For the next and final round of presidential elections, Egyptians are being asked to choose between an Islamic or military dictatorship both claiming legitimacy through the ballot box. Egypt may be following one set of democratic procedures, but it is not, by any stretch of the imagination, a transition to democracy, irrespective of who becomes the next President. Elections are only one element of democracy, and to reduce democratic practice to what happens at the polling station is highly problematic. We need to ask ourselves what the conditions are that have influenced people’s choices? And to what extent did these restrictive conditions influence their choices? Have they been offered money or in-kind goods for their vote? Have they been given misinformation that amounts to deception about the different candidates? To what extent are people being mobilized along religious lines? Are you on God’s side or not?
How did Egypt end up with such a polarized scenario, caught between an old decadent rock and a very hard place? What went wrong? For the revolutionaries, the fact that Egyptians voted in such large numbers for Shafik (a former senior commander in the Air Force) is an insult to the revolution, and conspiracy theories of outside intervention have been rampant. However, let us not deceive ourselves, these are citizen voices – they are not all fullol, devotees of the old order, many were originally very sympathetic to the 25th of January revolution and went down to the squares to express their hatred of the Mubarak regime. Their vote for Shafik is not an indication of their yearning for the Mubarak regime, but for something else.
Talking to citizens on the streets, it is clear that there are now two pressing issues: security and economic well being. Since the 25th of January Uprisings, the police have staged a vendetta against the Egyptian people. Consequently, many Egyptians talk of infelat amny, a sense of security letdown, where gangs and thugs rule supreme, where police stations turn a blind eye to crime and where there are daily rumours of kidnappings of men, women and children. This sense of fear for one’s safety and that of one’s family is shared across all classes.