On 23 and 24 May, Egypt conducted its first round of presidential elections since Hosni Mubarak was deposed in February last year. A second round of voting will be held on 16 and 17 June to decide the outcome, since no candidate garnered enough votes in the first-past-the- post system. The two candidates to contest the final round of voting will be the Freedom and Justice Party’s Mohamed Morsi, and the last prime minister to serve under Mubarak’s rule, Ahmed Shafik, who is running as an independent. The Freedom and Justice Party is the political manifestation of the Muslim Brotherhood, which is technically banned from participating in elections and so created a new entity so that it could run. Although the current presidential race, coupled with last year’s parliamentary elections, may seem to be an indication of Egypt’s relatively successful transition from dictatorship to democracy, the reality is very different.
Associated Press noted that the ‘Young, liberal secularists who led the popular rebellion that overthrew long-time leader Hosni Mubarak last year failed to place a candidate in the runoff.’2 The most obvious explanation for this is that the ‘young liberal secularists’, prior to the revolution, did not constitute an organised movement, but rather a generally dislocated network of individuals with similar beliefs but with varying tactics and goals. Additionally,
many of the online activists who organised mass demonstrations self-identified as politically naïve with no previous experience of political organisation. In some cases this could have also meant an individual lack of vision about what sort of system should replace Mubarak once he had been ousted. In contrast, former regime figures like Ahmed Shafik, and pre-existing organised movements such as the Muslim Brotherhood, were always going to have the upper hand when it came to post-revolution elections, particularly only a year after Mubarak’s removal – little time for a new movements and parties to gain traction.
There has been much criticism from many presidential hopefuls and their supporters of fraud and other electoral violations in the lead-up to and during the elections.
Alasdair Hynd is a PhD student in the International Centre for Muslim and non-Muslim Understanding, University of South Australia.