‘Nightmare choice’ for Egypt as voters go to the ballot box
EGYPTIANS are heading to the polls today to vote for a new president in the second round of the country’s historic pres-idential elections, with the Muslim Brotherhood presenting the run-off as a choice between the revolution and the old-order.
But the failure of pro-revolutionary and liberal factions to unite has left voters faced with what many have described as a “nightmare choice” between an Islamist and an icon of the old regime for president.
The battle pits Mohammed Morsi, 60, leader of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party against Ahmed Shafik, 70, a former air force commander and President Hosni Mubarak’s last prime minister.
It comes at the end of a tumultuous week which saw Egypt’s transition to democracy thrust into turmoil. On Thursday, the Supreme Constitutional Court ruled that the Islamist domin-ated parliament must be dissolved because a third of the seats had been elected illegally.
The court also dismissed a draft law passed by parliament that would have seen Mr Shafik banned from the electoral race. Yesterday, the Brotherhood hit out at the decision, saying it threatened to stop the Egyptian revolution in it’s tracks. The Brotherhood said: “All the democratic gains of the revolution could be wiped out and overturned with the handing of power to one of the symbols of the previous era.”
The rulings also came a day after Egypt’s justice ministry imposed a de facto martial law, extending the powers of military police and intelligence to arrest civilians for non-military crimes. The move is an apparent revival of the country’s draconian emergency law in a different guise. The end of the 30-year-long emergency legislation last month had earlier been hailed by democracy activists as a victory for the revolution.
Crowds of protesters angered by the setbacks gathered last night in Tahrir Square calling for a boycott of the elections.
Some believe the constitutional court ruling signals that a win by Mr Shafik is more likely. As a former military man he is widely believed to be the unofficial candidate of the army. He has described the military as “the guardian of constitutional legitimacy” and critics believe the influence of Egypt’s generals has helped him reach this far, alongside his promises to re-establish law and order. He has made clear he will crack down hard on street protests.
“There is clearly something going on behind the scenes,” said Mahmoud Hamdan, 29, an office worker who supported the revolution but feels he has no choice but to vote for Mr Shafik in order to stop a take-over by Islamists. “Better to go back to what we had before than give the Brotherhood power,” he said.
Mr Shafik has also sought to stoke fear of the Brotherhood which he has accused of being responsible for the deaths of protesters during the revolution.
“The Brotherhood represents darkness and secrecy,” he said after first round of elections. “They don’t want to take us 30 years back, but back to the dark ages.”
The Brotherhood has warned of “dangerous days ahead” should the old regime return to power. Many supporters of the revolution feel that although Mubarak was toppled last year the machine of his authoritarian regime is still very much in place.
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