He lacks charisma, notoriety, intensity and political depth. Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood (MB) candidate is not the president many Egyptians had in mind. He wasn’t even what the MB first had in mind. Mohammed Mursi, a replacement candidate for the Islamist bloc’s first choice, Khairat al-Shater, managed to snatch 26.4 percent of the first round of the vote, according to preliminary results announced at the time of writing this. That percentage has placed him in pole position as a frontrunner to win the election. Yes, that percentage.
Those who choose to vote for him may wish to once and for all deviate away Hosni Mubarak’s military man, Ahmed Shafiq, who will be entering a runoff June alongside Mursi. It will be a choice between two age-old dragons, stilling wish to breathe their fire onto the country’s similarly age-old battleground: the oppressed vs. the oppressors.
But an Islamist presidency was never the wish of moderate Egyptians; those who voted for the likes of secular leftist Hamdeen Sabahi, independent Islamist Abdel Moneim Abol Fotouh and former Arab League chief Amr Moussa among others. Collectively, these independent candidates (again, the strongest among other independent presidential hopefuls) won 51 percent of the about 25 million Egyptians who voted.
That’s (at least) half of the voting population wishing to have a president that was neither from the Muslim Brotherhood nor were remnants of the Mubarak regime. That’s (at least) half of the voting population that were urging a new-era president to take office. And yet, the abundance of candidates led to a whittled-down runoff, where a “favorite” had won a measly 26 percent, from a tiny voting population (only 25 million Egyptians voted out of a possible 50 million who were eligible to vote.)
Can you see now that the vastly greater majority of Egyptians do not want Islamist leadership? It's the circumstances of this election, abundant with candidates, and a matter of bizarre odds that have led to this result. Mursi’s 26 percent became a sad majority.
Now, the Brotherhood’s main man, who just joined the race five weeks ago after Shater’s disqualification, did not need to flex any political muscle to win votes. The seemingly unrivaled party politics of Egypt’s oldest Islamist movement appears to have weakened independent frontrunners. MB strength aside, a main qualm is Mursi’s seeming inability to say the right thing at the right time. During his rallies, he promised to implement Sharia if he were elected, plugging his "renaissance project" - an 80-page manifesto based on what it terms its “centrist understanding” of Islam.
For the moderate Muslim Egyptian, not least Christians who make up about a tenth of the population, this does not spell out what it means for the geopolitical, societal, economic future of Egypt. It pushes aside these factors anyway, making room for religion as a main priority. It practically shuns the fact that the constitution already defines the principles of Islamic law as the main source of legislation. On the education and healthcare reform front, his campaign did not offer promises different to what many other candidates had promised – they are “rights for all Egyptians,” goes the motto.
Yes, trumpeting his Islamist credentials has appealed to many in the country; those who felt the boot of an autocratic regime for decades – fearing autocracy more so than craving Islamism. That’s where Mursi’s tactical voters applied their knowledge at the ballot.
“Egyptians initially were attracted to the Muslim Brotherhood not because it is a Muslim outfit, but because it is a Muslim outfit that shares their experience of persecution and would therefore be less likely to persecute them,” writes analyst Shikha Dalmia.
Mursi’s failure means paving the way for what many now foresee to become a military dictatorship.
At the time of writing this piece, this election drama has been already been described as Egypt’s “worst case scenario” by many. And so it goes that by the end of reading this article, you’ll find a case against Mohammed Mursi, which is not juxtaposed with support for Ahmed Shafiq (as you might have expected).
The whole saga is a disappointment, those who argue that Shafiq “hijacked the revolution” (with his possible win being a kick in the teeth for Egypt’s revolutionaries), can also argue that Mursi did so too as the rebellion against Mubarak was mainly led by the country’s liberals, not Islamists.
For all the Egyptians who share my sentiments; let’s vote for the lesser of two evils - and even that may lead to bitter indecision.
(Eman El-Shenawi, a writer at Al Arabiya English, can be reached at: email@example.com.)