There is much fear and frustration about the unfolding presidential elections in Egypt. So much so that the astounding historical significance of the event and its widespread consequences for the rest of the Arab and Muslim world seem to have escaped us. Analysts are asking: Has the revolution failed? Are people casting a referendum on the actual revolution when they select a formal Mubarak-era official as their top choice? Are the Islamists poised to take over Egypt and turn it into a theocracy? Is the military behind it all? Will it step in to establish “order” when people are finally tired of all these demonstrations and fear for their mundane well-being? Will the US, the Israelis, or the Saudis – with all their might and money – “allow” Egyptians actually to bring their revolution to fruition and thus effectively endanger their respective interests in the region? People in and out of Egypt were naturally drawn to a crescendo, a bravura, where the first ever democratic presidential election in Egyptian history would be the final battle scene against the ancien régime. But once Ahmed Shafiq – a senior commander in the Egyptian Air Force and later prime minister for a few weeks – emerged as the main nemesis of Mohamed Morsi – Chairman of the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) founded by the Muslim Brotherhood after the revolution – people began to wonder.
To be sure, much still remains to be determined in the near and distant future. Before the next round of elections, now scheduled for June 16 and 17, the Egyptian Supreme Court is to rule on the so-called “political isolation” law, which makes it illegal for former high-ranking regime officials – such as Shafiq – to run for public office. This is only one of several other major political developments yet to unfold. The parliament itself might be declared unconstitutional, as the constitutional assembly is yet to be formed, and the new constitution to be drafted. Various political parties have just come to a consensus as to how to select the 100-member panel that will be charged with writing the new constitution.
Meanwhile, as all these historic developments are yet to unfold, it is a flawed reading of the unfolding presidential election to consider it a “a referendum on the revolution”. The revolution has happened and succeeded and has only one way to go: forward.