Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Turbulently Polarized

Now that's one way to bring attention to being put out at the semi-successful appeal and electoral run of a political candidate.  It's not one seen often in polite society, but this is not a particularly polite society.  Egyptians are said to have warm hearts, are welcoming and friendly people at the street level, and know very well how diplomacy works, and have had ample practise in proffering it when required.

These are not friendly times in Egypt, and aggressive need has taken precedence over polite demurrals.  Just as Egyptian Islamists surrounded and scaled the compound of the Israeli Embassy in Cairo, attempting to make a political hostage of Israel's ambassador to the country, expressing their displeasure at their own country's arms-length peace agreement with Israel, now too has the campaign headquarters of a former Mubarak colleague been fire-bombed.

Former air force general and vice-president appointed by President Mubarak in the days before he was toppled, Ahmed Shafiq, mentored by Mubarak, and viewing him as a positive example, was the favourite of a substantial number of Egyptian voters.  Coming in second, with a broad portion of the votes cast now counted, his candidacy for president, challenging that of the Muslim Brotherhood's choice, is anathema for those who pioneered Egypt's Arab Spring at Tahrir Square.

Setting the campaign offices of Ahmed Shafiq ablaze can therefore safely be interpreted as a final and absolute rejection of a return in any guise of the former administration of the country.  The Egyptian military will be most upset about this, but then there is nothing particularly new about these sentiments of rejection.  And, as though to emphatically emphasize the extent of the corrosive hatred of the former regime, thousands of protesters demonstrated against the first-round result of the presidential elections.

Assuredly, at least an equal number of Egyptian voters are just as full of denunciations of the first-run candidate, Mohamed Mursi, the Muslim Brotherhood's man.  That the eventual run-off between the two to determine which of them will take the majority vote and become Egypt's new president, infuriates many.  Those who prefer to deny the Muslim Brotherhood the opportunity to completely Islamicize the country, and those who would vote for him to deny the presidency to a former Mubarak-era candidate.

"Revolutionaries!  Free!  We will complete the march!" they chanted, making their way through Cairo centre, close on Tahrir Square.  Frustration with the turn that the revolution toward a system approximating democracy that Egyptian secularists, socialist-minded and youth hankered for only to be disappointed at the obvious take-over by the Brotherhood and the Salafists is manifest.  They are impotent; disorganized and under-represented in numbers.

The candidates on the short end of the vote have complained to the electoral commission of irregularities, all of which complaints have been dismissed.  "I reject these results and do not recognize them", the message delivered by the former Brotherhood member, Abol Fotouh.  His claims that votes were bought, dismissed.  "Question marks", according to Amr Musa, marred the vote.  The leading question being how it was that he received a mere 10.9% of the vote.

The Al-Nour Salafists are now prepared to back Mohamed Mursi, consolidating their majority bloc in the parliament with the Freedom and Justice Party.  The Muslim Brotherhood, like most Islamists, know the value of words and though they are fundamentalist in attitude and outlook, they extol 'freedom and justice', although how they practise those virtuous promises might not reflect others' realities of freedom and justice.

But that's the future.

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