Thousands Demonstrate in Alexandria Against Shafiq as Egypt Faces Election Turmoil

Some 7,000 Egyptians demonstrated on Friday, demanding that Gen. Ahmad Shafiq be disqualified as a candidate for president of Egypt in the run-off elections scheduled for later this month. Smaller demonstrations were held in other cities, including in Cairo’s Tahrir Square.

Alexandrians seem upset, but thec capital was more jaded. The turnout in Cairo was so disappointing that one newspaper made fun of it with a headline, ‘Million-person march turns out to be hundreds of persons march.”

That Egyptians have a choice between a Muslim Brotherhood leader (Muhammad Mursi) and Hosni Mubarak’s last vice president (Ahmad Shafiq) is a travesty.

Under a law passed by parliament, members of the last two Mubarak cabinets are ineligible to run. But the law has been appealed and the courts dragged their feet in ruling. Some say the military pressured them to do so.

In not immediately ruling the law valid, and declining to disqualify Shafiq before he got into the run-offs, the courts more or less allowed the law to be set aside. Since millions voted for the Air Force general, he has gained some legitimacy at the ballot box.

He has threatened to break heads and implies he will bring back Egypt’s dreaded police state.

The military and Mubarak’s judges may think they can skate clear to a counter-revolution at the polls and so retain their wealth and power despite the loss of their patron, the former dictator.

But if this scenario unfolds, likely they will suffer a crushing defeat at the polls in 2016, or there will be blood in the streets much before then.

16 Responses

  1. If this guy was one of two people with the most votes, why should he be disqualified, and why is his presence in the second round of the election a “travesty?”

    If he was disqualified, how would all those people who voted for him feel? How legitimate is an election if one of the winners is disqualified afterward?

    How can we call any country a democracy if, when the wrong guy wins an election, the result is “blood in the streets.” That is specifically a rejection of democracy.

    Is democracy only valid when certain people win, or is it what the definition says it is, accepting the decision made by the people voting?

    That’s sort of like the Republicans who want Obama not to be a legitimate President, even though he was elected by a majority of voters. Quite simply, they reject democracy. They are rejecting the winner of the election because it wasn’t their guy.

    • If you had just risked your life overthrowing a military dictatorship, which unfortunately has many supporters lurking in the shadows, do you just want to turn around and throw it away months later by letting its generals unite behind a stealth candidate? How about letting top Nazis run in the first democratic elections in Germany after WW2? Not allowed, and democracy got the time it needed to develop genuine support.

    • Bill H

      If the guy was one of the clique surounding Mubarak and sharing the proceeds it would be sensible to eliminate him, if you are trying to make a clean break.

      It seems people are a little peeved that Mubarak’s codefendants got off.

      One starts to understand the cynicsm of Alaa al Aswany in the “Yacoubian Building” and we will see this reflected on the streets in the coming weeks as people’s frustration shows.

      “The stories of each of the primary characters are often intertwined, at times colliding or converging with one another. Together, they give a biting condemnation of a nation that has squandered its promise and which has been forced to compromise its own principles, resulting in a corrupt and undemocratic political system dominated by a single party (the fictitious “Patriotic Party”, a thinly-veiled version of Egypt’s National Democratic Party), a society whose most talented members abandon the country for promising careers abroad, and an increasingly disenchanted and restive populace that has no loyalty to the government and which sees extremist Islam as one of the few viable options to counter growing poverty, economic stagnation, and a perceived degradation of morals and lack of social cohesion. “

    • Bill, you’re assuming we have a democracy in the United States. “That Egyptians have a choice between a Muslim Brotherhood leader (Muhammad Mursi) and Hosni Mubarak’s last vice president (Ahmad Shafiq) is a travesty,” Juan Cole writes. We in America have a choice between a Republican investment banker who wants to cut spending, i.e., dismantle social programs, and who stated he’s not worried about the poor (Mitt Romney) – and on the other side a president who gives lofty speeches while being the servant behind the scenes for Wall Street (Barack Obama). Is that not also a travesty? I doubt Juan Cole will accept this comment of mine on his blog. He seems to be unwilling to print anything critical of Obama (not that anyone’s reading these comments anyway). But Mr. Cole, why be a liberal apologist for the Obama administration? Where is the change we can believe in? You’re still going to vote for that guy? What has he done? What good has he done? I realize the alternative to the Democrats is a little worse, but don’t try to say we have a real choice in America, that we have a real democracy here. We don’t.

    • Having a choice between a theocratic police state and a secular police state is indeed a travesty. Both the Muslim Brotherhood and the military did things that led to this sorry state of affairs. And millions of voters are stupid, fearful, and unprincipled.
      If an election results in empowering a regime that will break heads and detain people without trial, then democracy should be specifically be rejected in that case. Breaking peoples, bones is either right or wrong.it doesn’t go from wrong to right depending on how people vote. Democracy may be the best form of government, but it does not magically transform evil into good. Why not be an advocate for human rights, even in places where the majority is not on your side!

  2. If the turnout on the run-off is substantially lower than the already low turnout of the first run vote, electoral fraud/violations would matter even more in proportional terms. However, a president elected on too low of a turnout will have severe legitimacy problems. SCAF and SPEC were allowed far too much power. Their mistake, though, is to keep pressing and pressing so hard that attention on these two entities is being fixed. This is dangerous to their ability to secure acquiesence. The counter-revolution risks, by its recent actions, destroying its popularity among those that are on the fence about the revolution itself.

  3. This was a very light verdict, life for Mubarak, who is 84 and dying soon anyway, against acquittal for most of his family and friends. The State Department might get what it wants, a Mubarak type regime without Mubarak.

  4. Mursi can be expected to win in a general election.

    It is possible by the end of this year a Muslim Brotherhood-controlled government may control Syria if Assad leaves office.

  5. The runoff election will be rather like the Scylla or Charybdis faced by Louisiana voters some years back–either corrupt Governor Edwin Edwards or Klansman David Duke. Not a great moment for Democracy! Then the slogan was, “Vote for the Lizard–not the Wizard.”

  6. Eric Margolis says the election was rigged by the military, which would render my questions moot. He’s a little light on evidence for that claim, but he has always seemed knowledgable to me, so… Still, I’m leery of claims that are made without any evidence.

    • There is no reason to think the election was rigged. But if you take the leftist Hamdeen Sabahi and the secularist Amr Moussa, they got about 40% of the vote. One opposed Mubarak and the other opposed him. Shafiq was with Mubarak and got a little over a fifth of the vote. So by the vagaries of the election system, a plurality of Egyptians was disenfranchised.

      • I take your point. The weakness is a system whereby the two with the greatest number of votes compete in a runoff. You can even get two finalists both of whom have low vote counts and neither of which is actually popular, making neither of them actually legitimate, and it’s pretty easy to get one who meets that standard. This is the primary system that California just adopted. Brilliant.

  7. Regardless of whether or not military and intelligence officials assisted Shafiq in generating votes (the main charges were not investigated), it will remain the case that a person with the approval of less than half of the population became the president.

    This happens in other countries at times but this particular situation will have other features if it occurs. For one thing, he will have essentially attempted to hijack a revolution whose proponents he sought to suppress. Additionally, the issue of the constitution and the framing of the general nature of the government are at stake, so the margin of ability to risk having president of such questionable legitimacy is lower than in an established system.

    The separation of military and government is necessary for effective political functioning. Militaries and especially intelligence agencies have a way of spreading malignancy and opaqueness throughout any political system they weed into, be it democratic or dictatorial.

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