Egypt's Polarized Election
Nearly a year and a half after the revolution that ousted former president Hosni Mubarak, Egyptians are getting to choose their president. In the historic election that was held this week, initial results suggest that there will be a second round runoff vote for lack of a clear majority.
Mohamed Morsi is the candidate of the Muslim Brotherhood, a religious Islamic party, and Ahmed Shafiq is a former Air Force general who served as the final Prime Minister under President Hosni Mubarak. Votes are still being counted and final results are expected only next Tuesday. The run-off is scheduled for June 16 and 17.
Egypt had revolted against the dictatorship of Hosni Mubarak who had had a stranglehold of the Presidency of the country for over three decades. In a grassroots uprising that started last January, the country overthrew Mubarak and forced democratic elections in the country. Mubarak had come to power in 1981 after President Anwar Sadat was assassinated by his own army lieutenant. During his time, Mubarak has been an ally of the US and other western nations, recognized Israel as an Arab country and helped mediate talks between Israel and Palestine.
For Egyptians the election is a moment of truth. This is their first chance in decades to express their views and feel the power of having their votes finally count. The country has an important choice to make - adopt a democratic civil state or a path of state sponsored religion.
Preliminary results could not have been more polarized. Despite twelve candidates contesting and representing a range of issues, the final head to head faceoff appears to be between those who back religious fundamentalism and those who support the military regime.
Ahmed Shafiq embodies the principals of Mubarak. His popularity in the recent elections has stunned observers, given his close association with the regime that the uprising actually toppled. Perhaps this represents the continued strength of the military, or the disillusionment of the people towards the Muslim Brotherhood. Despite their overwhelming victory in the parliamentary elections held in 2011, the Muslim Brotherhood does not seem to have done much for Egypt. The significant Coptic Christian minority is also believed to have lent its support to Shafiq. For Mohamed Morsi, the support of the fundamental Muslim Brotherhood's powerful machinery appears to be working well.
Analysts worry if the race between these two candidates may sharpen the bitter divide between Islamists and remnants of the Mubarak regime, resulting in further instability in Egypt. But for the common Egyptian, the excitement in having a true say in the future of their country is clearly evident.
The sacrifice of lives to make these election happen is honored and recognized all across the country.