Military lurks behind Egyptian presidential poll
ON THE eve of today’s controversial presidential election, the revolutionaries of Tahrir Square, the cradle of the 2011 Egyptian uprising, failed to mount mass protests against Thursday’s military takeover of the legislature inaugurated only five months ago.
Several thousand demonstrators did not turn up until late, long after potential protesters had left in embarassment and sightseers, eager to witness some action, had departed after purchasing popcorn or cold drinks from vendors.
Instead of exercising people power, scores of Cairenes took their ease on plastic chairs and drank tea at impromptu cafes on Qasr al-Nil bridge at the entrance to the square.
Little boys hung over the railing to watch small boats decorated with coloured lights playing tag on the river while their parents enjoyed the cool breeze off the water.
Today and tomorrow, Egypt’s 50 million eligible voters are set to cast ballots for the candidate of the Muslim Brotherhood Mohamed Mursi, who came first in the first round in May; and former prime minister Ahmad Shafiq, regarded as the nominee of the ousted regime.
The revolutionaries consider Mr Shafiq an untouchable and do not trust the brotherhood.
It has emerged as the country’s most powerful political movement but has repeatedly shown itself avid for power and prepared to partner the military in the regime that succeeds the 30-year reign of ousted president Hosni Mubarak.
Nobel laureate Mohamed El Baradei accused both the Brotherhood and the revolutionary youth of allowing the generals to mount a coup by persuading the constitutional court, appointed during the ousted regime, to validate Mr Shafiq’s candidacy in spite of his disqualification by a law passed by parliament and to dissolve the lower house where the fundamentalists held nearly half the seats.
Adding insult to injury, the military also formally dismissed the house and locked its 508 members out of the parliament building.
The presidential run-off battle is being waged by political machines built over the decades by the brotherhood and the regime.
While opinion polls predict Mr Mursi, backed by the movement’s influential grassroots organisations, could win, this is uncertain.
Mr Shafiq has mobilised the massive financial and political muscle of the military, the ousted National Democratic Party and the state.
Their influence and resources enabled him to come second in the first round, contested by 12 candidates.
However, anger over the constitutional court’s decisions and the military’s high-handed dissolution of the house could prompt voters to cast ballots for Mr Mursi.