|Egypt’s next president will face the same old problems||
The results of the first round of the Egyptian presidential election quite unexpectedly obscured the country’s political landscape.
On the one hand, the low turnout of 46 percent was disappointing to observers, especially compared to the parliamentary election, which was held in late November 2011 and early 2012. And on the other hand, the relatively high number of votes cast in favor of the pro-Western candidate, Hosni Mubarak’s last prime minister, Ahmad Shafiq, upset the revolutionaries, who had anticipated a resounding victory for the Islamists.
Street clashes, which broke out before the election due to the Egyptian Supreme Presidential Electoral Commission’s decision to disqualify some popular figures, are expected to continue in the last few days until the presidential runoff election, with the demonstrators pressing their demand that the military stop interfering in the electoral process.
The two candidates contesting the runoff, Mohammed Morsi and Ahmad Shafiq, are now using everything at their disposal to win votes and become the first democratically elected president in Egypt’s history. And the competition between the two men has created a very polarized situation. Morsi represents the bulk of the Muslim community and the young revolutionaries and is viewed as the one who would strive for the realization of their objectives. Shafiq is backed by the nationalists and is regarded as the one who would protect the interests of anti-Islamist, secular groups and also the Coptic Christians, who fear the rise of an Islamist-dominated government. Due to Shafiq’s loyalty to Mubarak until the last day of his rule, his opponents say he is a man who would bring the country back to the dark days of the Mubarak era if he became president.
However, there is a third group of political analysts who believe that no matter who wins the election, the situation is not ripe to bring about drastic changes in Egypt’s political, social, and economic life. The continued street demonstrations and clashes, the sluggish economy, which will need a long time to recover from the effects of the political earthquake, social insecurity, and Cairo’s declining position in diplomatic developments in the region are all major problems that that the next president must address. The rising influence of fundamentalist groups, especially the Salafis, has also undermined Egypt’s role as a cultural power. Thus, the new president will have a very difficult time in fulfilling his duty of curbing extremism and returning Egypt to its leading position in the Arab and Islamic world.
Whoever wins the presidential election will face serious tasks, such as strengthening the security apparatus, attracting more foreign investment, improving diplomatic relations, and curbing fundamentalism and terrorism. Most importantly, he will be expected to realize the goals of the revolution and prevent a return to autocracy. In the eyes of most Egyptians, this is the historic responsibility of the next president.
Seyyed Abdolamir Nabavi is an expert on Arab and Middle Eastern politics based in Tehran.
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