However, despite the divisions Egyptians appear united in promising to take to the streets should Shafik win the run-off. Simultaneously, some fear a military coup if their alleged candidate loses and the Brotherhood takes over.

© Inter Press Service (2012) — All Rights ReservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service