Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Egypt's Depressing Run-Off: 'A President without wide legitimacy or popular support!'

"... Morsi has a greater chance of being willing and able to use the Presidency to contest SCAF authority, but still frightens many outside of the Brotherhood's orbit (including many salafis who retain a deeply ingrained hostility to their Islamist rivals).  I doubt that Morsi would actually move to impose sharia law, should he win, however.  Despite erratic political behavior over the last few months, the Brotherhood remains a pragmatic organization, and all of the leaders with whom I've spoken over the last year have emphasized the urgent need to prioritize economic reform.  Forming meaningful coalitions in the next few weeks ahead of the election, and making firm guarantees on the constitution, would help.... though such promises are difficult to make credible.
Don't believe the idea that Washington is pleased with the choice.  The odd idea of a convergence or alliance between the U.S. and the Muslim Brotherhood is radically exaggerated in some circles, while Shafik promises instability and an emboldened military which could resist meaningful reform. My personal hunch is that the U.S. was quietly rooting for Moussa, which shows how effectively it controls events in CairoIt's actually a very good sign that the U.S. was so irrelevant to the  election campaign -- a successful campaign based primarily on anti-American rhetoric, or overt American intervention in the election being two dogs which didn't bark in an important way.
The first round of the elections really did produce the worst possible outcome, even if it in retrospect seems rather inevitable in light of earlier decisions, such as the MB's fielding a candidate and the political center failing to unite around a single candidate.  The second round really can't produce a President who will command wide legitimacy or a popular mandate. Sadly, I suppose that's about what we should have expected from this disastrous transition.  But despair isn't an option.  The focus must remain on seeing through the transition to civilian authority and the drafting of an acceptable constitution.
 (*) One additional point --- from what has thus far been reported, election day itself appeared to be reasonably fair despite the assorted complaints.  But the allegations of large numbers of additions to the voting rolls in the months before the election, and the even more worrying allegations that conscripts were allowed (and ordered) to vote, should have been thoroughly investigated.  There is no sign that they were.  In the context of deep, deserved suspicions about the neutrality of the state --- exacerbated by the repeated judicial interventions of the last few months, including the disqualifications of Shater, Abu Ismail and Sulaiman --- a cloud will hang over the legitimacy of the vote.  Which, once again, seems pretty much par for Egypt's transitional course. "

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